Marin Cilic of Croatia says he is extremely proud of becoming the only active player to reach the semifinals of all four Grand Slams after defeating Russia’s Andrey Rublev in a five-set thriller in the French Open quarterfinals.
Cilic, who reached his first Roland Garros semi-final on Wednesday, joined an elite group that includes Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray in digging deep to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(10-2) and advance to the last-four stage of the clay-court Grand Slam.
“A fantastic achievement for me, and to be, they mentioned to be, just among them (Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray), one of the only active guys with at least one semifinal on each Grand Slams,” he said.
Cilic attributed his achievement to his recent success on the clay court.
“I would say, in the last few years coming back from 2017, I started to feel great on clay and then had some great success, but in the end, it’s also such a short season for clay, it’s difficult to time everything every single season. But I’m feeling great on the court, enjoying myself, being me, playing my own game and it’s paying off, and I’m just enjoying the run.”
“And I obviously knew with my kind of level with my tennis in the last several years I’ve been playing, if I’m finding good form, good things are always happening. So yeah, just extremely proud of that, and really happy,” said Cilic in the post-match press conference.
Cilic’s thrilling victory moves him up to No. 17 in the ATP Live Rankings, six places higher than where he started the tournament. The former World No. 3 from Croatia was last ranked in the Top 20 in August 2019.
Although Cilic had a match point opportunity when Rublev was serving at 4-5, 30/40 in the fifth set, the 20th seed regained his composure to win the final-set tie-break 10/2 in spectacular fashion as he stepped onto the court to strike a series of searing winners, according to an ATP tour report.
“It comes from being me,” said Cilic when asked about his aggressive approach to the tie-break in his on-court interview. “I played that kind of tennis the whole match, and especially the fifth set was an incredible battle. Andrey played incredibly well, and it was an incredible fair-play performance on the court.
“A lot of heart, and one had to go down. Today was my day, but Andrey also played an incredible match.”
Despite dropping a tight first set to one of the ATP Tour’s biggest ball-strikers, Cilic’s power-hitting came through as he manoeuvred Rublev around Court Philippe Chatrier to great effect. According to the report, the Croatian fired 88 winners, including 33 aces, on his way to a four-hour, ten-minute victory.
“Andrey plays a difficult game,” said Cilic. “Serves big, hits big. You don’t have many chances and you have to keep up with your level and I did that. Unfortunately, I lost that fourth set. I felt I was close to get the break maybe, but Andrey played really well and when you play this long it’s always going to be a little bit up and down during the match.”
Cilic’s win follows his stunning quarter-final victory over World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev.
The Croatian will now face Casper Ruud in the semifinals, who held off a spirited challenge from Dane Holger Rune on Wednesday night at Roland Garros, extending his best Grand Slam run into the semifinals. The 23-year-old Norwegian won the first all-Scandinavian Roland Garros quarter final – and both men’s first major quarter final – with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 victory.
“These are the matches you dream about playing and hopefully of course even the final if it’s possible,” Ruud said in an on-court interview, before looking ahead to his Friday semi-final against Marin Cilic. “I have to be really focussed and bring my ‘A’ game to the semi-final because Marin has played great all week and it’s going to be another tough match.”
(Inputs from IANS)