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Watch highlights of the 2017 TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open final, featuring Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic. Photo: Koza World of Sports

Cilic Outduels Raonic For Istanbul Crown

Croatian notches 17th tour-level title

Marin Cilic tasted victory on clay for the first time in five years, fighting past Milos Raonic 7-6(3), 6-3 for the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open title.

Cilic survived the battle of big hitters after two hours and one minute, firing nine aces. He was strong on serve, saving all seven break points faced and claiming 82 per cent of first serve points.

It was the 28-year-old's 17th tour-level title and first since lifting the trophy on the indoor hard courts of Basel last October. His lone previous clay-court victory had come on home soil in Umag in 2012.

"I'm on a good track and feeling very well," said Cilic, who did not drop a set en route to the title. "In these last three or four weeks on clay, it's never easy, but I'm trying to get better with every match. This week was a big one for me and a good sign for the rest of the clay-court season. I hope I can improve in these upcoming three tournaments - two Masters 1000 events and the French Open."

"The critical points came in the tie-break. I managed to play a really good tie-break and hit a few great backhands down the line. Then in the second set, getting that break and holding for 3-1 was definitely the deciding moment."

Despite facing break points early in the opening set, the Canadian and the Croatian rode their big deliveries to an opening tie-break at the Garanti Koza Arena. Cilic would draw first blood at 2/2, pouncing on a second serve and forcing a backhand error for the decisive mini-break.

Cilic continued to apply pressure on Raonic in the second set and finally cracked the top seed's serve, capitalising on two double faults to score the first break of the match for 3-1. The Croatian would escape from a 0/40 hole in the next game and crossed the finish line after just over two hours, firing an ace on his second championship point.

All-Top 10 Finals In 2017

Tournament Final Result
Doha No. 2 Novak Djokovic d. No. 1 Andy Murray
Indian Wells
No. 10 Roger Federer d. No. 3 Stan Wawrinka
Miami
No. 6 Roger Federer d. No. 7 Rafael Nadal
Istanbul No. 8 Marin Cilic d. No. 6 Milos Raonic

It was a memorable week for Cilic in the Turkish metropolis, having reached the 400 match wins milestone on Friday. He moves to No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, adding 250 points and €85,945 in prize money. 

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Raonic, meanwhile, was appearing in his first clay-court final. The Canadian, who returned to the ATP World Tour after recovering from a hamstring tear suffered in February, was bidding for his ninth tour-level crown. He takes home €45,265 and adds 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points.

"The tennis was good and I achieved a lot of the things I would have liked," Raonic reflected. "Of course I didn't achieve the ultimate thing, but I got a much better understanding of how I need to play on clay and I got to play four matches. These are all positive things at the end of the day.

"I didn't serve very well. I struggled to find a consistent pace and was serving a little slower. I tried to make the most of it and it wasn't enough. Credit to my opponent for playing well."

Their third FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter was also the fourth between Top 10 opponents in an ATP World Tour final this year. World No. 8 Cilic earned his first victory over World No. 6 Raonic since 2011 in Valencia.