Former world No.3, Marin Cilic opens his Shanghai Masters campaign on Monday when he takes on Spaniard, Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first round.
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Cilic reached a career-high No. 3 in the world last season following a runner-up finish at the Australian Open, a title run at Queen’s, and Grand Slam quarter finals at Roland Garros and the US Open, but he has been well short of his best in 2019, sliding to 30th in the world as a result.
The Croatian was bothered by a knee injury at the start of the 2019, and did not begin his season until the Australian Open. A difficult year has yielded just two quarter finals, in Madrid and Washington, and a very ordinary 19-15 win-loss record.
While he continues to lack deep runs, Cilic has been more consistent since the start of North American hard court swing, reaching the quarter finals in Washington, the third round in Montreal and the fourth round at the US Open, where he pushed Rafael Nadal to four sets. He opened his Asian swing in Tokyo, beating Yuichi Sugita in the first round before losing to Korean, Hyeon Chung.
Cilic’s best outing in Shanghai was a semi-final in 2017, but either side of that run, he failed to cross the opening round. He’ll be looking to avoid a third opening round exit in four years when he plays Ramos-Vinolas on Monday.
Like Cilic, Ramos-Vinolas had his best run in Shanghai in 2017, when he reached the quarter finals (incidentally lost to Cilic), but outside that, he has struggled at the event, failing to cross the first round in two of the last three years.
The Spaniard is also looking to avoid consecutive first round exits, as he was beaten by Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round of last week’s China Open in Beijing. Before that, he had had some very good results, reaching the semi-finals in Zhuhai, following consecutive Challenger semi-finals in Genova and Szczecin.
Ramos-Vinolas had an ordinary start to the year, managing just a trio of quarter finals in Buenos Aires, Rio and Geneva through the first six months of the season. The former top-20 player slid out of the top-100 in June, but he has had a more productive second half, climbing back into the top-50. The left-hander excelled in the post-Wimbledon clay-court swing, winning the title in Gstaad, reaching a final in Kitzbuhel and making the semis in Bastad, while he also enjoyed a good spell in the Challengers, making semi-finals in Perugia, Genova and Szczecin. He took that confidence into Zhuhai, where he made the semis, but he couldn’t make similar impact in Beijing, falling in the first round to Auger-Aliassime.
Can he get back to winning ways when he plays Marin Cilic in Shanghai on Monday?
Cilic has a 4-2 lead in the head-to-head, but interestingly, they are 1-1 in Shanghai, Ramos-Vinolas winning in 2011, and Cilic earning his revenge in 2017.
Ramos-Vinolas may be a former Shanghai quarter finalist, but he generally does most of his best work on clay. Cilic is the more accomplished player on hard courts, and after a tough start to the year, he has been playing better in recent months. I’m backing the Croatian to get past Ramos-Vinolas, and move on to face Roger Federer in the second round.
Marin Cilic vs Albert Ramos-Vinolas is live from Shanghai on Monday, 7 October from 12:30pm local time/ 5:30am BST