On Wednesday at the ATP Finals, the tournament got its first semifinalist and its first three-set match.
The semifinalist was Novak Djokovic, who cruised to a 6-4 6-1 win over Alexander Zverev for his second decisive win in London this week.
The three-set match came between Marin Cilic and John Isner, with Cilic gritting out a 6-7(2) 6-3 6-4 win – and overcoming some mental demons in the process.
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It was Isner taking the first set that confirmed Djokovic’s progression to the last four at the ATP Finals, but Cilic struck back to win in two hours and 14 minutes.
“First set was extremely tough … John played a great tiebreak. So I just had to stay patient, just stay focused, and I felt that I played really great tennis from the second set and the third set as well,” said Cilic, who broke the fearsome Isner serve twice in the final set.
“Served really well, especially on the returns it was working really good … I just felt I got that momentum towards the end of the second set and just started to fell the ball really well.”
Cilic, who has made a habit of losing from winning positions in recent months, stepped up to the line to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third, and made no mistake, belting a forehand winner on the first point and an unreturnable serve on the next.
He closed out the game at love to secured a satisfying victory.
Djokovic – against whom he led in the third set at last week’s Paris Masters before succumbing – will present a tougher challenge in his final round-robin match of the ATP Finals.
“It was a great match, tough one in Paris. Similar conditions to here,” said Cilic, who beat Djokovic in the Queen’s Club final in June.
“I feel Novak is definitely playing really good tennis. I have to just keep playing well, obviously to serve well – it’s going to be critical.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Djokovic dismantled Zverev in just 76 minutes, the seventh consecutive straight-sets victory of the ATP Finals.
The Serb, who recently returned to world No.1, has now won 45 of his past 50 matches dating back to the Rome Masters.
Despite the fact he appeared to be struggling with a cold and hit only 11 winners in the match, he nonetheless won the last five games on the trot against an out-of-sorts Zverev.
“I don’t think it was breathtaking tennis, to be honest, from both of us,” Djokovic admitted.
“But a win is a win. I thought I played well from midway through the second set – I started to swing through the ball. He obviously started to make a lot of unforced errors that allowed me to win probably easier than expected.”
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