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Tennis

Cilic ends Djokovic reign at Paris Masters

Marin Cilic had not beaten Novak Djokovic in 14 meetings stretching back eight years.
Marin Cilic had not beaten Novak Djokovic in 14 meetings stretching back eight years. Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

If Andy Murray wins the Paris Masters title on Sunday, he may well be tempted to add the name Marin - or perhaps even Marina - to the birth certificate his next child. For Murray to become the first British world number one on Monday, 7 November 2016, two things needed to happen.

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The current top man Novak Djokovic had to lose before the final of a tournament he’d won three years on the trot and Murray had to claim the crown at the Bercy arena for the first time.

The former happened in spectacular fashion on Friday night.

Djokovic capitulated in straight sets in the quarter-finals to Marin Cilic. It was the first time he had lost to the 28-year-old Croat in 15 meetings.

Cilic, who will play the American John Isner in Saturday's semi-final, took the first set 6-4 after 45 minutes. Mid way through the opener, Djokovic required treatment from the tournament doctor, Bernard Montalvan, for a niggle on his right arm and he appeared unable to hit with his customary fluidity.

But after staving off two break points at the start of the second set, he squandered a couple of chances to break in the fifth game.

However he eventually reaped his rewards. He served for the second set at 5-4 but fluffed the occasion serving a double fault to trail 15-40 and then another to yield the game. "I was not at the level that I could have been on," Djokovic conceded after the match. "I was in a good position to take the match into a third set but as the double faults show, at the important moments, I wasn't able to deliver."

Reprieved at 5-5, Cilic hardly exuded confidence but held serve to edge 6-5 ahead. Djokovic normally so calm and composed blundered forehands into the net to offer up two match points. One was saved at the net and another was dashed away with a forehand bludgeon down the line.

He turned, smiled and raised both arms to simultaneously lap and whip up the acclaim.
Houdini was out and about as a service winner made it 6-6.

His fall in the subsequent tie-break was as vapid as the previous game's salvage operation was muscular.

Cilic’s serve was the more menacing beast in the shoot-uut – a factor he acknowledged after the match.”It’s a special moment for me to win against Novak after all this time,” said the Croat. “It was a tough mental battle. I managed to do a few things that I normally haven’t been able to do against him. I served well. There was a big percentage of first serves and that always helps my game.”

Hailing Djokovic’s resilience on the brink of defeat, Cilic added: “He hit two unbelievable shots on the match points but I was able to stay focused for the tie-break.”

There may be an opportunity  for revenge in 10 days in London. Both men are due to play in the end of season championships.

Djokovic is the defending champion in London. But he might head to the 2016 tournament in a position unknown for the past 122 weeks - world number two.

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