Marin Cilic called upon his years of experience to snap a four-match losing streak yesterday and beat Japan’s Taro Daniel 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the quarter-finals of the Singapore Tennis Open.
The 32-year-old Croat had stepped onto the OCBC Arena court and discovered the lighting was uneven, causing him to lose sight of the ball because of the shadows around the baseline.
With three consecutive first-round exits before this week’s ATP 250 event, it was a less-than-ideal situation for the 2014 US Open champion to try and reverse his fortunes.
But he eventually overwhelmed his opponent, saving three of four break points he faced, to triumph in an hour and 40 minutes.
Cilic, whose last match win was in the second round of the Paris Masters last November, said: “I had quite a good pre-season but when you play a match, things are a bit different in terms of decision-making and adjusting to some situations, like today, I had difficulty seeing the ball properly in the beginning.
“So adjusting to that, adjusting to the opponent and just playing your own game, it’s not easy to put everything together without many matches. That’s something that I was lacking in these last six months.
“But I’m happy with the win and it gives me good confidence. Overall, it was a solid match and something I needed for the start of the tournament.”
The former world No. 3, whose last title was the 2018 Queen’s Club Championships, added: “I feel I can play really well, especially in practice, I’m feeling quite good. For me, today was important to compete well.
“It’s important you go on court and accept that some mistakes are going to be made and you might miss some balls that you usually don’t.”
Pointing to the first set, when he broke Daniel’s serve to go 2-1 up only for the Japanese to break back and level the set at 4-4, Cilic, who is now ranked 44th, noted: “You just have to accept it and say OK fine, you’re even in the score, let’s keep going.
“It’s difficult to ask from yourself a lot in this kind of situation, so I did that well and that was with the right mindset and right preparation.”
His next opponent will be either Japanese Yasutaka Uchiyama or South Korean eighth seed Kwon Soon-woo, who came from behind to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 against American qualifier Thai-Son Kwiatkowski yesterday.
Other seeded players who booked their spot in the quarter-finals of the US$300,000 (S$396,660) tournament include Kazakh fourth seed Alexander Bublik and Japanese fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka, who both won in straight sets. Bublik needed just 53 minutes while serving 10 aces to convincingly beat Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek 6-2, 6-2, while Nishioka downed American Maxime Cressy 6-4, 6-2.
ATP SINGAPORE OPEN
Day 4: StarHub Ch211, 2pm