EXCLUSIVE: Croatian tennis ace Borna Coric chats to Sport24

Borna Coric (Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)
Borna Coric (Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)
  • Borna Coric, who bowed out in the Round of 64 at the Monte-Carlo Masters, talks about his return from injury and how he goes about adapting his game to the clay court swing.
  • The 25-year-old Croat, who achieved the number one junior ranking, assesses the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) debate and the comparisons drawn between him and Novak Djokovic.
  • The man, who has won two ATP career singles titles, also reveals whether or not he’s in favour of harsher sanctions being imposed and his take on the Netflix series being filmed.

Sport24 asked: How have things been going since your return from injury?

Borna Coric: After being away from tennis for one year with a right shoulder injury and big surgery, which I had in New York, there have been some ups and downs. I didn’t pick up a tennis racquet for seven months and focused on my footwork and fitness. At the beginning, the break from tennis was actually quite good because I have been playing the sport since I was five and have basically never stopped. The first two to three months were quite alright but then I started to miss tennis, the competition and basically just wanted to play. It was tough being away from the tour but I knew that I had to respect my road to recovery and the timelines that my doctors and physiotherapists gave me. I did a lot of cardio and my main goal was to stay as fit as possible, so that once I was back on the tour it would be that much easier to return to a solid level. To be honest, I don’t really think about my ranking too much. I still have some small problems with my shoulder which I need to careful with and have to do exercises every day. It’s still my main focus and it’s going to stay like that pretty much until after Wimbledon. Post-Wimbledon, I can shift more focus onto the tennis practice and trying to get my ranking back. (In 2018, Coric achieved his highest-ever ATP ranking of No.12).

Sport24 asked: How does your style of play transfer to the clay courts?

Borna Coric: I mean I don’t really change much. But obviously on the clay courts there is more spin and the footwork is different because you don’t have the hard court grip so you need to slide more. You also need to be more careful with your movement and use more drop shots on the clay than on the hard courts. As we head into the clay court swing, I can maybe work on my defensive skills a little bit more because you change your position on the clay more than the on the hard courts. When I was a bit younger, I was compared to Novak Djokovic in terms of turning defence into offence. He is one of the best champions in the world so it was a very nice feeling and great to hear that. But again, I’m just trying to play my way and how I feel the best. I’m really not trying to copy anybody because I think playing your style and how you feel the best is the right way for you to go. In terms of my style of play it depends on my form. When I’m playing poorly, I would pretty much say I’m a defensive player as I’m not really aggressive and going for balls. And then on the other side, when I play well I think I’m a very offensive player with a strong tempo. It’s all about taking time away from opponents. It just depends on how I feel on the court. When I’m not feeling overly confident, I go back and become defensive and more passive which has been a problem through my whole career.

Sport24 asked: Do you agree with fines and stricter bans on the tour?

Borna Coric: I think it’s good because as players we need to stay in line. I’m up for it honestly and I agree with that (approach) but, at the same time, I think sometimes you do need to give us as players a little bit of space. I agree with some players who have said we don’t want to go in our box too much where we cannot do anything on the court because then it’s going to be very boring for the people watching tennis. On a side note, I think it’s great for tennis that there is going to be a Netflix series. I don’t know too much about the series but I have heard about it and saw the crew in Miami. It’s going to help us bring in new fans... I have watched some of the F1 Drive to Survive and really liked it. In terms of the likes of Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios, I don’t know them well enough to say if they are good or bad (off-court) but from what I can tell they are normal, good guys. They are in their own circles, with their team and I am with mine. Serbian Filip Krajinovic is my closest friend on tour. When we are on the circuit, we kind of hang out together and go for dinners.

Sport24 asked: What have you made of Lloyd Harris’ rise in the ranks?

Borna Coric: I know Lloyd very well because we have practiced with each other a couple of times. He is a very nice guy as well and we are very good friends. I respect him a lot. I haven’t played him in a long time so I cannot tell you too much from a tennis perspective. I last played against Lloyd at the 2019 French Open and beat him in the second round. I have only watched him play a couple of times since because I’m just not a big fan of watching tennis in my free time. Last year he was getting some unbelievable results which is good for South African tennis... I don’t know if I will ever visit South Africa for tennis but for a holiday for sure. During my career, it’s difficult time-wise but definitely afterwards. If I visited I would go on safari for sure. That is probably one of my biggest wishes in life.

Sport24 asked: What’s your take when it comes to the GOAT debate?

Borna Coric: Roger, Rafa and Novak are three champions of the tennis world so I don’t like to draw comparisons because I think it’s very individual. Rafa is now leading the Grand Slam count with 21 but all three are still active players and can win more slams. I think we can maybe comment on the GOAT debate more once they all stop playing tennis. I think when they are still playing there is no point talking about it because many things can still change. The normal fact is that they are the best players in the world probably over the last 15 years. Them being on top has been absolutely amazing for tennis and great to see but I think we can comment on that more once they are done with tennis. At 40, Roger is set to return for the Laver Cup. I don’t see myself playing at the age of 40 but at the end of the day you never know what life brings. If I’m still healthy and enjoying tennis like I do now, why not? If you don’t stress too much, it’s a great way of living because you are playing a sport you love, earning good money and traveling the world. I don’t think you can get much better than that. It just depends how I feel and whether or not I want to have a wife and family. But now from this perspective, I don’t see myself playing at 40 – for sure no. But again I think many things can change.

Sport24 asked: In terms of the Next Gen, how exciting is Carlos Alcaraz?

Borna Coric: I have never trained with or played against Carlos but he is already an unbelievable player. I was watching him when I was in Miami. I watched a couple of his matches and there are things which he is doing unbelievably well. He’s a really great player and can be the future number one in the world if he stays healthy. Carlos is a great prospect and is already in the top 15 so there is not much more to say other than it’s unbelievable what he’s doing. With the evolution of racquets, advancement in strings and the fitness training which we have now, the game is better than it was 20 years ago. The speed of the ball is greater these days along with our speed on the court. The footwork and movement is also completely different to what it was like two decades ago. In the modern game, everybody is hitting the ball harder, bigger and with more spin and rotations. These days, everybody is also serving great so it’s a very tough time to play tennis but I enjoy the challenge.

Sport24 asked: How do you deal with criticism when it comes your way?

Borna Coric: There is a quote which I’ve had on my Instagram bio for the last five years which reads, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” I posted that because I think everybody should say their opinion on how they feel and what they think. If you don’t do it because you are afraid you are going to get criticised, I don’t think it’s good. It was kind of a sarcastic way of saying it. In terms of the worst criticism I have had, it was probably something which happened in Croatia when I was a bit younger and not behaving on the court as people would have liked me to. Personally, I absolutely have the self-discipline and work ethic. When I was younger, maybe I didn’t have it as much but especially over the last five years I have been really good. I look at this year as the introduction for me into the tour again. Maybe after Wimbledon from June, I will start setting some goals but for now the short-term focus is to stay healthy and simply play good tennis. It’s about being on tour, staying happy and then with time we will see what comes.

Previous interviews:

Blessing Muzarabani

Vincent Tshituka

Frances Tiafoe

Marc Pritzen

Vlok Cilliers

Dion O'Cuinneagain

Scott Spedding

Nic Groom

Dane van Niekerk

Dave Nosworthy

Swys de Bruin

Brett Schultz

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