Cilic outlasts Rublev to reach maiden French Open semifinal

Paris, Jun 1 (EFE).- Croatia’s Marin Cilic continued his dream run at the French Open on Wednesday, edging past world No. 7 Andrey Rublev 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10-2) to advance to the semifinals for the first time in his career.

The 2014 US Open champion has rediscovered his top form over this fortnight and at the age of 33 has topped his best previous showings at Roland Garros – a pair of quarterfinal berths in 2017 and 2018.

He also has become just the second Croat to reach the semifinals of tennis’ clay-court major, a feat first accomplished by Ivan Ljubicic in 2006.

Rublev got off to a strong start in Wednesday’s first men’s quarterfinal, dominating his own service games and applying constant pressure when returning.

Although Cilic managed to stave off three break points in the seventh game and two more in the ninth, Rublev finally converted his sixth break-point opportunity thanks to a Cilic forehand error to take a 6-5 lead and then wrapped up the first set by striking his 17th ace of the contest.

The world No. 23, however, wasted little time taking control of the second set, breaking Rublev’s serve in the second game on an overhead winner than clipped the net cord and then holding the rest of the way.

Cilic did not face a single break point in that set but was still under plenty of pressure, with all but one his service games going to deuce.

The third set then followed a similar script, with Cilic winning it on the strength of a single service break. His service games were more comfortable, although he had to escape a 0-30 hole before holding to take a two-set-to-one lead.

The Russian, however, stormed back in the fourth set.

After two sets of frustration, he finally earned another break point in the eighth game of the fourth set and made the most of that opportunity to seize a 5-3 lead.

One game later, the set was his and the players headed into a decider.

In the fifth set, both men held serve relatively comfortably over the first nine games before they had to dig deep to stay alive in the match and force a tiebreaker.

Rublev staved off a match point in the 10th game and then Cilic saved one break point when serving at 5-5 before eventually pulling out a 12-point game.

The decisive 10-point super-tiebreaker then started as evenly as the rest of the match, but from 2-2 the Croatian produced a stunning display of offensive tennis to seize total control.

Striking big serves and ground strokes and executing a perfect backhand volley to end another rally, he won the last eight points of the match against a shell-shocked Rublev to claim victory in four hours and 10 minutes.

“(The aggressive play) comes from being me. I played that kind of tennis the whole match. Especially, the fifth set was an incredible battle,” Cilic said afterward. “Andrey played incredibly well and it was an incredible performance on the court – a lot of heart. One had to go down. Today it was my day.”

The Croatian’s serve and powerful baseline blasts were the story, as he finished the contest with 33 aces and 88 winners. Rublev, a big hitter in his own right, ended the match with a relatively low 15 aces and 35 winners.

Cilic also achieved another career milestone with the win, becoming just the fifth active men’s player (after Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray) to reach at least the semifinal stage at each of the four Grand Slam tournaments – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. EFE


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