Cilic Claims First Masters 1000 Crown In Cincy
Marin Cilic turned in a powerful performance in Sunday's final at the Western & Southern Open, defying fatigue for his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.
Cilic stunned top seed and two-time Cincinnati champion Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 34 minutes, pestering the Scot with a relentless barrage of formidable first serves and forehands. The Croatian has found immediate success with new coach Jonas Bjorkman, notching his 15th tour-level title in total.
It was just the fifth title by a player outside of the Big Four of Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal since 2010 (54 of 59). In addition, Cilic joins the foursome and Stan Wawrinka as the only active players to win both a Grand Slam and a Masters 1000 title, having lifted the trophy at the US Open two years ago.
"I thought I was going to have a good chance if I played well," said Cilic, who finished his semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov at 1:35am. "I didn't feel too tired yesterday in the evening. It was obviously very difficult mentally. It was very humid on the court. We were sweating a lot, so a lot of up and downs, especially in the third set. I had to work out the positive and negative emotions and that took a bit of energy.
"But I went to sleep around 4:00 and woke up a little bit before 11:00. That was enough to recover. I felt that I played really good tennis today. The serve was a big factor in my game. I was hitting a lot of big serves in important points, and I was definitely very mentally strong in that second set. Andy was starting to play a bit better, but it's definitely a huge win against him. He's been on a great run the past couple of months."
Non-Big Four Masters 1000 Titlists (since April 2010)
Cilic executed his gameplan brilliantly in relentlessly attacking off the ground and continuing the trend of first serve dominance. He leaves the tournament with a staggering 85 per cent first serve points won. The 27 year old raced to a two-break lead in the first set and would eventually close out the opener after 41 minutes. Neither player flinched through the first 10 games of the second set, but it was Cilic who capitalised on a fifth break point for the decisive 6-5 lead. He closed out the title on his first match point.
Less than 15 hours removed from the 1:35am finish against Dimitrov, Cilic showed little signs of fatigue. Murray, meanwhile, was contesting his 11th match in 15 days after capturing the gold medal at the Rio Olympics. He was bidding for a 40th tour-level crown and 13th at the Masters 1000 level.
Previously the Cincinnati champion in 2008 & '11, having defeated Novak Djokovic in both finals, Murray was looking to join Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Mats Wilander as the only players to lift the trophy at least three times in the Open Era. The Dunblane native saw his 22-match win streak snapped, also suffering his first final defeat to an opponent not named Novak Djokovic since 2012.
Cilic, who takes home $834,700 in prize money, soars back into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings to a projected World No. 9. He claimed multiple Top 10 wins in a tournament for the first time since his major title run in New York, having also downed Tomas Berdych. Cilic's run to the title is even more impressive considering he was 0-8 in Masters 1000 quarter-finals entering the week.
Murray saw his lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series trimmed to 11-3. The Scot rallied to claim their lone previous final encounter at the 2013 Aegon Championships at Queen's Club. He earns 600 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $409,270 in prize money.
"I'm very proud of this week," said Murray. "Obviously today it didn't go how I would've wanted. But I certainly didn't expect to get to the final when I arrived here. I had some pretty good wins along the way. Today there were tough, tricky conditions with the wind.
"I think if I got off to a better start maybe could have done a bit better. I had a break point in his first service game and Love-30 in his next service game. I was pretty much behind from that point on and it was tough. But it's a very, very positive week. I'm looking forward to a few days' rest now."