9th seed Tomas Berdych is now at the age of 31, and his chances of winning a Grand Slam title may have passed him by. However, the Czech has been a consistent figure by reaching the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments as he reached three out of three quarterfinals at the Slams in 2016. Unfortunately, he didn't participate at the US Open last year due to suffering appendicitis. Berdych has a 13-6 win-loss record this year, and he's had an average start to 2017.
He lost to Andy Murray in the semifinals in Doha, and he was a dealt a tough third round assignment against Roger Federer at the Australian Open. The two-time Australian Open semifinalist was defending semifinalist points but he was soundly beaten by Federer, who went on to win the title in Melbourne. The current world number 12 suffered disappointing losses to Robin Haase in Dubai and a shocking third round loss in Indian Wells to Yoshihito Nishioka, a match that he was firmly in control of.
Berdych had a chance to gain his revenge against Federer in the quarterfinals in Miami but he failed to convert on the multiple match points that he created. That would have been a tough loss for the Czech to swallow, nevertheless, the former world number four will need to put those disappointing results behind him as he's gearing up for another deep run in Monte-Carlo.
On the other side of the net to Berdych in this third round clash at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters will be the 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic. The Croat is currently ranked at number eight in the world but his form in 2017 has been dismal. Cilic has a 5-7 win-loss record, and he will be desperate to turn around his poor record this week in Monte Carlo. The fifth seed's first three losses this season were to players he should be beating. Jozef Kovalik, Dan Evans, and Dustin Brown sent him packing early in Chennai, Melbourne, and Montpellier respectively. Cilic advanced to his first quarterfinal of the year in Rotterdam losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets, and he backed this up with a semifinal finish in Acapulco but he was thrashed by Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
Once the Croat got back on North American soil at the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open, Cilic endured more misery losing to Taylor Fritz and Jeremy Chardy.
How they got here
Berdych usually receives byes in the opening rounds of Masters 1000 events as he is usually a top eight seed. However, despite Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic not participating, Berdych missed out on receiving a bye, by one seeding. Nevertheless, the 2015 finalist had to recover from a set down to battle past Russian qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and he had to do it again in his second round clash with former world number two Tommy Haas. Berdych survived the scare by dispatching the veteran, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
The fifth-seeded Croat will be looking to reach his second quarterfinal in the principality of Monte-Carlo in three years. Cilic lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals two years ago. However, this year, Cilic once again received a bye and he gained his revenge over Chardy but putting on a clinical performance, 6-3, 6-0 victory to secure his berth in the third round.
Berdych and Cilic have met on 11 occasions, and the hard-hitting Czech has the slender 6-5 advantage over Cilic. The 9th seed won their first two encounters in 2009, starting with a five set battle in the Davis Cup between the Czech Republic and Croatia on clay in Croatia, and he followed this up with a first round victory at the Shanghai Masters in three sets.
The 2014 US Open champion would gain his first victory over Berdych in the quarterfinals in Marseille in 2011 in straight sets, and the Czech would defeat Cilic in their meeting in the final of Beijing in 2011. The duo met in the second round of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters in 2012 with Berdych defeating Cilic in straight sets for the first time. However, the fifth seed edged past Berdych in the quarterfinals at the Queen's Club the following year. The duo split their four meetings in 2014 with two wins apiece.
The 2015 finalist defeated Cilic in the final in Rotterdam but the Croat dispatched Berdych in back-to-back Slam meetings in the third round of Wimbledon and in the quarterfinals of the US Open, both in straight sets. The Czech gained his revenge in their Round Robin encounter at the ATP World Tour Finals, 6-3, 6-1 and Cilic won their most recent clash last year in the third round of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, en route to clinching his first Masters 1000 title.
Who reaches the quarterfinals?
Clay is certainly both players weakest surface as grass and hard courts, equip both of their games better. Nonetheless, Berdych has reached the final four at the French Open in 2010, when he lost to two-time runner-up Robin Soderling in five sets. However, this section of the draw features world number one Andy Murray but there is a good chance for one of the player's to go on a strong run. Berdych will need to serve well in this match with Cilic and return well, which he is capable of. On the other hand, the fifth seed will be in good spirits as his performance against Chardy was superb, and Berdych has been vulnerable in his opening two matches this week.
The world number 12 has dropped two sets in his two matches and whilst he was able to recover against Kuznetsov and Haas, however, the 2014 US Open champion is a better player, and will fancy his chances of edging past the Czech. Berdych is now coached by Cilic's former coach, Goran Ivanisevic, who led Cilic to the 2014 US Open title, therefore, he will be able to give Berdych tips on how to defeat Cilic. Cilic's serve and movement around the court have significantly improved due to his time working with Ivanisevic, and despite clay being his worst surface, he is still a threat and capable of going on a good run anywhere.
This mouthwatering third round encounter will be the first match scheduled on Court des Princes, and the winner of this match will face top seed Andy Murray or 15th seed Albert Ramos Vinolas in the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Cilic in three sets