Cilic started the game with aggression and intent as he ripped into the No. 2 seed. Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times tweeted of the opening set:
No24 Marin Cilic utterly bullying No2 Novak Djokovic, taking first set 6-1 in just 26 minutes. An comprehensive beatdown so far. #BNPPO14— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 13, 2014
Djokovic's first serve statistics were only at 50 percent in the opening stanza, per the official ATP website, allowing Cilic to take control and make his move.
Cilic won 84% of his own service points and took the opening set 6-1.
However, Djokovic made his expected comeback and started to turn the screw on his opponent. He dramatically improved in the second set and began to show his undoubted class.
Sports Illustrated commented:
Cilic begins the next set by trying to outrally Novak. Mistake letting Djokovic find his rhythm.... #bnppo14— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) March 13, 2014
After winning just three points on return in the opening set, Djokovic broke Cilic twice in the second, and then opened a 3-0 lead in the third.
The Serbian powered through the final two sets, putting his opponent to the sword. A chopping backhand down the line prompted the final error from Cilic, who found the net to confirm Djokovic's place in the last eight.
Djokovic said after the match, per the ATP website:
I was composed and mentally calm, regardless of the scoreline, I just accepted the fact that he came out of the blocks better than I did. He was very aggressive, not missing at all, serving incredibly fast and accurate. I couldn't do much really. I was forced to back up.
I believed that I could come back. The second set was a whole new story. I reset myself and told myself it was the start of the match. I forgot about the first set and the second and third went really well. It was the intensity I want to have and I hope to keep it up
Djokovic must now focus on maintaining concentration for an entire match. He had previously dropped a set against Alejandro Gonzalez in the third round, and said to the official ATP Tour website:
I obviously cannot allow myself to have these particular concentration lapses in the match at this level – especially in the next match when I'm playing Cilic, a guy who is in really good form.
He failed to heed his own warning, but still had the necessary class to come through the match. One of Djokovic's greatest qualities is his ability to find a way to win when not at his best, and he certainly did that on Thursday.
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Cilic had been in wonderful form and that was clearly on display in the first set. However, when the Serbian started to push through the gears he was easily able to restrict his opponent and find his way into the next round.
Djokovic will find it hard to win the tournament this week if he keeps allowing his opponents into the match, but he will take heart from the resolve he has shown at key moments.
Djokovic and world No. 8 Roger Federer are now the only Top 10 players remaining in the draw. Djokovic progresses to face Julien Benneteau in the quarter-finals.