Men’s Singles Semi-Finals (Friday, 27th February):
Roger Federer vs Boran Coric (5pm)
Novak Djokovic vs Tomas Berdych (7pm)
Croatian teenager Borna Coric claimed a stunning 6-1 6-3 victory over third seed Andy Murray on Thursday to become the youngest player ever to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
What made his progress to the final four all the more remarkable is that the 18-year old was beaten in the qualifying rounds, and only received a place in the main draw when 2014 semi-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew due to illness.
“I was just trying to maintain the level and stay in the rally as long as I can, which I was doing really good, you know. I was also running very good,” said Coric, who faced defeat in the previous round as Marcos Baghdatis served for the match at 5-3 in the second set and then led by two breaks of serve in the third.
“I think I was really lucky with Kohlschreiber pulling out. That’s the life. Sometimes you’re going to get lucky. Maybe next tournament I will have match point and I’m not going to take it. That’s tennis. One week you gonna play good, you gonna be lucky, and it’s those kind of days for you to take opportunities.”
Last year Coric beat Rafael Nadal in Basel, and caught the eye of Djokovic, who has since practised with him both in Australia and Dubai.
“I try to help him because I see, in a way, myself through him,” said Djokovic. “I’ve never felt that way when I practice with somebody as I felt with him. It’s like playing myself. Very similar game. Great fighting spirit, disciplined, focused, committed, confident, very young but confident, which is important.”
Murray admitted that his opponent had played well, but was at a loss to explain why he was not able to raise his own game.
“He didn’t make many errors,” said Murray. “He played very solid and he moved well, made a lot of balls, made it tough. I made way too many mistakes from the beginning of the match right through to the end, early in rallies, rushing points. I don’t think I’m being wrong in saying that I made a lot of basic errors, especially early in the rallies. I don’t know exactly why that was the case.”
Novak Djokovic ended the run of Turkish qualifier Marsel Ilhan, winning 6-1 6-1. The opening set was over in 20 minutes, but Djokovic had to fight off three break points to hold for 1-1 in the second before once again taking control.
“He lacks a little bit of experience and confidence on being in the big stadium. That’s where I used my opportunity from the start,” said Djokovic. “I made double break, and I felt like I was in control of the match. I didn’t allow him to get into the groove. So it was a good performance.”
Roger Federer was on court for only 20 minutes as Richard Gasquet retired with a back injury after losing the first set 6-1. Although the match was short, Federer was satisfied with the way he had performed.
“I think I played well. I served well,” he said. “Then again, you know, the test was so short that it’s tough to judge on a 20-minute match. But I think I was hitting the ball well again like yesterday. I felt able to play aggressive and do what I was hoping to do, so I was very pleased, actually.”
Tomas Berdych was again taken to three sets before claiming a 6-3 4-6 6-2 win over Sergiy Stakhovsky.
“I think especially in the second set, end of the second set, he come up with some great shots,” said Berdych. “But that’s how it is. You know, you have to know how to deal with those situations. Again, it’s very good that I handled the third set how I did, two breaks.”
“Yet again the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has delivered a surprise, with one of the most exciting young players in the world producing a sterling performance to defeat recent Australian Open finalist Andy Murray,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “The other semi-finalists, all ranked in the top 10 in the world, are well known to us and each one of them has either won the title before or reached the final. With such a talented and exciting line-up, we are assured of a spectacular weekend of tennis.”