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Djokovic vs Cilic tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Djokovic closing in on missing Masters in Cincinnati but Cilic on ominous form

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 18 Aug 2018
  • Novak Djokovic takes on Marin Cilic in the semifinals of the Cincinnati Masters on Saturday
  • Djokovic vs Cilic is live from Cincinnati on Saturday at 2pm local/7pm BST
Novak Djokovic

Marin Cilic has won the last two matches he has played against Novak Djokovic – could he find a third win in a row to deny the Wimbledon champion at the Cincinnati Masters once again?

Novak Djokovic is closing in on the ‘missing Masters’ after reaching the semifinals in Cincinnati – but he’ll have to avoid a third straight defeat to Marin Cilic if he is to make the final.

There aren’t too many things that Marin Cilic has achieved in his career that Novak Djokovic hasn’t, but winning the Cincinnati Masters is one of them. That’s something Cilic achieved in 2016, his first and so far only Masters 1000 Series title, while of Djokovic’s 30 Masters 1000 Series titles, not one has come in Cincinnati, although he has reached the final no fewer than five times (finishing runner-up to Roger Federer three times, Andy Murray twice).

Marin Cilic
Cilic also did something else Djokovic has never done when he won the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club in June – and to add insult to injury, did it by defeating Djokovic himself in the final, the second straight win he has scored over the Serb after losing the first 14 they played against each other. 

The Croatian did not attempt to defend his title in 2017 due to injury, so he’s actually now on a nine-match winning streak at the Western & Southern Open – a streak that he had to keep alive by pulling double duty on Friday, thanks to rain on Thursday. Like Djokovic’s match against Grigor Dimitrov, Cilic was in the third set against Karen Khachanov when play was suspended overnight but the seventh seed responded beautifully to the challenge of a congested schedule, first polishing off Khachanov 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 and then returning a few hours later to take care of business against Pablo Carreno Busta, beating the Spaniard 7-6(7), 6-4 in an hour and 44 minutes.

Cilic may have dropped sets against both Khachanov and Marius Copil in the previous round, but when efficiency was at a premium on Friday, he delivered. American hard courts are a great surface for the 2014 US Open champion and his run in Cincinnati, following a quarterfinal appearance in Toronto where he played excellent tennis (for a while) against Rafael Nadal, is a strong statement of resilience after what was a disappointing Wimbledon where he came in as the favourite after winning Queen’s but crashed out in the second round against Guido Pella.

It was a bad result but Cilic’s season so far has been probably the most consistent of his career, with a 33-11 win-loss throughout 2018, a third Grand Slam final appearance at the Australian Open (where he acquitted himself pretty well), a semifinal in Rome and a quarterfinal at the French Open, and few losses that could be considered poor – Wimbledon to Pella being the most obvious of them.

The challenge that faces Novak Djokovic in Cincinnati, then, could be to eliminate three previous champions on three consecutive days: Defending champion Grigor Dimitrov, who was one of the two men Djokovic beat on Friday, in the third round; Cilic in the semifinals and perhaps seven-time winner Roger Federer in the final.

That’s looking a bit too far ahead, however, and one was reminded of the unwisdom of taking too much for granted over the course of what has been a rocky two days for Djokovic. It looks as though, and this was maybe to be expected, winning Wimbledon and returning in emphatic style to the winners’ circle hasn’t quite transformed Djokovic into the effortlessly dominant player of old (or maybe we forget just how hard-fought, hard-won that dominance actually was). 

Novak Djokovic
Defeated in the third round of the Canada Masters by Stefanos Tsitsipas – although he was hardly the only victim of the Greek player’s impressive run to the final – Djokovic was tetchy in a straight-sets win over Steve Johnson to open his Cincinnati campaign and had to come back from a set down against Adrian Mannarino in the third round, complaining of an upset stomach. Whether or not that stomach had much to say about the 2-6 first set he suffered through against defending champion Dimitrov on Thursday is tough to say, but he was, by and large, transformed into the status of a spectator as the Bulgarian romped merrily through the first eight games. 

That kind of dynamic against one of the very top players rarely lasts – just ask Cilic after his match against Nadal in Toronto – and by the time the rain postponed the match to the following day, Djokovic had not just levelled but was up a break after three games in the decider. When play resumed on Friday, Djokovic calmly rode that break to the finish line, with Dimitrov never really threatening to get back on serve. 

Matters were considerably more dramatic, and Djokovic’s mood less serene, against Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon. The Canadian actually played one of the better matches I’ve seen from him off the ground and was very effectively aggressive throughout, but he was largely undone by double faults, especially in the first set when he double-faulted on break point after being up a break himself and serving for the set at 5-4, then double-faulted when set point down at 5-6. The fact that Raonic levelled up without need of a tie-break shows how unusual this match was, and the Canadian actually led by a break in the third set before Djokovic dug deep and battled his way back on serve, before pouncing on a second serve and punishing it with a deep return to break himself (although he still had to dig himself out of a 0-30 hole).

Cilic probably won’t have seen much of that Djokovic-Raonic match, because he was playing Carreno Busta at the time, but the scoreline alone should give him some encouragement with the Canadian ending a run of 17 straight sets lost to the Serb (while remaining 0-9 down in the head-to-head overall). 

Cilic himself was, not very long ago, completely owned by Djokovic in their head-to-head, having lost all 14 they had played (having taken just five sets in that time). But the last two matches between them have gone the Croatian’s way: A straight-sets victory for Cilic in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters in autumn 2016, and the Queen’s Club final this year, which saw Cilic deliver a fantastic performance to win 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3. The 2016 match can be somewhat discounted as Djokovic was struggling on and off the court at that point, and it’s true that grass is a great surface for Cilic – but then so are American hard courts. 

For me, this might play out very much like Cilic’s quarterfinal defeat to Nadal last week – the Croatian can very well red-line for a set and blast Djokovic off the court, he has the power and pace and explosiveness to do just that. But over three? Djokovic’s consistency, his defense, his ability to keep Cilic under constant pressure should tell. It hasn’t been a great week’s tennis so far for the Serb. But coming through it has put him just two wins away from completing the full house of Masters 1000 Series titles. 

Djokovic vs Cilic semifinal tennis is live from Cincinnati on Saturday at 2pm local/7pm BST

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Djokovic vs Cilic tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Djokovic closing in on missing Masters in Cincinnati but Cilic on ominous form

Novak Djokovic vs Marin Cilic live streaming, preview and predictions for the Cincinnati Masters semifinal match on Saturday 18 August 2018: Djokovic is 14-2 against Cilic but has lost the last two he has played against the 2016 Cincinnati champion

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