Two-time Marseille finalist Marin Cilic hopes to upset fourth seed Denis Shapovalov and claim a place in the quarterfinals of the Open 13 Provence on Thursday.
Cilic vs Shapovalov is live from Marseille on Thursday 20 February at 2pm local/1pm GMT
Shapovalov will be among the last of the top seeds to get his Open 13 campaign underway as he takes on Cilic on Thursday.
The Canadian is hoping to avoid an opening-round defeat in Marseille for the second year in a row, having lost to Mikhail Kukushkin in the round of 16 12 months ago.
Shapovalov had some of his best results in 2019 on indoor hard-courts. He was a semifinalist at the Miami Masters on outdoor hard courts and reached the final four in Chengdu on the same surface, but it was on the indoor hard courts of Europe that his strong finish to the season came: His first ATP Tour title in Stockholm, where he defeated Filip Krajinovic in the final; he made his first Masters 1000 Series final in Paris, beating Alexander Zverev and Gael Monfils before losing to Novak Djokovic; and he scored singles wins over Matteo Berrettini, Taylor Harry Fritz and Karen Khachanov to help Canada reach the final of the new-look Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, although he was unable to beat Rafael Nadal in that final.
Shapovalov started his 2020 season in style with top-10 wins over peers Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup, even taking a set from Djokovic there, but things rather went downhill after that. He beat Vasek Popsisil in the first round of Auckland, but lost to eventual champion Ugo Humbert in the quarterfinals, Marton Fucsovics in the first round of the Australian Open and enters Marseille on a four-match losing streak after defeats to Pospisil and Grigor Dimitrov in Montpellier and Rotterdam respectively.
The world no. 15, who is now coached by Mikhail Youzhny, would no doubt dearly love to end that losing streak and get some wins under his belt in Marseille this week before the spring indoors season is over and it’s time to head to the USA for Indian Wells and Miami – and Shapovalov has semifinal points to defend at the latter.
Marin Cilic is not the easiest opponent he could have drawn.
Cilic has never won the Open 13 Provence, but he has made the final twice: In 2011, losing to Robin Soderling, and on his last appearance in 2016 when he was defeated by Nick Kyrgios. The former world no. 3 has played some of his best tennis on indoor hard courts in his career; although his biggest titles – the US Open in 2014 and Cincinnati Masters in 2016 – have come on outdoor hard, Cilic has eight indoor hard-court titles to his credit including Basel in 2016, and has reached four ATP Tour finals on indoor hard courts to boot.
It’s not difficult to see why Cilic flourishes indoors, on fast courts which flatter his big serve and booming forehand and with no wind to disrupt his high ball toss.
The Croatian player’s ranking has slipped to world no. 39 in the wake of a difficult 2019 season during which he appeared troubled by a knee injury and generally struggling for focus and motivation. There may be signs of revival for the new father, however. Cilic went 2-1 at the ATP Cup but scored two good wins at the Australian Open over Benoit Paire and Roberto Bautista Agut, although he was not able to get so much as a set against Milos Raonic in the last 16; and although he has not played since, welcoming his first child with his wife, he had a pretty good 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over qualifier Ilya Ivashka in the first round.
Shapovalov won the last match he played against Cilic, beating him 6-4, 6-2 at Indian Wells last year – an exact reversal of the 6-4, 6-2 victory Cilic scored in Basel in 2018. On indoor hard courts, and with Shapovalov’s current form, a similar scoreline and outcome might be expected on Thursday.