The first tournament of the season on outdoor American hard courts offers a unique opportunity for players to warm up for Indian Wells and Miami at the Delray Beach Open by the Venetian Las Vegas.
In 2014, despite four former champions in the draw, Marin Cilic captured his first Delray Beach title with a 7-6(6), 6-7(7), 6-4 victory over 2012 champion Kevin Anderson. The final, which lasted three hours and eight minutes, was the longest in the tournament’s history, surpassing the previous record – set in 1996 by Jason Stoltenberg and Chris Woodruff – by 34 minutes. ‘I’m really happy with this victory,’ Cilic said.
Accompanied by new coach Goran Ivanisevic, Cilic reached his third final in three weeks after lifting the trophy in Zagreb and falling short against Tomas Berdych in Rotterdam without dropping a set, defeating Benjamin Becker, Ryan Harrison, Teymuraz Gabashvili and second seed John Isner before facing Anderson.
The big South African, a local resident, had played two three-set matches against Tim Smyczek in the first round and Marinko Matosevic in the quarterfinals, a rematch of the 2012 final. He benefited from the retirement of Ivo Karlovic after one game in the second round and beat qualifier Steve Johnson, who was on an 11-match winning streak after winning the Dallas Challenger and defeating top seed Tommy Haas and Feliciano Lopez to reach the semifinals.
Anderson broke Cilic as he served for the match at 5-3 in the second set and saved four match points, including three in the second-set tiebreak, to take the match to a decider. After an early exchange of breaks, Cilic took the decisive advantage at 3-2 in the third set and eventually sealed victory with an ace.
‘In this match, there were a lot of ups and downs,’ said Cilic. ‘I should have closed it out in the second set. . . . What was pushing me was in the second set, I started to serve much better. I’m much more positive now that’s what I’ve been looking for.
‘It wasn't easy for my nerves, for Goran’s nerves especially,’ added Cilic. ‘In the final some nerves can get into your body and you have to deal with it in the end. Luckily I found a way.’
‘In the third [set], I just didn't put down the clamps of getting back in the match and giving myself a chance,’ said Anderson. ‘He was going to take one of his chances. He had a fair amount.
‘If I would have capitalised a little more I would have put myself in a better position to win the title. I was happy making the final, but a little disappointed right now.’
Cilic earned $81,500 in prize money and 250 points and rose to world no. 25 after the victory.
In the doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan beat Frantisek Cermak and Mikhail Elgin 6-2, 6-3 to claim their first title of the 2014 season. The world no. 1 doubles team had a patchy start to the season, losing to Lukas Rosol and Joao Sousa in the quarterfinals of Sydney and being defeated twice by the American-South African pairing of Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen, who beat them in the third round of the Australian Open and the final of the US National Indoor Mens Tennis Championship in Memphis.
It was the Bryan brothers’ third Delray Beach title and their ninety-fourth overall. ‘We’re very happy to kick-start the year here in Delray,’ Bob Bryan said. ‘We’re starting to hit our stride.’
The lead-up to the tournament was highlighted by a Team USA v Team International ATP World Champions’ Tour event which featured Andy Roddick playing his first event since retiring from the ATP World Tour after the 2012 US Open as well as Cilic’s coach Ivanisevic.
More than 50,000 fans attended the ten-day Champions’ Tour and ATP World Tour event held in the Delray Beach town on the Florida coast, which is sure to be a great success again in 2015.