Nadal and Cilic win their first grass court matches of the season

Rafael Nadal played his first singles match on grass in 2015 (photo: Mercedes Cup/Paul Zimmer)

STUTTGART, June 11, 2015

The remaining four second round matches were played on Day 4 of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart with the two top-seeds headlining the action.

The tournament’s number one Rafael Nadal has returned to the capital of Baden-Wurttemberg for the first time since winning the title here in 2007. Ahead of Wimbledon, the Spaniard wants to play two tournaments on the green this year, starting in Stuttgart this week and continuing at London’s Queen’s Club.

In his first encounter after Nadal’s 39-match winning streak at Roland Garros had been snapped by Novak Djokovic last week, the world number 10 beat Marcos Baghdatis 7-6, 6-7, 6-2. In an even affair, Nadal was more effective on break point opportunities converting four of his seven chances. A lack of match practice on grass was obvious, but the former world number one fought until the end and emerged victorious after two hours and 40 minutes.

“I am very happy to be through. The first match on grass has never been easy and Marcos is a great player. It is an important victory for me reaching the quarterfinals now,” Nadal told afterwards but added that there are also things to improve.

“I need to play more aggressively, in particular with the return. I practiced a lot and it was a long match today, which hopefully helps. I have good memories with Stuttgart and the courts are great. For me it is just a bit sad to see that it is grass now, but I think changing the surface was the right decision for the tournament,” said the two time champion of the Mercedes Cup on clay.

Rafael Nadal is playing in Stuttgart for the first time since 2007 (photo: Mercedes Cup)

Rafael Nadal is playing in Stuttgart for the first time since 2007 (photo: Mercedes Cup)

In the round of the final eight, Nadal will face Bernard Tomic. The Stuttgart native, ended the comeback tournament of Tommy Haas, who played his first event within one year, winning 7-6, 6-2. The fifth-seeded Australian didn’t have to face a break point and won 89% of his first service points to seal victory in one hour and 16 minutes.

“I was down 6-4 in the tie-break and managed to hit an unbelievable pass,” said Tomic. “That was the turning point; I managed to hit the right shot at the right time. In the second set, I felt like I played the right tennis and played really well. Match by match I’m getting better, which is the most important thing I think.”

Bernard Tomic advanced to the quarterfinals in Stuttgart

Bernard Tomic advanced to the quarterfinals in Stuttgart

Second seed Marin Cilic defeated lucky loser Matthias Bachinger winning 7-6, 6-3. The 26-year-old Croat is playing his only eighth tournament of the season since returning from a right shoulder injury, which kept him sidelined for the first two months. Cilic fired 11 aces to seal victory in one hour and 28 minutes to reach his third quarterfinal of the season.

“I am pretty ok with my performance today. Matthias played well in the first set. It took some time to adjust to the conditions. Balls bounces differently, rallies are shorter, but that is usual when you play your first match on grass,” Cilic told after his victory.

“It was a long day. Waiting for the last match is never easy. Rafa’s match was pretty long and I waited in the locker room trying to remain focused as good as possible,” the current US-Open champion said about his preparation for the final match of the day on centre court.

Cilic will take on Mischa Zverev next. The German qualifier celebrated his fifth victory in a row, beating Andreas Seppi 6-2, 6-4. Zverev saved the only two break points he faced and capitalized on three of his own to advance to his first quarterfinal of the season after one hour and 16 minutes.