Title No. 20 For Marin! Cilic Wins In St. Petersburg
The Croatian, who defeated American Taylor Fritz 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 to lift the trophy, became just the sixth active player to claim 20 tour-level titles. The only other men who have achieved the feat are Roger Federer (103), Rafael Nadal (88), Novak Djokovic (85), Andy Murray 46) and Juan Martin del Potro (22).
"During the whole week I think my level was really good. I felt that I can still get my game to a better level, and it was a little bit similar today," Cilic said. "I was playing great on some occasions, missing some opportunities, serving for the first set, not making that first set more comfortably. As things went on, obviously Taylor started to play better. But in the end, [it was] a great mental battle from my side."
The last time Cilic competed in St. Petersburg before this week was in 2011, when he also emerged victorious. This was his fourth title in Russia, having also earned the crown in Moscow twice (2014-15).
"Coming 10 years after winning in 2011 and also winning now, it's so, so special for me, especially this part of my career," Cilic said during the trophy ceremony. "Having now a family, two sons, I want to absolutely dedicate this trophy to my newborn son."
Last week, the former World No. 3 fell one win short of triumphing in Moscow. And it appeared after letting slip a set-and-a-break advantage that he might lose another final in Russia.
But Cilic never stopped fighting, and he rallied from a break down in the deciding set to win after two hours and 23 minutes. The 33-year-old hit 12 aces and won 78 per cent of his first-serve points in his victory.
"My plans are to keep pushing myself, to keep training hard to give myself an opportunity to again win great tournaments and to play amazing tennis, to be winning against guys who are at the top," Cilic said. "That’s obviously my goal. Who knows where it will take me, but for me, it’s a great start, these two tournaments in Russia. It obviously helps so much for my confidence end of the season playing this well."
For much of the match, Cilic was the more aggressive player, and that allowed him to control rallies against Fritz. But on the two occasions he led by a break in the second set, the World No. 35 began misfiring with his forehand, allowing the American back into the match.
Fritz stormed ahead in the decider, using his power and depth to maintain the momentum. But he was unable to finish the job, and Cilic got back on serve. The fifth seed had an opportunity to pull ahead again at 4-3, but his veteran opponent saved a break point masterfully with a daring drop shot, which he followed up with a volley at the net.
Cilic took advantage of a Fritz double fault on break point at 4-4 to earn a chance to serve for the match, and the Croatian did not let slip his opportunity. He put away a forehand volley on championship point before leaping into the air with a big fist pump to celebrate.