Basel Flashback: Marin Cilic takes the title away from Roger Federer



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Basel Flashback: Marin Cilic takes the title away from Roger Federer

Struggling with a knee injury, Roger Federer had to skip the home ATP 500 event in Basel in 2016. That left the door open for the entire draw to chase the crown, with the first Basel title match without their favorite tennis star since 2005!

After four wins for each, Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori were the title contenders, with the Croat scoring a 6-1, 7-6 triumph in an hour and 38 minutes for the first Masters 1000 title. It was Marin's 16th title in a career and the second of the season after Cincinnati, scoring the fifth triumph over Kei in 12 encounters and the second of the season.

As he did for the entire week, the Croat played on a high level, controlling the pace with his aggressive shots and keeping Kei out of the comfort zone. Marin had 28 winners and 20 unforced errors, leaving the opponent on a 16-21 ratio and sealing the deal in straight sets despite a tight set number two.

Cilic forged the victory in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, fending off all three break and set chances and earning two breaks in set number one. They stayed close to each other in the mid-range exchanges, while Marin had a small edge in the most extended rallies, enduring the baseline battles with the Japanese and delivering his best tennis when it mattered the most to lift the trophy.

Cilic made the strongest start, storming over Nishikori to seize the opener in 25 minutes! The Croat hit 12 winners and three unforced errors, rattling off five straight games for a massive boost. Marin drew first blood in game four with a forehand down the line winner, earning a break and opening a 4-1 gap with a hold at 15.

A fantastic forehand crosscourt winner delivered another break for the Croat in game six, who fired a service winner a few minutes later for 6-1. Nishikori gave his best to get back on truck in set number two, fending off seven break chances in the opening five service games to remain in contention and open a 5-4 advantage.

Marin squandered three break opportunities in the first game and a couple more at 3-3. Returning in game nine, Cilic wasted two break points and that could have cost him dearly, offering three set points to the Japanese in the next one.

Staying focused, Marin saved them all and forced an error from Kei to bring the game home and level the score at 5-5 ahead of the tie break. At 3-3, Cilic landed two winners to build the advantage, sealing the deal following a double fault from Kei at 6-5 to lift the first trophy from the ATP 500 category.