Jaziri’s Red Clay Magic Results In His Second Win Over A Top 5 Opponent This Year

Malek Jaziri (photo: TEB Istbanbul Open)

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

Unseeded Malek Jaziri of Tunisia displayed all of his red clay magic tricks during his second-round match at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open against World No. 4 Marin Cilic of Croatia in Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday. The 34-year-old Tunisian surprised his 29-year-old newly-wed opponent with a few well placed drop shots, relied upon slight-of-hand sliced backhands, and hit some inside-out forehands for winners. He kept the No. 1 seed off balance – and it worked.

The No. 78 Tunisian upset the defending champion Cilic for his second win of the year against a Top 5 opponent, 6-4, 6-2, in 1 hour and 19 minutes on Garanti Koza Park to advance into Friday’s quarterfinal round against seventh-seeded Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, ranked No. 84, who advanced with a 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (3) win over 131st-ranked qualifier Thiago Monteiro of Brazil. 

Other Thursday winners included No. 87 Jeremy Chardy of France and No. 100 Thomas Fabbiano of Italy, who knocked off No. 2 seed Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina, ranked 32nd, 6-2, 0-6, 6-2. The highest remaining seed in this ATP 250 tournament is No. 5 Paolo Lorenzi of Italy.

Although Jaziri placed just 43 percent of his first serves in play, he won 83 percent (19 of 23) of his first-serve points. He outpointed Cilic 61-46. The Tunisian’s provisional ranking improved to No. 72 with his victory.

“I’m really happy with my win, personally and professionally,” said Jaziri, during an on-court interview after his victory. “I beat a good player, who is Top 5 in the world. I fought hard from first point to the end. I hope I can continue to play like this.”

Jaziri broke Cilic’s serve in three consecutive service games during the opening set and won five straight games to lead 5-2. Although Cilic got one of the service breaks back and won a love game to pull within 4-5, Jaziri overcame a pair of double faults and won the first set after Cilic hit a long forehand return.

Early in the second set, Jaziri broke to go ahead 2-1 when Cilic netted a forehand return. He held for 3-1 as Cilic hit a backhand that the Tunisian challenged went wide – and won the point when the chair umpire agreed with him. Later, Jaziri held at love for a 4-2 advantage, and pressured Cilic into hitting several errant returns. The Croatian faced triple break-point after hitting his fourth double fault, then double-faulted – again – on double break-point to give Jaziri an enviable 5-2 lead on his racket with the finish line in sight. Jaziri served out the win by taking advantage of three unforced errors by Cilic, including a long forehand return on match point.

The Tunisian celebrated his victory by kneeling down and kissing the red clay before shaking hands with Cilic at the net.

Cilic gave props to Jaziri during his post-match meeting with the media, saying: “It was my first match and Malek played great. I had issues with my knee, so I wasn’t serving that well. But all the credit to Malek. I tried to play aggressively and I didn’t want to slow the pace down or be defensive.”

The win over Cilic improved Jaziri’s 2018 ATP World Tour win-loss record to 13-8. His other victory over a Top 5 player came back in February when he beat then-No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the first round at Dubai en route to a semifinal finish.