Raonic, Cilic Set Blockbuster Istanbul Final
Raonic set their third FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting after dismissing Viktor Troicki 6-2, 6-3 in just 66 minutes. The top-seeded Canadian will appear in his first clay-court final, having not dropped serve all week in Istanbul. He is bidding for his ninth ATP World Tour title and first since lifting the trophy to open the 2016 season in Brisbane.
"I've come back from many injuries, so I know how to find my level," said Raonic, who is competing in his first tournament since withdrawing from Miami in March with a hamstring injury. "It took me a few matches to find it, but I think that I'm moving more in the right direction to getting to my best level.
"Today, I had nothing to lose by being aggressive on return. I knew I would hold my serve and I haven't lost it during the tournament, so why not try something different when returning. I found my rhythm early and kept going as the match went on."
Raonic and Cilic split their two previous encounters, with the Canadian prevailing in Valencia 2011 and the Croatian exacting revenge in Indian Wells 2013.
Cilic overcame Diego Schwartzman's comeback bid in Saturday's first semi-final, battling past the defending champion 6-1, 7-6(7). The big-hitting Croatian, who celebrated his 400th tour-level match win on Friday, advanced to his first final on the ATP World Tour this year. He will seek his first clay-court crown since 2012 in Umag.
"I'm definitely very excited for the final tomorrow," said Cilic. "It's something I was looking forward to at the beginning of the week. I'm really happy with my tennis and hope I can continue with great tennis tomorrow."
Cilic converted five of 12 break chances during the one-hour and 39-minute affair, but it was far from straightforward for the World No. 8. A dogged Schwartzman looked to replicate his comeback heroics from a year ago in the Istanbul final, when he battled back from a set and a break down to defeat Grigor Dimitrov. Cilic surged to a 6-1, 4-0 lead on Saturday, behind great depth and power from his forehand wing. But his Argentine opponent recovered both breaks in the second set and would draw level once again when the Croatian served for the match at 5-4.
Second seed Cilic would stay the course in the ensuing tie-break, turning aside three set points and eventually sealing the victory on his first match point when a Schwartzman backhand found the net. It was the first meeting between 6'6" Cilic and 5'7" Schwartzman, who falls to 0-11 against Top 10 opponents.
"It was an amazing match," Cilic added. "The first set and a half I was playing amazing tennis, but things turned around a bit. I started hitting some unforced errors and Diego played much better. Suddenly I was down 6-5 and it definitely wasn't easy. I found a way and that's the most important thing in the end."
Wild Card Duo Reach Doubles Final
The unseeded wild card team of Tuna Altuna and Alessandro Motti will look to cap a dream week in Istanbul after reaching the final on Saturday. The Turkish-Italian pair defeated Antonio Sancic and Adil Shamasdin 3-6, 6-1, 10-5 and will face Jiri Vesely and Roman Jebavy for the title. Altuna, No. 311 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings, and No. 148 Motti are teaming up for the first time this week.