Ninth seed Marin Cilic is currently on a seven-match winning streak after claiming his first ATP 500 level title at the Swiss Indoors in Basel last week, coupled with two victories in Paris to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London for the second time in three years. However, world number one Novak Djokovic stands in Cilic's way of reaching a Masters 1000 semifinal for the second time this season.
The top seed is the three-time defending champion at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, and he is locked in a battle with second seed Andy Murray for the world number one ranking. Cilic is currently ranked at number ten in the world but could end the tournament at a career-high ranking of number six.
Djokovic has suffered many uncharacteristic losses in recent months since completing the Career Grand Slam at the French Open, by losing matches to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon and losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the first round of the Rio Olympics.
On the other hand, you should never write off Djokovic at your peril, as the world number one is more than capable of stringing a run of wins together to re-assert his authority.
The Serb is also bidding to become the first man since Andre Agassi in 1999 to win the French Open and BNP Paribas Masters in the same season.
Cilic's route to the quarterfinals
The Croat has carried on where he left off in Basel last week, and the 2014 US Open champion has not surrendered a set throughout these Championships which is vital if you are going to win the title.
Cilic dispatched his compatriot Ivo Karlovic, 7-6 (7), 6-2 in the second round, and receiving a first round bye, and he ended David Goffin's hopes of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals in London with a 6-3, 7-6 (11). He defeated the Belgian for the first time in four meetings and secured a berth in the quarterfinals in Paris for the first time since 2009. It is also the first time that Cilic has managed to reach three or more Masters 1,000 quarterfinals in one single season.
Djokovic's route to the quarterfinals
The reigning world number one received a bye in the first round, and he was assigned a tough second round encounter with left-handed Gilles Muller but he recorded a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the process.
However, in the third round, Djokovic was paired up with 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov who has been rediscovering his best tennis recently, but the Serb dropped the first set and eventually stormed back 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals in Paris for the sixth time in his career.
As aforementioned, Djokovic leads 14-0 in his head-to-head meetings with the Croat and has a flawless 10-0 record on hard court encounters, 2-0 on clay and 2-0 on grass.
The 29-year-old won their first meeting in Dubai in 2008 and he followed this with a victory in their first Grand Slam meeting in the third round of the US Open in four sets in the same year. Djokovic would stamp down his authority in their matches by winning the next five encounters between 2009 and 2012 in straight sets. However, Cilic won his first set over Djokovic in almost six years in the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in 2014 but it was a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory for the Serb.
The duo met for the ninth and tenth time in the third round of the French Open in 2014 which was a four set victory for Djokovic, and arguably it was Cilic's best chance to defeat the Serb on the No.1 court in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
Cilic lead two sets to one but went down 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-2, and Djokovic thrashed Cilic 6-1, 6-1 at the ATP World Tour Finals in 2014.
2015 was a stellar year for Djokovic, and unfortunately, Cilic was on the receiving end of a 6-0, 6-3 hammering in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters in 2015. There were no dramas in their second consecutive quarterfinal meeting at Wimbledon in 2015 with a straightforward 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory for Djokovic. The world number one heaped more misery for the Croat by ending his reign as US Open champion in the semifinals with a 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 victory, who went on to claim his second US Open title.
Who reaches the semifinals?
Djokovic is the overwhelming favorite in this contest, and the Serb is determined not to relinquish his world number one ranking to Murray. However, Cilic has no pressure in this match as he is not expected to beat Djokovic and since he has qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals, he can swing freely in this match.
The three-time defending champion has been able to exploit Cilic's weakness which is his movement by moving him into uncomfortable positions on the court. On the other hand, Cilic can play aggressive baseline tennis and if his serve and forehand are firing on all cylinders, he has the credentials to upset Djokovic.
Djokovic's serving, forehands, and backhands will need to be on point as Cilic is full of confidence, and will believe that he has a strong chance of beating the Serb for the first time in his career. Cilic will need to serve well as Djokovic is one of the best returners on tour, who has had success on breaking Cilic's serve on numerous occasions.
This will be an interesting encounter scheduled second on Court Central, and the winner of this match will face the winner of the proceeding match involving unseeded Americans, John Isner and Jack Sock in the semifinals.
Prediction: Djokovic in straight sets