LONDON – Marin Cilic powered into his fourth Queen's Club final as the Croatian won the battle of the big servers with a 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) victory over Nick Kyrgios on Saturday.
Cilic is bidding to win the Wimbledon warm-up event for the second time after lifting the trophy in 2012 and finishing as runner-up in 2013 and 2017. It will be Cilic's second final of 2018 following his defeat against Roger Federer at the Australian Open in January.
The world number six, who was also beaten by Federer in last year's Wimbledon final, lost the ace race against Kyrgios, with the Australian hitting 16 to Cilic's 11. But Cilic held his nerve in two tie-breaks and punished a handful of key errors from Kyrgios. Cilic will face former world number one Novak Djokovic or France's Jeremy Chardy in Sunday's final.
"It's so special to play here. I've played great tennis throughout this week and have another shot at the title," Cilic said.
"Nick is serving so good so it was tough to get any break points. I was maybe a bit more lucky in those situations and composed. I'll be ready for the final, I'm definitely going to give my best for a trophy."
As expected, the semi-final was tense and tight with serve holding sway. Former US Open champion Cilic had held serve in 33 of his 34 games going into the last four, while Kyrgios exited the tournament with 98 aces.
This week, Kyrgios had become the first player to hit over 30 aces in successive matches since Ivan Ljubicic in 2007. But the 23-year-old hadn't won a match on the lawns of Barons Court before ruining Andy Murray's return from injury in the first round. And Cilic's extra big-game experience on grass eventually proved decisive.
Kyrgios was in typically brash mood, entertaining the crowd with his aces, flamboyant winners and salty on-court language. He had insisted he didn't care that the BBC had to apologise for his foul language in a previous match and once again he turned the air blue with expletives after a miscued shot in the first set.
In one eye-catching game, the world number 21 smashed three successive aces, then hit a spectacular shot between his legs while advancing to the net. Inevitably, it took a tie-break to settle the first set and it was Kyrgios who cracked with a crucial missed forehand gifting Cilic the lead.
Kyrgios fatally malfunctioned on serve with a double-fault in the second set tie-break and Cilic gleefully seized the chance to seal his win.