Marin Cilic found a different method to beat Andrey Rublev in Paris on Wednesday afternoon, after blasting to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for only a set loss. The Croatian fought back to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(10-2) and reach the clay-court Grand Slam semi-finals for the first time. Along with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray, the 33-year-old is the only active player to reach the semi-finals of all four Grand Slams.
Cilic is now ranked No. 17 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, six spots better than where he started the competition. In August 2019, the Croatian, a former World No. 3, was ranked in the Top 20 for the first time. Cilic, who had a match point opportunity when Rublev was serving at 4-5, 30/40 in the fifth set, restored his composure to win the final-set tie-break 10/2 in stunning fashion as he strode into the court to hit a succession of blistering winners.
“It comes from being me,” said Cilic when asked about his aggressive approach to the tie-break in his on-court interview. “I played that kind of tennis the whole match, and especially the fifth set was an incredible battle. Andrey played incredibly well, and it was an incredible fair-play performance on the court. A lot of heart, and one had to go down. Today was my day, but Andrey also played an incredible match.”
Despite dropping a tight first set against one of the ATP Tour’s most powerful ball-strikers, Cilic’s power-hitting shined as he manoeuvred Rublev around Court Philippe Chatrier with ease. On his route to a four-hour, ten-minute victory, the Croatian hit 88 winners, including 33 aces. Cilic’s triumph follows his dramatic quarter-final win over World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. The victor of Wednesday’s night session quarter-final between Casper Ruud and Holger Rune will face the Croatian in the last four.
“Andrey plays a difficult game,” added Cilic. “Serves big, hits big. You don’t have many chances and you have to keep up with your level and I did that. Unfortunately, I lost that fourth set. I felt I was close to get the break maybe, but Andrey played really well and when you play this long it’s always going to be a little bit up and down during the match.”