A Three-and-a-Half-Hour Thriller, but the end was predictable

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The very moment you realized that Marin Cilic and Benoit Paire were set to clash in the Australian Open second round, you probably told yourself, “Oh, this has ‘Cilic narrowly over Paire in 5’ written all over it.” Well, this is exactly what happened as the Croatian emerged victorious 6-2, 6-7(6), 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3). We break down why.

For the third time in as many final set tiebreaks in 2020, Benoit Paire found himself on the losing end of the match.

And for the 25th time of his career, now the fifth-highest tally in the Open Era, Marin Cilic won a five-setter at a Grand Slam.

Predictable outcome

Does this mean that this match had ‘Cilic narrowly over Paire in 5’ written all over it? Well, that was arguably the most predictable outcome.

Despite having clinched Grand Slam champion status at the 2014 US Open and made two more Grand Slam finals since, Marin Cilic has kept on winning five-setters that he could have easily won in three or four sets — the same way Kei Nishikori leads the all-time best-of-3 win percentage ranking because he finds himself winning a lot of three-setters that he could have won in two.

Paire, a bad five-setter

As for Paire, a five-setter enthusiast in his own right (the match against Cilic was the 21st five-setter of his career), one could have sensed it would not end well based on his recent Grand Slam results the last two years.

The Frenchman almost always put on a fight, regardless of his opponent’s pedigree… but as if he lives by the five-setter, he often dies by the five-setter. This has now been the case six times out of his last ten Grand Slams.

2020 Australian Open: Marin Cilic d. Paire 6-2 6-7(6) 3-6 6-1 7-6(3)

2019 US Open: Aljaz Bedene d. (29)Paire 4-6 6-7(3) 6-2 7-5 7-6(4)

2019 Roland-Garros: Kei Nishikori d. Paire 6-2 6-7(10) 6-2 6-7(10) 7-5

2019 Australian Open: Dominic Thiem d. Paire 6-4 6-3 5-7 1-6 6-3

2018 Roland-Garros: Kei Nishikori d. Paire 6-3 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-3

2017 US Open: Mischa Zverev d. Paire 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-7(3) 7-5

The next time Marin Cilic and Benoit Paire meet at a not-so-reasonable European time, keep in mind that you can almost certainly skip forward to the fifth set.

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