Unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino upset top seed Marin Cilic 6-7(5) 6-4 6-0 in the Japan Open semi-finals yesterday to reach his first ATP 500 final.
Mannarino, 29, will face fourth seed David Goffin after the in-form Belgian eked out a 7-6(3) 7-6(6) victory over Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in the first semi-final.
“It was a very tough match as Marin was playing well and putting me under a lot of pressure,” said Mannarino.
“Although the third set was 6-0, it wasn’t easy. I tried to fight every point and that was difficult against such a good server. I didn’t miss that much today, my forehand and backhand were really good, and consistent. For a set and a half, he took advantage, then he started to miss more. From the middle of the second set, I felt more confident on his service games,” he said.
In a fiercely-contested match, Cilic’s powerful groundstrokes gave him a 5-3 lead in the first set but Mannarino fought back to force a tiebreak, which the Frenchman led 4-2 before losing five of the next six points.
Mannarino took advantage of Cilic’s weaker backhand to take a 5-3 lead and although he lost his next service game, the 29-year-old broke the Croatian’s serve to win the second set. Mannarino won seven straight games to beat world number five Cilic and secure his first win over a player ranked in the world’s top five.
“I wouldn’t say that I am disappointed, I played quite solid,” said Cilic.
“I just didn’t serve as well as in previous days, I wasn’t getting as many free points and ended up having to play long rallies. Adrian played really well, striking cleanly from the baseline and was tricky to open up.
:In the last set-and-a-half, he didn’t miss a lot and attacked a lot. I couldn’t find my rhythm on serve,” he said.
Goffin and Schwartzman both saved break points as the first set went to a tiebreak and with the score tied at 4-4, the eighth-seeded Schwartzman made three straight errors to gift his opponent the set.
Belgian Goffin served for the match in the 10th game of the second set but a forehand error enabled Schwartzman to break back and force another tiebreak.
Goffin sealed victory on his second match point to extend his winning streak to eight matches after his Shenzhen Open triumph last week.
He moved up to 10th in the Race to London rankings and is still in contention for a place in the eight-man season-ending tournament.
“Today was a tough match, I knew it would be a match with a lot of rallies,” said Goffin.
“I knew that Diego would be very solid from the baseline, so I needed to be solid and aggressive too, sometimes finishing at the net. I think I served well throughout the match, maybe not towards the end, but I’m happy to win in two sets. It was a great match, when we both played our best tennis,” he said.
“Mannarino is improving this year, he has won a lot of matches and has a lot of confidence.
“He is using his lefty serve effectively, which can be tricky to return. He’s playing well, so it will be tough.”
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