Borna Coric spoiled Rafael Nadal’s return to the Cincinnati Masters after sending the 22-time Grand Slam champion packing in a three-set thriller.
On his return to the court after a six-week injury layoff, Nadal’s US Open preparation was dealt a blow as he fell 7-6(9) 4-6 6-3 to the Croatian.
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Nadal – who won this year’s Australian Open and French Open majors to take his career tally to 22 – had not played since July 6 after a abdominal tear forced him to withdraw from the Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.
Second seed Nadal, 36, showed no sign of the injury that plagued his serve the most.
The majority of viewers in Cincinnati were understandably in the corner of Nadal, who was playing his first match there in five years.
However, at the end of the 2-hour, 51-minute duel – without a nearly 90-minute rain relay in the middle – it was world No. 152 who was soaked by the crowd’s admiration.
An exciting deciding set developed on serves until Coric scored the all-important break in game six to take a 4-2 lead.
Nadal tried to summon every ounce of his trademark fighting spirit but Coric had all the momentum and all the answers.
The Croatian star won two grueling points in a row before turning things around to force his Spanish opponent to serve to stay in the game.
Nadal improved his game when he needed it most, holding serve lightly to put the load back on his opponent.
Coric claimed the opening point on serve but Nadal made him work for it in one of the game’s rallies.
While Nadal seemed to fade and his opponent looked sharp, Coric set up the match point with a demonstration of power shots.
It was only fitting that the 25-year-old sealed the match with a brutal inside-out forehand to earn a big upset victory over Nadal.
The incredible scenes left fans in shock on social media.
The Australian duo beat both of them in straight sets
Earlier, Australian couple Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur both bowed out in Cincinnati after being comprehensively outclassed in straight sets.
Kyrgios struggled physically during an emphatic loss to Taylor Fritz that could jeopardize US Open hopes in Australia.
On a day when Aussie de Minaur was also comfortably tamed by Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, Kyrgios went down in a 6-3, 6-2 surrender that lasted just 50 minutes.
With he requiring treatment for a problematic left knee, it looked like all of the Australian’s breakthrough struggles over the past month had caught up with him as he couldn’t even bring himself to a state of haughtiness after some early altercations with the chair umpire.
Some of the Cincinnati viewers obviously weren’t too impressed with the effort they’d seen from the moody Canberra character either, as there were a few boos at the end of the one-sided affair.
“He doesn’t look strong enough to make it week after week,” noted former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski on Amazon Prime.
“You can hear the boos all around the stadium. They didn’t feel like he was doing his best out there. But I think you have to give him some leniency… he tried.”
Kyrgios, who is to date with 16 wins in his last 18 games dating back to the start of his famous Wimbledon run, appeared distracted from the start, muttering that it’s “only a matter of time before it all unravels “.
He began a constant argument with referee Renaud Lichtenstein over his failure to control spectators moving during points, telling the official: “Why aren’t you doing your job right?”
Kyrgios was also ordered three times by Lichtenstein not to continue swearing, although the Australian got away without receiving an official code violation.
De Minaur was also swept aside by Canada’s Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-2.
Just as Kyrgios had too much firepower for him in Montreal last week, the Sydney insider, who so often finds the best in the business are a step too far for him, has been bullied by the young Canadian.
It was a disheartening experience for world No. 20 de Minaur, who as usual hadn’t lacked in effort as he attempted to fight back from a 4-0 deficit in the second set.
Auger-Aliassime graced his emphatic win with 22 winners. The 22-year-old’s power earned him four breaks while de Minaur broke just once as the second stanza was almost all gone at 4-1, a brilliant performance crowned by a rocketing forehand.
But his resistance didn’t last long as Auger-Aliassime quickly restored his superiority and took a 5-2 lead before ending proceedings with his own delivery in just 78 minutes.
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