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Cilic upsets Berdych, breaks through to semifinals

By Clair Maciel
Thursday, September 4, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: For the first time in his career, No. 14 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia has broken through to the semifinals of the US Open with a straight-sets dismissal of No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6.

It’s been four years since Cilic has been in the final four of a Slam (2010 Australian Open), and this upset was his sixth win over a Top 10 opponent in 19 tries at a major. His last win came at this year’s Wimbledon event, also against Berdych.

Berdych’s biggest weapon, his serve, was absent for most of the match, as his first-serve percentage stood at only 40 percent in each of the first two sets. The Czech No. 6 seed appeared a shadow of himself, hitting only four winners in the first set and allowing Cilic to coast into the lead. The early deficit proved too big of a hole for Berdych to overcome, as he couldn’t quite find his rhythm from the start.

“I started pretty terribly,” Berdych said of his performance. “My serve was horrible from the beginning. Then obviously it was really tough to catch up. And my serve was off. Basically, when you have a game built on a serve, then it's really tough and difficult to reschedule it and do it a bit differently. Yeah, today was not, definitely not the day I wanted to have.”

While Berdych continued to struggle on serve, Cilic stepped up his offensive game with 18 winners and seven aces to help him gain the edge with a two-set lead.

By then, the sleeping giant awoke, and Berdych was back in the match as the tides had turned in his favor at the start of the third. His serving percentage improved, as Cilic then began serving below 50 percent and committing far too many errors to maintain a lead.

But Berdych’s 4-2 lead was quickly squandered in the third, and the set would eventually be determined in a tiebreak. On paper, Cilic had the clear advantage, holding an 18-9 tiebreak record compared to Berdych’s 8-12 this year. Fortunately for the Croat, the odds played into his favor, as he capitalized on Berdych's errors and struck a cross-court forehand winner past the Czech to seal the victory.

WHAT IT MEANS: The win puts Cilic into the semifinals, where he awaits the winner of Thursday night’s showdown between No. 2 seed Roger Federer and No. 20 Gael Monfils.

Cilic is now the first Croat to reach the semifinals in New York since his current coach Goran Ivanisevic did so in 1996.

QUESTION: Does Cilic have what it takes to become the first Croat to reach the US Open final?