PARIS: Croatia’s Marin Cilic said it was a “great achievement” as he joined Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in becoming only the fifth active player to make the semi-finals at all four Slams. Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, fired 33 aces past seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev to reach his first French Open semi-final on Wednesday with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10/2) win. He also crashed 88 winners in the four-hour 10-minute tie and will play either eighth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway or Danish teenager Holger Rune for a place in Sunday’s final.
“Absolutely fantastic achievement for me. To be mentioned among them,” said 33-year-old Cilic. “I’m feeling great on the court, enjoying myself, being me, playing my own game. It’s paying off, and I am enjoying the run.” Rublev, playing in his fifth quarter-final at the majors, grabbed the first set but wilted under a Cilic barrage over the next two. The Croatian had stunned world number two Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round and he rediscovered that free-swinging assault to level the contest with a 17th ace on a fifth set point. He pocketed the third with a lone break in the seventh game.
Rublev, who had been knocked out of the Australian Open by Cilic in January, battled back with a crucial break in the eighth game of the fourth set. Cilic, the 2017 Wimbledon and 2018 Australian Open runner-up to Federer, had a match point saved in the ninth game of the decider but then swept through the super tiebreaker. Despite having been number three in the world, winning 20 career titles and banking close to $30 million, Cilic remains happy to keep his low profile and let the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer hog the limelight.
“These guys have been on the top of the game so many years. Looking at my own career, I had some obviously huge successes and won so many things,” he said. “But also comparing to the top guys, it was not as consistent. Had three, four seasons that were incredibly good, incredibly consistent, but I was a little bit in and out. “I really don’t mind being under the highlights. I’m just trying to use my opportunities as much as I can during my career.”
Cilic, Ruud book semis
Meanwhile, Cilic and Ruud moved into the French Open semi-finals for the first time on Wednesday courtesy of two big-hitting displays which overwhelmed their opponents. Cilic fired 33 aces and 88 winners past seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10/2) win. Eighth seed Ruud booked a clash against the 33-year-old Croat when he became the first Norwegian man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 victory over Danish teenager Holger Rune.
Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, needed four hours and 10 minutes to defeat Rublev who has now lost all of his five quarter-final appearances at the Slams. The 20th seeded Cilic becomes only the fifth active men’s player after Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to make the semi-finals at all four majors. “The fifth set was an incredible battle,” said Cilic who is in his first Grand Slam semi-final in four years. “Andrey played so well. Today was my day. He just didn’t have the luck.” Rublev grabbed the first set but wilted under a Cilic barrage over the next two.
The Croat had stunned world number two Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round and he rediscovered that free-swinging assault to level the contest with a 17th ace on a fifth set point. He pocketed the third with a lone break in the seventh game. Rublev, who had lost to Cilic at the Australian Open in January, battled back with a crucial break in the eighth game of the fourth set. Cilic, the 2017 Wimbledon and 2018 Australian Open runner-up to Federer, had a match point saved in the ninth game of the decider but swept through the super tiebreaker.
‘Serving very well’
“He was serving very well,” said Rublev. “I relaxed after the first set but then I wasn’t thinking. “I could not manage the emotions in the previous quarter-finals. Today I was close to the semi-final.” Rune, ranked 40, had knocked out fourth seed and 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round. The 19-year-old was bidding to become the first Danish man to reach the last-four in Paris and first at any Slam since Jan Leschly at the 1967 US Championships. However, Ruud overpowered the youngster, firing 13 aces and 55 winners while Rune had to fight off 12 of 17 break points carved out by the Norwegian.
“I started the match well, but Holger raised his level of play, he came back and it was tough until the end,” said Ruud after beating the Dane for the fourth time in four meetings. “I had met him three times and he is improving. He has become unpredictable, he isn’t afraid of anything and will be dangerous for the next few years,” added Ruud who had never passed the round of 16 in a Grand Slam before this French Open. Friday’s other semi-final will see 13-time champion Rafael Nadal take on Alexander Zverev after his epic quarter-final win over Novak Djokovic. – AFP