CROATIAN veteran Marin Cilic wound back the clock in a somewhat underrated tennis career, defeating seventh seed Andrey Rublev to advance to the semi-finals of Roland Garros for the first time. The 20th seed has one major title to his name (2014 US Open), but has made finals at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open where he ultimatly lost to Roger Federer in both.
After two previous quarter finals finishes in Paris back in 2017-18, Cilic went one step further on the clay, which has been his least successful major over time. He still held a 63 per cent winning record at the event coming into the tournament, and he needed all his experience and determination to overthrow Rublev. In a match that lasted four hours and 10 minutes, the Croatian managed to outlast his younger opponent, to win 5-7 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-6.
Rublev was dominant in the first set, winning 89 per cent of his first serve points, and not facing a single break point. In turn, he had six chances, breaking once, and won 40 per cent of his receiving points compared to Cilic’s 27 per cent, while only committing four unforced errors to 12 winners. By comparison, Cilic hit 18 winners to 16 unforced errors.
Cilic returned serve – literally – in the second set, winning 45 percent of Rublev’s second serve to capitalise off it, while also producing nine aces himself to make it 17 for the math thus far. He broke with one of only three opportunities, and produced 21 winners to nine, and only had four more unforced errors (11-7). That form continued into the third set, with Cilic putting the foot down as Rublev really struggled. The Russian could only manage one winner for 11 unforced errors, as Cilic hit 13 and 12 respectively, as well as seven more aces to Rublev’s one.
It looked as though Cilic would run away with the contest, as his serving percentage lifted to 61 per cent (Rublev’s had hovered around the 50 per cent mark for a couple of sets) as his serve success rate rose up to 82 and 64 per cent off his first and second serve points, compared to Rublev’s 61 and 56 per cent. Then, against the grain, Rublev found his form from the first set, only dropping one point off his first serve, and five in total, as he regained control over his opponent, matching him for aces (two) and breaking from the only chance in the set.
Both players were tied at two sets apiece, and the fifth deciding set as the best of the lot, as it went all the way to a tiebreaker. Cilic and Rublev only had one break point opportunity each, and neither could take it, with the Croatian looking a touch safer off his first serve (80 to 67 per cent), while Rublev was better off his second serve (65 to 56 per cent). The key difference was in the winners, with Cilic leaving nothing out on the court and slamming home 25 winners for 20 unforced errors, as Rublev only managed the seven and six respectively. The tiebreaker itself saw the players even at 2-2 early on, before four winners and eight consecutive points later, Cilic emerged victorious, winning the super tiebreak 10-2 to end the epic four hour-plus match.
All up Cilic smashed 88 winners and 33 aces to be an incredible force across the court, overcoming Rublev’s strong first serve success rate of 78 per cent. Rublev was able to match the Croatian for breaks (two apiece), and was blown off the court with 35 winners, but did have 40 less unforced errors (31-71). In the end, the Russian had done well but not well enough.
AROUND THE COURTS
Cilic will now advance to the final four, where he plays eighth seed Norwegian Casper Ruud who made his first final four, defeating Danish teenager Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune. Ruud won 6-1 4-6 7-6 6-3 against a plucky Rune in his first Roland Garros tournament.
In the women’s singles event, top seed Iga Swiatek continued her outstanding form to easily dispose of 11th seed Jessica Pegula 6-3 6-2 in an hour and 29 minutes. The Pole broke five times to one and won more than half of her receiving points. She also hit 14 more winners (30-16) for only one more unforced error (28-27), and successfully won 90 per cent of her net points.
Swiatek will take on 20th seed Russian Daria Kasatkina who defeated compatriot and 29th seed Veronika Kudermetova, 6-4 7-6. The match lasted two horus and eight minutes, as Kasatkina weathered Kudermetova’s power of three aces and 38 winners, to hit 16 winners for only 25 unforced errors, half of her opponent’s 50. She also won 50 er cent of her opponent’s second serve points.