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Marin Cilic steps up in front of all-star cast

Marin Cilic on No.17 Court
by Matt Trollope
Monday 30 June 2014

Following his third-round victory over No.6 seed Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic talked openly about having worked hard to improve the mental side of his game, about taking advantage of his good form and converting it to match wins, maintaining a high level over of a five-set Grand Slam match and, whenever he had a good player on the ropes, to hold them there, and finish them off.

He scored another psychological victory for himself in the fourth round; backing up that upset victory with another in a match he was expected to win.

Time and time again you see players suffer an emotional let-down following the high of scoring a ground-breaking victory. But against Jeremy Chardy on Monday, the No.26 seed Cilic was impeccable, winning 7-6(8), 6-4, 6-4.

“I was prepared to have completely different match than the other day. Other day I had a lot of emotions on the court. It was big battle. It was relief to go through that one,” Cilic said.

“Not really (concerned about an emotional let-down). I mean, I felt good. Sort of felt lucky that we (Berdych and I) finished on the day that we started due did darkness. But I had two days off. I had time to relax, to get physically well, and to prepare. I think I use it in a good way.”

It was a bit of a case of the who’s who of the tennis world observing the action on Court 18. Cilic was watched by Croatian former Grand Slam champions Goran Ivanisevic – the 2001 Wimbledon champion and his current coach – and Iva Majoli, the 1997 French Open winner. Sitting across in Chardy’s entourage was 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, whose former coach Magnus Tideman now works with the Frenchman. Even tennis legend Rod Laver was taking in some of the match from the broadcast centre rooftop overlooking the show court.

What they and the rest of the crowd witnessed was utter serving dominance. There were no service breaks in the opening set, and just one break point was registered; this was saved by Cilic. The two men contested a high-quality set of plentiful aces and winners, countered by very few double faults or errors.

A tie-break was required to decide the set, and was precariously balanced at 6-6 when rain began to tumble. A delay of more than one hour ensued, and when they resumed battle, Chardy was the first to blink, dishing up a double fault on Cilic’s second set point.

The Frenchman, who had never before progressed beyond the third round at the All England Club, continued to err on serve at the start of the second set, a second double fault handing Cilic a break point in the opening game. Chardy survived, yet two games later, the Croat pounded a forehand winner down the line to break, celebrating loudly and jogging to his chair.

Having come through that tough opening set seemed to have relaxed Cilic, who swung even more freely and powerfully – reminiscent of his display against Berdych – while Chardy’s level dropped. Consolidating the break with a comfortable hold to move ahead 3-1, Cilic had chances for a double break when he came out on top of an athletic exchange to lead 15-40 in the seventh game. Chardy would escape, but Cilic remained ahead by a break, and later produced his 25th ace to take a two-set lead.

Much like the second set, Cilic broke in the third game of the third set to immediately wrest control, and didn't let up. The only real difficulty he faced on serve was when he was trying to close it out – in the most exciting game of the match, Chardy took huge cuts at his returns and earned two break points before Cilic eventually clinched victory on his third match point. Appropriately, it came on an unreturnable serve.

He finished the match with 33 aces to just three double faults and an impressive 59 winners against 15 errors, and arrives in the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam event for the first time in almost two years. Next up is either top seed Novak Djokovic or No.14 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“This year I just felt that I'm one step further (improved) with my form.  I don't know if that comes with playing several years on grass, but year after year I was feeling better and better,” he said.

“Sometimes it's difficult to prepare your form exactly for these two weeks. Over here I think we had really good preparation week before Wimbledon, and it's paying off in the matches.”

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