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Cilic Wins 5-Set Thriller Against Rublev, Reaches Roland Garros SFs

  • Posted: Jun 01, 2022

Cilic Wins 5-Set Thriller Against Rublev, Reaches Roland Garros SFs

Croatian becomes fifth active player to reach semi-finals of all four Grand Slams

Having charged to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the loss of just a set, Marin Cilic found a different way to win against Andrey Rublev in Paris on Wednesday afternoon.

The Croatian dug deep to seal a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(10-2) victory and reach the semi-finals at the clay-court Grand Slam for the first time. The 33-year-old is just the fifth active player to reach semi-finals of all four Grand Slams, alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Cilic’s thrilling victory elevates him to No. 17 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, six spots higher than where he began the tournament. The Croatian, a former World No. 3, was last ranked in the Top 20 in August 2019.

Although Cilic saw a match point opportunity slip away when Rublev was serving at 4-5, 30/40 in the fifth set, the 20th seed regained his composure to claim the final-set tie-break 10/2 in spectacular style as he stepped into court to strike a series of searing winners.

“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.”

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Despite dropping a tight first set to one of the biggest ball-strikers on the ATP Tour, it was Cilic whose power-hitting came good as he manoeuvred Rublev around Court Philippe Chatrier to great effect. The Croatian fired 88 winners including 33 aces on the way to a four-hour, 10-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.”

The win backs up Cilic’s stunning quarter-final victory over World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. The Croatian’s opponent in the last four will be the winner of Wednesday’s night session quarter-final between Casper Ruud and Holger Rune.

Rublev made the early running on Court Philippe Chatrier, carving out three break points in the seventh game and two in the ninth. Cilic gave the seventh seed no chance to convert as he consistently found huge serves at key moments, but Rublev continued to hit aggressively with his return and the pressure told. Rublev broke for 6-5 and made no mistake behind serve to win his first set in five Grand Slam quarter-final appearances.

Despite the early setback, the Cilic serve continued to fire and an early break was enough to earn the Croatian the second set. The 20th seed frequently found acute angles with his groundstrokes to keep Rublev on the move, and Cilic clinched another crucial solitary break for 4-3 in the third after targeting the Rublev second serve.

Although he frequently struggled to find his free-flowing best, the composed Rublev stuck with Cilic and took his chance to break in the eighth game of the fourth set and force a decider. A tight fifth set saw few chances until Cilic missed a forehand into the net on match point at 5-4, but the Croatian made no mistake in the tie-break.

Cilic arrived at Roland Garros with a 4-4 match record for the European clay-court season, but the 2014 US Open champion has excelled in Paris, defeating Attila Balazs, Marton Fucsovics, Gilles Simon, Medvedev and Rublev to charge to the last four.

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Zverev Controls His Destiny In Battle For World No. 1

  • Posted: Jun 01, 2022

Zverev Controls His Destiny In Battle For World No. 1

Learn how the German could reach the top of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings

Following Novak Djokovic’s loss to Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros quarter-finals, Alexander Zverev now controls his destiny in the battle for No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

If the German wins Roland Garros, on 6 June he will become the 28th player to reach the top of the men’s tennis mountain. He next plays 13-time champion Nadal in the semi-finals.

If Zverev does not lift his first Grand Slam trophy on Sunday, Djokovic will remain in top spot for a record-extending 373rd week on 6 June. Zverev would climb to a career-high No. 2 next week if he loses in the final, and remain World No. 3 if he falls to Nadal.

Potential Pepperstone ATP Rankings Points (6 June) Based On RG Result

 6 June  4R  QF  SF  F  W
 Novak Djokovic  –  8770  –  –  –
 Daniil Medvedev  8160  –  –  –  –
 Alexander Zverev  –  –  7795  8275  9075

However, Zverev is guaranteed to ascend to at least a career-high No. 2 on 13 June, when past Roland Garros points (from 2020-21) fall off players’ Pepperstone ATP Rankings, regardless of his performance the rest of the tournament. Djokovic will fall to No. 3 that day, when the 2,000 points he earned in Paris last year drop.

If Zverev does not triumph in Paris, Daniil Medvedev will begin his second stint at World No. 1. He previously held top spot for three weeks earlier this year.

Potential Pepperstone ATP Rankings Points (13 June) Based On RG Result

 13 June  4R  QF  SF  F  W
 Novak Djokovic  –   6770  –  –  –
 Daniil Medvedev  7800  –  –  –  –
 Alexander Zverev  –   –  7075  7555  8355

The week of 13 June will mark the first week since 10 November 2003 that at least one member of the ‘Big Four’ — Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — will not be in the top two of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

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Preview: Ruud, Rune In First All-Scandinavian Grand Slam QF

  • Posted: Jun 01, 2022

Preview: Ruud, Rune In First All-Scandinavian Grand Slam QF

Rublev faces Cilic during day session

Wednesday’s Roland Garros quarter-finals will produce at least one first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, with Marin Cilic the lone competitor who has experienced that stage of a major. Cilic takes on Andrey Rublev, who is playing in his fifth Grand Slam quarter-final, while Casper Ruud faces #NextGenATP Dane Holger Rune in a battle of first-time quarter-finalists.

All four men are former World No. 1 juniors, but none has reached the semis at Roland Garros. At the junior level, Cilic (2004), Rublev (2014) and Rune (2019) all won the Roland Garros boys’ title at age 16.

In the past two-and-a-half years, Rublev and Ruud have been among the most successful players on the ATP Tour. Rublev leads the Tour with 122 match wins since 2020, and is second, behind Novak Djokovic, in titles won and finals reached.

Most Wins (2020-22)  Most Finals (2020-22) Most Titles (2020-22)
Rublev – 122 Djokovic – 14 Djokovic – 10
Tsitsipas – 118 Rublev – 12 Rublev – 9
Zverev – 116 Zverev – 12 Ruud – 8
Djokovic – 112 Tsitsipas – 11 Zverev – 8
Medvedev – 107 Medvedev – 10 Nadal – 7
Ruud – 107 Ruud – 10 Medvedev – 6

There will be no doubles action on Day 11 after the semi-final bracket was completed on Tuesday. The four remaining teams will enjoy a day off before play resumes Thursday.

View Singles Draw | View Doubles Draw | View Schedule

[8] Casper Ruud (NOR) vs. Holger Rune (DEN)

The final Court Philippe Chatrier evening session features a historic matchup — the first all-Scandinavian quarter-final in major history. Ruud, 23, has made his first breakthrough to that stage in his 14th Grand Slam main-draw appearance, while the 19-year-old Rune is playing in just his third major.

The young Dane was 0-2 at the Grand Slam level entering Paris, but has beaten 14th seed Denis Shapovalov (first round) and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas (fourth round) to reach the quarters with a full head of steam.

“I have strong belief in myself that if I really focus and play my tennis, I can beat almost everybody,” he said after getting past Tsitsipas. Rune also beat World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who will face Rafael Nadal in Friday’s semi-finals, in April on the way to his first ATP Tour title in Munich.

“But also, I really have to be in the moment, because if not, everybody can also beat me,” he added.

One man he has not beaten is Ruud, who holds a 3-0 edge in their ATP Head2Head history. They have met three times, all on clay, with the Norwegian taking straight-sets victories each of the past two years at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters as well as last July in Bastad. But their most recent matchup, in the Monte Carlo in April, was their closest yet: a 7-6(5), 7-5 decision for Ruud.

“It was a great match. It was very close. I had a lot of chances, and didn’t really take them,” Rune said, looking back.

“I know Casper Ruud very well, and he’s been doing mainly all his best showings in Masters 1000s and the [ATP] 250s, which he’s won a lot of,” he later added. “Of course [he is] more experienced than me, but not a lot more experienced in a Slam… It’s both our first quarter-final. Of course we both feel the nerves.”

While Ruud is yet to assert himself as a second-week fixture at the Grand Slams, he leads the ATP Tour with 64 clay-court wins since the start of 2020. He has won all eight of his tour-level titles in that timespan, including seven on clay.

Ruud earned his most recent win in a 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 decision over 12th seed Hubert Hurkacz.

“To win this match and to make my first quarter-final here in Roland Garros means a lot,” he said after getting past Hurkacz. “It’s the first Grand Slam that I visited as a kid. It’s nice to get one of my best results of my career so far here.”

In the third round, he battled back from two-sets-to-one down to edge 32nd seed Lorenzo Sonego. He also beat home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the opening round, sending the Frenchman into retirement.

While Rune recognises his achievement in progressing to the quarter-finals, he remains locked in on the task at hand.

“It is going to change, of course, a little bit the way I look on the Grand Slams in the future when you know you have reached a quarter-final one time,” he said. “It has been a big goal for me this year, and to reach it is a good feeling.

“The tournament is not over and I want to try to win my next match, and I’m already focussed on it. I need to do all the right things to be prepared. I think it will be an exciting match in the quarter-final.”

As the World No. 8, Ruud is the clear favourite in the matchup, at least according to the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, in which his opponent has moved 12 places to No. 28 this fortnight. Victory Wednesday will elevate the Dane — the lone unseeded Roland Garros quarter-finalist — to the cusp of the Top 20.

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[7] Andrey Rublev vs. [20] Marin Cilic (CRO)

The 33-year-old Cilic may be the elder statesman in the bottom half of the draw, but if you ask him, his tennis journey is just beginning. After he knocked Gilles Simon out of his final Roland Garros in the third round — the Frenchman plans to retire at the end of the season — Cilic was asked what stage he feels he is at in his career.

“At the start,” he said with a laugh. “Honestly, feeling good. I was even talking with my doctor end of last year… and he said, your body’s like 25.

“Don’t tell my wife I’m saying this… I might be playing another 10 years.”

The Croatian has been in vintage form this fortnight, dropping just one set and an average of two games per set won. He played what he called “one of the best matches of my career from start to finish” to upset World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round. His 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win was every bit as dominant as the scoreline suggested, and his performance makes him a legitimate contender to win his second Grand Slam title this week.

Even before that eye-catching performance, Cilic was not lacking in belief. He previously said the he “absolutely” believed he was still capable of winning more big titles. A 20-time tour-level champion, his biggest crowns have come at the 2014 US Open and in 2016 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati.

“I’m feeling good on the court, everything’s working well,” he added. “I’m quite dedicated with my training, with my routines. I take that quite seriously. Rarely go in tournaments that I’m not 100 percent ready. So those are things that keep me in shape.

“How long? We’ll see. But definitely three, four years, if I can be competitive like this.”

Cilic, who said things have “clicked” for him this fortnight, posted a 4-4 record on the European clay swing prior to Roland Garros. He has only notched three wins at the same tournament once before this season — at the Australian Open, where he reached the fourth round before a four-set defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime.

His opponent in the Aussie Open third round was none other than Rublev. The Croatian claimed a 7-5, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 victory, but still trails their ATP Head2Head series 2-4. Their lone meeting on clay came in 2015 in their very first match, when Cilic scored a three-set win in Geneva. Rublev won both of their 2021 meetings, at the hard-court ATP Masters 1000 events in Miami and Cinicinnati.

The seventh-seeded Rublev lived up to his seeding to be among the last eight in Paris, but he has not been as clinical as his Croatian opponent. Rublev has dropped one set in each of his four Roland Garros matches and won a thrilling 13-11 fourth-set tie-break to avoid a fifth set against Cristian Garin in the third round. He then dropped a 6-1 opening set to Jannik Sinner in the fourth round before the Italian began to struggle with a knee problem which forced him to retire in the third set.

But widening the scope, the 24-year-old Rublev entered Paris in fine form. A three-time tour-level champion this season, he won his third career clay title in late April by beating Djokovic in the final of the Serbia Open on the World No. 1’s home city of Belgrade. He also reached the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open, where he lost to Tsitsipas.

Neither Rublev nor Cilic has advanced to the Roland Garros semi-finals before, though both have made the quarter-finals — Rublev in 2020 and Cilic in both 2017 and 2018. While Rublev is seeking his first Grand Slam semi-final, the Croatian has reached that stage five previous times. It’s Cilic’s 14th major quarter-final and Rublev’s fifth.

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Nadal Treasures 'Emotional & Beautiful Night' With One Eye On SFs

  • Posted: Jun 01, 2022

Nadal Treasures ‘Emotional & Beautiful Night’ With One Eye On SFs

Nadal defeated Djokovic after four hours and 11 minutes

Rafael Nadal was full of emotion following his four-set quarter-final victory over Novak Djokovic Tuesday night at Roland Garros. The match spilled over into Wednesday morning in Paris, carrying on past 1 a.m. until Nadal emerged victorious, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4).

“I became emotional because, of course, the last three months and a half for me, the only thing that I can say is it hasn’t been easy,” Nadal explained in his post-match press conference. “Not going to be talking about all the things I went through the last couple of months any more now, because I have to keep going, but of course it hasn’t been a fun three months.

“All these things… make this match more special, without a doubt.”

Nadal did not want to focus on his difficult buildup to Roland Garros, which included a six-week recovery from a rib fracture and continued issues with his chronic foot injury. Instead, he preferred to look ahead to the opportunity he has afforded himself: He’s now two wins away from claiming his 14th Roland Garros title and his 22nd major crown, both of which would extend his own records.

“In the end, it has been a very emotional night for me,” he said. “I’m still playing for nights like today. But it’s just a quarter-final match, no? So I didn’t win anything. So I just give myself a chance to be back on court in two days, play another semi-finals here in Roland Garros. It means a lot to me.”

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Nadal Downs Djokovic In Classic Roland Garros QF

Nadal is confident in his ability to recharge mentally and emotionally for his Friday meeting with Alexander Zverev. 

“If I am not playing good or if I am losing in that semi-finals match, [it is] not going to be because I’m not going to be focussed… I have experience on that. I am not the kind of guy and player that emotionally goes high and low. I am very stable, I think, emotionally.

“I know how the things works, no? It’s the moment to enjoy today, because [it has] been a beautiful night for me, without a doubt. Very emotional one. But tomorrow [I’m] going to start thinking about things that I need to do to be ready for that semi-finals. The main goal is be focused on [keeping] the level that I have been playing today.”

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The Spaniard will also take full advantage of his two rest days after winning a pair of four-plus-hour matches against Djokovic and Felix Auger-Aliassime. He battled the Serbian for four hours and 11 minutes to improve to 29-30 in their ATP Head2Head series, including an 8-2 edge at Roland Garros.

Looking back on his rivalry with Djokovic, Nadal was keen to put his latest victory in perspective.

“This is one more episode. That’s it,” he reflected. “We played… in the most important events, in the most important matches for a lot of years, and it’s always special to play against each other.

“Tonight has been just a quarter-final match, not the final. So that’s different. But still a super classic match and in a big scenario.”

He then broadened his scope to include Roger Federer. The Big Three were level on 20 Grand Slam titles until Nadal’s January triumph at the Australian Open.

“Between Novak, Roger, myself, we have an amazing story together facing each other in the most important matches for such a long time. So that makes things more special and more emotional.

“Of course there is always a conversation about the player who’ll finish with more Slams or who is the best [in] history, but from my perspective [it] doesn’t matter that much. We achieved our dreams. We made history in this sport because we did things that didn’t happen before.

“So from my perspective… the level of [us] three is very equal. It’s not much difference, so [it] doesn’t matter.”

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Djokovic: 'Had My Chances. Didn't Use Them'

  • Posted: Jun 01, 2022

Djokovic: ‘Had My Chances. Didn’t Use Them’

Djokovic lost to Nadal in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic was full of praise for Rafael Nadal on Wednesday following their mammoth quarter-final battle at Roland Garros.

Meeting for the 59th time, the World No. 1 and the Spaniard when toe to toe for four hours and 11 minutes on Philippe Chatrier Court, with Nadal walking out the winner in four sets.

“Congratulations to Nadal. He was a better player I think in important moments,” Djokovic admitted in his post-match press conference. “[He] started very well. I didn’t start so great, 2-6, 0-3, double break down. I was gaining momentum as I was coming back in the second set, managed to win the second set, and I thought, I’m back in the game.

“But then he had another two, three fantastic games at the beginning of the third. He was just able to take his tennis to another level in those, particularly moments at the beginning of all sets except the fourth…. he showed why he’s a great champion. Staying mentally tough and finishing the match the way he did. Congrats to him and his team. No doubt he deserved it.”

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The Serbian lifted his second Roland Garros crown last year and arrived in Paris in strong form as he looked to retain his title. The 35-year-old captured a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 crown in Rome last month and entered his meeting with Nadal on a nine-match and 21-set winning streak.

However, in front of a packed crowd, the 20-time Grand Slam champion was unable to outmanoeuvre the World No. 5 in the crucial moments. Nadal will continue the quest for a record-extending 22nd major when he faces Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals on Friday.

“I had my chances. I had my chances in the fourth [set],” Djokovic said as he reflected on squandering a 5-2 lead in the fourth set. “Served for the set, couple set points. Just one or two shots could have taken me into a fifth. Then it’s really anybody’s match.”

Nadal now leads Djokovic 8-2 at Roland Garros. However, the Serbian holds a 30-29 ATP Head2Head series advantage overall. Djokovic leaves Paris 16-5 on the season and said that despite the defeat, he was proud of his efforts in the French capital.

“I gave my best. I know I could have played better,” Djokovic said. “I’m proud of fighting and staying until the last shot. As I said, I lost to a better player today. Had my chances. Didn’t use them. That’s it. Over four hours’ battle and I have to accept this defeat.”

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