Marin's Maiden Masters: How The Cincinnati Final Was Won
Top seed and two-time Cincinnati champion Andy Murray was upset by first-time ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finalist Marin Cilic in the Western & Southern Open final. Cilic claimed the title 6-4, 7-5 after one hour and 34 minutes.
It was a significant moment for Cilic, who was contesting his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final and 26th at the tour-level, claiming his 15th title overall. He successfully snapped the Big Four's stranglehold in Masters 1000 finals, with Murray, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal having accounted for 18 consecutive titles and 54 of the past 58 entering the week.
Murray, meanwhile, was bidding for a 13th Masters 1000 title and 40th at the tour-level. He previously lifted the trophy in Cincinnati in both 2008 & '11, defeating Novak Djokovic in both finals.
It was the 14th meeting in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with Murray's lead trimmed to 11-3. The Scot rallied to claim their lone previous final encounter at the 2013 Aegon Championships at Queen's Club.
Here is how the final is unfolding...
SET ONE - Cilic 6-4
Conquering fatigue has been the theme of the week for Murray and it will be the critical factor for Cilic on Sunday. Murray is playing his 11th match in 15 days following a title run at the Rio Olympics, while Cilic is coming off a late-night semi-final victory over Grigor Dimitrov. The Croat prevailed 7-5 in the decider at 1:35am after a two-hour rain delay halted proceedings early in the first set.
The key for Cilic is executing his first serves, which has been a strength all week (86 per cent won). Murray looked to be stronger at the start, striking a sublime baseline-to-baseline lob to edge ahead 2-1, but a poor service game handed the first break to his Croatian opponent. Cilic unleashed a powerful barrage of forehands to convert his first break point and consolidate for 4-2. He would reel off eight of the next nine points, striking his sixth forehand winner for a 0/30 lead in Murray's next service game.
The two-time champion was unable to stem the tide, as Cilic broke again for 5-2. The second break proved to be critical. Murray reeled off eight of the next nine points to narrow the gap to 5-4, but it was Cilic who held his nerve to claim the opener after 41 minutes. He struck 10 winners in total.
SET TWO - Cilic 7-5
Murray's trademark returning skills were no match for Cilic's monster serves. The 12th seed dropped just four points through his first five service games of the second set and his forehand was on song from the back of the court. Cilic refused to display any ill-effects from the 1:35am finish the night before, striking his groundstrokes with conviction to draw level at 5-all.
Cilic exhibited great variation on his backhand side in claiming the decisive break for 6-5. Murray escaped from a 0/40 hole, staving off four break points, but it was the Croat who would eventually get the last laugh, breaking when a Murray backhand found the middle of the net.
Cilic would close out the victory 6-4, 7-5, notching his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown in stunning fashion after one hour and 34 minutes. A rifled backhand winner down the line sealed the victory. It was his 24th winner in total.