In last year’s Fever-Tree Championships final, Marin Cilic needed to save championship point before defeating Novak Djokovic to win the title. The Croatian was pushed on Monday, but not quite as far as he began his title defence.
Cilic defeated breakthrough Chilean Cristian Garin 6-1, 7-6(5) in one hour and 17 minutes to reach the second round at The Queen’s Club, where the Croat now holds a 30-9 record.
Cilic was in cruise control for most of the match against the 23-year-old, who claimed his first two ATP Tour titles earlier this year on clay. There were few extended rallies early on, with Cilic serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set. But a momentary lapse of concentration allowed Garin to gain confidence, and he took a 4/0 lead in the second-set tie-break. But the Chilean made a series of unforced errors, and Cilic took full advantage.
The fifth seed, who broke Garin’s serve four times, has advanced to at least the semi-finals at this ATP 500 tournament in each of his past three appearances, and five times overall. On top of his triumph last year, Cilic was victorious in 2012 and reached two additional finals (2013, ‘17).
This could be the jumpstart of Cilic’s season, as the 30-year-old has made just one quarter-final in 2019. He will next face Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who dismissed qualifier Alexander Bublik 6-2, 6-3 in 52 minutes.
Cilic has won two of the pair’s three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, although they have never played on grass. Cilic needed only 72 minutes to beat Schwartzman in Toronto last season.
The first seeded player Cilic could face is fourth seed Daniil Medvedev, who snapped a five-match losing streak with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. The Russian, who is at a career-high No. 13 in the ATP Rankings, saved all three break points he faced to avoid his fifth consecutive opening-round loss.
Medvedev ranks fifth on the ATP Tour with 26 wins this year, trailing only Rafael Nadal (32-5), Stefanos Tsitsipas (32-13), Novak Djokovic (28-6) and Roger Federer (27-4). He will play Frenchman Lucas Pouille or wild card Jay Clarke next.