ATP Basel: Marin Cilic holds off Mischa Zverev for massive win

It was a double victory for Marin Cilic on Saturday in Basel, as the Croatian advanced to the final of the Swiss Indoors and moved into the eighth and final qualification spot for the ATP World Tour Finals.

ATP Basel: Marin Cilic holds off Mischa Zverev for massive win
Marin Cilic celebrates winning a point on Saturday in Basel. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
Marin Cilic
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Mischa Zverev

Fourth seed Marin Cilic scored a significant victory on Saturday, narrowly holding off qualifier Mischa Zverev in a tight three-setter to advance to the final of the Swiss Indoors. It was a tight, hard-hitting affair, but in the end, it was the Croatian who was able to keep his level up and win the key points, scoring a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory. On top of advancing to his first Basel final, the win puts Cilic into a qualifying spot for the ATP World Tour Finals.

Lone break goes to Zverev

The first four games of the match went exactly as expected, with both men serving well, blasting their groundstrokes and charging the net, resulting in short points and games. In the fifth, Cilic started to miss his targets. A string of errors resulted in a double break point opportunity. Zverev wasted no time in taking advantage, chasing down a Cilic drop shot and ripping it crosscourt for a winner and a break for 3-2.

Mischa Zverev slides into a forehand during the semifinal. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
Mischa Zverev slides into a forehand during the semifinal. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

The high pace of the set continued, as both men continued blasting every ball. Zverev continued to play at the more consistent level, and gave Cilic no looks at breaking back. The best the Croatian could do was take a 0-15 lead, but the qualifier was always able to turn it into a hold. That was the case when Zverev served out the set, although Cilic botched what should have been a volley winner to help his opponent on his way in that final game. Serve dominated the opening set, as Cilic only won eight points on return. Surprisingly, Zverev won fewer, a mere six, only he managed to turn four of his into a break. The 6-4 set only took 31 minutes. 

Late break levels for Cilic

Serve was the order of the day in the second set, as neither player got so much as a sniff on return for the first half of the set. It was not until the ninth game at 4-4 that the returner had any kind of opportunity. Some sloppy play from Cilic gave Zverev an opening on the Croatian’s serve and a deep return drew an error to set up triple break point. But the fourth seed saved the first two with aces followed by a backhand passing shot winner up the line to erase the break points. He went on to hold.

Cilic tees off on a forehand during his semifinal win. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
Cilic tees off on a forehand during his semifinal win. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

In the following game, it was Cilic’s turn to take a lead on return for the first time, going ahead 0-30 only for Zverev to fight back and hold after a deuce. After Cilic took a 30-0 lead in the next game, the German reeled off three straight points to bring up a break point. Once again, Cilic was up to the task, ripping a forehand passing shot up the line for a winner before going on to hold. The back and for continued as Zverev missed game points to send the set to a tiebreak. The Croatian then brought up his first break point of the match with a passing shot, and proceeded to wrap up the set with another passing shot winner.

Cilic hangs on for victory

Cilic seemed to be the man in the ascendency to start the third set, as he took a 0-30 lead on the Zverev serve after holding to start the set. But the German would rip an ace to signal that he was not finished, going on to hold and stay level at 1-1. After the pair exchanged holds, Zverev started chipping away at the fourth seed’s serve. In the fifth game, some great defence from the German resulted in him ripping a Cilic drop shot for a winner to bring up break point. But on break point, he would let the Croatian off the hook by shanking a forehand.

Marin Cilic rode his big serve through the last two sets. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
Marin Cilic rode his big serve through the last two sets. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

That appeared to be a costly miss as in the very next game, Cilic would race to a 0-40 lead. But with his back against the wall, Zverev refused to surrender, reeling off five straight points to hold for 3-3. But after Cilic held, it was more of the same for the German as he once again fell behind 0-40. Zverev finally seemed to be running out of gas as Cilic punched a volley behind him to take a 5-3 lead. Serving out the match proved challenging, as Zverev threw everything he had left at Cilic, even setting up a break point with a drop shot. But he could not convert and the fourth seed hung on to book his spot in the final.

By the numbers

Cilic pounded 16 aces past Zverev while scoring 76 percent of his first serve points and a solid 62 percent of second serves. Zverev was perfectly solid himself, winning 70 percent of first serves and 59 percent of seconds. The key stat was break point conversions. Zverev only managed one of seven, while Cilic was slightly better, converting two of five.

Cilic goes on to play Kei Nishikori in the final.