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Novak Djokovic stops Borna Coric from triumphing in the 21-year-old's maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final.

Coric: 'It Was A Very Good Lesson'

Croatian falls short in first Masters 1000 final

Borna Coric arrived in Shanghai with no momentum. The Croatian had lost in the first round at the Shenzhen Open and the China Open, and was even considering withdrawing from the Rolex Shanghai Masters due to neck stiffness. Then the 21-year-old dropped the first set of his opening-round match against Stan Wawrinka.

But Coric summoned some of the best tennis of his career to navigate his way to his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, where only the red-hot Novak Djokovic was able to stop him.

“I'm just happy with the whole week. I think it was a really good week for me, from basically me thinking on Monday morning I'm going to fly out on Monday evening after my first match to playing [in the] final, [my] first in a [Masters] 1000 event,” Coric said. “It's awesome. I need to look from the positive sides, and I need to take only positives from this week.”

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This time last year, Coric had fallen outside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings. Forget making a run in Shanghai — he lost in the first round of qualifying in straight sets.

“Last year in this time obviously I was really struggling. I was not playing well,” Coric said. “In the offseason I decided to change my whole team. I decided to change my approach, as well. I was training for six weeks. I had a really good offseason and the longest offseason so far. I think I started gaining some benefit from that at the beginning of the year. Obviously then I started playing just better and better and that gave me some confidence for later on.”

That confidence has done Coric wonders, as the Croat has excelled throughout the season. The only players who have won more Masters 1000 matches in 2018 are Alexander Zverev (22) and Djokovic (20). Beating Roger Federer twice in the same year — once to triumph at the Gerry Weber Open and again this week in the semi-finals — doesn’t hurt.

“Absolutely I did prove to myself that I can beat the best players again and that I can play good tennis. It helped me a lot for the next two tournaments,” Coric said. “[Over the] past two weeks after my Davis Cup tie, I didn't feel particularly well. When I came in China, I'm always struggling here in China, to be honest, with the weather a little bit, maybe it's the time zone, I'm not sure... so now also that I played this tournament okay and also next year, just coming here, I'm going to be more relaxed probably.”

It might be disappointing for Coric not to lift the trophy, which would have been his third at tour-level. But it was simply a case of Djokovic being the better player on the day.

“He was the much better player on the court. I was playing good, really. I was really happy how I played,” Coric said. “I couldn't play much better today, to be honest. I could serve maybe a little bit better, but still, I felt even if I was serving little bit better, he'd still return my serves. So there is nothing I can do.

“It was really tough, I need to say. I just didn't know what to do exactly. He was the much better player on the court today. There is no doubt about that.”

That happens to some of the best players in the world, as nobody wins every match. But Coric is certainly improving, and he will climb to a career-high No. 13 in the ATP Rankings on Monday. If nothing else, his loss can help him grow even more.

“It was very good lesson today. I didn't enjoy it as much, to be honest. But now when I look back on it, it's a very good lesson,” Coric said. “I think I can learn a lot from this match. I'm going to look at it when I have some time off. For sure I think he played really, really unbelievable tennis. So I'm going to try to learn something. And it's like I said, I'm going to just take positives from this week.”