Image Courtesy: Tata Open Maharashtra
Pune: Gilles Simon sprung a surprise in the first singles' semi-final of the Tata Open Maharashtra tennis tournament as he came back from a set down to defeat the top-seed Marin Cilic here at the Mhalunge Balewadi Stadium on Friday.
The 33-year-old Frenchman had the backing of the crowd at the arena and did not disappoint them as he beat the Croatian in three sets 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament.
The 2009 & 2010 champion Cilic had come into the semifinal on the back of a quarterfinal victory against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Thursday.
The Croat had previously played Simon on six occasions, losing to the Frenchman five times. Therefore, it was important for the World No. 6 to start the match well if he was to qualify for the final of the singles competition.
He did exactly that as he served well in the first set, winning 11 out of 12 points off his first serve. The good start saw Cilic take a 5-0 lead in the set that was enough for him to take the set 6-1 in the end.
It looked like the 29-year-old Croat would run away with the game in the second set as well but it wasn't to happen, as Simon looked lively, answering the crowd's encouragement by displaying some amazing returns to make a comeback into the match.
The 33-year-old Frenchman pulled up his socks and led by four games to nil in the second set, but Cilic came back to win the next two games to make it 4-2, still in Simon's favour. However, in the seventh game, Simon held his serve at a crucial stage of the match to lead by 5-2.
Cilic also held his serve and hoped for the Frenchman to lose the ninth game but the World No. 89 confidence rose as he won the second set 6-3.
In the third set, Simon broke Cilic's serve in the first game itself and continued his momentum as he led by 5-2 and was serving for the match.
- Cilic looked nothing like the player who started the match aggressively to win the first set, and it was the 33-year-old Simon who kept his calm and served superbly to make his way into the final of the Tata Open Maharashtra as he secured the last set 6-3.