Pune: Frenchman Gilles Simon continued his run of upsets at the Tata Open Maharashtra knocking out top seed Marin Cilic in the semi-final.
Coming from a set down, the world No 89 beat the former champion 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 to book his place in the final on Saturday. In the gruelling one hour and 51 minute long match, Cilic took the early lead with a lights out display in the first set.
But Simon fought back to wrest the momentum after that and didn’t give in to his much-higher ranked opponent.
It was mostly one-way traffic in the first set as Cilic showed no mercy as he pounded aces and forehand winners to race to a 4-0 lead. Simon managed to hold his serve only once as he went down 6-1 in 27 minutes.
But the second set showed another version of Simon who had a positive 5-1 head-to-head record against the 2014 US champion before this match.
He began attacking Cilic’s serve a lot more, and on his part, the Croatian found it difficult to land his first serve right.
The Frenchman broke the top seed in two consecutive service games and blasted his way to a 4-0 lead in no time. Cilic looked like he was caught unaware and made several unforced errors to give away easy points.
He gave break points on all his service games but couldn’t break back after going two breaks down early against Simon.
Simon, on the other hand, egged on my a noisy crowd, didn’t let go any opportunity to induce an error from Cilic. He kept feeding short balls to the Croatian and duly kept hitting them in the net.
There were some flashes of form from Cilic but they were few and far between. Serving to stay in the set, he produced a super love hold but he couldn’t convert the break points he had in the next game and went down 3-6 after a 40 minute effort.
In the decider, Simon made his intent clear by breaking Cilic in the first game. However, as hard as he tried, Cilic just couldn’t break back. The second game saw some stunning rallies and went down to deuce four times but Simon maintained his hold.
A couple of holds later, Cilic began to get frustrated as he tried all tricks, from pushing Simon back to targeting his backhand.
But in the crucial seventh game, it was Simon who charged ahead and got the decisive break to lead 5-2.
Serving for the match, he wrapped it up quick, even as Cilic kept fighting. But as Cilic said after the match, he was not able to put his shots through as well he would have liked.
Simon will also be playing the doubles semifinal with Pierre-Hugues Herbert against India’s Yuki Bhambri and Divij Sharan later in the day.