Top seed Marin Cilic crashed out of the Japan Open in a shock 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) defeat to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round on Tuesday. Also Read - Davis Cup Qualifiers: India Lose 1-3 to Croatia After Sumit Nagal Crushed by Marin Cilic
The-former US Open champion looked to be in complete control after pocketing the first set with a brutal drive volley, but things quickly unravelled for the Croatian when Struff suddenly caught fire. Also Read - Davis Cup: Ramkumar Ramanathan Goes Down Fighting to Marin Cilic, India Trail Croatia 0-2
After Struff, ranked a whopping 50 places below Cilic at 56 in the world, had levelled the match, normal service appeared to have resumed in the deciding set. Also Read - Sports News Today, February 12: Croatia to Field Marin Cilic, Borna Coric in Davis Cup Tie Against India
Cilic, who reached the final of this year’s Australian Open, broke for 3-2 with a peach of a backhand that dipped viciously onto Struff’s toes, but the German struck back — not once, but twice — to force a tiebreak.
Struff smashed the breaker, snaffling it 7-1 with his ninth ace to complete the upset after two hours, 18 minutes.
He next plays Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who edged a war of attrition with Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Earlier, three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka beat Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-4 while eighth seed Richard Gasquet also advanced, the Frenchman ousting another American, Denis Kudla, 7-6, 6-3.
Frances Tiafoe restored some pride for the United States by beating Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 7-5, 6-4.
Cilic’s demise will boost Kei Nishikori’s hopes of winning a third Japan Open crown after the local favourite won the tournament in 2012 and 2014.
(With PTI Input)