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First-time ATP Finalist Cilic To Battle Fish In Final

New Haven, CT, U.S.A.

Marin Cilic improved his match record to 30-21 on the season.© Getty ImagesMarin Cilic improved his match record to 30-21 on the season.

Sixth seed Marin Cilic (pictured) advanced to his first ATP final with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Slovenian qualifier Luka Gregorc at the Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven on Friday night.

The 19-year-old Croat will meet No. 8 seed and last year's runner-up Mardy Fish in Saturday's championship. Cilic will attempt to become the eighth first-time winner on the ATP circuit this season.

The Zagreb resident improved his match record to 30-21 on the season (18-12 on hard courts) and he will attempt to become the second Croat (Ivo Karlovic) to capture an ATP title this year.

Cilic converted four of 11 break points while losing his serve once in the one hour and 14-minute match. He won 70% of second serve points to Gregorc's 32%.

Cilic broke in the second game and won 20 of 22 points on serve in the opening set. In the second set, Cilic broke in the third, seventh and ninth games while losing his serve in the eighth game, to secure the victory.

"It's great and the beginning of the week it wasn't that great," said Cilic, when asked about reaching his first ATP final. "Well, actually with Troicki, he retired, then I had really tough match with Melzer. Got through with that. After that, I was feeling very well, playing very good from all around the game. So it was quite good the last two matches."

Fish reached his 11th ATP career singles final on Friday with a 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 victory over top-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

The 6’2’’ right-hander served seven aces and in a match featuring eight breaks of serve was able to claim five of them to help him to his second victory over Verdasco in 1 hr., 26 min. Madrid-resident Verdasco committed nine double faults, including one on match point.

The 26-year-old Fish finished runner-up to countryman and good friend James Blake in the final last year. When he contests the final for a second time on Saturday he will look to claim his third ATP singles title and his first since 2006 Houston (d. Melzer) on clay. His first title came on hard court in October 2003 at Stockholm (d. Soderling).

The Tampa, Florida resident, who has a 2-8 record in ATP singles finals, was a runner-up at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells (l. to Djokovic) in March. He was also a semifinalist at Los Angeles (l. to del Potro) two weeks ago and has made quarterfinal exits at Delray Beach (l. to Ginepri), San Jose (l. to Roddick) and Houston (l. to Hernandez) this season. Currently No. 35 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, Fish improves to a 26-19 match record for the season.

"[It's] my second final this year. Another opportunity to win an American hard court tournament, which I think is probably my best surface," said Fish. "Obviously I was close in Indian Wells. To lose in three tough sets there was tough. But that was certainly a great run. You know, here I'll obviously be playing somebody that's hot and somebody that's playing well. But, you know, it's not Djokovic or Federer, so it's certainly a nice opportunity."

World No. 13 Verdasco, who was contesting his first New Haven semifinal, was bidding to reach his first career ATP hard-court final, his third title-match (1-1 record) this year, and seventh overall (2-4 mark) in his career. The 24-year-old left-hander captured his second ATP title in Umag (d. Andreev) and reached the Nottingham final in June (l. to Karlovic). He drops to a 37-21 record on the season.

Reflecting on his nine double faults, Verdasco said: "I need to forget about today, about all the mistakes I made and the serve and everything, and try to be positive and see everything positive for the US Open and think how was I playing all this week, no? I think I was playing so good. I need to keep play like this"

 
 

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