Marin Cilic is in the semis of the US Open once more.
Last year, he won his maiden Slam knocking out Asian hope Kei Nishikori in the process under the watchful eye and tutelage of his countryman Goran Ivanisevic.
Tennis fans all remember Goran not just for his histrionics on court, his big booming serves but also for the fairy-tale ending to his career where he won his first and only Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2001 after succumbing at his earlier two final appearances at the sport’s Mecca.
Cilic has been plagued with a shoulder injury this season. He missed out on the Australian Open and has had indifferent results—by his newly exalted standards—losing in the fourth round and quarter-finals at the French Open and Wimbledon respectively.
The Croat has flown under the radar at his Grand Slam homecoming in New York.
It’s always difficult returning from an injury.
No one knows that better than Cilic’s coach, Ivanisevic, who was unseeded at his maiden Grand Slam triumph, only playing with the benefit of a wild card.
But it’s Del Potro, another US Open winner, that similarities can be drawn with.
The 2009 US Open champion first suffered a left wrist injury in 2010.
He returned only after a nine-month break.
He was back to his best only in 2012 ending the year ranked No.7. He returned to the top 5 in 2013.
The recurrence of his wrist injury saw him missing out most of the 2014 season.
He returned briefly in 2015 but withdrew from the Australian Open with the injury flaring up again.
He has been operated since and is now rehabilitating.
Can Marin Cilic break the hoodoo?
Since 2003, except for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, no US Open champion has returned to claim the title.
The title has not been defended successfully since 2008 when Federer won the last of his US Open titles.
The singletons in the club—in terms of US Open titles in the modern era—include the likes of Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith,Ilie Năstase,Manuel Orantes, Guillermo Vilas,Mats Wilander,Boris Becker,Marat Safin,Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
Cilic takes on a formidable foe in Novak in the semis. It could be either Federer or Wawrinka in the final. Interestingly, all the semi-finalists have at least one Slam to their credit. Wawrinka is the only one without a US Open title.
A trivial bit of trivia about Cilic is that he is yet to clinch an ATP 500 or Masters title.
It’s going to be a slug-fest. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
“I didn’t break any racquets; I didn’t say swearwords on court. It could have gotten better and I could have been better. I didn’t really go nuts.”
Ryan Harrison has an entirely different view of his on-court behaviour in his first round straight-sets loss to Croatia’s Marin Cilic on the first day of the US Open.
What he really meant:
“I was quite decorous in my on-court behaviour, wasn’t I? Look, no broken rackets, no abuse. Commendable, eh?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’m that transparent, am I? What, my skidding my racquet gave me away?”
“You haven’t analysed the men’s draw for the US Open. Today’s the 27th and the tournament begins on the 29th.” pestered Otto.
“I know. I’ve just been a little wrapped up in other things.” I reply, tiredly.
“But you have to do the men’s draw. That’s like manna for tennis followers.” insists Otto.
“Oh, I’m sure, they are multiple draw analyses floating around the internet. The smart ones can visit USOpen.org and figure it out themselves.” I attempt to fob off my companion.
“But that’s not the point, is it? It’s good for you too. You can’t follow the US Open without delving into the draw. It’s like going into a dark night without a torch.” Otto is a member of the local debate club.
In the men’s section, the top four seeds each have designs on the title.
Will it be Rafael Nadal, last man standing, on July 3, 2011 making it a treble of French Open and Wimbledon crowns in the same season, emulating his 2008 and 2010 feats—further etching in stone comparisons to the marvellous Bjorn Borg?
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Sunday evening and it’s seven days into the 2011 Australian Open.
The spotlight remains focused on the rivalry for the ages. Federer and Nadal are on course for a shoot-out on Sunday, the 30th of January.
That is, if the drama on court plays out as the script their fans envision.
The No.1 and No.2 seeds have taken different routes to the much expected showdown.
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Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes have done it again.
The Indian Express triumphed at the 2011 Aircel Chennai Open subduing the Dutch-American pair of Robin Hasse and David Martin 6-2, 6-7 (3), 10-7.
The Chennai tourney has Indian champions once more. This is the first time since 2002 that an Indian pair have inscribed their names on the trophy. It was the duo of Bhupathi and Paes who claimed it then as well.
Somdev Devvarman came close in 2009, losing to Marin Cilic in the final.
It was fitting that the duo came together in the sweltering environs of the South Indian city that boasts the best-known tennis families in India—the Krishnans and the Amritrajs, to clinch their first title this year.
Sceptics felt that the two would find it difficult to reprise their form of the late 90s and early oo’s, given their aging bodies and slower reflexes.
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The WTA Tour may have shut down shop for the year. But the International Tennis Federation show rolls on. And doesn’t Sania Mirza know it.
The 24-year-old won the $75,000 Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge knocking over Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in the final 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
The little known Serb is her nation’s No. 3. Her favourite book: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.