Marin Cilic rolled back the years on Saturday to take just his second Top 10 win since 2018, upset world No. 6 Andrey Rublev 7-5, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 and reached the fourth round in the Australian Open.
The Croat crushed forehands and hammered backhands in a free-hitting display at Margaret Court Arena to end Rublev’s stay in Australia emphatically at two hours and 37 minutes.
“It’s unbelievable,” Cilic said in his court interview. “I loved every second of the match. Andrey is an incredible player, we have played several times in the past and it is always difficult. I had so much fun and played great tennis.”
The 33-year-old, whose last Top 10 win came against then world No. 9 Roberto Bautista Agut at the same stage in Melbourne in 2020, has now advanced to the fourth round at the Australian Open eight times, with his best result being a run to the final in 2018.
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Cilic has improved his ATP Head2Head series to 2-4 against the Russian and will then face Felix Auger-Aliassime after the Canadian defeated 24th seeded Daniel Evans 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.
“In the evenings it’s a bit cooler so you can go a bit more in your shots and it went really well for me,” Cilic added. “I’ve served great and that’s the way to go against the guys at the top. If you give them the chance to hit, you get in trouble, so I tried to be aggressive and it paid off.”
The 27th seed is one of three former Grand Slam champions still in the draw, alongside World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and 20-time big winner Rafael Nadal. Cilic took his only slam trophy at the US Open in 2014.
Cilic was strong on the serve against Rublev the entire time, firing 24 aces while winning 85 percent (52/61) of his first serving points. After a dominant first two sets, in which the tour-level 20-time titlist swung freely to hit 34 winners, Rublev rose from 1-3 in the third set. The 24-year-old won five games in a row, including the last 12 points of the set to get himself back into the fray.
However, the Russian was unable to maintain his momentum in the fourth set, with Cilic breaking and taking a 3-1 lead. This time, the Croat made no mistake, moving when he knocked out an ace, releasing all the tension in the process.
Look who’s back
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Rublev was aiming for the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time. The fifth seed, who beat Gianluca Mager and Ricardas Berankis earlier this week, is the highest run to have fallen in Melbourne this year.
In another action, Australian Alex de Minaur defeated world number 83 Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the fourth round in Melbourne for the first time.
The home favourite, who is making his fifth Australian Open appearance, batted out 34 winners and broke five times to continue after two hours and nine minutes. The 32nd seeded will then face Italy’s Jannik Sinner after the world’s number 10 defeated the Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.