INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Roger Federer rallied to beat Borna Coric 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, extending his career-best start to 17-0 and putting him in the final with a chance to win his record sixth title.
Federer overcame a slow start in front of a partisan crowd that included Rod Laver and Pete Sampras. He rallied from a 5-7, 2-4 deficit to win the final four games of the second set, breaking Coric twice for the first time in the match.
There were five breaks in the third. Federer trailed 4-3 and then broke after two deuces on his way to winning the last three games of the two-hour, 20-minute struggle.
Coric’s crosscourt forehand was called out on match point. He challenged the call and the line system showed it was just wide of the sideline.
Federer hasn’t started a season so well since 2006, when he won his first 16 matches en route to a 92-5 record.
The Swiss superstar was playing a rare 11 a.m. match. According to the ATP Tour, Federer hadn’t played that early since 2006. And it showed as he sprayed errors all over the court and didn’t break Coric for the first time until late in the second set.
“Really I just woke up,” Federer said in an on-court interview. “It was early today. I had pasta at 9:15. It was yummy.”
Trailing a set and 0-2 in the second, the crowd seemingly tried to will better shots out of Federer with loud applause and shouts of encouragement.
“I needed to fight a little bit to keep the ball in play,” he said. “Borna was incredibly steady and was playing deep and hard shots.”
Coric, a 21-year-old from Croatia, was in his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal. Federer, atop the world rankings again at 36, owns 27 career Masters 1000 titles.
Coric is part of a trio of 20-somethings that have dominated the desert tournament. Daria Kasatkina of Russia and Naomi Osaka of Japan, both 20, will meet in the women’s final on Sunday after knocking out several higher-ranked players along the way.