At the beginning of the day, everyone was salivating over the perspective of an encounter between the number one player in the world, Roger Federer, and a player who is known for giving him trouble during matches, Mardy Fish.
However, shortly after the start of the day, the news came out like a thunder clap: Fish was retiring from the tournament for “health issues”. These issues turned out to be his heart contidion, a precautionary withdrawal recommended by his doctors, which sent Federer into his 34th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals in a way the Swiss would likely not have wanted.
Instead of this well-anticipated match, the public on Ashe got to see an anticipated match-up of another kind, the one opposing up-and-comer Martin Klizan to 12th seed Marin Cilic.
Before the match, the Croatian admitted not knowing much of his 23-year-old rival, whom he hasn’t seen much of before, and with whom he had never practiced either.
The first set was really a “getting to know” one for Cilic, who had trouble adapting to the many effects the lefty from Slovakia puts to his balls (his lifted forehand, for instance, is really a beautiful shot, as is his tricky sliced serve).
Both players went for quite aggressive play, as is in their nature, but we could see why Klizan, in the second round, surprised everyone by dispatching the n° 6 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, even in his sloppy version. The Slovakian has undeniable talent.
It was a close opening set, but Cilic took advantage of the one moment in which Klizan was a little tight to break and take it, 7-5.
After that lost set, Klizan didn’t waste a chance to break his opponent in the very first game, only to be broken straight back. A third break, quickly consolidated, did the trick for Klizan. However, he became tighter as the set progressed, leaving an opening in his game for Cilic to strike back in the eighth game, levelling it at 4-all. It was the last game Klizan won in the whole match.
After breaking back, Cilic took advantage of every little window of opportunity given him by his opponent, having been able to adapt to his game and benefitting from his many errors (41 in total for the match), to snatch a 7-5 6-4 6-0 win.
What happened to Klizan? Maybe he choked a little. However, just the same, Marin Cilic had adapted very well to the Slovakian’s game, anticipating his shots and forcing him to always hit one more, often driving Klizan to an inevitable error.
Questioned about the match, Cilic said that the first set was crucial and that he got a little bit lucky to break at the end to take it.
When asked why he is so successful when playing left-handers (his win today brought his record to 8-1 against lefties), Cilic replied with his usual smile:
“I’m not sure, I think I like to play against them, they have a kind of game that suits me. I’m pretty solid on both sides.”
A solid and convincing win for the Croat, who will face the winner of Andy Murray and Milos Raonic in quarter-finals, on Wednesday. It is the third time that Cilic reaches the quarter-finals or better of a Grand Slam, the first time since he reached the semi-finals of the 2010 Australian Open.
As for Klizan, it was his first time playing the round-of-16 in a Major, and he did well to get there. A breakthrough year for the 23-year-old who, I’m sure, we’ll hear more about.