Marin Cilic grabbed his second title of the year on Sunday, beating Kei Nishikori in two sets in the final of the 2016 Swiss Indoors Basel. The set scores were 6-1, 7-6 (5).
Cilic powered right through Nishikori with his serve in the first set, needing just 25 minutes to grab the advantage. The Japanese star put up a far better fight in the second set, but ultimately, he had no answers for Cilic's serve.
The Croat entered the final knowing a win would go a long way toward securing a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals, while Nishikori was determined to improve on last year's runner-up finish and grab his second title of the year, after his victory in Memphis.
Nishikori started the match well but ran into an early break in the fourth game, as Cilic made the difference with powerful strokes from the base line. The usually defensively sound Nishikori seemed a step slower than Cilic, who broke him down with some beautifully constructed points.
Cilic pushed his advantage with more emphasis on his serve, and he took plenty of risks to grab yet another break in the sixth game, running out to a very quick lead.
Just a few minutes later, the first set was over, and a shocked Nishikori returned to his chair in desperate need of a back-up plan.
As shared by TennisTV, the Croat made the difference with his serve, while Nishikori hit an uncharacteristic amount of unforced errors:
The Japanese player finally halted Cilic's run in the first game of the second set, but only barely, saving three break points. His opponent tied things up in a hurry with another dominant service game, but Nishikori seemed more relaxed after the initial hold and produced a few strong winners to grab the third game.
He stayed in control of his own serve but barely made any inroads whenever Cilic was on serve. The Croat showed no signs of slowing down, although he started losing the baseline rallies, and Nishikori appeared to grow as the set wore on.
Nishikori saved two break points in the ninth game to extend the match and promptly put real pressure on Cilic's serve in the following game for the first time, earning three set points he couldn't convert.
Per TennisTV, things were getting exciting:
A tiebreak would eventually decide the second set, and Cilic started with a mini-break, setting his feet and unleashing some powerful shots. Nishikori hit back straight away, but he soon faced two match points, down 6-4.
Nishikori double-faulted while defending the second, handing Cilic his second title of the season after his upset triumph in Cincinnati.
The powerful Croat is serving at an exceptional level right now, and while he'll face an entirely different class of opponent if he does make it to the ATP World Tour Finals, he could be a sleeper candidate for the title if he keeps playing like this.