World number seven Marin Cilic tested a knee injury with the best possible result on Wednesday, but temperamental Nick Kyrgios’ poor start to the season continued at the Kooyong Classic.
Former US Open champion Cilic, who led Croatia to a Davis Cup trophy in November, skipped last week’s Maharashtra ATP tournament to rest.
The wait was worth it as he posted a gritty 6-3, 4-6, 15-13 win over Kevin Anderson, recovering from 2-7 down in the new final-set tiebreaker that will be used at the Australian Open for the first time next week.
Under the rules, the first player to win at least 10 points by a two-point margin takes the match.
Cilic, who was beaten by Roger Federer in an epic Australian Open final last year, said his knee was not a worry.
“The knee felt slightly more stiff than usual, maybe that’s from a first match,” he said.
“I need a few more days to play and train and hopefully reach 100 percent.”
Cilic added: “It took me some time to recover from the emotional end to last season with the Davis Cup.
“I’m feeling a bit rusty, but I’m hitting the ball well and feel on good form.”
South African world number six Anderson was battling jetlag after arriving in Melbourne following a title victory at the weekend in Pune, India.
He is also relaxed about his form heading into the first Grand Slam of the season next week.
“It’s good to play a competitive match, it’s the best way to acclimatise,” he said.
“I want to be as healthy and fresh as possible heading into next week. This is my eighth match of the season, so I’m not worried about that.”
Kyrgios, who was knocked out in the second round at Brisbane last week, was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by friend and fellow comeback candidate Bernard Tomic in an all-Australian battle.
Tomic ended his victory with a flourish, sending over a sneaky serve on match point by hitting the ball between his legs for a winner — a move which totally caught Kyrgios off guard.
“It was a lot of fun just to get back out there,” the often edgy Kyrgios, who has slipped to 51 in the world, said. “It’s great to see a good mate like Bernie having success again.”
The crowd-pleasing tune-up for the Australian Open was marked by good-natured competition.
Tomic, who has been through many of the same dips and dives in his motivation and form as Kyrgios, was also pleased with how he is progressing.
“It was another good training day. Nick and I have played so many times at practice, we know exactly what the other is going to do — it’s a little bit like cheating,” the 83rd-ranked Tomic joked.
“It was good to get out on the court. I didn’t play a lot of tennis last year — which was my own fault. But at the moment I’m happy, the last three months (of 2018) was good.”
Former US Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia on Friday pulled out of next week’s Maharashtra ATP tournament to recuperate from a knee injury in time for the Australian Open.
The 30-year-old world number seven led Croatia to a Davis Cup final victory over France last month and was to be a key crowd puller at the season-opening ATP event in the west Indian city of Pune starting Monday.
“I am sad to announce I have had to pull out of the Tata Open Maharashtra. My sincerest apologies to the fans and organizers,” Cilic posted on his Facebook page.
“I was looking forward to returning, however, my knee pains that began toward the end of the season have escalated.”
He added: “I cannot go into this tournament knowing I am not currently able to give 100 percent.”
Cilic won the title in 2009 and 2010 when it was played in Chennai.
The Maharashtra tournament is a key warm-up event for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne, which starts on January 14.
Defending champion Gilles Simon of France and world number six Kevin Anderson of South Africa will take part in the Indian event.
Marin Cilic beat France’s Lucas Pouille in straight sets on Sunday to give Croatia an unassailable lead in the Davis Cup final.
In the last final before a radical reorganisation of the venerable competition, Cilic won 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-3, to dethrone defending champions France and secure Croatia’s second Davis Cup, 13 years after their first.
Marin Cilic suffered a shock Wimbledon second round exit as last year’s runner-up blew a two-set lead in his 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 loss to Argentina’s Guido Pella on Thursday.
When rain forced the tie to be postponed on Wednesday evening, third seed Cilic was leading by two sets against an unheralded opponent who had never won a match at Wimbledon before this year.
But the Croatian, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2017 final, collapsed once the match resumed on Court One and world number 82 Pella took full advantage to set up a third round clash with Mackenzie McDonald.
Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, had been expected to mount a strong challenge for the Wimbledon title after winning the grass-court warm-up at Queen’s Club two weeks ago.
The big-serving 29-year-old had only once before lost to a player ranked as low as Pella at Wimbledon, when he was beaten by world number 145 Arnaud Clement 10 years ago.
But after reaching the Australian Open final and French Open quarter-finals earlier this year, Cilic suffered one of the worst results of his career.
Pella is into the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time.
The 28-year-old admitted the over-night rain delay had been a huge boost as it allowed him to change his tactics and pull off a sensational fightback.
“Yesterday he was playing so good, hitting the ball so hard that I couldn’t do anything,” Pella said.
“So the rain helped me a lot. Today I played differently, tried to be more aggressive, he started to feel uncomfortable.
“I tried to hit the ball hard and fight for every ball and I think in the end that’s why I won.
“I felt much more confident, served better and was so calm until the end. I’m very happy.”
Defending champion Roger Federer plays sixth-seeded Marin Cilic on Sunday in the final of the year’s first Grand Slam.
Here are AFP’s five things you may not know about this year’s Australian Open men’s singles final:
Slam success shared
Roger Federer and Marin Cilic will be playing each other in their second Grand Slam final. The Swiss great breezed past the Croatian in straight sets at last year’s Wimbledon final but a tearful Cilic played in pain from a nasty foot blister. He had previously conquered Federer in three sets in the semi-finals on the way to his 2014 US Open triumph. Overall, Federer leads 8-1, and 3-1 at Slams.
Cilic’s Croatian first
Cilic is the first Croatian man or woman to play in an Australian Open final and is bidding to become the country’s first multiple major winner ahead of Goran Ivanisevic and Iva Majoli, who won one each. Ivanisevic has played in more major finals — four to Cilic’s three.
Federer’s set piece
If Federer wins the final in straight sets he will equal Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal for most Grand Slam titles at three without dropping a set through the tournament. It would be the second time for Federer at the Australian Open after powering through the 2007 event without losing a set.
Age shall not weary them
Federer at 36 is bidding to win a third major title after turning 35. Australian great Ken Rosewall is the only other man to have won a Slam title after his 35th birthday in the post-1968 Open Era, at 37 years old in the 1972 Australian Open. – Pair’s practice in Maldives.
Federer and Cilic practised together last month when they discovered, by accident, they were holidaying together in the Maldives. “It was just the two of us and we were both looking for a hitting partner and it happened that we were there,” Federer said. “We actually went to practise twice for 45 minutes. It was great fun. No coaches, no nothing, just the two of us on the court hitting balls. It was just nice and laid-back.”
Marin Cilic said he had been suffering from a blister on his foot during the showpiece clash against Roger Federer on Sunday.
The Croatian seventh seed lost 6-3 6-1 6-4 — to Federer in his first Wimbledon final.
Cilic was distraught after going 3-0 behind in the second set, sitting on his chair in tears.
He said the blister had surfaced during his run to the final, which included a long five-setter against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg in the quarter-finals.
“It was just emotionally that I knew that on such a big day that I’m unable to play my best tennis in physical, in every single way, so that was just a little bit of a combination of all emotions, ’cause I know how much it took for me to get here.”
Roger Federer said it was a special day for him on Sunday after winning a record eighth Wimbledon title in the modern-era to surpass Pete Sampras’ tally of seven.
He said many of his tennis heroes had memorable tournaments at Wimbledon and said he was yet undecided whether or not he would return next year.
“Yes it is very special, Wimbledon was always my favourite tournament, will always be my favourite tournament and my heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here and because of them I think I became a better player too, so to mark history here at Wimbledon I think really means a lot to me just because of all that really, it’s that simple.”
Federer said he would need to evaluate on next season later on in the year as he finalises his schedule and fitness routine, but said he hoped to be back to defend his title in 2018.
“Yeah, I mean, honestly ever since I had the year I had last year, I do think probably year ahead of time you know, with my schedule, fitness schedule and tournaments I would like to play, you know, so I totally see myself playing here this time next year, but because it’s far away and because of what happened last year.
“I just like to take the opportunity to thank the people in the very moment and just make them understand that yes, and I hope that I’m back, (but) there’s never a guarantee, especially at 35, 36. But the goal is definitely to try and be here again next year, to try and defend (the title).” Federer said.
Gilles Muller’s unlikely Wimbledon run came to an end when he was beaten in five sets by Croatian Marin Cilic in their quarter-final on Wednesday.
Cilic, who triumphed 3-6 7-6(6) 7-5 5-7 6-1 will now face Sam Querrey in the semi-finals after the American upset home favourite Andy Murray.
The 34-year-old Muller was an unexpected presence in the last eight after he pulled off a surprise, five-set win over Rafa Nadal in the fourth round.
Muller took that form into the contest with Cilic but when his run of 31 service games without a break ended in the third set, the tide turned towards the Croat who produced some magnificent return play in the final set.
Earlier, Muller stunned Nadal with a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 scoreline to end the Spaniard’s dream of claiming the Wimbledon title.
The top seeds have been scattered but Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey continued the charge of former winners at the Aegon Championships on Thursday.
With Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov having already progressed, three former champions are among the last eight at the prestigious pre-Wimbledon grass court event at Queen’s Club.
Fourth seed Cilic, winner in 2012, overpowered American teenager Stefan Kozlov 6-0 6-4 while Querrey, who triumphed seven years ago at the west London club, defeated Australian Jordan Thompson 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3.
Russian Daniil Medvedev beat fellow 21-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis who failed to match the heights he reached when he defeated third seed Milos Raonic in round one, losing 6-2 6-2.
Medvedev will face 2014 winner Dimitrov on Friday.
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez also continued the form he showed in reaching the Stuttgart grasscourt final last week with a 6-1 7-6(4) win over France’s Jeremy Chardy and will face Czech Tomas Berdych for a place in the semi-finals.