Borna Coric
Coric looks like the real deal
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Scott Riley - Tennis Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - As I gaze into my crystal ball, I can see Croatia's Borna Coric as a future world No 1.

He's only 18, but Coric is already the youngest player in the ATP's Top 100 at a career-high No. 53 as we speak.

Coric, who stunned Rafael Nadal at the Swiss Indoors Basel last October, has an intense passion for tennis, uncanny maturity and a perverse drive when it comes to getting the best out of himself.

Note: Coric's run into the semifinals in Basel last year launched him into the Top 100 for the first time, making him the youngest player to do so since Nadal 11 years earlier.

Coric started the 2014 season outside the Top 300 and ended it by winning the ATP Star of Tomorrow Award.

So impressed was John McEnroe by Coric's '14 season that he suggested the Croat will be in the Top 10 within three years.

If Coric has his way, it'll be a lot sooner than that.

Having first picked up a racket to play with his sister when he was 5, Coric's development has since been chartered by countrymen Goran Ivanisevic, Marin Cilic and Mario Ancic, all of whom have nurtured Coric though his transition from the juniors to the pros.

"He's very well grounded; a smart guy and has the heart of a champion," said the former world No. 7 Ancic. "I have zero doubt he will be on top of the tennis world. He will be a superstar."

Cilic, who under the tutelage of Ivanisevic came of age to capture his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open last year, is of the same mind as Ancic when it comes to Coric's will to succeed.

"Borna often goes above his limits," Cilic said. "That's one of his best qualities. He's not afraid."

Coric closed out his junior career in style, beating Aussie fellow young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis to capture the 2013 U.S. Open junior crown. That big win propelled him to junior world No. 1 and set the stage for an impressive Davis Cup performance against that year's Wimbledon champ, Andy Murray.

Coric made his Grand Slam debut as a qualifier at last year's U.S. Open and beat Czech slugger Lukas Rosol to reach the second round.

"He is very strong mentally for his age, he is fast, and probably the player he is most similar to in style is (Novak) Djokovic," said the former Wimbledon champion Ivanisevic. "Big occasions do not worry him; he showed that in Davis Cup against Murray and Great Britain, and in beating Nadal."

In an era when so many players are peaking in their late 20s on the ATP Tour, some of the qualities that set the Zagreb native Coric apart from the loads of teenagers trying to make it on the circuit are his on-court demeanor, inner belief and drive.

"I think I can challenge anyone in the world, but I can't beat anyone in the world," said the lanky, 6-foot-1 Coric. "But apart from the Top 10 guys, I can beat all others, I think. I really love it when I have a big crowd behind me, the big time. I do like the big occasions.

"I've improved a lot physically," he said. "A year ago, I was still a small kid and I just couldn't cope with all the guys who were much bigger. Now, I'm much stronger. Tennis-wise, my serve improved a lot. I can still work on it, because some days it's a very low percentage. Also, my forehand, which is still not as good as I want, but I'm sure it's going to come with time."

Coric has set his sights on the Top 10.

"I need to get into the Top 10 before I can say, 'I did it,'" he said. "That was my goal when I was younger. I always have high expectations for myself."

This year, Coric, who's coached by former Aussie Open champ Thomas Johansson, reached a semifinal in Dubai, where he lost to the great Roger Federer after stunning Murray in straight sets as a lucky loser in the quarters; and was a quarterfinalist in Estoril, Portugal, last week, where he succumbed to in- form Spanish clay-courter Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Coric was a first-round loser at this year's Australian Open, but don't expect him to drop his opener when the French Open rolls around later this month.

Eighteen years old and he already has wins over Nadal and Murray under his belt?

The sky's the limit for the capable Croat.

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