DUBAI // Marin Cilic, the 6ft 6in Croatian with the blistering serve and booming forehand, overpowered Arnaud Clement of France 6-2, 6-4 in the first round yesterday. Cilic, 21, is ranked No 9 in the world after winning two of his three tournaments this season and reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Before his success at the ATP Zagreb indoor tournament nearly three weeks ago, he announced that he was working with his compatriot Goran Ivanisevic - the former Wimbledon and Davis Cup champion. And on yesterday's showing, the former coach of the Croatian team showed that he is honing his protégé's talents.
Cilic continued the form that has seen him lead the ATP World Tour with a 15-1 match record by dictating Clement, the seasoned veteran, from the first game at the Aviation Club. Receiving service, the sixth seed quickly broke the Frenchman without dropping a point and after displaying some exemplary tennis, secured a second love-game in the eighth to close out the set with a phenomenal ace that had Clement, the world No 67, walking off the court before the ball even bounced.
"I was winning my service games pretty easily," said Cilic, whose serve regularly broke the 200kph barrier. "Goran and I worked on that; it should help me. He, of course, knows some things and he always has refreshing ideas. It is good for me to listen to his advice. It has been helpful." In the second set, Clement was showing signs of frustration, smashing the ball deliberately into the afternoon crowd.
When he found himself facing two break-points in the fifth game, he rallied to deuce, but Cilic again gained advantage with a powerful cross-court forehand. The 32-year-old Frenchman then proceeded to double-fault for the game and the writing was on the wall. Clement, understandably, struggled to deal with the Croatian's serve but did, in the final game, put his opponent on the back foot. With Cilic serving for the match and having secured a flawless service game on his previous period at the baseline, the contest appeared over. But Clement showed his teeth to race to a 40-0 lead and put Cilic under pressure for the first time in the match.
However, once again, the serve secured the set - and in splendid style, hitting four aces after facing five break-points to finish the Frenchman. "I was pretty happy I won that last game. It wasn't easy for me to get the rhythm and he was a little off and on, hitting some good balls, but then also missing," said Cilic, who revealed he also believes his serve can improve further. Improving a serve that produced 13 aces from nine service games is ominous news for any future opponents, starting with Austria's Stefan Koubek today. Koubek, ranked No 135 in the world, defeated the two-time Dubai finalist Feliciano Lopez on Monday.
Elsewhere, the Indian qualifier Somdev Devvarman also reached the second round and a meeting with Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis after overcoming Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 7-5. @Email:email@example.com