2014 champion Marin Cilic will begin his quest to claim a second US Open title when he takes on Marius Copil of Romania. Since that triumph four years ago, Cilic has twice come to within a match of claiming a second Major title only to be denied by Roger Federer, losing finals to the Swiss at Wimbledon last year and in Melbourne this. Copil, meanwhile, has enjoyed the best season of his career and will be hoping to cause a major upset. Who will come out on top?
Cilic and Copil have met twice so far in their careers. Their first match was contested six years ago in Beijing and it was surprisingly Copil, then ranked outside the world’s top 200, who came out on top, beating Cilic 3-6 7-6 6-4. Their second clash was rather more recent, coming not two weeks ago in Cincinnati, and on that occasion it was Cilic who won. He did have to rally from a set down, but did so to win 6-7 6-4 6-4 and went on to reach the semifinals.
Last time out
Cilic’s Wimbledon campaign, where he was amongst the favourites after winning the title at Queen’s, ended in the disappointment of a loss to Guido Pella from two sets to the good. Cilic considered it one of the worst matches of his career and he was not far wrong. He returned to action in Toronto, where he reached the quarterfinals, losing to Nadal despite a dominant first-set performance. He then reached the semifinals in Cincinnati but lost to Djokovic in a match he may feel he should have won.
Copil lost in the first round at Wimbledon to Robin Haase, but has been busy since. He begun his hard court campaign with a straight sets loss to Frances Tiafoe in Atlanta, before reaching the third round in Washington where he lost narrowly to former-world #1 Andy Murray. He followed that with a defeat in the first round of qualifying in Toronto, but he did reach the main draw in Cincinnati, winning a round there before losing to Cilic, as mentioned above.
How do they match up?
Cilic and Copil possess plenty of power, both when stepping to the line and off the ground. But it is the Croatian who knows his strength better. Though he can step in and really drive through the ball when he needs to, as he did in blowing Nadal off the court in the first set of their Canadian Open, he prefers to play within himself. He is able to hit accurately and consistently from both wings, and even at three-quarter pace his groundstrokes have plenty behind them.
Copil’s problem is that he does not have the quality or the confidence to play as Cilic does. Instead, he tends to play constantly at full tilt, looking to drill the ball as hard as he can off both the forehand and backhand side. That makes him a dangerous opponent indeed when his shots are landing. But it can also see him bleed unforced errors and he rarely looks to have a practical alternative to trying to hit through opponents. That lack of variety may be his undoing against Cilic.
Copil came close to catching Cilic cold in Cincinnati, but ultimately the world #7 was too strong for him. It is hard to see Copil coming so close to victory again. Cilic has not yet played at his very best in North America, but he has been impressive enough and he should come into this match feeling confident. Expect him to dispose of Copil without too many problems and reach the second round a straight sets victor.