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Cilic Battles To Title Defence

Zagreb, Croatia

Marin Cilic© Neja MarkicevicMarin Cilic has begun the season in red-hot form and has compiled a 15-1 mark.

New ATP World Tour No. 10 Marin Cilic came through a tough test to defend his title at the PBZ Zagreb Indoors, defeating first-time finalist Michael Berrer 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 Sunday in the final of the ATP World Tour 250 indoor hard-court tennis tournament.

As winner, Cilic received 250 South African Airways 2010 ATP Ranking points and €68,450, while Berrer earned 150 Ranking points and €35,980 in prize money.

Cilic has started the 2010 season in red-hot form and improved to a 15-1 match record. The 21 year old opened the year by successfully defending his title at the Aircel Chennai Open (d. Wawrinka) before reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open (l. to Murray). He subsequently rose to a career-high No. 10 in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings.

“I would say this [title] is the [most] special one," said Cilic. "I did not have much time to adjust after the Australian Open; it was not easy to meet people's expectations. I am proud about what I've done.”

DEUCE: On The Rise…Cilic

Victory marked Cilic’s fifth ATP World Tour title. The Monte-Carlo resident first triumphed at Pilot Pen Tennis (d. Fish) in New Haven in 2008 and has added to his tally with two wins apiece in Chennai and Zagreb in 2009 and 2010. The right-hander improved to a 5-2 record in ATP World Tour finals, with his two defeats coming last year at the China Open (d. Nadal, l. to Djokovic) in Beijing and the Bank Austria TennisTrophy (l. to Melzer) in Vienna.

Having come through his first four matches this week in straight sets, Cilic faced his toughest test yet in the final against the unseeded Berrer, who had accounted for No. 5 seed Janko Tipsarevic and No. 4 Viktor Troicki en route to the title match.

Cilic made a strong start to the pair’s first meeting, breaking serve in the fifth game before going on to close out a one-set lead. Neither player was able to break serve in the second set, although both had opportunities, and it was Berrer who stepped up in the resulting tie-break, racing to a 5-2 lead before levelling the match.

The top seed regained the momentum midway through the deciding set, though, breaking serve in the fourth game and saving two break points as he served out the hard-fought victory after two hours and 38 minutes. The Croatian was strong on serve, firing 13 aces and saving all six break points he faced.

“I was surprised with the level of his game," confessed Cilic. "It's not that I underestimated him; it's just that I did not expect this level of tennis in his first major final. There were no ups and downs in his game; I had to earn every point.

“I was not as fast today as I was in the previous rounds. I have played lot of matches this year, but it was also mentally tough. Now I can relax."

“I was sure that it would be a very, very tough match," said Berrer. "But I felt I had chances because with the way I play I can hurt players and I did today, but at the end he showed that he is a Top 10 player. There’s a difference in playing a guy like him than playing a guy outside the Top 20."

Cilic, who captured the title on home soil last year with victory over Mario Ancic in an all-Croatian final, improved to a 12-3 tournament record having won his past 10 matches in a row since suffering a second-round defeat to Simone Bolelli in 2008.

World No. 65 Berrer had advanced to his first ATP World Tour final without the loss of a set, but again failed to defeat one of the game’s elite, slipping to a 0-10 lifetime record against Top 10 players. The 29 year old dropped to a 7-3 record on the year, also highlighted by a quarter-final effort at the Aircel Chennai Open (l. to Wawrinka).

“If I can work on this level then I can get to a high ranking," said Berrer. "Now, I hope I’m in a good way but you have to be lucky to stay healthy and everything, but so far, so good. If I can go on playing like this then I think I can get in the area of the top players and that will be really a success for me." 



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