Marin Cilic marched into his second tour-level final in as many weeks on Saturday at the St. Petersburg Open, cruising past qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-3.
The Croatian enjoyed a run to the championship match in Moscow last week and has continued his impressive form in St. Petersburg as he aims to clinch his second tour-level title of the season after triumphing in Stuttgart.
“Russia is my second home,” Cilic said in his on-court interview. “I think this an invitation for me to come every single year. I always enjoy playing here and it would be amazing to win the title tomorrow but I am playing Taylor [Fritz], who is playing amazing tennis in the past several weeks. I am just going to enjoy, improve and have fun.”
In a strong serving display against van de Zandschulp, Cilic fired nine aces, won 87 per cent (27/31) of points behind his first delivery and did not face a break point to advance after 67 minutes in their first ATP Head2Head meeting.
Cilic, who overcame seeds Karen Khachanov and Roberto Bautista Agut earlier this week, has fond memories in St. Petersburg, having lifted the trophy in his previous appearance at the ATP 250 event in 2011.[FOLLOW ACTION]
The former World No. 3 will face Taylor Fritz in the final. The American is in the form of his life and he demonstrated such confidence against Jan-Lennard Struff, downing the German 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 to reach his first tour-level championship match of the season.
“It is amazing to have people cheering for me when I am so far away from home. I love all of the support,” Fritz said in his on-court interview.
The fifth seed defeated World No. 4 Alexander Zverev en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final earlier in October and has backed up that run in St. Petersburg, dropping just one set at the ATP 250 event.
Fritz won 81 per cent (44/54) of his first-serve points against Struff as he rallied from a set down to advance after one hour and 58 minutes and level their ATP Head2Head series at 1-1.
“I played pretty well for a lot of parts in the first set but a couple of things didn’t go my way. I went up a break but then didn’t have the best service game and got broken back,” Fritz said in his on-court interview. “I had another chance to break and then got broken from 40/15 up. I recovered and brought it together and played a really solid second and third set.”