No. 16 seed Marin Cilic, just hours removed from his straight-set mastery of hard court virtuoso Andy Murray, felt relieved more so than excited after pulling off one incredibly formidable upset at this 2009 US Open.
“I’m feeling tremendously happy,” said Cilic, who won 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. “Of course it’s biggest result for me so far. And after reaching this four times last 16, was a little bit relief after I won it.
“Now that I don’t have this blockade in my head, I can look forward, and, of course, focus on the next matches.”
The Croatian sensation broke brackets and English hearts at Arthur Ashe Stadium this afternoon in a tidy, 2 hour and 8 minute affair that was one-sided after the opening set. From there, Cilic established his serve—Murray would go 0-for-7 in break point opportunities—and scarcely allowed Murray to get comfortable and counterpunch from the baseline, charging the net with authority and volleying more frequently and with far better accuracy.
“(Murray) was a little bit struggling to get on my serve to win few points in a row, so that was key thing for me,” said Cilic. “And of course definitely that I was playing from inside the court really good and moved him around and didn’t rush too much.
“When I had my chance, I was going for him. When I was in the tougher position I would stay in the rally pretty good. Physically wise, I was feeling okay and moving pretty nice.”
Murray, a 2008 US Open finalist and a trendy a pick to overthrow Roger Federer’s five-year reign at Flushing Meadows, was 37-3 in matches on hard courts in 2009, including his first three victories at this year’s Open. Only once in the past eight tournaments had the hard court match win leader going into tournament play failed to advance past the round of 16 (James Blake – 2007).
Afterwards, Murray fielded questions from reporters who cited color commentator Patrick McEnroe’s analysis that the Brit lost focus in the latter sets. He shrugged it off and blamed the poor result on a mix of fatigue and a balky left wrist.
“No, I mean, I think one of the things about me that I’ve been very good at the last couple of years, I’ve been saying that I find ways to get back into the matches mentally, and I think very strong… I don’t know what it was. Like I said, you know, against (Paul) Capdeville I felt a little bit low on energy. And it’s not an excuse, but it’s not good in a Grand Slam to feel that way.”
The 20-year-old Cilic, who was 0-3 in his career versus the current No. 2 seed coming into today’s match, also fired 35 winners to Murray’s 13. He will play in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal and also is the first Croat to reach the final eight at the US Open since countryman and idol Goran Ivanisevic did so in 1996.
Cilic, like many Croatians, idolized Ivanisevic and remembers celebrating with friends and family when the former world No. 2 captured Wimbledon in 2001.
“I mean, he is the one who brought tennis on a high level in Croatia, and everybody looked at him as a hero. Even from all the other athletes, he was one guy who was most likeable with his personality and everything. I mean, he also played with me when he was finishing his career. He helped me a lot, so he’s a really nice guy.”
Sixth-ranked Juan Martin del Potro, who ousted No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero, will meet Cilic in a matchup of two of the youngest and brightest stars on the ATP Tour. The Argentinean del Potro and Cilic, who will both turn 21 before the end of September, are the youngest players left in the men’s draw.
“He has the potential,” said del Potro in his own post-match press conference of Cilic. “He’s a very good player, because, has a very good future. For sure if he beat Murray he’s confident. It will be very tough for me.”
In January, Cilic suffered a four-set setback to del Potro at the 2009 Australian Open 5–7, 6–4, 6–4, 6–2. To avenge the Melbourne loss and reach the semifinals, Cilic will pull from the Murray triumph, the biggest win of his career.
“Maybe (del Potro is) even here playing a little bit better on the US Open courts,” said Cilic. “But definitely I think I have my chance. If I take positive things from today, I can put it in the next match, and, of course, take advantage like that. I think he can play really well, but I think I have also some game that can hurt him.”