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Marin Cilic smashed 33 aces and crunched 35 forehand winners during a pulsating five-set victory over the seventh seed Andrey Rublev on Wednesday to reach the semi-final for the first time at the French Open.
The 33-year-old Croatian, seeded 20th, won 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 after four hours and 10 minutes of high quality interchanges.
Cilic, who claimed the US Open in 2014, set out his intentions from the outset.
He opted for power against an opponent who had won four of their previous six meetings.
Rublev, seeking to reach the semi-final for the first time at a Grand Slam tournament, took the first set but Cilic started clocking up the aces and the service winners as he swept through the second and third sets.
But a sloppy game trying to level at 4-4 in the fourth cost him dearly as the 24-year-old Russian snatched the break to lead 5-3 and he served out to set up the decider.
Another big forehand furnished Cilic with a match point in the ninth game but Rublev held firm to level at 5-5.
Some powerful serving from Cilic allowed him to escape from break point down in the next game to maintain his dream of reaching the last four in Paris for the first time in 16 visits.
The first final set super tiebreak to be contested on the centre court since the introduction of the rule this year was the polar opposite of what had transpired for the previous four hours.
It was one-way traffic from 2-2.
Rublev threw his racquet to the ground after Cilic had dispatched a 35th forehand winner to make it 6-2.
A 33rd ace took it to 7-2 and when it was 8-2, Rublev, aware the jig was up, just smiled wryly over the net in disbelief at his adversary, eyes yearning for pity.
Mercy came two points later.
"The fifth set was incredible," Cilic told on-court interviwer Alex Corretja. "There was lots of heart in it. I knew I had to keep my level high because Andrey is an incredible player but today was my day."
Cilic will play the winner of the night session match between the eighth seed Casper Ruud from Norway or the unseeded Danish teenager Holger Rune who is playing in his first French Open.