Marin Cilic deployed his powerful serve to ease past fellow Croatian Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 6-3 yesterday and reach the final of the China Open.
Cilic, who also reached the final in 2009 before losing to Novak Djokovic, will next face No. 3 seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. Berdych defeated France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
Cilic, world No. 25, who had lost both his previous matches against his Beijing doubles partner, took the upper hand with a break to lead 5-4, before closing out the first set in the next game.
Ljubicic led 3-1 in the second set, but failed to make the most of his opportunities, dropping serve in the fifth game when his forehand clipped the net and fell wide.
Cilic pounced on the opportunity and dominated the remainder of the match, eventually breaking his opponent to love in the final game for a 6-3 finish.
Afterward, Cilic said his game clicked into place after he broke for the first time.
“I then started serving better, the start of the second set was really crucial,” the 23-year-old said. “It was maybe the best I’ve ever served.”
Meanwhile, in the first on the women’s semi-finals, German ninth seed Andrea Petkovic brushed aside Romanian Monica Niculescu 6-2, 6-0 to set up a final against Agnieszka Radwanska, who defeated Italian Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-4.
Niculescu, who was playing her third WTA semi-final, failed to hold serve throughout her match as Petkovic coasted to victory in just over an hour. Despite the loss the Romanian, who knocked out China’s Li Na and Maria Kirilenko earlier in the tournament, is projected to rise to a career-high ranking of 35 next week.
Petkovic lost her first service game and failed to serve out for the set at 5-1, but otherwise dominated the match.
She will be playing her third final of the year after winning in Strasbourg and finishing as runner-up in Brisbane.
The women’s final will also be a duel for a top 10 spot for both Radwanska (12th in the world) and Petkovic standing one spot above. Radwanska takes a 4-0 record into the match, with their last meeting a summer Toronto semi-final.
Additional writing by staff writer
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