Marin Cilic powered past Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-1 in the quarter-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2016 on Friday. The Croatian broke serve on the final point of the opening set, then raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set before closing out the win in 80 minutes.
“My serve was a bit up-and-down today. It’s something I’ll definitely have to straighten out for my match tomorrow,” Cilic said. “He returned really well in the first set. In the second after I broke him, I could see that he was having some trouble. It’s unfortunate for him since I know he’s had a lot of injuries.”
Monaco, who is on the comeback trail after battling wrist, shoulder and back injuries, was attempting to reach his first hard-court semi-final since the inaugural Shenzhen Open more than two years ago. Cilic gave the Argentine no room to breathe, winning nearly 50 per cent of first-serve return points (19/39) and only dropping serve once to even their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry at 2-2. He will next attempt to overcome a 0-2 career record against David Goffin, who stopped him in the quarter-finals of Indian Wells earlier this year. Cilic can pass Tomas Berdych, the No. 9 player in the Emirates ATP Race To London, by winning the Tokyo title.
“The key tomorrow will to be serve well and to return aggressively,” Cilic said. “I know Goffin likes to play quite fast.”
Goffin punched his ticket to the semi-finals with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 win against Joao Sousa. Goffin started the match slowly, but found his range late in the second set as he blasted a return winner to even the match. The No. 5 seed only hit three winners in the opening set, but blasted 21 winners in the second.
“The speed in my game comes a lot from being focused,” Goffin said. “When I am able to focus on the ball and not on outside distractions, my footwork becomes a lot better and then I am able to take the ball early. I was a little bit sleepy in the first set, and my legs felt heavy, but then I was able to find my footwork and that’s usually my biggest weapon.”
In the deciding set, the confident Belgian never trailed and closed out the win in two hours with an inside-out forehand winner. Goffin remains unbeaten against Sousa in four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. If he goes on to win Tokyo, he would find himself 540 Emirates ATP Race To London points behind Dominic Thiem and the final spot at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
“My two previous titles were at ATP 250 events, but I’ve reached the semi-finals at ATP [World Tour] Masters 1000 tournaments, so why not?” Goffin said. “It would be a big step to win here in Tokyo.”