ATP World Tour Finals Round Robin preview: Andy Murray vs Marin Cilic

World number one Andy Murray returns to the ATP World Tour Finals in London looking to win the year-end Championships for the first time in his career, and the Brit takes on 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the second match scheduled on Day Two of the Championships on Monday.

ATP World Tour Finals Round Robin preview: Andy Murray vs Marin Cilic
Cilic and Murray shake hands at the net following their encounter in the final of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati (Source : Daily Record)

World number one Andy Murray has played scintillating tennis in 2016 which has seen him overtake Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings. The Brit is enjoying a career-best year which has seen him claim eight singles titles and four runner-up finishes.

Meanwhile, seventh seed Marin Cilic is enjoying the second half of the season which has seen him qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London for the second time in three years, and to add a narrative to this clash, Murray's former coach Jonas Bjorkman is currently coaching the 2014 US Open champion.

The duo is drawn in the John McEnroe Group which also comprises third seed and reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka and 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori, which is significantly stronger than the other group.

Murray's notable results leading up to London

The world number one boasts an impressive 73-9 win-loss record in 2016 which has seen him win Wimbledon for the second time, and the Olympics once again, along with runner-up finishes at the Australian Open for the fifth time and French Open losing to Novak Djokovic on both occasions.

Since losing his 22-match winning streak to Cilic at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Murray surrendered a two set to one lead to Nishikori in the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows and lost to Juan Martin del Potro in a five set thriller in the Davis Cup.

After those two disappointing defeats, Murray is currently on an 18-match winning streak after claiming four consecutive titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris all at ATP 500 and Masters 1000 level.

The Brit was crowned world number one after Cilic defeated Djokovic in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, coupled with Milos Raonic's withdrawal from the semifinal that gave Murray a berth into the final.

Murray posing with the world number one trophy (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty Images)
Murray posing with the world number one trophy (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty Images)

Cilic's notable results leading up to London

Following two heartbreaking five set losses at the hands of Roger Federer in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and Jack Sock in the Davis Cup, Cilic's tennis improved immensely, therefore he recorded some consistent results that helped him qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals.

The seventh seed defeated Murray in the final of the Western and Southern Open to win his first Masters 1000 title but his eight-match winning streak was snapped by Sock in the third round of the US Open.

Following the US Open, Cilic was firmly focused on qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals, and he began his quest in Tokyo but lost to fellow London hopeful, David Goffin in the semifinals.

His chances of qualification were put in major jeopardy as he lost to Alexander Zverev at the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the year in Shanghai, however, Cilic turned it around at the Swiss Indoors in Basel by clinching his first ATP 500 title by defeating Nishikori in straight sets in the final.

Cilic created another eight-match winning streak, this time it was halted in the semifinals in Paris by losing to John Isner for the first time in seven meetings, however, the seventh seed qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals by defeating Goffin in the third round and he beat then world number one Novak Djokovic for the first time in 15 attempts in the quarterfinals.

Cilic practising ahead of the ATP World Tour Finals (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)
Cilic practicing ahead of the ATP World Tour Finals (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

Their history

Cilic and Murray have met 14 times, and the world number one has a commanding 11-3 lead over the Croat. Murray leads 4-0 on grass, 1-0 on clay and 6-3 on hard court.

The three-time Grand Slam champion won their first meeting in a Davis Cup clash in 2007 on the grass between Great Britain and Croatia, and it was a five set victory for Murray, who won their next meeting the following year in Madrid on hard courts.

The duo split their meetings in 2009 both taking place in the fourth round of Grand Slams, Murray won his third consecutive match over Cilic at the French Open, and Cilic recorded his first victory over Murray in straight sets at the US Open.

The Brit won their next two meetings in 2010, the first in the semifinals of the Australian Open, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, and in the third round of the BNP Paribas Masters in straight sets.

Murray completed his set of defeating Cilic at all four Grand Slams, starting with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory in the fourth round of Wimbledon and in the quarterfinals of the US Open in 2012 in four sets, and went on to claim his first Grand Slam singles title.

Murray and Cilic posing before the final of the Aegon Championships in 2013 (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty Images)
Murray and Cilic posing before the final of the Aegon Championships in 2013 (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty Images)

Murray's dominance over Cilic continued as he recorded a 6-4, 6-3 victory in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open in 2013 and a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 win in the final of the Aegon Championships  at the Queen's Club in London.

However, there was finally some joy for the 2014 US Open champion as he snapped his six-match losing run against Murray in the quarterfinals in Rotterdam in 2014, but he lost their quarterfinal meeting in Beijing that year.

Murray defeated Cilic for the 11th time in the semifinals at Queen's this year in three sets, but Cilic won their most recent meeting in the final of Cincinnati, snapping the Brit's remarkable 22-match winning run.

Who wins?

Both players come into this contest with plenty of form, they are full of confidence, and the two Slam champions understand the importance of getting off to a good start in this tournament.

Murray will need to serve well in this match, and extend the points by engaging in long rallies which will inevitably tire out Cilic, furthermore,  the top seed will need to get the Croat off the baseline by throwing in some drop shots.

Cilic has been returning well these past few weeks and sometimes Murray's second serve is vulnerable which he will be able to attack with his forehand.

The Croat will be desperate to win a match on his second appearance in London as he was winless on his previous trip to the English capital two years ago.

Cilic will need a high first serve percentage in this match and he will need to keep the points relatively short and remain aggressive on the baseline.

There is a lot at stake for Murray throughout this tournament, and the Brit needs to go further than Djokovic in this tournament to ensure that his reign as world number one is not an abrupt reign.

This match is scheduled at not before 8pm local time on Centre Court and there should be a full crowd in attendance to support the new world number one.

Prediction:  Cilic in three sets