SHANGHAI (AP) — Borna Coric upset defending champion Roger Federer to face Novak Djokovic in the Shanghai Masters final on Sunday.
Coric earned passage to the final by taking down the top-seeded Federer 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday.
“It was one of the best matches of my life,” Coric said.
Coric said neck pain almost caused him to skip playing in Shanghai.
“Today, really, I just came on the court with absolutely no pressure. I basically didn’t care, and that’s why I played so good.”
The Croatian gave himself a third career shot at Djokovic. In their previous meetings, Coric failed to take a set off of Djokovic.
The soon-to-be-No. 2-ranked Djokovic booked a final appointment after crushing No. 5 Alexander Zverev 6-2, 6-1.
Coric finished off Federer in style with the final two points an ace and a sizzling forehand crosscourt winner.
Coric didn’t offer Federer a break point opportunity, while managing to break Federer’s serve in the opening game of both sets. In all, Federer presented Coric with seven beak point possibilities.
“He had more punch on the ball. He served better,” Federer said. “I got off to a bad start in both sets. That combination is plenty here in Shanghai with fast conditions.”
Federer has won three titles this year – the Australian Open, Rotterdam, Stuttgart – but all of them were earned before the start of Wimbledon in July.
Federer was asked several times on Saturday about his schedule for the remainder of the year, as well as for next year. He said he couldn’t offer any specifics but did offer a guarantee regarding 2019.
“I wish I could tell you all these answers, but I really don’t know. But I will play tennis next year, yes,” he said.
Coric, who is 2-2 against Federer, also beat the 20-time Grand Slam champion in their last outing at Halle in June.
“Against that kind of player, you need something to hold on to,” he said. “I was holding on to that thought that I beat him the last time.”
Djokovic’s win over Zverev and Federer’s demise guaranteed Djokovic will move up from No. 3 to No. 2 in the world rankings on Monday, which has him swapping positions with Federer, but still trailing Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic’s serve has not been broken this week in 37 service games. He never offered Zverev a break point opportunity, and broke the German’s serve on four of six offerings.
By the time Zverev was 6-2, 3-1 down, his emotions got the better of him after he hit a routine backhand into the net. He banged his racket on the court, then gave it another swipe before tossing the mangled implement into the crowd.
Djokovic posted only nine unforced errors to 24 for Zverev.
“I did everything I intended to do on my end,” Djokovic said. “It’s all working and it’s been a couple of perfect matches.”
Djokovic is targeting his 72nd career title here on Sunday. He has won all three of his previous finals in Shanghai.
Djokovic played his 1,000th career match against Zverev, and holds an impressive 827-173 win-loss record.
“I wouldn’t be so dedicated to this sport if I didn’t believe that I can achieve great heights,” Djokovic said. “But you always have to kind of pinch yourself, particularly at this stage of my career, and be grateful, because I have had an awesome career so far.”
He is on a 17-match winning streak and is 26-1 in matches played since the start of Wimbledon.
A win on Sunday would deliver a fourth title of the season to Djokovic, beside Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.