The Croats and Serbs are creating more tennis news these days than players from any other country in the world. First it was Marin Cilic, who made history at the US Open and jumped several rungs in the ATP world reckonings. A week back, Cilic claimed the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and he has already qualified for Barclays World Tour Finals in London, while established stars like Murray, Ferrer, Berdych and others are still unsure of their London berth. Two more Croats created havoc at Basel in the last 48 hours. First it was the 17-year old teenaged boy, Borna Cilic, who disposed of world no.3 Rafael Nadal in a quarterfinals match to send shockwaves. Then another Croat Ivo Karlovic, gave the legendary Roger Federer a run for his money on Saturday before going down to the top seed in three sets in the semifinals. In between Novak Djokovic of Serbia achieved fatherhood to the great delight of his countrymen and a large number of fans worldwide.
By and large, Rafael Nadal has had a wretched 2014, in which first he had a wrist injury that prevented him playing many tournaments and now he has been diagnosed with appendicitis that is curtailing his court movements. 2014 for Nadal began inauspiciously as he played the Australian open final against the eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka as an injured man. Nadals’s lone noteworthy achievement in 2014 was winning the French Open for the ninth time. Other than that, the Spaniard has yielded only a marginal performance. In another bad news for Nadals’ fans, the Spaniard world no.3 has withdrawn from the ATP1000 BNP Paribas tournament at Paris, beginning on Monday. In sharp contrast to Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer made remarkable recovery in 2014 after his critics nearly wrote him off in 2013. In a field now full of promising entrants in 2014, Federer has held his own, despite odd losses here and there and now he has a chance to win his hometown Basel Open for the sixth time in his illustrious career.
Borna Coric achieved his career’s biggest victory in beating the world no.3 Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal at Basel Open. The 17-year old Croat, who broke into top 200 only in July this year, took full advantage of Nadal’s reduced court coverage due to his recently diagnosed appendicitis. Regardless, the brave Spaniard did his best to fend off Coric in the second set before going down 2-6, 6-7. On the other hand, Roger Federer also had another tough Croat to deal with in his semifinal match yesterday. Egged on by a partisan Basel crowd, Federer kept himself composed against Ivo Karlovic in the final set before having a hard time in the first two sets. Karlovic sent down 33 aces in the match against the hometown hero, who was taken to the tie-break in the first set and lost the second to the Croat. Counting Karlovic’s aces, the guy is just 10 aces short of 9000 mark in his career, a feat matched only by Goran Ivanisevic and Andy Roddick. It will not come as any surprise if Karlovic surpasses everyone one on ace-counts at next week’s BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. Federer, who served as a ball-boy at Basel in his childhood, entered the Basel Open final for the ninth time after seeing through the Karlovic scare 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in a match that lasted for an hour and 42 minutes. In the quarterfinal, Federer played an upper hand against the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov to score a relatively easy 7-6, 6-4 win but in the second round he had to drop a set against a charged up Uzbek, Denis Istomin. Playing a steady game, the 28-year old Istomin, took the first set 6-3, before Federer found his game to take the next two sets 6-3, 6-4.
Federer’s opponent in the final is Belgium’s seventh seed David Goffin, who cut short Borna Coric’s run in the tournament. The Croat wildcard Coric created havoc by upsetting second seed Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal and he didn’t make it any easier for Goffin as well before going down 4-6, 6-3, 3-6 in a little over 2 hours. But Goffin is having a great time lately and when he beat Coric, he extended his tour-level winning streak to 11 matches. In the quarterfinal yesterday, the short-statured Belgian accounted for 6’5” tall Canadian Milos Raonic 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. It will be interesting to watch Goffin taking on Federer in the last men’s singles match at Basel on Sunday.