London: Marin Cilic fought back from a set down to defeat John Isner and keep his hopes alive, after world number one Novak Djokovic had outpaced Alexander Zverev to become the first one to book his spot in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals on Wednesday.
Cilic, who has now won just two of the eleven matches in his four appearances at The O2 so far, went on to win 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 in the first singles match that went into a deciding set so far this year.
“It was very difficult. The first set was extremely tough. John played a great tie-break and I had to stay focused,” said Cilic, whose only other Finals victory came against Kei Nishikori in 2016.
“I served really well and I am really pleased with the win. I felt that I had that momentum towards the end of the second set. I felt the ball well and got some good points on Isner’s serves,” he added.
Despite losing both his matches, Isner could still qualify from the group if he beats Zverev on Friday. “Everyone knows how good he is. We’ve played quite a few times, as well. It will be a very tough match. There are definitely some things I need to improve. I’ll try to do that and implement them on Friday,” Isner said.
“But he does so much well. He serves very well, his groundstrokes are incredible. He’s a very tough guy. There’s no slouches in this tournament, as I’m seeing out there (smiling). This isn’t your everyday tournament. It will be very tough. But I’m going to come out fired up,” he promised.
The result earlier in the day put Djokovic into Saturday’s semi-finals, leaving Cilic, Isner and Zverev to fight it out for the group’s second spot in Friday’s final group encounters with Cilic taking on Djokovic and Isner facing Zverev.
Earlier, five-time champion Novak Djokovic became the first one to confirm a place in the semi-finals with a match to go with a 6-4, 6-1 systematic dismantling of Germany’s Alexander Zverev.
The opening set was closely-contested with neither player giving up for the first eight games. But once the reigning world number one got the first break in the ninth to serve out the set in 48 minutes, there was no stopping him.
The second was a walk-through with a couple of breaks sealing things up in less than half an hour as Djokovic became the first one to assure himself a place for Saturday’s knockouts.
(Singles) Novak Djokovic bt Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-1; Maric Cilic bt John Isner 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4.
(Doubles) Mike Bryan/Jack Sock bt Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic 6-4, 7-6 (4); Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut bt Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo 6-2, 6-4.