Borna Coric and Steve Johnson Kickoff 2017 ATP Clay Court Season With Titles
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After struggling to start the season, in large part due to rust from injury, Borna Coric is finding form once again and he showed some of his best tennis this week in Morocco, as he took home a maiden ATP title in Marrakech on clay. The 20 year old was pushed to three sets in three matches this week, and had to save match points against his veteran opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final, but after reaching the final for the second straight year, he simply not be denied the trophy, digging deep on pressure points, while Kohlschreiber crumbled. Coric took the final 5-7 7-6 7-5 after beating Jiri Vesely in straight sets in the semis. He beat Diego Schwartzman in straights in round 1, but then needed three sets against Reda El Amrani and Albert Ramos-Vinolas in rounds 2 and 3.
The veteran Kohlschreiber made his first final of the season with wins over Jan-Lennard Struff, Jeremy Chardy, and Benoit Paire, dropping sets to his first two opponents before routining Paire. Kohlschreiber has had an awful time closing matches out when he has a match point this season, and it’s cost him big victories, such as the trophy that was on offer today.
Dominic Inglot and Mate Pavic teamed up to beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez to take the doubles final in an upset.
The crop of top American men continue to show improvements this season, Steve Johnson claimed a second career ATP title and his first on American soil with a narrow three set victory over Thomaz Bellucci 6-4 4-6 7-6. Johnson posted his best results of the season, and he reached the final by virtue of defeating defending champion Jack Sock in the semifinals, that win coming in three sets, along with wins over Dustin Brown and Fernando Verdasco in previous rounds. Johnson is not at his best on European clay, but should be a notable contender in the grass court season this summer.
A big hitter like Johnson, Bellucci had long matches all week, and was able to win them up until the final where he cracked under pressure. The 32 year old reached his first ATP final in more than a year with three set wins over Frances Tiafoe, Maximo Gonzalez, Sam Querrey, and Ernesto Escobedo, yet another American who has reached a high water mark this year, Escobedo is safely inside the top 100 after his result, which included a quarterfinal victory over a struggling John Isner.
Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos beat the exciting pairing of Dustin Brown and Frances Tiafoe in the doubles final by virtue of a third set super tiebreak.