Rafael Nadal stunned by former world No 12 Borna Coric in Cincinnati: ‘I won, it’s kind of crazy’

Shahida Jacobs
Celebrations from Borna Coric

Rafael Nadal’s return to action from his latest injury didn’t go according to plan as the second seed made an early exit from the Western & Southern Open, going down in three sets against Borna Coric.

Playing in his first match since pulling out of the Wimbledon semi-final due to an abdominal injury, Nadal lost only his second match on North American soil this year, going down 7-6 (11-9), 4-6, 6-3 against Boric, who is also recovering after a long-term injury.

The Croatian underwent shoulder surgery in March and has dropped to No 152 in the ATP Rankings, but he used his protected ranking to get into the main draw of the ATP Masters 1000 event.

And he walked away with his third career win against world No 3 Nadal as he edged ahead 3-2 in their head-to-head. The Spaniard meanwhile, is now 15-2 in North America with his other defeat coming in the final of the Indian Wells Masters.

The first set went according to serve with the second seed saving the lone break point opportunity in game seven, but Nadal was the first to have a set point in the tie-breaker with Coric saving it. A second set point also came and went before the Spaniard himself saved two set points. The Croatian, though, made no mistake at the third attempt.

There was a single break in the second set with Nadal capitalising in game seven to take it to a decider and this time the Croatian claimed the only break in game six.

“It has been very, very special,” Coric said in his on-court interview. “I was out for the last two years and I didn’t play on the big stage in front of the crowd and everybody.

“I was honestly just looking forward to playing this match as I haven’t had that in the last two years. Now that I won, it’s kind of crazy.”

The former world No 12 will face Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the quarter-final after the Spaniard beat Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-3.

“It’s going to be a very interesting match,” the Croatian added as he looked ahead to his third-round encounter. “I need to be very aggressive for sure, especially because I was playing for a very long time today and I also finished very late. So I’m going to be even more aggressive probably.”

Also in Section 4 of the bottom half of the draw, seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and 10th seed Jannik Sinner set up a mouthwatering third-round clash. Canadian Auger-Aliassime claimed a 6-3, 6-2 win over Atlanta Open champion Alex de Minaur while Sinner advanced when Miomir Kecmanovic retired with the score 7-5, 3-1 in the Italian’s favour.

In Section 3, fifth seed Casper Ruud was stunned 6-3, 6-3 by American wildcard Ben Shelton, who will face ninth seed Cameron Norrie next.

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas had no problems booking his place in the third round as the Greek defeated Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 6-4 with Diego Schwartzman up next.