UMAG, CROATIA: Zeljko Krajan, Croatia’s coach, sprang a surprise here today when he named 16-year-old Borna Coric as his second singles player for this weekend’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off against Britain.
Coric, who won the US Open junior title last weekend, will make his Davis Cup debut in the opening singles rubber against Andy Murray, the reigning Wimbledon champion.
In the absence of the indisposed Marin Cilic, Krajan has put his faith in Coric, one of the sport’s most exciting talents, as his No. 2 singles player behind Ivan Dodig. “I was waiting for him to come from New York to see how he was getting used to the surface and whether he would be mentally ready to play,” Krajan said. “He definitely showed me that he is ready.”
Coric, who is based in London, has played only one match on the main ATP tour, here in Umag this summer, when he lost a tight encounter against Horacio Zeballos, who is one of only three players to have beaten Rafael Nadal this year.
Coric said he was very happy to have a chance to play Murray. “For sure he’s a great player, one of the best in men’s tennis,” Coric said. “He’s very quick, a very smart player. I also like to watch him. I like his style of tennis.”
Krajan conceded that Murray was likely to win both his singles rubbers, which means that the home team would need to win the doubles and both their rubbers against Dan Evans, the British No. 2 Krajan said he believed Coric would be up to the task if it came down to the teenager needing to beat Evans on Sunday.
Murray, who has never seen Coric play, will be making his first Davis Cup appearance for two years. “The build-up to a Davis Cup tie is always a good week, having all the guys around,” he said. “It’s a challenging match, a chance for us to get back into the World Group, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Although Murray is scheduled to play three rubbers in three days, Britain’s captain, Leon Smith, has opened up the possibility of resting his top player by changing his line-up. Jonny Marray, who is Colin Fleming’s regular doubles partner, has replaced James Ward and could take Murray’s place alongside Fleming in Saturday’s third rubber.
Smith said: “We’ve seen before over the years how important the doubles is in Davis Cup and I think this weekend will be no different, which is why I thought there was no point in taking any risks should anything happen with Andy in the singles matches. It was important to have a back-up plan.”
While Britain will be attempting to win a place back in the World Group for the first time since 2008, Croatia have been in the top section for 11 of the last 12 years. The only time they dropped out of the World Group was when they lost a play-off to Britain in 2007. That tie was played on grass at Wimbledon, but the Croatians have opted for clay this time. It will be the first tie to be staged at the coastal resort of Umag.
“I think it’s the best surface we could have chosen, but how much of an advantage it is and how much difference it will make it’s tough to say,” Krajan said.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Borna Coric (CRO) v Andy Murray (GBR)
R2: Ivan Dodig (CRO) v Dan Evans (GBR)
R3: Ivan Dodig/Mate Pavic (CRO) v Colin Fleming/Andy Murray (GBR)
R4: Ivan Dodig (CRO) v Andy Murray (GBR)
R5: Borna Coric (CRO) v Dan Evans (GBR)