PARIS – Two days after being encouraged by his game on clay – and for good reason – Daniil Medvedev, world number 2 in men’s singles, was ousted from Roland-Garros on Monday in just 1 hour 45 minutes.
There were boos as Medvedev, bag slung over his shoulder, left the red clay of Philippe Chatrier court following his 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 loss to 20th seed Marin Cilic in the fourth round .
The dissatisfaction was understandable. Paying more than 100 euros (about $107) – or much more – for a night session ticket and ending up with a blowout is going to generate some grumbling.
But the lopsided scoreline and fast pace was also down to Cilic’s sustained brilliance. Although clay isn’t traditionally his best surface, he could have fooled Medvedev as he served and attacked with precise power and near-relentless efficiency.
Cilic won 90% of his first-serve points, and Medvedev, an excellent returner, could never muster a break point. Despite being nicknamed the Wall, Medvedev kept falling apart, first in rallies of all lengths, especially mid-length ones.
Cilic won 26 of 36 rallies that lasted between five and eight shots – a huge margin over a baseline player of Medvedev’s ability. He also broke Medvedev’s big serve five times under the bright lights, sometimes leaving Medvedev flat on the baseline as he crushed a return winner.
He was, to sum up, a great former US Open champion in a state of grace and another in a state of disarray.
“An absolutely fantastic game from the first point to the last,” Cilic said in his growling baritone voice. “One of the best games of my career from start to finish.”
That’s quite a commentary from a player like Cilic, a 33-year-old Croatian who played nearly 900 singles matches on tour and won the 2014 US Open and reached the finals at Wimbledon and The Open. from Australia.
His run in New York in 2014 was proof of what he could do when his big game started to click. After prevailing in a five-set match against Gilles Simon in the fourth round, Cilic changed gears and beat Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori without dropping a set.
Guess who Cilic beat in the third round at Roland Garros on Saturday? Simon, in his last match at Roland-Garros, by the score of 6-0, 6-3, 6-2.
Shortly after Medvedev’s rout on Monday, Simon tweeted: ‘I thought not much was missing’, referring to Cilic’s level in their match.
Does 2014 come to Cilic’s mind at a time like this?
“Every day. Every day,” Cilic replied. “It’s so hard to go back in time, how I felt mentally, how I felt on the pitch. You just feel different, and that’s just staying in the moment. I’m doing good things on the pitch and good things in training off the pitch with my team, so it’s just trusting and having good confidence. It is the most important.
Cilic will face Andrey Rublev, the second Russian player, in the quarter-finals on Wednesday. Rublev, usually more comfortable on clay than Medvedev, moved forward when Italian opponent Jannik Sinner pulled out early in the third set on Monday with a left knee injury he sustained while pushing with his leg left to serve.
Sinner, limping and taped below the knee, retired with Rublev in the lead, 1-6, 6-4, 2-0, and covered his face as he entered the tunnel leading to the cloakrooms.
The quarter-final line-up is now set and only one unseeded player remains: 19-year-old Holger Rune, who upset No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 3-6, 6 -3, 6- 4.
After an uneventful first week in the men’s singles draw, Monday changed the tone, and Denmark’s Rune will now face another Nordic player: Casper Ruud, an eighth seed from Norway.
But although Ruud entered the top 10 last year, winning five titles, this will be the first Grand Slam quarter-final for Ruud and Rune, a match that, it must be said, sounds good.
“Making my first quarter-final here at Roland Garros means a lot,” said Ruud, whose father and coach, Christian, also played at Roland Garros. “It’s the first Grand Slam I visited as a kid. It’s good to get one of my best results of my career so far here.
Medvedev was unable to win a match in his first four French Open appearances and shed light on the situation ahead of last year’s tournament, saying his aim was to win a round.
He managed to win four on his way to the quarter-finals, but failed to match that performance this year.
Cilic matched his best result at Roland Garros with his run to the last eight and may not be finished yet if he can keep hitting his serves and groundstrokes like he did in the spotlight.
Although he has struggled for much of the past three seasons, he is, at 33, back to feeling good about his game after revamping his support squad. He spoke Monday night of playing for several more years.
“Absolutely, I feel young,” Cilic said. “My doctor said I was 25 in my body, so maybe another 12.”
With that and a smile, Cilic took his leave.