When it came to post-surgery rehab, every little shoulder exercise helped for Borna Coric. But that doesn’t mean it was always straightforward to find motivation on his path back to fitness.
“It’s just not easy spending a couple of hours in the gym, not seeing big improvements and at times realising [you aren’t] really close to playing tennis,” the Croatian told ATPTour.com this week as he prepares to face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the first round at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. “I [was] doing all of that to play tennis, [but] sometimes I didn’t see my reward coming.”
The match with Davidovich Fokina will be the 25-year-old’s first since March 2021, when he reached the semi-finals of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Two months later, Coric underwent surgery on his right shoulder. The surgery was successful in leaving Coric pain-free, but that was just the beginning of a long road back.
“The recovery process was not easy,” said Coric. “All those exercises, I am not really used to that. Spending hours in the gym, working on the shoulder only. At times it was quite painful as well after the surgery, so I needed to get used to that. It was not easy, probably the toughest part of my career, [but] hopefully now that’s just behind me and I can continue playing.”
The hard yards are starting to pay off for Coric, a two-time titlist on the ATP Tour whose 2018 semi-final run in Indian Wells was only stopped in three sets by 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
“I’m finally good,” said the Croatian. “I’ve been playing the last few months pretty much without pain, which hasn’t been the case in the last couple of years so it’s obviously just very happy times for me.
“Being back on the tour, it obviously feels great as well. I haven’t seen my friends or my colleagues, so it’s nice…I was already at the Australian Open. I just didn’t play, I pulled out at the last minute. I saw my friends [there] but it still does feel weird just knowing I’m going to be playing my first match after a very long time. It feels a little bit different, but I’m going to get used to it very soon.”
Coric acknowledged that taking the court at Indian Wells this week is not the end of his journey back to match-fitness. His pain-free shoulder needs time to get used to the exertions of the tour again, particularly when serving.
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“It’s one of my biggest weapons,” said the Croatian. “If not the biggest one. I remember it saved me many, many times, so I still need to work on it. It’s still not where I want it to be, but I just started [serving again] the last two months so I’m sure it’s going to come eventually.”
Even with his rehab process over, Coric is still thinking in small steps. He is staying focused on the present, rather than thinking immediately of a third ATP title or getting back up towards his career-high ranking of No. 12, held in 2018.
“[I have] really no [set] goals at all,” he said. “Just to stay healthy. I know that pretty much everyone says that, but in my case, I think it’s really the most important to stay healthy, play tennis and enjoy [being] on the court.”