Nitto ATP Finals 2018: Cilic beats Isner to stay in semi-finals contention
The result ensured that top-seed and World Number 1 Novak Djokovic became the first player to qualify for the semi-finals. The match was, as many had predicted, a contest of two of the most gigantic serves and there was little to separate the two men in the early exchanges. It was also the first singles match of this year's event to go to a deciding third set.
Cilic who had just won 2 of his last 11 matches in 4 appearances at the ATP Finals event looked sharp as he was determined to win his first match after losing in 2 tight sets against Alexander Zverev a couple of days back.
It was an emotional night for John Isner who was distraught after hearing the news that his friend and former conditioning coach Kyle Morgan had lost his life. But the lanky American did not let that affect his game as he put up a stupendous fight and earned praise from his opposite number Cilic after the match.
Cilic was forced to save 3 set points in the momentous 10th game of the first set but was broken twice by Isner. The set eventually went to a tiebreak and Isner grabbed the crucial mini-break that proved pivotal to him taking the first set.
Isner, the second-oldest debutant in the competition's history at 33 years, gave Cilic the initiative to seize control of the match with a slew of double faults. Isner was facing two break points in the sixth game of the second set and had to use his powerful serve to his advantage to bail him out of the situation. However, an uncharacteristic double fault in the eighth game meant that he handed Cilic the break. Cilic would then seize his opportunity to serve it out and level the match at one set apiece.
Both players uncharacteristically started the third set by surrendering their serves as they traded breaks. It was Cilic who broke the American twice and held his nerve to close out the match and stay in contention in the tournament with one round left in the Gustavo Kuerten Group.
The final slot in the semi-finals from the Kuerten Group will come from one of the remaining three players with Djokovic up against Cilic and Zverev facing off against Isner on Friday.