Cilic In The Chase For Another Queen’s Club Title

Marin Cilic (photo: ATP Tour video)

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Marin Cilic is twice a former champion of the Cinch Championships at Queen’s Club in London. After winning titles in 2012 and 2018 and reaching the finals in 2013 and 2017, the 33-year-old Croatian is once again in the chase for another British grass-court title. He’s into his ninth quarterfinal in 15 appearances in the ATP Tour 500-level event in London.

The World No. 17, who is seeded seventh, is the only seeded player remaining in his half of the draw headed into Friday’s quarterfinals. He’s benefited from a trio of first-round upsets of No. 1 Casper Ruud of Norway, No. 4 Taylor Fritz of the United States and No. 5 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. The only seed in the other half of the draw is No. 2 seed and defending champion Matteo Berrettini of Italy, who was pushed to three sets against 82nd-ranked American lucky loser Denis Kudla before winning on Thursday.

Cilic, who will play 56th-ranked qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in the last eight, began the week with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory over 137th-ranked British wild card Liam Broady, then followed it with a 7-6 (6), 7-5 win against the always unpredictable but entertaining Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan on Wednesday. Cilic fired nine aces and struck 31 winners to just 11 unforced errors. He outpointed Bublik 76-64.

After beating Bublik twice on clay at Rome in 2020 and 2021, the two met on grass for the first time, a surface which Cilic has excelled on – especially at Queen’s Club. His victory against the 37th-ranked Bublik was his 34th in 45 career matches spread over 15 appearances dating back to 2007. He’s fifth all-time on the Queen’s Club wins list.

“The most important thing against Alexander is to keep focus,” Cilic said during his on-court interview after securing his 20th victory of the season. “You never know what’s coming. He made it a little bit crazy in the second set and out of nowhere started to do these underarm serves and slices and drop shots, just breaking up the rhythm. He broke me there, so it was not comfortable to play [at the] end of the second set.”

Cilic called Bublik’s style “unconventional tennis” and said “he’s quite good at it.” Cilic understands that he’s going to win some points and lose some points against Bublik. So, from his point of view, it’s important to stay focused and never get too down on himself.

“Great serve and then backs it up with some of those things,” Cilic said. “Never easy, especially on a grass court, the ball stays low. Most importantly, I kept my focus and I served well at the end of the second set, and that was the key.”

When Cilic was asked at the end of his on-court interview what works so well for him at Queen’s Club, he smiled at the question, then quipped: “[I] come every year! So, you’re going to have more wins. I enjoy playing on grass. It’s a special surface and always a treat. It’s always a pleasure to play here.”

Peniston enjoying a dream week in London

British wild card Ryan Peniston has been enjoying a dream week in London at the Cinch Championships – a dream he hopes he doesn’t wake up from until Sunday evening. Two days after knocking No. 1 seed Casper Ruud out of the tournament at Queen’s Club, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), the 180th-ranked Peniston was at it again on Thursday. He eliminated No. 46 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, 6-0, 4-6, 6-4, to earn a quarterfinal berth in his first ATP Tour main draw.

The 26-year-old Peniston, who hails from Southend,  hit 23 winners to 16 unforced errors and outpointed his opponent 91-78. Afterward, during an on-court interview, he was asked to name his favorites in the categories of food, British football team and music. His answers: dim sum, Manchester United (which drew scattered boos) and Coldplay. Peniston also said his favorite tennis player was fellow lefty Rafael Nadal.

“I don’t think I want to wake up from this anytime soon,” Peniston added. “I took a lot of confidence from the last match against Casper [Ruud] and came out guns blazing. [The] second set didn’t go to plan, he kept fighting. Francisco is a great player. I just managed to fight in the third set and got over the line and I am pretty happy with it.”

On Friday, Peniston will oppose No. 48 Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, who has advanced with a pair of wins against Americans Jenson Brooksby and Sam Querrey.

USTA will not seek exemption for Djokovic to play US Open

While the U.S. Open will allow Russian and Belarusian tennis players to complete in this year’s tournament, a move which leaves Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam tournament to bar them in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, Tuesday’s decision was a challenging one.

“This horrible atrocity absolutely weighed on all of us,” new USTA chief executive Lew Sherr told Christopher Clarey of The New York Times. “But I think at the end of the day we chose not to hold the individual athletes accountable for the decisions of their respective governments.”

When the US Open begins on August 29, Russian and Belarusian players will compete under a neutral flag, following a pattern that began earlier this year on the ATP and WTA tours and at the recent French Open in Paris.

The decision means that current men’s World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev of Russia will be able to defend his US Open singles title. However, the player he defeated for the title last year, 20-time major champion Novak Djokovic, remains unable to enter the United States because he’s an unvaccinated foreigner. It’s the same policy which kept Djokovic out of the U.S. earlier this year and unable to compete at Indian Wells and Miami due to not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

While U.S. policy could change before the start of the U.S. Open, the USTA announced Tuesday it would not seek an exemption for unvaccinated foreign players to compete.

“We are going to follow the government and C.D.C. directives,” Sherr said, in reference to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gauff’s 2022 grass court debut in Berlin has been a good one

World No. 13 Coco Gauff of the United States is into the quarterfinals of the bett1 Open in Berlin this week in her 2022 grass court debut. It comes two weeks after she was a French Open finalist on clay. On Thursday, Gauff defeated 76th-ranked Chinese qualifier Wang Xinyu, 6-0, 6-4, in their first meeting to advance against World No. 7 and fourth seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, last year’s Wimbledon finalist. She began the tournament with another straight-set win, 6-2, 7-6 (2) over No. 66 Ann Li of the United States.

“Two days ago, I went around in the city [of Berlin],” Gauff said during her on-court interview following her win Thursday, when asked how she’s spent her time this week in Germany’s capital and largest city. “Honestly, after matches, I just like to go to sleep or watch Netflix.”

Nadal expected to clarify plans on Wimbledon soon

Rafael Nadal, who two weeks ago won a record-extending 14th French Open title – and 22nd major overall – on clay, is expected to clarify his plans on Wimbledon in a press conference in Mallorca Friday.

While the two-time Wimbledon champion (2008, 2010) Nadal is already practicing on grass, which leads to speculation that he will play at the All England Club later this month, he likely will talk about his training as well as his radio frequency ablation that is being used to treat a chronic foot injury.

By the numbers

Coco Gauff is into the first grass court quarterfinal of her career. She will need to reach the final at Berlin in order to have a chance of making her Top 10 debut. The last time an American won a title in German was back in 2005 at Filderstadt by Lindsay Davenport.

“Quotable …”

“This week is my first couple of main draw wins on grass. If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said grass was my worst surface. But when I started working with my coach Brad [Stine], he said grass will end up being my best surface and I have tried to mold my game on that. I feel very comfortable out there, hopefully if not this year but next year it will be my best surface.”

Tommy Paul of the United States, ranked 35th, after he defeated Stan Wawrinka, 6-1, 6-4, to advance to the quarterfinal round at Queen’s Club in London against defending champion and No. 2 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy.