At the Open 13 Provence, Nick Kyrgios and Marin Cilic continued their winning ways to progress into the finals in Marseille. It will be their second career meeting with the first one also taking place in France — but since that encounter was in the second round of Roland Garros in 2013, it’s fair to say that tomorrow’s championship will be a different story.
“It wasn’t a perfect match but I served really well again and I returned really well. I’ve been serving great all week and I’ve been playing really good — yeah, that was a really good match.”
Truth be told, however, the Marseille semifinal was once again pretty close to a perfect match from Nick Kyrgios, as the young Australian notched up his second Top 10 win in a row in the Provence — and fired 15 aces past Tomas Berdych without facing a single break point, 6-4, 6-2.
“It’s always nice to get a bit of revenge on someone who has recently beaten you,” Kyrgios said. “I thought in Australia I came out a bit flat and in the third set I started turning things around but he’s a really professional guy, he just got on top of me in the Australian Open and it was just a tough match. Today, I just knew what I had to do. I didn’t let him get on top of me early and, yeah, I thought I played really well.”
Kyrgios’ opponent in the final will be Marin Cilic, who battled his way past local favorite Benoit Paire in three sets in the first semifinal of the day, 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3. The Croat didn’t play flawless tennis by any means but his serve helped him get out of some tight spots — and he knows he’ll have tricky challenge in the championship match.
“You have to play your own game and obviously accept that he is gonna hit 10 or 15 aces in the match and 10, 15 great winners and it all comes down to what is gonna happen in the critical points,” Cilic said in analyzing his potentially streaky opponent. “With his abilities, [if] he’s gonna miss that or if he’s gonna stay solid, I have to do the right things on my own side of the court to get inside those…situations or to be on top of him straight away from the beginning.
“Obviously, I have to be very determined with my own plan but you know also putting him in those situation and do what I need to do to put him in a weaker spot.”
The 2014 US Open champion is an intrinsically relaxed person who doesn’t show too many emotions on court, providing a stark contrast and foil to Kyrgios in the championship. While the Australian has been very focused this week, his temper and tendency to feed off of adrenaline have proven to be a double-edged sword in the past, and Cilic is very much aware that it can swing both ways for Kyrgios.
“Obviously it’s great to have different personalities on tour and he’s for sure a different personality to a lot of other guys,” the World No. 12 said with a smile.
“It’s big help for him is that he’s got a power game, big serve, great forehand and he also moves pretty good on the court. He uses that as his advantage, as his explosiveness and think his character helps him to be a little bit like that but his character also allows him to make some very loose errors — errors that you wouldn’t see from Rafa [Nadal] or Novak [Djokovic] or some of the other top guys. Still, he’s gonna hit several winners, so that it’s good; that’s his personality. As long as he’s keeping it under control that’s helping him — otherwise it can be very fragile.”
For both players it’s a second final — for Kyrgios it’s the second of his career after Estoril in 2015 and for Cilic the second in Marseille, as he lost to Robin Söderling in 2011. Naturally, both players have memories of those experiences.
“My first final was against [Richard] Gasquet in Estoril, that week I was actually down match point in my first round and I actually should’ve been disqualified — crazy scenes,” reminisced the Australian. “I got through a tough week [and] I played a couple of three setters. It was tough against Gasquet — he played unbelievable. It was on clay, it was really really slow, so it probably favored Gasquet a little bit but it was a great experience. This time, I haven’t been broken once, so I feel a lot more confident moving into the finals compared to last time.”
Cilic’s won his most recent title at the ATP 250 in Moscow to close out last season, but still has some memories of the 2011 final at the Open 13 Provence.
“I remember that I had some chances, some critical points,[and] I had some break points to go up a break,” Cilic said. “I don’t know if I either won or lost the first set against Robin, but in the critical stage of the match — maybe even third set — I had some break points that I didn’t convert and lost in the end. I thought I played good tennis that week and that I was going for my own shots and played the right game and I think that’s always what’s giving me good results.”
While Kyrgios has performed exceptionally well in his four matches this week, tomorrow’s final is far from a done deal and the World No. 41 knows that he’ll have to keep his level against Cilic if he wants to hoist the first trophy of his career — particularly since the Croat has far more experience when it comes to the late stages of tournaments than an opponent seven years his junior.
“He’s got a great serve, one of the best in the game, no matter how much he’s struggling from the back,” Kyrgios said. “He always can always rely on that serve to get him out of trouble and I think today was a great example of that. He’s a great competitor as well — he doesn’t really show too much on the court, he doesn’t get too emotional, so it’s gonna be a tough match. I think I beat four quality opponents, but obviously Cilic is a tough opponent.”
Kyrgios: “I always could serve, I always could play tennis, I just needed to concentrate a bit more.”
Berdych: “Some days you just don’t get it right as you want — but that’s it. That’s got nothing to do with his performance — he played really good.”
Kyrgios on being picked for Davis Cup: “Yeah — I hope so….if they wanna win! :)”
Paire, on what he’s looking forward to in Brazil: “The beach, vacations and the Piña Colada.” (In case you missed it, the Frenchman accepted a wildcard into Sao Paolo.)
Berdych, on comparisons to Melbourne match: “Yeah, I think he’s been definitely more focused, but also fair to say he didn’t have the same opponent on the other side of the court — so that also makes it quite different when you push him for the limits, how well he can handle it or so. When you are not under pressure well enough, you can control your game much easier.”
Cilic on how he changed in the last few years: “I would say that in the past it could happen to me in the matches when I have control…I just need to get that one point that one break to break the player and I feel like I was losing a lot of matches like this where I would finish the match and think what happened there what went wrong and now I’m more stable with that.”
Nick Kyrgios will face Marin Cilic at 3 pm local time tomorrow.