Borna Coric, who only returned in March after missing a year with a shoulder injury, dominated fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday to win the ATP Cincinnati Masters.
The world number 152 from Croatia dispatched the Greek star 7-6 (7/0), 6-2 to become the lowest-ranked player to ever lift a Masters trophy.
“I have no words, to be honest. It’s just an unbelievable feeling," the winner said. “I’m just gonna enjoy this.
“I thought I could play well. I was training hard, and I knew I could play good tennis, but to play this level of tennis - I was just not aware.
“I’m just super happy, obviously.".
Coric lost his only previous final at this level, going down to Novak Djokovic in Shanghai four years ago.
On Sunday, Coric replaced 143rd-ranked Spaniard Roberto Carretero, the 1996 Hamburg champion, as the lowest-rated Masters trophy lifter.
“It’s been very stressful for my body this whole week," the Croat said. “I came into the tournament with many, many (training) sessions
“I played five matches now in a row. So I need to rest for a couple of days. I need to recover and just get ready for the US Open."
Coric came back from an early deficit, trailing Tsitsipas 4-1 before turning the corner and sweeping the tiebreaker to love.
Momentum shifted further in the second set for the Croat, who was supported by a few fans wearing the national colours.
“I realised that I needed to be more aggressive," Coric said. “He’s an unbelievable player, and he’s not gonna miss on my solid balls.
“I said to myself, ‘I have nothing to lose. If I continue like this, I’m going to lose anyway, for sure.’
“He was also playing very, very well, putting the pressure on me."
Coric fired seven aces and saved three of four break points in a two-hour victory.
Coric improved to 2-1 all-time against Tsitsipas, having retired from their first meeting in Rome in 2018 and won in the third round of the 2020 US Open in a fifth-set tiebreaker.
“You’ve kicked my ass the last couple of times," Tsitsipas said to Coric in the trophy ceremony.
Then he praised Coric’s title run at Cincinnati, which included victories over Rafael Nadal, Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.
“You’ve proved yourself over and over again," Tsitsipas said.
“It was an incredible comeback from injury. You are proving that you are up there with us."
Tsitsipas said he is still seeking a first title on outdoor hardcourt losing six finals played on cement.
“It kind of sucks," the Greek said.
“I still hope to come back here and win it one day. “I was definitely not choking — I just played robots every time in finals."
Ominous clouds unleashed rain over the area shortly after the trophy ceremony was completed.
There were storm delays much of the week at the Midwest event, the last major tuneup for the US Open, which begins on August 29.