US Open Semi-Final 5 Reasons Marin Cilic Could Finally Beat Novak Djokovic


Cilic US Open

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Marin Cilic may trail his head to head with Novak Djokovic 0-13, but the defending champion has a great opportunity to get his first win over the world no.1 when the two meet in this year’s US Open semi-finals. The Tennis Review gives you five reasons why the man who surprised much of the tennis world last year in NYC might have another surprise in store this year.

The US Open’s Decoturf is his best surface

Cilic’s big serve, flat, deep ground strokes, mid court and net skills, and aggressive mind-set are tailor-made for the US Open’s fast deco-turf surface which is reportedly the quickest it has been for years.

Cilic’s serve bites through the court, he can hit through his rivals from inside the court or at the baseline, and his volleys die before his opponents can retrieve them.

But Cilic is much more than just a big hitter. The former boys junior Roland Garros champion (2005) has an underrated defensive game, intelligent point construction and is one of the best on the ATP tour at turning defence into attack.

Cilic has tons of confidence in New York

The ninth seed is on a roll in New York. Cilic has won 12 straight matches and beaten the likes of Gilles Simon, Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

That 12 match streak, and previous deep runs at the US Open which saw him defeat the likes of Andy Murray in 2009, have given Cilic great confidence in New York.

At this US Open 2015, Cilic has won five consecutive matches for the first time this injury-hit season and the 253 winners he has unleashed are a sign of just how good he is feeling right now in New York.

That kind of confidence could be what clinches Cilic his first ever win over Djokovic.

Decoturf is Djokovic’s worst surface

Djokovic, meanwhile, has looked far from his confident best these past twelve days. The 2011 champion has dropped sets to Agut and Lopez and while he has hit just 11 errors, he has struck just 166 winners.

Only one of the Serb’s nine slams has come at Flushing Meadows. The Serbian has been to fives finals in total (2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) and has lost each time quite decisively. And the only semi-final of a slam Djokovic has lost in his last eight slam semi showings was last year on Arthur Ashe to first time slam semi-finalist Kei Nishikori.

Deco-turf does not give Djokovic the slow high bouncing conditions he thrives on at Melbourne Park and while his baseline skills can take him deep, he struggles to find the rhythm he needs, and fails to get across the finish line against more attacking, confident opponents.

Djokovic has struggled this US Open season.

Djokovic lost his first ATP 1000 final since Cincinnati 2012, and suffered his first loss to Andy Murray in nine matches in this season’s Montréal final. The following week he was beaten soundly by Roger Federer in the Cincinnati final. He was also match points down against a slumping Gulbis and 0-3 down in the third to Goffin in that period.

While Cilic is a streaky player and can gather confidence with short bursts of momentum, Djokovic is used to winning, rarely losing before finals, so can be vulnerable when suffering losses in consecutive tournaments (see last year when he went down to Nisikori in four in the semis after suffering back to back losses in Toronto Cincinnati.)

Cilic is up for a fight.

Cilic has come through two five setters (Kukushkin, Tsonga) and a tough four setter against Chardy.

The Tsonga match was the toughest of those tussles with Tsonga fighting back from two sets down and saving three match points in the fourth set. Cilic did not get disheartened though and produced his best tennis 3-2 up in the fifth on his way to a 6-4 final set win.

Lucky for Cilic his fighting qualities are intact- against Djokovic, he is going to need them.

At Wimbledon 2014 Cilic led the nine time slam champ two sets to one before losing in five. At Miami the same year he stormed to a 6-1 first set win before going down in three. The Croat also took Djokovic to four sets at Roland Garros a couple of months later. In all those close defeats, Cilic succumbed to Djokovic’s own formidable fighting skills, consistency and ability to make him go for one ball too many.

Djokovic will draw upon all those qualities once more in his upcoming his US Open semi-final versus Cilic, but it may not go his way this time. The Croat has the surface, the momentum, and, most crucially, the heart in his favour as he strives to take his first win against the world No. 1 on his way to another surprise US Open final.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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