Croatia’s Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion and world #5 takes on Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas in a potentially exciting clash. Cilic has hopes of securing his place at the season-ending ATP World Tour finals in London. He could achieve that aim by winning the tournament in Shanghai. But to continue that hope he must first get past Ramos Vinolas. No easy task. The Spaniard may be principally a clay courter, but he is not without ability on hard courts and has defeated Roger Federer in Shanghai. But who will make it to the last four?
The tightly contested head to head reads 3-2 in favour of Cilic. But their most recent match saw the Spaniard defeating Cilic 6-2 6-7 6-2 at the Monte Carlo Masters during his incredible run to the final earlier this year. But before that, it was Cilic who had the upper hand, winning the three previous encounters. On hard courts, the Croatian also has the advantage, having won two of the pair’s three matches on the surface. That includes straight sets victories in Indian Wells in 2013 and at the Australian Open in 2016 in the second round. But interestingly Cilic and Ramos Vinolas have met before in Shanghai back in 2011. And it was the Spaniard who clinched the victory in that match, in a dominant 6-3 6-4 win.
Path to the quarterfinals
Cilic arrived in Shanghai aiming to qualify for London and his first obstacle was Britain’s Kyle Edmund. Edmund is not without quality, possessing one of the biggest forehands on Tour. But Cilic dispatched the Briton 6-3 7-6 in the first round in an impressive display. He saved all three break points he faced to set up a second round clash against Steve Johnson of America. The fourth seeded Cilic won 7-6 6-4 with the American playing well but never looking like defeating Cilic. In reaching the quarterfinals Cilic has matched his best ever Shanghai performance, but will surely be desperate to go one better when he faces Ramos Vinolas.
The Spaniard, like Cilic has been in good form. However, he faced a tough opening match against Portugal’s Joao Sousa who took him to three sets. Ramos Vinolas hung tough to complete the win 3-6 6-3 7-5. He was then impressive against his Spanish compatriot seventh seed Pablo Carreno Busta. It was a closely fought match, but it was Ramos Vinolas who played his best when it mattered most. He was rewarded with a 7-5 7-5 win and a place in the third round. There Ramos Vinolas faced the giant-killer from Germany Jan-Lennard Struff who had defeated Kevin Anderson in the previous round. But Ramos Vinolas overcame Struff in straight sets 7-6 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals.
How do they match up?
If there has been one complaint about Cilic throughout his career, it has been his consistency or lack thereof. However, this year has been an exception with the fourth seed enjoying a career-high ranking and having generally played well all season. That being said, he did endure a slow start to the year and has won just one title so far. Cilic’s game can trouble even the very best when he is at his best. His forehand is a very potent weapon, and he can dominate rallies with it. His serve, a shot he can hit with excellent disguise, is also one of the best on Tour, and has benefitted hugely from his time being coached by Goran Ivanisevic. The challenge for Cilic is to put his right foot forward against Ramos Vinolas and play aggressively from the off.
His opponent in the last-eight does not lack quality, however. Ramos Vinolas continues to surprise with his strong 2017 showing. Once regarded principally as a clay court specialist, the left-hander has shown that he can be a force on any surface this year. His game is based on strong baseline play to go with his natural advantage of left-arm angle. That may help him against Cilic, particularly giving his serve a much-needed boost as it is far from one of the best on Tour. His forehand has developed into a very useful weapon though. That forehand battle will likely be key. Whichever man is better able to impose themselves with their forehand will likely win the match.
It is certainly an interesting match, albeit one in which the Croatian starts as the huge favourite. Cilic’s dominance on hard courts should play to his advantage as though Ramos Vinolas has played well away from his preferred ‘terre battue’ he has yet to show he can defeat one of the world’s best away from it. Cilic to win in straight sets, but expect a tiebreak to feature.
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