Chennai, Jan 12: For the few thousands at the SDAT Nungambakkam Stadium, Marin Cilic functioned in a parallel universe where the personal meaning of an ATP final had little relevance to them. Somdev Devvarman had more vocal support in the 5800-capacity stadium than what he must’ve collectively received in his entire career, but Cilic was unmoved.
The third seed was particularly severe on his opponent during the big points. Cilic was tested in the second set, but played a better tie-break to claim the Chennai Open title with a 6-4, 7-6(3) win over Somdev in the final on Sunday.
The tall, strong and hard-hitting Cilic was seen as Somdev’s biggest challenge. The difference between the two was in closing out the games.
Somdev felt less threatened while going for Cilic’c backhand, while creating chances to go down the line. Unfortunately for the Indian creating those chances were harder as the match wore on.
Cilic was inconsistent and looked unsettled upfront. The 20-year-old Croat rushed in to his shots and went for too much power. Somdev kept the ball in play while finding the corners and forced Cilic into forehand errors.
Somdev had six breakpoint opportunities in the first set, which was when Cilic found his bearings.
Proves his credentials
The third seed proved his credentials in redeeming himself. There was more poise and enough muscle from the back of the court and the serving improved. Somdev’s backhand — with the exception of the one he uses for a sure-shot down-the-line winner — appeared the more viable one for Cilic to exploit.
Moving well and creating opportunities on both flanks, he forced Somdev into errors. The forehand cross-court was assured more returns, but the forcefulness of his backhand, especially when taken on the rise meant Somdev could make no mistakes.
Cilic grew more aggressive in the end of the first set against Somdev’s top-spinning shots that were flattened out. Serving at 30-30, and 4-5 in the first, The wildcard paid for cheek that was uncalled for while producing a suicidal drop. A double fault then handed the third seed the first set.
Cilic was easily the more dominant in the second set. His aggression was complimented by accuracy and Somdev’s inability in neutralising it.
The third seed did falter in the second when serving for the match at 5-3. Again, Somdev created opportunities with the open court to go down the line. Cilic’s serve collapsed for Somdev to convert his first breakpoint of the match. At 5-5, Somdev fritted away two breakpoint opportunities, after Cilic stepped it up again.
Cilic’s mini-break to go up 2-1 in the tie-break gave him the momentum to claim the win.
“It was a learning experience,” said Somdev after the match. “Not converting like two million breakpoints wasn’t the best thing. He played really great, especially on the big points. I obviously did not finish some point as I would have liked to. There are things I need to improve on, which is what I will take from this game,” he added.
Cilic, who claimed his second ATP title, put his win down to his aggressive tactics. “This was a match with a lot of weight on it. It was not my best performance, but I played well in the most crucial moments. I was going up and down with my game. I lost concentration I guess when serving for the match. It was a tough situation being 15-40 at 5-5, but I did well then. It was the turning point. My goal was to be aggressive as I could.”
Meanwhile, Americans Eric Butorac and Rajeev Ram defeated Jean-Claude Scherrer and Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-4 to claim the doubles title.
The American pair made the breakthrough in the second game of the first set, but failed to hold on to the seventh. A game later, they broke to give themselves the chance to serve it out for the set.
The pair was strong near the net in the second and managed the one crucial break in the seventh game before completing the win.
Singles final: Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Somdev Devvarman (Ind) 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Doubles final: Eric Butorac (USA) / Rajeev Ram (USA) bt Jean-Claude Scherrer (Sui) / Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) 6-3, 6-4.