Tata Open Maharashtra: Simon stuns Cilic, books maiden final berth

The 89th ranked Frenchman, after being 6-1 down in the first set, bounced back with a 6-3, 6-2 win in the semifinals of the ATP 250 event.

Giles Simon on way to his victory over Marin Cilic in Pune on Friday.   -  Special Arrangement

“No entry, please. Close the gate,” instructed the umpire. The clock struck 6:30 pm. Marin Cilic and Gilles Simon had been battling for 75 minutes. The players must have thanked their stars that ATP 250 tournaments comprise only three sets. It could have gone on and on. But wait, both the players — irrespective of their rankings — are known for stringent mind games. In the end, it was the 89th ranked Simon from France who had the last laugh. On Friday at a packed Balewadi Stadium, the 33-year-old beat top seed and World No 6 Marin Cilic 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 to book a spot in the finals of the Tata Open Maharashtra.

Nobody expected Simon to bounce back into the game after being 6-1 down in the first set, but his game was all about setting the opponent up and then, unleashing the deadliest of spins to emerge victorious. Well, he also had the crowd behind. Even when Cilic fired some of the ferocious aces — including the one that clocked 226 kmph — Simon waved at the crowd for support.

Cilic made him run around in the first set. In the second and third, the tables turned. The superstar from Croatia felt pressure for the first time in the tournament. However, the speed and power game lasted till Simon led 4-0 in the second set, signalling danger for Cilic.

After a string of rallies and volleys, the scoreline read 4-1. It was tough for Cilic to bring his A game into the proceedings. Simon had bagged the second set.

In the third set, when nothing worked, the former Grand Slam champion unlocked the traditional weapon — serve-and-volley, like yesterday. As soon as he made it 4-2, Simon — after a few seconds — started drawing him closer to the net. And as expected, boom! A crosscourt!

When Simon knew he was close to the impossible, he gathered his thoughts and collected his game to go for the kill. The ball cut through to the air like a kite, spinning to Cilic. Well, that’s his forte.

Though Cilic broke him with a terrific return towards the dying minutes, but Simon had tired the Croat by then.

He will either meet Kevin Anderson or Benoit Paire in his debut final of the tournament on Saturday.

There are situations when first timers do not have first round exits.

Results: G Simon bt M Cilic 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.