Croatia's Marin Cilic says he is extremely proud on becoming the only fifth active player to reach the semifinals at all four Grand Slams after beating Russia's Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals at the French Open in a five-set thriller.
Cilic, who reached his first semifinal at Roland Garros on Wednesday, joined the esteemed group that includes Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray, dug deep to seal a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(10-2) victory and reach the last-four stage at the clay-court Grand Slam.
"A fantastic achievement for me, and to be, they mentioned to be, just among them (Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray), one of the only active guys with at least one semifinal on each Grand Slams," he said.
Cilic attributed his achievement to his recent success on the clay court.
"I would say, in the last few years coming back from 2017, I started to feel great on clay and then had some great success, but in the end, it's also such a short season for clay, it's difficult to time everything every single season. But I'm feeling great on the court, enjoying myself, being me, playing my own game and it's paying off, and I'm just enjoying the run. And I obviously knew with my kind of level with my tennis in the last several years I've been playing, if I'm finding good form, good things are always happening. So yeah, just extremely proud with that, and really happy," said Cilic in the post-match press conference.
Cilic's thrilling victory elevates him to No. 17 in the ATP Live Rankings, six spots higher than where he began the tournament. The Croatian, a former World No. 3, was last ranked in the Top 20 in August 2019.
Although Cilic saw a match point opportunity slip away when Rublev was serving at 4-5, 30/40 in the fifth set, the 20th seed regained his composure to claim the final-set tie-break 10/2 in spectacular style as he stepped into court to strike a series of searing winners, said a report on the ATP tour's website.
"It comes from being me," said Cilic when asked about his aggressive approach to the tie-break in his on-court interview. "I played that kind of tennis the whole match, and especially the fifth set was an incredible battle. Andrey played incredibly well, and it was an incredible fair-play performance on the court.
"A lot of heart, and one had to go down. Today was my day, but Andrey also played an incredible match."
Despite dropping a tight first set to one of the biggest ball-strikers on the ATP Tour, it was Cilic whose power-hitting came good as he manoeuvred Rublev around Court Philippe Chatrier to great effect. The Croatian fired 88 winners including 33 aces on the way to a four-hour, 10-minute victory, the report said.
"Andrey plays a difficult game," said Cilic. "Serves big, hits big. You don't have many chances and you have to keep up with your level and I did that. Unfortunately, I lost that fourth set. I felt I was close to get the break maybe, but Andrey played really well and when you play this long it's always going to be a little bit up and down during the match." '
The win backs up Cilic's stunning quarter-final victory over World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev.
In the semifinals, the Croatian now meets Casper Ruud, who held off a spirited challenge from Dane Holger Rune on Wednesday night at Roland Garros, extending his best Grand Slam run into the semifinals. The 23-year-old Norwegian scored a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 victory in the first all-Scandinavian Roland Garros quarterfinal - and the first major quarterfinal overall for both men.
"These are the matches you dream about playing and hopefully of course even the final if it's possible," Ruud said in an on-court interview, before looking ahead to his Friday semi-final against Marin Cilic. "I have to be really focussed and bring my 'A' game in the semi-final because Marin has played great all week and it's going to be another tough match."