Tata Open Maharashtra: Cilic tames Herbert, reaches semis

In the second set, Cilic’s ball speed increased three times the normal. Though Herbert broke him once (30-30), but the sudden deceptive shots in between rallies proved why the Croatian is a Grand Slam pundit.

Marin Cilic (Croatia) — World No. 6 and the top seed of the ongoing Tata Open Maharashtra — qualified for the semis beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert (France) 6-3, 6-2.   -  PTI

The serve-and-volley game, seen in the 1990s, hasn’t lost its charm. The game may have become more physical, but when it comes to hitting winners — the golden tools still work wonders.

Marin Cilic (Croatia) — World No. 6 and the top seed of the ongoing Tata Open Maharashtra — resorted to the old weapon to jump to the semifinal of the ATP 250 event beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert (France) 6-3, 6-2.

The Frenchman lost out on pace, mind games and concentration towards the end of the second set.

In the second set, Cilic’s ball speed increased three times the normal. Though Herbert broke him once (30-30), but the sudden deceptive shots in between rallies proved why the Croatian is a Grand Slam pundit.

Herbert tried to use his service to bag some points, but all of it looked like a stop-gap arrangement. Even he didn’t look confident enough to continue with the best-of-the-best serves that he displayed against Yuki Bhambri on Wednesday.

When he missed the ball — a rarity among top class players — one could anticipate the end coming soon. It gave Cilic the confidence to break him further.

Soon, there was a deluge of volleys. Those were subtle ones, angled wisely to weaken Herbert’s knees. He hit three volleys back-to-back, the third one being the winner.

Earlier, in the first set, Cilic’s game was a mix of his free-spirited shots and tactical play. He invited Herbert to a rally when he wanted to save his energy, he attacked when he wanted to.

It was Cilic who decided the proceedings. He made Herbert look like a student in a tennis academy, who would do whatever he wanted him to do.

Cilic was aware that Herbert could be nasty with his ‘arched-back-bent knee’ technique while serving. And accordingly, he set him up.

What was striking that Cilic took a bit of time while serving; probably that’s where the mental game comes into play. He gauged the situation, anticipated Herbert’s movement and then, went for the kill, forcing the Frenchman to errors.

That’s how champions play.

Result: Men’s singles: M Cilic bt PH Herbert 6-3, 6-2.