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Rediff.com  » Sports » Chennai Open: Champion Cilic sent packing by Nishikori

Chennai Open: Champion Cilic sent packing by Nishikori

January 03, 2011 20:01 IST

A huge upset marked the opening day of the 2011 Chennai Open.

A resolute Kei Nishikori cut short Marin Cilic's title defence with an impressive 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2 win on Monday. 

It was the Croat's first defeat at Chennai in after 10 successive wins, denting his overall record to 15-3 -- besides winning the title in the last two years, Cilic had also made it to the semi-finals in 2008. 

However, Cilic's defeat on Monday hardly came in as a surprise. 

In Nishikori, Cilic always had a potentially dangerous opponent -- the Japanese having got the better of him in the US Open last year. 

The Monday match-up was very much on expected lines -- a competitive affair to begin with and a disappointing one to end with.  

The second seed started well, a break of serve in the fifth game helping him pocket the set with relative ease.  In hindsight, what proved to be the Japanese player's bane was the fact that he couldn't put any pressure on Cilic's serve throughout the set.

And when he started doing so, he turned the match in his favour. Nishikori put up a considerably better effort in the second set.  

His serve though was increasingly under pressure. In the 11th game of the second set, Cilic had a plethora of opportunities to break his opponent.

He squandered them all. And Nishikori made him pay for it, pocketing the set in a tie-breaker. 

The Japanese carried forward the momentum into the third set, breaking his opponent's serve in the opening game.  Another break in the seventh game ensured him what in the end was a fairly comfortable win. 

To put it bluntly, Cilic simply gave up in the final set.

Meanwhile, Chennai maintained its reputation as a graveyard for top seeds, the opening day last year having witnessed the exit of top seed Robin Soderling. 

Cilic's exit also meant Chennai's wait for its first three-time champion increased further.

Bikash Mohapatra Chennai