Borna Coric (CRO) & Ana Konjuh (CRO) at the Junior US Open
It was a big day for Croatia at the US Open on Sunday. Both the junior boys’ and junior girls’ titles were won by Croatian teens; 16-year-old Borna Coric and 15-year-old Ana Konjuh.
"It’s amazing,” said Konjuh, of Croatia’s dominance in the U.S. Open juniors. “I didn't know until I finish the match that he won, so I was really happy. It doesn't happen every day that two Croatians win in the Grand Slam. I don't even remember when that happened. I'm really happy for him. He really practice hard, and he managed to win this. He really wanted that.”
It’s turned into a very special summer for Coric, who on the heels of winning two pro Futures titles in Turkey last month, won his first Grand Slam junior singles title with a 36 63 61 win over unseeded Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia on Sunday.
“I think it’s really unbelievable,” said Coric, of his year. “I didn’t expect it. Like before, four months (ago), if someone tell me (all this would happen), I would say, like, ‘no chance.’ I was working really hard. I put a lot of time on the court and off court, as well. So I think I deserve it.”
As for Konjuh, her hard fought 36 64 76(6) win over American wildcard recipient Tornado Alicia Black marked her second success at a junior Grand Slam this season. She also won the Australian Open singles trophy in January.
“It was really good year,” Konjuh said. “I had really some good results. Australian and US Open and ITF circuit. And I'm really happy. I want to practice even more to be even better.”
While Konjuh will have some time to celebrate, Coric has not much opportunity to bask in his US Open triumph as he has an exceptionally weighty commitment next weekend.
The teen will head off to Umag, Croatia, where he’ll join the Croatian Davis Cup team that will face Great Britain in the World Group play-off competition. The prize at stake is a 2014 World Group berth for the winning country.
“Whatever the captain (Zejko Krazan) says, I’m going to do it,” said Coric, of his upcoming role on the Croatian Davis Cup squad. “That’s my first Davis Cup, so I’m there like just to be there. If he says, ‘You play, I will play.’ If he says, ‘Just bring the water on the court, I will just bring the water on the court.’”
In all, Coric has had a successful venture in the Grand Slam junior arena this season. He reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
It was about 10 months ago that Coric started training part-time with Ryan Jones at Junior Tennis Coaching (JTC) in England. At times, however, Jones travels to Zagreb so that Coric can be at home. And former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic also has a major coaching voice with Coric; the teen works with Ivanisevic in Zagreb and talks with him every day when he’s not at home.
“I’m really happy because, like I said, this is my last tournament of the juniors,” Coric said. “I finished very, very good. I won a slam. That was my goal on the beginning of the year, so it’s amazing feeling.”
For the 17-year-old Kokkinakis, this marks his second finalist showing of the season - he was a runner-up at home in the Australian Open as well. After that match he was off the court nursing a bad back, returning at Wimbledon where he won the junior boys’ doubles title with fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios.
The two girls played on Court 11, which was packed with fans and an overflow of standing room only spots on one side of the court.
In comparison to Konjuh, who was playing her sixth Grand Slam junior tournament, this was only the 15-year-old Black’s second time at a major. Last year, she qualified here and reached the second round where she also fell to Konjuh.
“It's really good I got to my first final,” Black said. “And I don't have much experience in that and she does. She's a really good player. She's the one that played better today.”
A hotly contested match, Black initially looked in charge of the tiebreaker having a 5-3 lead, but never had a match point. From 6-6 in the tiebreaker, Black made two unforced errors, a netted backhand and a forehand crosscourt long, to surrender the two hour, 48 minute match on Konjuh’s second match point of the tiebreak.