Borna Coric, who only returned in March after missing a year with a shoulder injury, dominated fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday to win the ATP Cincinnati Masters.
The world number 152 from Croatia dispatched the Greek star 7-6 (7/0), 6-2 to become the lowest-ranked player to ever lift a Masters trophy.
“I have no words, to be honest. It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” the winner said. “I’m just gonna enjoy this.
“I thought I could play well. I was training hard, and I knew I could play good tennis, but to play this level of tennis – I was just not aware. I’m just super happy, obviously.”
Coric lost his only previous final at this level, going down to Novak Djokovic in Shanghai four years ago.
On Sunday, Coric replaced 143rd-ranked Spaniard Roberto Carretero, the 1996 Hamburg champion, as the lowest-rated Masters trophy lifter.
“It’s been very stressful for my body this whole week,” the Croat said. “I came into the tournament with many, many (training) sessions
“I played five matches now in a row. So I need to rest for a couple of days. I need to recover and just get ready for the US Open.”
Coric came back from an early deficit, trailing Tsitsipas 4-1 before turning the corner and sweeping the tiebreaker to love.
Momentum shifted further in the second set for the Croat, who was supported by a few fans wearing the national colors.
“I realised that I needed to be more aggressive,” Coric said. “He’s an unbelievable player, and he’s not gonna miss on my solid balls.
“I said to myself, ‘I have nothing to lose. If I continue like this, I’m going to lose anyway, for sure.’
“He was also playing very, very well, putting the pressure on me.”
Coric fired seven aces and saved three of four break points in a two-hour victory.
Coric improved to 2-1 all-time against Tsitsipas, having retired from their first meeting in Rome in 2018 and won in the third round of the 2020 US Open in a fifth-set tiebreaker.
“You’ve kicked my ass the last couple of times,” Tsitsipas said to Coric in the trophy ceremony.
Then he praised Coric’s title run at Cincinnati, which included victories over Rafael Nadal, Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.
“You’ve proved yourself over and over again,” Tsitsipas said.
“It was an incredible comeback from injury. You are proving that you are up there with us.”
Tsitsipas said he is still seeking a first title on outdoor hardcourt losing six finals played on cement.
“It kind of sucks,” the Greek said.
“I still hope to come back here and win it one day. “I was definitely not choking – I just played robots every time in finals.”
Ominous clouds unleashed rain over the area shortly after the trophy ceremony was completed.
There were storm delays much of the week at the Midwest event, the last major tuneup for the US Open, which begins on August 29.
Garcia completes dream run
Qualifier Caroline Garcia completed a dream week on Sunday at the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters with a 6-2, 6-4 title defeat of Petra Kvitova.
The French winner claimed her third Masters-level title - her 10th overall - after winning Wuhan and Beijing in a Chinese double five years ago.
Garcia followed the extraordinary template of Emma Raducanu, who won the US Open 11 months ago as a qualifier.
Number 35 Garcia, who fell on her back after clinching victory, maintained her lead on the Tour with a 27th match victory since June.
“Pure joy, just happiness,” she said. “Every single win is very important. It’s always very hard to describe
“It doesn’t happen so often and you have to really enjoy it. I’m grateful for this great week of tennis, and to win another title, it’s very special.”
She said expectations were low when she arrived for the qualification rounds.
“I was not that confident when I arrived, qualies were tough matches. I was really happy to be through and play in the main draw,” she said.
“Every match was a new challenge. I had to be focused on myself, on my game, what can I do, how I can be more aggressive, how can I improve. Just one day at a time I ended up here today on the final and now lifting the trophy.”
Kvitova, a double Wimblecon champion, was playing the 40th final of her career and looking for a 30th title.
Garcia set up match point against an opponent who needed off-court medical treatment by sending over her 11th ace of the afternoon.
The end came on the next point as Kvitova returned long.
“It was definitely not the result I wanted, but if someone had told me I would be in the final I would be very happy,” said Kvitova.
“I have to see the positive things: I could have been out in my first match,. I have to be proud of the 40th final of my career.
“I didn’t win the bigger trophy, but she really played very, very well. Caroline just, when she was down, she just served aces. She deserved to win.”
She added: “The big question right now is with my health (fitness), how everything will be in a couple of days, but still having a (practice) week before US Open will help me, I hope.”
Garcia repeated a victory over Kvitova from here seven years ago; she upset three top-10 players this week on her run to the trophy.
Garcia ran her season ace total to 286 with the victory in 96 minutes.
She is the fourth French player since 1980 with 10 or more WTA-level titles after Amelie Mauresmo (25), Mary Pierce (18) and Julie Halard (12).
Garcia saved all eight break points she faced while breaking Kvitova three times.