Queen’s | Cilic recovers in battle of aces
Top seed Marin Cilic reached the quarterfinals of the Fever Tree Championships at Queen’s after out-acing his opponent Gilles Muller to secure a hard hitting 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory.
The Croatian, who has reached the final at Queen’s on three occasions, winning the title once, hit 19 aces against 17 struck by the 35-year-old from Luxembourg.
I didn’t serve that well. I was break down, and it was extremely difficult to dig that set back. “He served really, really good consistently, and, you know, very tricky with left hand. He was hitting good spots everywhere. Marin Cilic
“It was difficult”, admitted Cilic in reference to losing that first set. “Opened up nicely. Had two break points, 15-40, and I had a good hit, couple returns. But Gilles held that serve.
“And then after that, on the game where he broke me, he connected really well, few returns. I didn’t serve that well. I was break down, and it was extremely difficult to dig that set back.
“He served really, really good consistently, and, you know, very tricky with left hand. He was hitting good spots everywhere.
“It was definitely not easy. But I upped a little bit my serve from beginning of the second set. Didn’t give him many chances on the return, and that just pushed me to stay in the match and to put back pressure on him.
“Obviously that gave me few more chances on the returns. I got that break, and sort of things opened up a little bit more for me. Started from that point to play a little bit better and even, you know, making few extra returns, making pressure all the time on him.
“I was quite solid. Really happy with the way I pulled it from one set down.”
Cilic will next play another man who uses his serve to great effect, Sam Querrey who took out Stan Wawrinka 7-5 6-(3) 6-1.
“Both of us obviously can play high quality tennis,” the Croatian replied when asked about his forthcoming match. “Usually we do, especially this time of the year on grass. We played I believe once maybe here in Queen’s and couple times in Wimbledon. Last year, as well.
“You know, both of us are great players, hitters off the ball, serving big. And there is not much that differentiates us.
“But somehow I was the one who was sort of, coming with victories, and maybe because of a little bit more solid game on the return — both of us possess great serves — and that can make a big difference or that small difference. You know, having that in mind even like today, just that little bit of energy or just being ready for the opportunities, I think that can definitely make a difference.”
Meanwhile Wawrinka was happy with his performance bearing in mind he has still to recover the form he had before knee surgery, and showed his frustration when he smashed his racket into the court and finished it off by breaking it in half over his knee!
“Well, it’s for sure some frustration to lose it, but I have to look the right thing, the right way,” he said. “I think the level is there. I think I’m moving quite good on the grass. I was feeling good. I had a lot of chance in the first set. Didn’t make it. I feel I could have made it better.
“He was playing really good. He’s a tough player to play on the grass. He loves the grass. He always have great result. He won here. Semi-final last year.
“It was a tough match, but I think in general this is a positive loss for me, if I really look the right thing in the right way. For sure, I’m sad and frustrated because I need to win matches, I want to win matches, and I want more. That’s for sure.
“But there is a lot to take in the right way, and I’m sure if I can, as I say, keep doing the right thing day by day, building on this and keep trying to improve, the result will come. I need to be patient with that.”
Frances Taiafoe, the 20-year-old American and a future star, also progressed into the quarters with an excellent 6-4 2-6 6-4 win over Leonardo Mayer.
“I thought it was a really good match. Played him once before in Shanghai in the quallies, last-round quallies. It was another tight match. I won 6-4 in the third.
“So I knew it was going to be tough today. I came out playing great. Second set had a little lapse, but third set was extremely tight and I was happy to get through.”
“Pretty pumped,” Tiafoe said of reaching the final eight. “I mean, grass hasn’t been my favorite surface at all in the past here. I had unbelievable prep, staying here after French Open, practicing on grass for a couple weeks and practicing at the LTA with a bunch of great players. It’s paying off, luckily.”
“Yeah, it’s been a really good year for me,” said the Delray Beach Open champion. “I’ve won a lot of matches unexpected. I started the year pretty poor.”
Tiafoe will face Jeremy Chardy in the next round, the Frenchman having beaten Russian Daniil Medvedev 7-6(6) 6-3.
“Really good player,” said Tiafoe. “So far he’s been having an unbelievable grass court season. He won a big challenger. Made finals last week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Obviously he’s feeling good.
“Try and slow him down, try and get it done on Friday.”