Red-Hot Cilic Stuns Rublev
The Croatian crushed forehands and hammered backhands in a free-hitting display on Margaret Court Arena to end Rublev’s stay in Australia in emphatic fashion, advancing after two hours and 37 minutes.
“It is incredible,” Cilic said in his on-court interview. “I enjoyed every single second of the match. Andrey is an incredible player, we have played several times in the past and it is always difficult. I had so much fun and played great tennis.”
The 33-year-old, whose last Top 10 win came against then-World No. 9 Roberto Bautista Agut at the same stage in Melbourne in 2020, has now advanced to the fourth round at the Australian Open eight times, with his best result a run to the final in 2018.
“In the evening it is a little bit cooler, so you can go for a bit more on your shots and it really went well for me,” Cilic added. “I served great and that is the way to go against the guys at the top. If you are giving them a chance to hit, you will have trouble, so I was trying to be aggressive and it paid off.”
The 27th seed is one of three former Grand Slam champions left in the draw alongside World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and 20-time major winner Rafael Nadal. Cilic clinched his only slam trophy at the US Open in 2014.
Cilic was strong on serve against Rublev throughout, firing 24 aces as he won 85 per cent (52/61) of his first-serve points. After a dominant first two sets, where the 20-time tour-level titlist swung freely to hit 34 winners, Rublev rallied from 1-3 in the third set. The 24-year-old won five games in a row, including the last 12 points of the set to claw himself back into contention.
However, the Russian was unable to carry his momentum into the fourth set, with Cilic breaking to lead 3-1. This time the Croatian made no mistake, advancing when he fired down an ace, releasing all the tension in the process.
Rublev was aiming to reach the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time. The fifth seed, who defeated Gianluca Mager and Ricardas Berankis earlier this week, is the highest seed to fall in Melbourne this year.
The home favourite, who is making his fifth Australian Open appearance, hit 34 winners and broke five times to advance after two hours and nine minutes. The 32nd seed will next face Italian Jannik Sinner after the World No. 10 downed Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.