Soderling beats Cilic in Open 13 final
MARSEILLE, France (AP)
Robin Soderling of Sweden beat Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-3 Sunday in the final of the Open 13 to earn his ninth career title.
The top-seeded Swede has now won 17 of 18 matches this year, clinching titles in Rotterdam last weekend and in Brisbane last month.
"It's just an amazing feeling," Soderling told Sport Plus television. "I won nine (titles) in my career and three of them are won in one-and-a-half months, so it's unbelievable."
Soderling slammed an ace clocked at 134 mph to set up three match points, and the Swede converted the first with a forehand winner down the line.
The unseeded Cilic got off to a better start, breaking Soderling in the opening game and holding serve with an ace to lead 2-0.
Soderling broke back in the eighth game and saved four set points in the tiebreaker, but Cilic converted the fifth when a backhand return from Soderling sailed wide.
"I'm a little bit disappointed," Cilic said. "I was there on top of him after that first set. I was playing really well."
In the second set, Soderling struggled in his first service game, and began grumbling and looking to his coach, Claudio Pistolesi, sitting in the stands.
The French Open finalist then slammed his racket against the ground after netting a forehand return in the third game, but he regained his composure to produce a backhand return winner to break for a 2-1 lead.
Yet, Soderling made a couple of unforced errors to let Cilic rally to 3-3.
Cilic dropped serve in the next game as Soderling hit a forehand pass down the line to lead 4-3, leading the Swede to jump in the air and clench his fist.
"In that seventh game, the match a little bit changed to (his advantage)," Cilic said. "I had chances there. After that, he started to play better and I lost myself a little bit in the game. It was tough to come back."
Soderling leveled at one set apiece when Cilic hit an approach shot wide.
In the final set, Soderling whipped a backhand pass down the line to create three break chances in the sixth game. He converted the first when Cilic netted a backhand to lead 4-2.
Soderling held serve with a service winner clocked at 136 mph to go 5-2 up.
"I really have good memories from this tournament," said Soderling, who lost the Open 13 final in 2004. "I love to play here. Now, finally I have the title, it feels unbelievable."
Soderling beat Cilic at the French Open last year in their only previous meeting.
"I have to be very pleased with the performance during the week," Cilic said. "It's a start for me. I hope it's not a finish. Big tournaments are coming now. So I think this was a great preparation for me."
Cilic broke into the top 10 a year ago but has struggled since then to be consistent, slipping to 28th in the world rankings.