Cilic’s 33 aces put him in the first Roland-Garros semi-final at 33

Croatian Marin Cilic plays a shot against Russian Andrey Rublev during their quarterfinal match at the Roland Garros tennis tournament in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

Croatian Marin Cilic plays a shot against Russian Andrey Rublev during their quarterfinal match at the Roland Garros tennis tournament in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

PA

Marin Cilic is 33, nearly eight seasons off his only Grand Slam title at the 2014 US Open – and, until Wednesday, more than four full years removed from his last trip to the semi-finals of a major tournament .

If he continues to serve like this, there is no reason to think about quitting tennis anytime soon.

Cilic had 33 aces to qualify for the French Open for the first time, beating No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 ( 10-2) Wednesday in a 4 hour and 10 minute test of strength and will.

“Andrey played incredibly well. One of them had to go down,” said Cilic, the 20th seed, “and today was my day.

The Croatian is the fifth active man to complete a full streak of at least one semi-final at all four Grand Slam tournaments, joining Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, who have each been ranked No. won several major tournaments. .

Cilic was Federer’s runner-up at Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australian Open in 2018; the latter had been Cilic’s last trip to the Slam semi-finals.

On Friday, Cilic will face No. 8 Casper Ruud for a place in the final. The other men’s semi-finalist is 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who knocked out Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, against No. 3 Alexander Zverev.

Ruud, a 23-year-old Norwegian, beat Rune, a 19-year-old Dane, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 to advance to his first Grand Slam semi-final.

Their match got a bit testy, with Ruud telling Rune he didn’t appreciate him questioning an obvious referee call.

“I said to him, ‘What, do you need to check every mark?’ and he told me to shut up. I asked him, ‘Maybe it’s not the best thing to tell your opponent to shut up when I’m talking to you?’ And he said it again. So that’s all that happened. And I didn’t exchange words with him after that,” Ruud said. “So that’s what he wants to say and behave?” It’s up to him to decide.

Rune confirmed Ruud’s account of their interaction.

Rune had never won a Grand Slam match until last week.

“Obviously disappointed not to have been able to do better today. But I still have to watch both weeks – it was awesome,” Rune said. “I mean, I played some good games. Lots of positives to take away.”

Cilic may be ten years older than his next opponent, but he’s feeling good these days.

When he had a physical in late 2021, he said, his doctor told him, “Your body is like 25.”

Cilic continued, “Don’t tell my wife I say that, (but) I could play another 10 years.”

Joking aside, he said, “How long? We will see. But definitely three, four years, if I can be competitive like that.

He dropped Rublev’s career mark in the major quarter-finals to 0-5. That was partly thanks to Cilic’s overwhelming ability to hit serves and groundstrokes for the winners – 88 in all, more than double Rublev’s total of 35.

“It was tough emotionally because he played some games very well,” Cilic said. “When you play that long, there are always ups and downs, so I had to stay focused.”

Rublev showed good sportsmanship twice, indicating at the start of the tiebreaker that one of Cilic’s shots was indeed in and, earlier at 1-all in the fifth set, volunteering to replaying a point after Cilic complained that a shot that had been announced had hit a line. .

As part of an agreement between the four Grand Slam hosts aimed at normalizing an element of the sport, this is the first time the French Open has used a tiebreaker in the fifth sets of men’s matches – and the third sets of women’s matches.

Cilic ran away with the first-to-10 format against Rublev, picking up the game’s final nine points after leading 2-1 in the tiebreaker.

The 6ft 6in (1.98m) Cilic has one of the biggest serves on the circuit, and it delivered them up to 133mph (214kph) on Wednesday, with an average speed of 123mph ( 199 km/h).

He came with three aces in the tiebreaker.

“Almost every major point he was winning with his serve,” Rublev said, “and it was really, really hard to read or return.”

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