Marin Cilic has beaten local player and wild card Evgeny Donskoy 6-3, 3-6, in his opening round match at the ATP 250 event in Moscow. The 24 year old Russian Donskoy, ranked 128 in the world, gave a formidable account of himself against the recently crowned U.S Open champion before his home crowd, but Cilic was too strong when the match got down to the business end in the third set.
The first set went the way many predicted as Cilic, the surprise 2014 U.S Open champion, took it 6-3. The Croat won 67 percent of his serves and won his only break point in the set. However, Donskoy, once ranked as high as 65 in the world, was in threatening form, winning 61 percent of his service points and earning three break points on the Cilic serve, one of the most improved shots on the ATP tour this year.
In the second set, Donskoy upped his level on his serve- winning 78 percent of points behind that shot- and did not face a single break point the entire set. Meanwhile, he managed to convert a break point on the Cilic serve and take the set 6-3.
Donskoy’s impressive form carried over into the third set as he took an early break and Cilic, who pre-U.S Open, was prone to random upsets, looked to be about to suffer another one. However, Cilic had been getting better this season at beating lower ranked players, a result of his much improved mental toughness under the experienced eye of coach Goran Ivanisevic, and broke back.
The Croat, who struggled on his first serve in the third set with a 44 percentage of points won behind that delivery, was clutch on his second serve though, winning seven of 14 points. Meanwhile, Donskoy, who won 67 percent of his first serves, could only win 2 out of 7 points on his second serve which proved to be decisive as the wild card was broken again as Cilic’s confidence and experience proved to be the deciding factor and he took the final set 6-3.
The win is reassuring for Cilic, Saying he was happy with his game and that Donskoy has taken him by surprise in their first ever meeting, the Croat will be happy to have avoided another dissappointing defeat since his U.S Open run. The world No.8 lost 1-6, 4-6 to Andy Murray in Beijing and was then edged in a final set tiebreaker by Ivo Karlovic in his opening round match in Shanghai. Those defeats on hardcourts to opponents he has the game to beat were worrying signs of a post U.S Open letdown, similar to the one Stan Wawrinka suffered after his breakthrough Australian Open win, and so this tight win against Donskoy shows the Croat is motivated and looking to build on his U.S Open success.
Moscow may be the perfect place to do so. The second seed is scheduled to meet top seeded Canadian Milos Raonic in the final with whom he is tied at 1-1 on hard courts. First though he will have to get past either sixth seed Tommy Robredo or Filip Krajonovic in the last eight on Friday.
Commentary by Christian Deverille