Croatian big server Marin Cilic knocked out compatriot Ivan Ljubicic with a dominant 6-4, 6-3 victory to march into the final at the China Open here on Saturday.
The 23-year-old Clilic, ranked 25th in the ATP Tour, powered 13 aces through the match, four more than his opponent. He converted three of his nine break points, and at the same time saved all of his own seven break points to win the match.
"Today was really a tough match, especially that first set," said Cilic, who lost both of the two's previous meetings before Saturday. "I would say that Ivan was mixing up his second serve today in the first set really well, and that enabled me to play better on his second serve."
"I lost my last two meetings to Ivan. That one in Wimbledon was also a close one, but today's match I came with I think better preparation than that time," added Cilic.
Sunday's final would be Cilic's third final show in the 2011 season. However, the top ranking Croat, who pocketed at least one title in past three years, was still in want of an ATP champion in 2011. Cilic would next face either top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or the third seed Tomas Berdych at the final on Sunday.
"Looking forward for tomorrow's match depending on the opponent, but both guys (Tsonga and Berdych) are big hitters, and they are very dangerous when they are on their way," said Cilic about the final.
"But I have my chances, and I'm pretty confident in my baseline game and the things I did this week."
Both players held their serve in the first eight games. Cilic met huge pressure at the sixth game in which Ljubicic got two break points in hand, but Cilic managed to survive both of them to level the score to 3-3.
Cilic found a chance in the ninth game, completing the first break in the match to take a 5-4 lead. Then the former world No. 9 held his serve to win the first set 6-4.
The second set went on more or less the same as the first one. Cilic strengthened his serves, while 32-year-old Ljubicic struggled with his returns. Cilic made another two breaks in the second set to end the match 6-3.
Two years ago in 2009, Cilic advanced into final at the same tournament, only to swallow a defeat from current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. However, the Croat bounced back by starting the 2010 season with his first Grand Slam semifinal show at Australian Open. Afterwards, he broke into Top 10 on Feb. 1, then reached a career-high No.9 and spent 11 weeks in Top 10. After making into the China Open final, Cilic was again expected to make a prosperous start in the next season.
"I think I play better," commented Cilic about his recent form. "Just thinking about the next season, I think it's really important to have my form all the time pretty consistent and to have it on the rise and try to play a lot of tournaments and a lot of the matches."