190228 Coric
Bona Coric of Croatia returns the ball to Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic during their match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Sixth seed Borna Coric joined seven-time champion Roger Federer and fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

After the opening two days had cost the tournament four of the top-eight seeds, it was left up to seven-time champion Federer to light up things with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 result over Spaniard Fernando Verdasco for the Swiss ace’s 50th win in Dubai.

Chasing a record eighth crown in the past 17 years since his first visit here in 2002, Federer’s 50th win – interestingly maintaining his record to a perfect 7-0 against the Spaniard – to set up a last four clash against training partner Marton Fucsovics at 7pm, on Thursday.

Fifth-seeded Tsitsipas was clinical in his 6-3, 6-1 win over qualifier Egor Gerasimov, while Coric took his first-ever win in four meetings against former two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych in the late night match on centre court.

But the story of the day easily was the exit of top seed and world number six Kei Nishikori as he became the fifth seed to roll off in Round Two action, going down 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 to Polish youngster Hubert Hurkacz - who until last week in Marseille had not won a match on the ATP Tour this season.

Coric was the last of the quarter-finalists following a lop-sided 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) result over Berdych, the losing finalist here in 2013 and 2014. Berdych took the first set 6-1 with a couple of breaks in the second and fourth. In the second it was the other way around as Coric – one of five men under-23 to reach Round Four at the Australian Open – got two breaks in the second and sixth to also win 6-1.

The decider was the closest it could get as it went all the way to 6-6 before Coric found favour in the deciding tie-breaker 7-4 to set a meeting with Nikoloz Basilashvili in the last match on Thursday evening. “That was mentally demanding and tough for me to handle. I was slow to start, and that was natural as I was awake till around 4 am after Tuesday’s late match against [Jiri] Vesely. Tonight too I am going to have the same problems with sleep,” Coric said after coming off court.

“I served better in the second and that, I think, was the key for me tonight. My thoughts now are to get prepared for my quarter-finals tomorrow,” the 22-year-old Croat added.

Coric will play Nikoloz Basilashvili, who in the last two days has packed off two stars of the tournament – fourth seed Karen Khachanov and defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut. “He’s [Basilashvili] in the best shape of his life,” Coric recounted.

“The idea is now to recover as fast as possible and get ready for the next one,” he added.

Result: Borna Coric bt Tomas Berdych 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4).

Order of Play (Thursday): Centre Court (Start at 3 pm): Gael Monfils vs Ricardas Berankis; Hubert Hurkacz vs Stefanos Tsitsipas; (7 pm) Marton Fucsovics vs Roger Federer; Borna Coric vs Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Court 1 (Start at 4 pm): Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan/Purav Raja vs Philipp Kohlschreiber/Fernando Verdasco.