Last year’s Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic rounded off his preparations for this year’s edition in style on Thursday, winning his second match in as many days at the Kooyong Classic.
With the first Grand Slam of the season starting on Monday, every opportunity is important for the Croatian, who went down in a battle to Roger Federer in the Melbourne Park decider in 2018. The World No. 7 beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-4, backing up his three-set victory a day before over World No. 6 Kevin Anderson.
Earlier, American Jack Sock lost to fast-rising Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 3-6, 10-7 after a final set played as a 10-point tiebreak — the format which will be used at the Australian Open from Monday. Under the rules, the first player to win at least 10 points by a two-point margin takes the match.
Ahead of the Australian Open last year, Sock was at a career-high eighth in the world rankings, but after a horror season he has plunged outside the top 100 and is desperate to turn it around. His form slump has been dramatic. He played 31 singles matches in 2018, winning a mere nine.
“I had some pretty low moments last year, it was horrendous,” said Sock. “I did a lot of regrouping in the off-season, talking to family, team members, coaches. I'm trying to take a positive outlook. I know the level that I can play the game, where my game should be,” he added.
With the Australian Open just days away, he is grateful to be out of the spotlight to focus on himself. “It's nice to be able to fly under the radar and do my own thing,” he said.
Shapovalov, 19, made up for lost time after losing in the first round at Auckland this week and then crossing the Tasman to squeeze into the Kooyong draw as a late entry. “It’s great to be here and get another match, fire a few balls,” the World No. 27 said. “It’s another chance to get the match feel. You have some of the pressure, there’s a crowd watching. It’s a chance to get a little bit more ready for the Slam,” he added.
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