Chennai: Second seeded and defending champion Marin Cilic of Croatia saved the blushes by rallying to a 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-4 win against Marcel Granollers of Spain to enter the quarter-finals of the $400,000 Aircel Chennai Open tennis tournament in Chennai on Wednesday.
In a marathon three-setter that lasted 15 minutes short of three hours and which will be remembered, if at all, more for the huge number of unforced errors and service breaks, the 21-year-old Croat, ranked 14th got his game together even as the 91st ranked Granollers gradually faded, like he did when he faced Cilic in the semi-finals in Chennai.
However, at one stage, it looked as though Cilic would follow top seed Robin Soderling out of the tournament, but fortunately, he managed to hang on to record his fourth straight win over Granollers.
In the first set, it was the 91st-ranked Granollers who dictated the early pace and exchanges with some crafty shot-making that had Cilic doing most of the running.
However, only in patches did the match rose to any heights as both players camped on the backline with an occasional foray to the net. In fact, there was very little to separate the two save the number of unforced errors with Granollers committing fewer.
It was hardly a surprise then that the games went with serve to force a tie-break with both players unable to build on breaks. The set ended when Granollers got lucky with a net-chord return and then Cilic netting a backhand return.
The second set began with the players trading breaks to be level at 2-2 before Cilic held serve and then broke again for a 4-2 lead. But, as if on cue, Granollers broke back only to drop serve and Cilic extended his advantage to 5-3 and then served out the set to love after an hour and 51 minutes.
The decider followed the pattern of service breaks until Cilic took a decisive 5-3 lead. A fast tiring Granollers dropped his serve yet again in the 10th game as Cilic finally closed the match.
Also through to the quarter-finals were Santiago Giraldo of Colombia who overcame Jan Hajek of Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2, and Thiemo de Bakker, an easy 6-3, 6-4, winner against Robin Haase 6-3, 6-4, in an all-Dutch clash.
In doubles action, Swiss pair of Yves Allegro and Stanislas Wawrinka put out top seeds Rajeev Ram and Eric Butorac of the United States 3-6, 6-4, 10-5, to enter the quarter-finals.
Singles (2nd round): 2-Marin Cilic (Croatia) bt Marcel Granollers (Spain) 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4; Santiago Giraldo (Colombia) bt Jan Hajek (Czech Republic) 6-4, 6-2; Thiemo de Bakker (Netherlands) bt Robin Haase (Netherlands) 6-3, 6-4;
Doulbes (1st round): Yves Allegro / Sanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) bt 1-Rajeev Ram / Eric Butorac (US) 3-6, 6-4, 10-5.