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Cilic Survives Anderson Test For Delray Beach Crown

Delray Beach, U.S.A.

Marin Cilic collected his ATP World Tour leading 18th match victory of the year on Sunday, defeating former champion Kevin Anderson for the Delray Beach Open by The Venetian Las Vegas title.

Cilic claimed his second crown in three weeks after dispatching Anderson 7-6(6), 6-7(7), 6-4 in three hours and eight minutes. It was the longest final in tournament history, surpassing the 1996 title match (played on clay in nearby Coral Springs) between Jason Stoltenberg and Chris Woodruff by 34 minutes. 

The World No. 29 is in the midst of a torrid February, having captured his fourth Zagreb trophy (d. Haas) and coming off a run to the final at the first ATP World Tour 500 event of the season in Rotterdam (l. to Berdych). With the title, the 11th of his career and second under new coach Goran Ivanisevic, Cilic improved to 18-4 in 2014.

In the pantheon of Croatian title holders, Cilic passed former World No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic for second. Ivanisevic remains atop the list with 22 pieces of silverware. 

“It feels awesome, especially after waiting for a long time last night and finishing after 1am,” Cilic said. “Then, today to come back and win it, I’m really happy with this victory.”

The seventh seed needed seven match points to snatch the title, firing 16 aces and benefitting from 12 double faults by Anderson. He converted on four of 14 break points and saved 10 of 13 faced. 

After claiming the first set in a tie-break, Cilic was poised to raise the trophy soon after. He was broken while serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set, however, and dropped his first match point when Anderson ripped a cross-court backhand winner a game later. Anderson would fight back again in the ensuing tie-break, surviving a 4-1 deficit and three additional match points to level the match at a set apiece.

Both players would exchange early breaks in the third set, but it was Cilic who grabbed the deciding break of serve for 3-2, eventually sealing the victory with an ace. 

"It wasn't easy for my nerves, for Goran’s nerves especially,” added Cilic. “In the final some nerves can get into your body and you have to deal with it in the end. Luckily I found a way.”

The match marked the longest of both Cilic and Anderson’s careers on the ATP World Tour. Cilic had previously lasted three hours and one minute against Viktor Troicki in Basel 2009 as well as against Mikhail Youzhny in Hamburg 2011. Anderson, meanwhile, succumbed to John Isner in the 2013 Atlanta final after two hours and 54 minutes. 

The South African was bidding to become the fourth player to win in Delray Beach on multiple occasions, following in the footsteps of Ernests Gulbis (2010, ‘13), Xavier Malisse (2005, ‘07), Jan-Michael Gambill (2001, ‘03) and Stoltenberg (1996, ‘97). It was Anderson’s fourth consecutive defeat in an ATP World Tour final since hoisting the Delray Beach trophy in 2012.

“In the third [set], I just didn't put down the clamps of getting back in the match and giving myself a chance,” said Anderson. “He was going to take one of his chances. He had a fair amount. 

“If I would have capitalised a little more I would have put myself in a better position to win the title. I was happy making the final, but a little disappointed right now.”

Cilic earns $81,500 in prize money and 250 points and with the victory, launching him to No. 25 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The Croat improved to 4-1 in the FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Anderson, who claims 150 points and $42,920 for his run to the final.

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© Neven Gerencir

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