Australian Open – Marin Cilic’s run to the Australian Open final hardly a surprise
MELBOURNE, Australia — For a man who stands 6-foot-6, Marin Cilic has done a pretty good job of staying out of the spotlight.
But just as he did at the 2014 US Open, when he blasted his way to his first Grand Slam title, every now and again, Cilic can leverages his game like few others can.
Cilic beat unseeded Kyle Edmund 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Thursday to become the first Croatian, male or female, to reach the Australian Open final. No matter his country of origin, whoever comes out the second semifinal, whether it’s Roger Federer or Hyeon Chungwill be well aware of the danger Cilic presents.
Cilic made the Wimbledon final last summer, but struggled with a foot injury in a disappointingly one-sided loss to Federer. But Cilic, who showed raw emotion during the encounter, never lost his determination.
“I did good analysis of the last season,” Cilic said. “Found some things that can improve my game, some small details in the game that I focused on. It’s working really nicely in the start of this year.”
Against Edmund, Cilic was overpowering — too solid and too fit for the 23-year-old Briton, who acquitted himself well in his first Grand Slam semifinal. Cilic’s aggressive tennis Thursday was reminiscent of his Flushing Meadows run four years ago. He struck 11 aces and hit 32 winners — pretty decent numbers for a quick three-set match.
For some long time, Cilic, now 29, had been strangely passive during notable occasions, reluctant to throw his big frame into attacking mode. In 2014, his coach at the time, Goran Ivanisevic, advised Cilic to let his serve go, and the results showed. He thrashed Federer in that year’s US Open semifinals and then outplayed Kei Nishikori in the final.
There have been moments between now and then when Cilic seemed like he might replicate those performances. He won his first Masters 1000 title in 2016 when he beat Andy Murray in the Cincinnati final. Later that year, he led Croatia to the Davis Cup final.
His Wimbledon loss to Federer last year was disappointing, but in hindsight, it convinced him he could win another Grand Slam title. During the offeason, with new coach, Ivan Cinkus, Cilic began to work even harder.
Together they honed Cilic’s serve even further. In six matches here, Cilic has hit 107 aces, second most this fortnight.
“I’m feeling that I am, for most of the shots, hitting them really, really good,” Cilic said. “From the return, moving, forehand, backhand, serving, I think everything is in good, solid spot. Feeling really excited about the final, too.”
Against Edmund, Cilic dropped only five points on his first serve for the entire match and faced only two break points, which came in the first game of the contest.
Edmund never had a look after that.
Cilic wants this title. He is soft spoken, but his game is explosive. If he has any discomfort physically, two days off will help — a luxury that neither Federer nor Chung has. And you can bet Cilic will take every advantage he can get. When asked whom he’d rather play Sunday, Cilic just smiled and said, “Answer for yourself.” He understands that in order to win, it’s about him and what kind of tennis he plays.
“It’s great to again be in the final, giving myself another opportunity to win a Grand Slam,” Cilic said. “I’m playing very good tennis and definitely very excited for the rest of 2018.”