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Watch highlights as Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro advance to the final at Indian Wells. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Federer Outlasts Coric, Completes Best Start To A Season

Swiss storms back from the brink to reach Indian Wells final

Tennis fans will look back on Roger Federer's 2006 season as arguably the greatest in the Swiss' legendary career. A staggering 92-win campaign was kicked off with an impressive 16-0 run.

For more than a decade, that win streak has stood as Federer's best start to a season. Until now.

On Saturday, the World No. 1 completed a 17-0 run to kick off his 2018 campaign, storming back from the brink of defeat to overcome Borna Coric 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 at the BNP Paribas Open. With Pete Sampras and Rod Laver in attendance, Federer advanced to his eighth final in Indian Wells, exhibiting his trademark poise and guile to outlast his Croatian opponent in two hours and 21 minutes. 

Very little was going Federer's way in the early stages, but the 36-year-old refused to go down without a fight. Peppering his backhand with bludgeoning blows, Coric employed great depth on his groundstrokes to rattle the Swiss and snatch the opener. And he demonstrated the maturity of a veteran to stick with his gameplan after conceding a break lead in the second set. But Federer would prove to be too strong in the end, advancing to his 146th tour-level final with a gritty three-set victory in front of a packed house on Stadium 1. 

Federer conceded that it was his grittiest win of the year, possibly even moreso than his five-set victory over Marin Cilic in the Australian Open final. “I should have lost [the] match," Federer said. "I was down twice a break in the third, I was down a break in the second. So no doubt about it, this was definitely the toughest match… Against Marin I was up most of the match, and the only moment I was in a very difficult moment, I think I was down break points at the beginning of the fifth, but then I was able to cruise away.”

Federer's Undefeated Starts

Year

Record

2018

17

2006

16

2007

12

2004

11

2005, 2011

10

2002, 2017

8

Federer, who is assured of remaining at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings through the end of the tournament, will vie for a sixth title against either Milos Raonic or Juan Martin del Potro. The defending champion in the desert, he extended his win streak in Indian Wells to 10 straight. 

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Federer relinquished his first set of the fortnight at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and just his fourth thus far in 2018 (40-4 this year). Conditions vary greatly between the day and night sessions in Indian Wells, with the ball leaping off the court in the afternoon. Having almost exclusively featured under the lights entering today's encounter, with the exception of one rain-delayed set, he struggled to adjust his quick-strike game in the windier early stages. 

As unforced errors leaked from the Swiss' groundstrokes, an aggressive Coric pounced. Striking the ball with great depth, the composed Croatian would secure a late break for 6-5 and captured the first set as Federer netted a backhand. In total, Coric fired eight winners including five off his forehand wing to claim the opener after 41 minutes. Seemingly feeding off Federer's pace, he hammered the ball with aplomb, often catching the five-time champ out of the position.

Asked to explain his slow start to the match, Federer said, “I think trying to understand Borna's play, because he absorbs a lot of power very easily. He's a great retriever. It became a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. And when you're thinking you can play offense all the time and then he catches you off-guard and you have to go back into defense, I felt like maybe in the beginning it wasn't happening naturally.

“I was just hoping that through tougher rallies and staying in the match for longer, I would start to feel better in defense, particularly because in the beginning it wasn't quite there.”

A forehand winner notched an immediate break to open the second set, but, as Coric neared the finish line, nerves settled into the 21-year-old's game. Federer struck just four unforced errors in the last four games of the set and Coric's serve would begin to fall short in the box, opening the door. The Swiss would take full advantage, breaking for 5-4 and forcing a decider as a Coric forehand sailed long. And Federer would claw back from a break down once again in the third set, eventually breaking to love to claim victory and secure his place in the championship clash.

With the victory, Federer extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head lead over Coric to 2-0, having previously earned a comprehensive 6-2, 6-1 win in the 2015 Dubai semi-finals. He has now rallied from a set down on two occasions in 2018, both of which scored the Swiss a significant victory. In Rotterdam, he fought back to defeat Robin Haase, securing his return to World No. 1 after four years. 

For Coric, the Croatian will hold his head high after completing a dream week in Indian Wells. He dropped just nine games in reaching the fourth round, before registering back-to-back three-set victories over Taylor Fritz and Kevin Anderson to advance to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final. The 21-year-old is projected to rise to No. 36 in the ATP Rankings on Monday, just three spots off his career-high.

Coric said, “It was a great match, definitely. I was really surprised how well I played, how much pressure I was putting on him, and I was also enjoying it. I think I was pushing him to the limits. He pushed me to the limits, for sure.

“It was very enjoyable, but at the same time it was tough. It doesn't feel great to lose this match, but I know that's tennis. I need to look at it from the positive side, definitely, just the whole tournament, and this match as well.”

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