Federer survives scare
Originally published on 17/03/18 00:00
The defending champion was far from his fluid best against his eager opponent, but he found a way to churn out another victory and extend his winning run to 17 matches.
Federer’s attacking flair and flamboyance is primarily why he has enjoyed a trophy-laden career, however it was his willingness to do the ugly side of the game that enabled him to negotiate a tricky tie.
The Swiss lost an error-strewn opener and trailed by a break in both the second and third sets, yet he still managed to leave his opponent crestfallen after a tumultuous duel.
Coric has shown in the past that he revels on the big stage, and he again demonstrated his qualities against a higher-ranked rival. He has already claimed victories over Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in his short career, but a win over the Swiss maestro continues to elude him.
The Croatian will rarely have a better chance to snare a win over Federer, and he will rue his failings at the business end of both the second and third sets. He tightened up when the checkered flag was in sight, and he will endure a sleepless night as he ponders what might have been.
The opening set galloped along at pace and without incident until the 11th game. Federer, who was far from free-flowing from the baseline, netted a difficult volley to fall a break behind. Coric had silenced the excitable crowd, and he was halfway towards victory moments later.
The world No.1 was noticeably irritated by his display – and the gloom remained in the second set. A meaty forehand from the Croatian netted him an immediate break and he was firmly in the driving seat.
Federer was struggling, however his opponent offered him encouragement. In the fourth game, Coric saved three break-points with a hat-trick of winners and managed to come through a testing period unscathed.
The No.1 seed may have been trailing, but he was finally making progress in his rival’s service games. His pressure eventually told, and he pulled level at four apiece.
Federer had momentum on his side, and with the vociferous crowd cheering his every move, he managed to break again and eventually snatch the set by six games to four.
The Croatian’s forehand, his weaker wing, had held up well under scrutiny, however it leaked errors at critical moments in the second set. The decider followed a similar pattern. Coric stormed into the lead, but was eventually caught and then overtaken.
It was far from pretty from Federer, but he found a way to survive.