Cilic becomes sixth big name to depart Dubai

DUBAI: Marin Cilic, the sixth-seeded Australian Open semi-finalist, became the latest in a long line of leading players to fall by the wayside at the surprise-laden Dubai Open here on Thursday.

Cilic's 7-6 (10/8), 7-5 quarter-final loss to Jurgen Melzer, the world number 31 from Austria, left only Novak Djokovic remaining amongst the world's top ten.

Melzer next plays Mikhail Youzhny, the seventh-seeded Russian, who overcame a tired-looking giant-killer, Janko Tipsarevic, conqueror of third-seeded Andy Murray, by 6-3, 6-4.

Brilliant and clever though Melzer's performance was, the outcome extended the sequence of promotional blows for the two million dollar which usually contains all the leading names and has often come out top in popularity votes on the ATP World Tour.

But now the defeat of Cilic, one of the two youngest players at the very highest level, followed those of Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Gilles Simon, and the withdrawal of the unwell Roger Federer on Sunday.

It happened in a match in which, after half an hour, the 21-year-old Croatian looked odds on to progress, for he stood 4-1 up with two break points for a 5-1 lead.

Had Cilic converted either of those the match might well have taken a different course, for he had established a dangerous fluency with drives from both wings and into many angles, and looked set to dominate.

But Melzer attacked his way out of that corner and then set about breaking up Cilic's flow - serve-volleying more, standing back further while receiving first serve, and following his second serve returns into the net sometimes.

It was clever and it worked superbly.

"I had to change something," Melzer said. "He was better in the first 25 minutes, but I managed to break his rhythm."

Despite this Melzer had to save a set point at 7-6 in the tie-break, coming up with a heavy first serve which set up a comfortable forehand drive-kill, and to save a break point when he went 30-40 down on his serve at 5-5 in the second set.

At that moment Melzer was saved by a fraction of an inch and a disagreement over a line decision. A line judge called 'out' to the Austrian's drive, which landed in the baseline area, but the umpire immediately over-ruled it.

When Cilic then appealed to a Hawkeye replay, the ball was shown to have caught the back edge of the line, causing the rally to be replayed.

Even then Cilic was close to breaking serve on that same point, for he had a great chance to reach the net in a strong position but left his approach slightly short. Melzer took advantage tough-mindedly by making a blazing pass.

The disappointment may have undone Cilic, for he was soon at 30-40, match point down on his serve. Melzer kept him under steady pressure for long enough to convert the chance at the first attempt, causing Cilic to over-hit.

Asked if he now thought he could reach the eighth ATP World Tour final of his career, Melzer replied: "Well, of course, I think if you win three matches in two sets and beat (Tommy) Robredo and Cilic back-to-back, you have to be confident. I'm really looking forward."