Cilic edges Rublev in epic battle to set up French Open semi-final with Ruud

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<span>Photograph: Jean-François Badias/AP</span>
Photograph: Jean-François Badias/AP

Just a year ago, as Marin Cilic fell outside of the top 40 and seemed to lose against a lesser player every week, it was not easy to envision him rebounding back to the very top of his sport. But this year at the French Open he has done so, reaching the semi-final here for the first time in his career by defeating Andrey Rublev, the seventh seed, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2) in one of the best matches of the tournament so far.

“The win comes from being me, I played that kind of tennis the whole match, especially the fifth set was an incredible battle,” Cilic said after the match. The Croatian’s next opponent will be Casper Ruud, after the No 8 seed beat Holger Rune 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 in the night session on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

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“Andrey played incredibly well, it was an incredibly fair-play performance on the court. A lot of heart,” Cilic concluded. “One had to go down and today was my day. Bad luck to him.”

Cilic had already dismantled Daniil Medvedev, the second seed, in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals and by edging past Medvedev’s countryman he has now further augmented the brilliant career he has quietly assembled.

After winning the US Open in 2014, reaching a career-high ranking of No 3, leading Croatia to a Davis Cup title and qualifying for two other grand slam finals at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, Cilic has now reached the semi-final of all four grand slam tournaments. With his success in Paris, he will also cross the $30m (£24m) mark for prize money.

Casper Ruud celebrates after seeing off Holger Rune in another late-night finish.
Casper Ruud celebrates after seeing off Holger Rune in another late-night finish. Photograph: Michel Euler/AP

He moved on by producing a high-quality match and one that primarily played out on his racquet, with Cilic demolishing his forehand from the baseline throughout. Despite Rublev’s own considerable firepower, Cilic overpowered him for large parts of the match, incredibly finishing with 88 winners to Rublev’s 35.

While Rublev scrapped well to remain in contact during the final set, even saving a match point on his serve, by the match tiebreak the Croat’s boldness and experience set him apart. He played a great tiebreak, the first ever seen on Chatrier, filled with nuclear forehand winners and big serving, to advance.

With that match ticking past the four-hour mark, the evening game in Paris did not get started until after 9pm. When it did get under way, Ruud dominated the first set against his Danish opponent, winning it 6-1. Rising star Rune, who upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round, fought back to take the second set and the match hung in the balance until the third-set went to a tie-break.

Ruud regained his one-set lead, winning the tie-break comprehensively and then breaking his opponent’s serve in the eighth game of the fourth set, closing out on serve to reach his very first grand slam semi-final. “It will take some time to get the adrenaline out of my body,” the Norwegian said after wrapping up his win after midnight. “I might get to sleep at 4am, if I’m lucky.”

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