The Tennis Phile

January 24, 2010 8:41 AM

Getting Crowded at the Top - Cilic Outlasts Del Potro

3986508.jpgFor two decades now the nations that make up the former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia) have gifted the tennis world a slew of talented players - starting with 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, who possessed the most lethal of serves in the1990's,  up through today with  Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic, Ivo Karlovic, Ivan Ljubicic and others. And now 21 year old Bosnian Marin Cilic, a player whom many have thought was close to knocking on the door,  has made a huge breakthrough of his own as the 14th seed defeated reigning US Open champion and fourth ranked Juan Martin Del Potro in a battle of giants in five thrilling sets to reach the quarterfinals in Melbourne. Armed with a somewhat unorthodox but powerful serve, precision ground strokes and solid movement for a man his size (6'6), Cilic withstood the fierce Del Potro (who wasn't at his best physically with a sore wrist) forehand.

Indeed, things are getting very crowded at the top in men's tennis as the Golden Age that started with Federer and Nadal now seeks to extend itself with upwards of now six players playing near the peak of their games. Special times for tennis, that's for sure.

It's hard to call it a huge upset. Cilic made noise at the US Open in September when he upended the underachieving Andy Murray and served notice at that time that he belonged in the Top Ten in the near future. And the quiet Cilic also made a wise decision in his choice of counsel. He is currently being coached by Bob Brett, one of the legendary coaches who counts Boris Becker and Chris Evert as previous clients. Under Brett's tutelage, Cilic has displayed a steady improvement and a solid competitive instinct.

Cilic's  reward for beating Del Potro is a meeting in the quarterfinals with Andy Roddick. The top ranked American came back from a two-sets-to-one defiict and defeated the always streaky Fernando Gonzalez in a match that went well into the Aussie night, ending after 1 AM Melbourne time. It's already been a riveting tournament and it only looks to get better as we enter the final three rounds.


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