Novak Djokovic has gone out of his way to congratulate Borna Coric after the Croatian star broke through for his maiden ATP 1000 title at the Cincinnati Masters.
With Djokovic unable to play due to his refusal to get the Covid-19 jab, Coric signalled his return to full fitness by winning the biggest title of his career.
‘On the comeback trail after undergoing right shoulder surgery last year, Coric returned to the ATP Tour in March.
After eight months on the sidelines, he was back in the winner’s circle on Sunday, dispatching Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Coric powered past the fourth seed 7-6 (7-0) 6-2 to stamp himself as a major threat at the US Open.
Ranked 152nd and in the tournament via a protected ranking, Coric capped a remarkable off a week that included a second-round victory over Rafa Nadal.
The title was the third of Coric’s career but his first since 2018, and will see him jump up the rankings to World No.29 and seeded at the US Open.
“It was a very, very tough match at the beginning. I was not playing very well and he was pushing me very hard,” Coric said.
“I started to serve better, I started to play better.
“I was fighting very hard and I think in the second I played my best set of the whole year.”
Despite not being allowed to enter the United States and therefore being forced to withdraw from Cincinnati, Djokovic showed his class by congratulating Coric on social media.
“Bravo, King! Totally deserved,” he wrote on Instagram.
“All the hard work and the patience you paid off. Keep going and good luck.”
Novak Djokovic’s participation at US remains unclear
Djokovic also appears unlikely to play the US Open – starting August 29 – unless there is a late change of border rules in America.
Unvaccinated travellers are currently banned from entering the United States, meaning Djokovic is barred.
However, there is a glimmer of hope that the rules could change this week after the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that it was no longer recommending unvaccinated citizens to quarantine upon exposure to the virus.
“Prior infection and vaccination confer some protection against severe illness, and so it really makes the most sense to not differentiate with our guidance or our recommendations based on vaccination status at this time,” said CDC scientist Dr Greta Massetti.
The CDC also said in a statement: “In the coming weeks, the CDC will work to align stand-alone guidance documents, such as those for healthcare settings, congregate settings at higher risk of transmission, and travel, with today’s update.”
The announcement effectively means that unvaccinated Americans are now being given the same guidance as those who are vaccinated – a change that could see border rules relaxed soon as well.
Under the section regarding travel rules, the CDC website states: “CDC is reviewing this page to align with updated guidance.”