Since Mario Ancic went off the radar, Marin Cilic has wrested the tag of ‘Baby Goran’. The 21-year-old though possesses none of the legendary temper of the fellow Croat.
Cilic kept his cool through the bumpy ride against Stanislas Wawrinka to beat the third-seeded Swiss 7-6(2), 7-6(3) in the final of the Aircel Chennai Open on Sunday. Cilic registered his first victory over Wawrinka in five career meetings. He became the only player apart from Carlos Moya to win two titles in a row in Chennai.
The Spaniard had achieved the feat in 2004 and 2005.
“I am proud to have defended my title here,” said Cilic. “It’s a very tough week to play as everyone is starting their year. I know its winter here, but the conditions are hot and humid and it’s difficult to stay at your best level for long.”
Once two of the top three seeds had fixed a date for the final, it always promised to be a baseline battle. It was Cilic’s percentage tennis versus Wawrinka’s graceful assault. The match had its moments, be it the winners off Wawrinka’s single-handed backhand or Cilic’s piercing end-to-end ground strokes, but it was largely a gritty struggle.
And Cilic was fortunate to have got through it in straight sets. The players put in the effort for two hours and 40 minutes, before a Wawrinka backhand sailed wide.
“It was the longest final I have played,” Cilic added. “It was very humid. The ball was getting big and it was difficult to hit winners. Legs were doing most of the job. I was happy with my mental and physical strength today.”
Wawrinka had his chances, in the match, especially in the first set, when he served for the set at 5-3.
But the Swiss was unable to close the issue and lacked the intensity in both the tie-breakers. But more than anything, he failed to physically stay in with the 6’6” Cilic.
“It was disappointing to lose a match like this in straight sets,” said Wawrinka, who now has a 1-6 win-loss record in ATP finals. “I should have been more aggressive in the tie-breaks.”
Cilic won US $68,450 and defended his 250 ATP points for the first week, while Wawrinka earned US $35,980 and 150 ranking points.