Late-night Cilic sets up Anderson showdown in Florida

Sun Feb 23, 2014 2:04am EST
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(Reuters) - Croatian Marin Cilic continued his recent run of sizzling form by overpowering John Isner 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 in a late-night showdown to advance to the Delray Beach Open final against South Africa's Kevin Anderson.

Seventh seed Cilic made it through to a third final in as many weeks when he emerged victorious in a battle of big servers against American Isner in a rain-delayed semi-final that did not start until close to midnight on Saturday.

Fourth seed Anderson had no such delays in the first semi and was on and off the court in a flash after easing past a nervous American qualifier Steve Johnson 6-2 6-4 in the afternoon in south Florida.

When the second semi-final finally got underway, Cilic's first serve was almost unplayable but he could not convert any of his four break points against Isner in the first set, which went to a tiebreak on the hardcourt surface.

Isner won the first three points but Cilic stormed back to take the next five and ultimately the set.

Cilic quickly broke Isner in the second set and continued to serve strongly, closing out the contest just before 1 a.m. on Sunday.

"It's been probably the best three weeks I've played in my life," Cilic, who won in Zagreb a fortnight ago before losing in the final last week in Rotterdam, told reporters.

"With John, you have to be careful always with his big serve (but) maybe John was struggling a little bit with his neck or back. He wasn't hitting his first serve as big as usual."

Johnson, meanwhile, steamrolled his way to his first ATP semi-final, knocking off top seed Tommy Haas along the way, but his fairytale run ended against the immovable force of Anderson.   Continued...

Marin Cilic of Croatia hits a backhand against Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic during their final match the ABN AMRO tennis tournament in Rotterdam February 16, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Vreeker/United Photos