The Croatian, who defeated American Taylor Fritz 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 to lift the trophy, became just the sixth active player to claim 20 tour-level titles. The only other men who have achieved the feat are Roger Federer (103), Rafael Nadal (88), Novak Djokovic (85), Andy Murray 46) and Juan Martin del Potro (22).
The last time Cilic competed in St. Petersburg before this week was in 2011, when he also emerged victorious. This was his fourth title in Russia, having also earned the crown in Moscow twice (2014-15).
A decade later, Cilic is back in the St. Petersburg winners’ circle 👏
— ATP Tour (@atptour) October 31, 2021
Last week, the former World No. 3 fell one win short of triumphing in Moscow. And it appeared after letting slip a set-and-a-break advantage that he might lose another final in Russia.
But Cilic never stopped fighting, and he rallied from a break down in the deciding set to win after two hours and 23 minutes. The 33-year-old hit 12 aces and won 78 per cent of his first-serve points in his victory.
For much of the match, Cilic was the more aggressive player, and that allowed him to control rallies against Fritz. But on the two occasions he led by a break in the second set, the World No. 35 began misfiring with his forehand, allowing the American back into the match.
Fritz stormed ahead in the decider, using his power and depth to maintain the momentum. But he was unable to finish the job. After getting back on serve, Cilic took advantage of a Fritz double fault on break point at 4-4 to move ahead. And this time, the Croatian did not let slip his opportunity, putting away a forehand volley on championship point before leaping into the air with a big fist pump.