Updated: January 5, 2017 1:31:19 pm
Marin Cilic’s 2017 season didn’t get off to the best of starts as he crashed out in the second round of the Chennai Open to qualifier Josef Kovalik in a match lasting two hours and 48 minutes. The scoreline read 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 in favour of the Slovakian when the players shook hands and most in attendance wore a shocked look.
Later in the press conference, the 2014 US Open champion blamed the loss on his poor return of serves. “It’s first match of the season, obviously you are a bit rusty, without match play. In some situations I was hesitating to go for my shots and he was making good shots on his backhand till the end,” he said.
“I had small opportunities on his serve but I was not able to convert and that was because of lack of concentration. It’s a bit unfortunate. It’s not good to start a season like this with a loss. I did not feel, I was playing bad, I was serving well, hitting shots quite well. In certain situations I was little hesitant to go little bit more for my shots,” he would go on to add. And the numbers do tell the same story. He would only win 34 per cent of the first serve points on Kovalik’s serve and 36 per cent on the second but the most telling statistic is the break point conversion: 2/11 (18 per cent) with three chances coming in the final game.
Playing his first match of the season, one expected Cilic to be rusty but not completely out of sorts from the word go as he would face break point in the first game itself. Kovalik, however, won’t have such issues considering he had played two qualifying matches and then come through the first round. Moreover, the lack of knowledge of the young Slovakian came to his advantage. “I have never played with him, never practiced with. He broke through the Tour last year but I had not seen him play. He played extremely well today, I was not expecting that coming from him,”
Cilic would state. And Kovalik would back that argument too. “I have nothing to lose and he has everything to lose. I can play freely and today I played well and took my chances – that’s the important part.”
Cilic, though, maintains that the defeat doesn’t derail his preparation for the Australian Open that begins on January 16.
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