Defending champion Marin Cilic got his game together in time to keep alive his hopes of a title defence at the Chennai Open here on Wednesday.
The world number 14 trailed by a set and a break to Spain’s Marcel Granollers when he decided to amp his game up. Cilic had beaten Granollers in straight sets in last year’s semifinal here, but found the going way tougher this time round.
Not a single break materialised in the first set as the Spaniard matched the defending champion ground stroke for ground stroke, staying with the second seed and forcing a tie-break.
A couple of mini breaks later — one of which was neutralised by Cilic — Granollers found himself on 5-3, when a fortuitous net cord gifted him a set point.
A moment later, Cilic sliced his backhand into the net and was left staring a one-set deficit in the face.
Five breaks of serve punctuated the second set. Granollers broke Cilic in the third and seventh game, but Cilic got the better of his serve in the fourth, sixth and eighth game — a decisive difference in set parlance.
All through, both players struggled with their first serves — Cilic found the mark 50 per cent of the time, while Granollers stayed content with 54 per cent.
The players swapped breaks in the decider, before Cilic went one up in the seventh game and held on to his advantage for a 6-4 verdict.
“He (Granollers) played well today, but I was able to raise my level my game as the match went on; it wasn’t easy.
“I didn’t lose concentration, but some calls appeared suspicious; we have to accept it,” said Cilic later.
In other second round action, Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic failed to add on to his first round seed-killing act over Simon Greul.
He went down in straight sets to Colombian Santiago Giraldo in the second round.
Hajek drew first blood, breaking Giraldo in the third game of the first set, but surrendered his own serve in the eighth and 10th games.
Slugging it out
The Czech had a superior first serve percentage — 73 per cent against Santiago’s 58 — but was unable to match his adversary’s comfort in slugging it out from the baseline.
The second set went on serve before Giraldo stepped up the pace in the sixth game, breaking Hajek to go 4-2 up. Another break in the eighth game gave Santiago a deserved straight-set win.
Meanwhile, T. de Bakker of the Netherlands put it across compatriot R. Hasse in straight sets.
Bakker attained the solitary first set break in the eighth game, and then survived a break-fest in the second to emerge a 6-4 victor.
In doubles, top seeds and defending champions Eric Butorac and Rajeev Ram of the United States were beaten in the first round by Y. Allegro and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
The results: Singles: Second Round: M. Cilic (Cro) bt M. Granollers (Esp) 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4; T. de Bakker (Ned) bt R. Haase (Ned) 6-3, 6-4; S. Giraldo (Col) bt J. Hajek (Cze) 6-4, 6-2.
Doubles: Y. Allegro (Sui) & S. Wawrinka (Sui) bt E. Butorac (USA) & R. Ram (USA) 3-6, 6-4, 10-5.