STO 3rd seed Cilic holds off tough Korean challenge to reach the semis!
by Circle News, on Feb 26, 2021 9:30:25 PM
By Dillon Lim
The third Men’s Singles quarter-finals of Day 5 at the Singapore Tennis Open saw the 8th seed, Kwon Soon-woo (ranked 81) take on the 3rd seed, Marin Cilic (ranked 44). Both players were playing for a spot in the last 4 of the tournament.
Kwon kicked things off with a quick approach shot and a backhand volley winner on the first point of the match. A few errors from both took the score to 40-30, before the Korean hit a drop shot off a short return to lead 1-0. The Croat held serve fairly comfortably himself to get on the scoreboard. Down 0-30 on his serve in the next game, the 8th seed constructed the point well and ended it with a forehand winner. However, Cilic played some solid tennis to see two break points, and converted it on his first after Kwon hit a backhand unforced error.
The 3rd seed continued playing aggressively and moved the ball to dictate the points before consolidating the break for a 3-1 lead. Riding on the momentum, the 32 year old whipped a forehand crosscourt return winner the next game to give himself 3 break points. A forehand unforced error into the net from Kwon, after saving 2 break points, enabled his opponent to race to a 4-1 lead. The big serving Croat slammed down 2 aces and 2 winners to move one game away from taking the first set. The Korean seemed to be finding his rhythm the next game. He played a beautiful 1-2 punch point, and showcased his speed to cover the court in the next, before holding to love. Serving for the set at 5-2, Cilic wasted no time. He served 2 aces and 2 unreturned serves to close out the set 6-2 in 30 minutes. The 3rd seed showed his dominance as he served 6 aces, won 92% of points behind his first serve and converted 2/4 break points.
Kwon seemed to have put the opening set behind him as he sprinted to a 1-0 lead in the second set, after winning his serve to love. The 8th seed changed his tactics to staying in the rally with deep shots, and letting Cilic make the error, as he won his 5th straight point. However, the Croat made use of the short returns off his big serves and moved his opponent around to force errors and get the hold for 1-1. Despite a hold of serve each in the next 2 games, the 23 year old Asian star had to work hard and mix in some drop shots, while Cilic got free points off his serve.
Kwon's tactic of staying in the rally and throwing in drop shots started working as he held to love again to edge ahead 3-2. But a jumping backhand from the 8th seed forced an error from Cilic and he was put under pressure on serve at 30-30. The 3rd seed unfortunately succumbed with 2 backhand unforced errors to give Kwon the break. Fired up, the he raced to a 40-0 lead on his serve. And despite a comeback attempt from his opponent, the 8th seed ran around his backhand to hit a winner at 40-30 to lead 5-2.
With the momentum on his side, Kwon hit a running backhand lob over the tall Croat for 0-30, 2 points away from taking the second set. Cilic looked to be struggling with his backhand, as he hit yet another one into the net to give Kwon the second set 6-2.
The 3rd seed gathered himself before the decider, and played a beautiful point to get a break point in the first game. A failed 1-2 punch into the net from Kwon, after saving the first break point, gifted Cilic another break point. Holding his nerves well, the Korean saved the second break point before firing 2 big serves to hold. After holding to love, Cilic hit deep groundstrokes into both corners of the court before finishing the point with a drop volley on his opponent’s serve. The Croat pumped his fist and looked across the net at his opponent before finding 2 break points. Kwon saved both swiftly with 2 drop shots and held to lead 2-1.
The drop shots were effective as another one in the next game, put pressure on the Cilic serve. The Croat then missed a backhand to give Kwon a break point. Drawing from his experience in playing big points, Cilic used his serve to get out of trouble and tie the score at 2-2. Both players then held to love for 3-3. The turning point came at 3-3 (40-40) when the ex-US Open champion fought hard to find a break point and converted it, with some big groundstrokes and an unforced error from Kwon.
The South Korean moved his opponent around the court, before hitting a short crosscourt that threw the 3rd seed off guard for a break back point. Cilic played a shaky game as a shanked forehand handed the break back to Kwon. The 8th seed held for 5-4 and put his opponent to the task of serving to stay in the match. A long backhand from Cilic brought up a first match point for Kwon. Saving it with an ace, the Croat hit another big serve and went on to hold for 5-5.
Kwon faced a break point in the next game, but an ace got him out of trouble as well. Aggressive groundstrokes from Cilic gave him another break, but he could not convert. Then, an untimely double fault followed by a spectacular backhand return winner gave the Croat the break for 6-5. The 3rd seed pumped himself up by shouting “Alleh!” after a crucial game. With his forehand finding the line and an unforced error from Kwon, Cilic finds his first match point. The Croat fires a big serve that was unreturned to seal the match 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in 2 hours.
Cilic hit 18 aces, won 80% of points behind his first serve and converted 4/12 break points, compared to his opponent with 3/6. He will face the young Aussie star, Alexei Popyrin, for a place in the grand finals.
(Edited by Raj Kumar)
Dillon Lim is in his final year of university. He enjoys playing tennis and has been in love with the game since he was a kid. The 23 year old used to play competitively for Raffles Institution and was in the junior national training squad before leaving to study in the UK. And he still plays for his current university. Off the court, Dillon enjoys watching tennis matches and always keeps up with the very latest tournaments.
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