Marin Cilic was gifted an advantage in his French Open quarter-final by a rival who put his own morals above the result in Paris.
Croatia’s Marin Cilic said it was a “great achievement” as he joined Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in becoming only the fifth active player to make the semi-finals at all four Grand Slams.
Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, fired 33 aces past seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev to reach his first French Open semi-final with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10/2) win.
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He also crashed 88 winners in the four-hour, 10-minute tie and will play eighth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway for a place in Sunday’s final.
“Absolutely fantastic achievement for me. To be mentioned among them,” said 33-year-old Cilic.
“I’m feeling great on the court, enjoying myself, being me, playing my own game. It’s paying off, and I am enjoying the run.”
Rublev, playing in his fifth quarter-final at the majors, grabbed the first set but wilted under a Cilic barrage over the next two.
The Croatian had stunned world number two Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round and he rediscovered that free-swinging assault to level the contest with a 17th ace on a fifth set point.
He pocketed the third with a lone break in the seventh game. Rublev, who had been knocked out of the Australian Open by Cilic in January, battled back with a crucial break in the eighth game of the fourth set.
Cilic, the 2017 Wimbledon and 2018 Australian Open runner-up to Federer, had a match point saved in the ninth game of the decider but then swept through the super tiebreaker.
Rublev showed great sportsmanship in the fifth set, helping his rival when he knew it could hurt him dearly. At 1-1, a Cilic drop shot was called out, and the chair umpire stuck with the call after coming down to check the ball mark.
Cilic protested at the net, saying: “No! No! No! No! Please!
“Please! No! No! No! The ball is touching the line. The ball is touching the line! Please!”
The umpire wasn’t going to change her mind but Rublev told the umpire the ball did indeed touch the line and conceded the point.
Cilic held his racquet up and applauded his rival, but replays showed the ball was actually out, meaning Rublev gave away a point for no reason. Tennis legend John McEnroe was stunned.
“It is interesting because Rublev circled a mark that looked to be out, but then he turned around and gave it to Cilic,” McEnroe said.
“I don’t even know how to respond to that, but nicely done!
“He originally circled a mark that presumably showed that it was out. But anyway.”
The Russian was at it again in the tiebreak. Cilic delivered what he thought was an ace, only for it to be called a fault. The umpire came down once more but Rublev saved her the trouble, and acknowledged the ball was good, conceding another point.
Cilic praised Rublev for his sportsmanship after the match. “Andrey played incredibly well, it was an incredibly fair-play performance on the court,” he said.
Tennis writer Ricky Dimon tweeted: “Great sportsmanship by Rublev, which may cost him a first Grand Slam semi-final.”