After taming the giant-killer Somdev Devvarman in the final of the Chennai Open on Sunday, Marin Cilic says the Indian player had the potential to break into the top 100 by the end of the season.
The Croatian world number 27 inflicted a 6-4 7-6 (3) defeat on Somdev to lift his second ATP singles title but spoke highly of his opponent.
"He is of course a very good potential and going to be in top 150 and would have much more confident to work his way for points in Challengers and ATP levels.
"I would say that he is going to be at least in the top 100 by the end of the year looking from this tournament and the way he was playing," Cilic said at the post-match press conference.
Cilic said though he did not play his best tennis, he was delighted at beginning the season on a winning a note. "It is great to start here this way. I was working hard during my half season for another six weeks. It paid off in this first week. I played off first week and confident going in to Australia.
"I would say that it was not my best in the tournament but I would say that in crucial moment I played better, especially on the break points in the second set tie break," he said.
Asked about his strategy for the final, he said, "What I saw in his couple of matches that he was pretty good to the court not missing a lot and stepping inside the court and playing aggressively. My plan was also to be aggressive and put him on the back foot and play my game over his back hand." More
Cilic held his nerves in the tie-breaker, hitting two big aces to take a 4-1 lead and the crowd, cheering and screaming for the local hero, was left disappointed when Cilic notched up a superb win hitting a forehand winner om Somdev's serve. Once Cilic sealed the first set, Somdev looked out of his elements but managed to engage his opponent in the match and finally clawed his way back riding on a break in the ninth game.
However, Somdev missed a couple of more breakpoints in the 11th game and finally a deserving candidate was crowned champion.
It was a fierce battle right from the word go as the 20-year-old Cilic pushed Somdev to his limits but the Indian responded well which he did consistently in the tournament. He fought fire with fire but the six-feet-six-inch Croat made Somdev work very hard for his points. The 23-year-old Indian wild card faced early break points - one each in the second and fourth games -- but Somdev saved both staving off the threat.
It was then turn of Cilic to hand the opportunity to Somdev to break him following a series of unforced errors by the Croatia's world number 27.
Somdev had four breakpoints in the fifth game and two in the seventh to create a lead but Cilic saved all with booming serves and big forehands to escape unscathed. The first set went with serves till the ninth game as both the players played engrossing tennis, refusing to concede even an inch.
However, a strategic lapse cost Somdev the first set when he played a drop shot at 30-30 in the 10th game, hoping the Cilic will not get to that but the Croat took long strides and played an easy forehand winner to earn a set point. Serving under pressure to save the set, Somdev committed the second double fault to surrender the set and lead to his opponent.