Read & Watch: Cilic Wins On Rio Day 1
World No. 3 Marin Cilic arrived in Rio de Janeiro seeking his first title of the 2018 ATP World Tour season. And the Croat made an impressive start, ousting qualifier Carlos Berlocq 6-3, 6-2 in 80 minutes to begin his campaign at the Rio Open presented by Claro on Monday evening.
"I'm feeling good. It was an okay match. It was a solid match, first one on clay," Cilic said. "I wouldn't say that I played really, really well. I felt that I played well. In the critical moments I think I played my own game, very offensive and overall I think I controlled the match quite okay."
Cilic is fresh off of his second championship match appearance in the past three Grand Slams at the Australian Open (l. to Federer). There is little doubt that his recent form will make the top seed a leading favourite this week in Brazil as he attempts to win a tour-level title for the 11th consecutive season.
The 29-year-old extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against the Argentine to 2-0, with their only previous meeting coming at 2011 Rome, also on clay.
Cilic dropped just three points on his first serve in the match and saved all three break points held against him. The top seed could face a tough test in the second round, as he will play the winner between recent Qatar ExxonMobil Open champion Gael Monfils and Horacio Zeballos.
"I just have to keep focusing on myself just to try to get day after day a little bit better and better, even tomorrow in practice," Cilic said. "Just do a couple things from the match today that I'd like to do and focus on the next one."
Fourth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas also moved forward on Monday, despite trailing 2-4 in the final set, with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory against home favourite Rogerio Dutra Silva.
The win puts the Spaniard back on track after faltering in his first match at last week’s Argentina Open against Aljaz Bedene, who advanced to the final.
Ramos-Vinolas has already reached one final this year, at the Ecuador Open in Quito. He will continue pursuing a second ATP World Tour title (2016 Bastad) against Chilean Nicolas Jarry, who ousted veteran Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 7-6(3).
Also in action was eighth seed Fernando Verdasco, who overcame a second-set hiccup to defeat Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. The left-hander will face three-time Quito champion Victor Estrella Burgos or Nicolas Kicker, who advanced to the quarter-finals in Rio de Janeiro last year (l. to Ramos-Vinolas).
But perhaps the moment of the day came in the final match on the schedule. Fabio Fognini was down a set and 0-4 against home favourite Thomaz Bellucci. But the Italian fifth seed would storm back to lead 6-5. And on set point, the World No. 21 produced one of the most miraculous points you will ever see.
Watch Fognini Hot Shot:
Fognini would go on to win the match 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-2. The 30-year-old next faces Tennys Sandgren, who advanced when Ecuador Open champion Roberto Carballes Baena retired in the third set.