By Clare Lovell
LONDON (Reuters) – Lofty Croat Marin Cilic demolished Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 6-2 6-2 at Wimbledon on Monday, doing the damage on distant Court 12 with his pounding serve and thumping forehand.
The 28-year-old seventh seed has reached the quarter-finals this year almost under the radar with straight-set victories over solid opponents Philipp Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer and Steve Johnson, before downing Bautista Agut, who is ranked a healthy 19th in the world.
But the Spaniard looked way out of his depth against the 1.98m (6 ft 6 in) Cilic, who used every centimeter of his height on the fast surface to serve nine aces and whack 39 winners past his opponent, who stands 15 cm shorter.
“You have everywhere advantages and disadvantages,” Cilic said of his size and reach. “(It’s) just the way you take them and tennis is a game that is extremely complex and you can play it any way you want, so you have to obviously use your advantages well.”
Court 12 is billed as a show court, but it is a small arena well to the south of the All England Club ground and away from the hurly burly of the central stages.
Cilic, a former U.S. Open champion, clearly thrived out of the limelight, wrapping up the match in a brisk one hour 40 minutes.
Bautista Agut tried everything, looking for tight angles on groundstrokes and attempting dropshots. He even tried to finish a long rally in the second set with a lob only to see Cilic jump up and win the point with a high backhand volley.
The in-form Croat, runner-up at the Queen’s Club warm-up tournament last month, wobbled a little as he served for a place in the last eight, with the Spaniard saving three match points.
But Cilic sealed the match on the fourth with a big serve that Bautista Agut could only parry into the net.
It is the fourth time in a row that Cilic has reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals and he has rarely looked more comfortable.
“With all the parts of my game…the level is, I would say, quite solid,” Cilic said.
“Considering that, (I’m) returning well, serving well. I’m moving on the court really good. So with everything, really satisfied.”
Cilic has spent nearly a year with coach Jonas Bjorkman, who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2006, and said the Swede had helped add “small pieces” to his game.
“He has helped me also a little bit with the mental attitude. We worked also on my serve as also on the other shots. I feel it’s getting much more consistent now and also following up after the serve has been working so well.”
He will meet Rafa Nadal or Gilles Muller in the last eight on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Clare Lovell; editing by Mark Heinrich and Pritha Sarkar)