Rafael Nadal was eliminated from the Western & Southern Open on Thursday after falling to Croatian Borna Coric 7-6 (9), 4-6, 6-3.
The loss puts a stop to Nadal’s week-long attempt to reclaim the top spot in the ATP Rankings. At the US Open, the World No. 3 will have another opportunity to surpass Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev.
The 36-year-old also withdrew from last week’s ATP Masters event in Montreal due to the issue but did not seem hampered by it against former world number 12 Coric, and instead put his defeat down to a lack of time on court.
In Cincinnati, the Croatian defeated Rafael Nadal in the second round after a two hour, 51 minute struggle to earn his best victory of the season against both opponent and venue.
Borna Coric won the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday, giving him his fifth tour-level triumph since his recovery from shoulder surgery in March. But the former World No. 12 declared with this one that he is back to his best.
Coric won his first break of the match midway through the tiebreaker as he controlled play in the final set. The contest had begun with a dramatic first-set tie-break in which each players saved two set chances.
“It has been very, very special,” Coric said of his win on centre court. “I was out for the last two years and I didn’t play on the big stage in front of the crowd and everybody. I was honestly just looking forward to playing this match as I haven’t had that in the last two years. Now that I won, it’s kind of crazy.”
Despite having played very few matches, both players started out strong. Coric was playing in his sixth tour-level match since quitting before Wimbledon, and Nadal was playing his first match since quitting the grass-court Slam before the semifinals.
When Nadal stepped into a down-the-line backhand on the first point, he raised his fist, and he didn’t make an unforced error again until the seventh game.
With a first-round victory over Lorenzo Musetti already under his belt, Coric also became comfortable right away. He then started to enjoy the stronger rallies until a one-hour rain delay occurred with Nadal ahead 5-4.
Nadal screamed with the fans when they returned and soon after went to the tie-break.
Nadal capitalised on the lone break point midway through an entertaining second set, with both players creating stunning angles to complement strong baseline hitting. Both competitors flashed quick hands at the net as well, with each winning 10 of 15 net points.
Coric applied greater pressure in the decider and was a deserved winner after securing his first break of the match to move ahead 4-2. He backed up the breakthrough with a love hold and had no problems serving out the match after opening his final service game with a statement winner to cap a gruelling rally.
He will next face Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-3 win against home hope Marcos Giron earlier on Wednesday.