Australian Open finalist cruises at Kooyong ahead of Grand Slam

Vastavam web: Last year’s Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic rounded off his preparations for this year’s edition in style Thursday, winning his second match in as many days at the Kooyong Classic. With the first Grand Slam of the season starting on Monday, every opportunity is important for the Croatian, who went down in a battle to Roger Federer in the Melbourne Park decider in 2018. The world number seven beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-4, backing up his three-set victory a day before over world No. 6 Kevin Anderson.

Earlier, American Jack Sock lost to fast-rising Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 3-6, 10-7 after a final set played as a 10-point tiebreak — the format which will be used at the Australian Open from Monday. Ahead of the Australian Open last year, Sock was at a career-high eighth in the world rankings, but after a horror season he has plunged outside the top 100 and is desperate to turn it around.

His form slump has been dramatic. He played 31 singles matches in 2018, winning a mere nine. “I had some pretty low moments last year, it was horrendous,” said Sock. “I did a lot of regrouping in the off-season, talking to family, team members, coaches. “I’m trying to take a positive outlook. I know the level that I can play the game, where my game should be.”

“It’s nice to be able to fly under the radar and do my own thing.” Shapovalov, 19, made up for lost time after losing in the first round at Auckland this week and then crossing the Tasman to squeeze into the Kooyong draw as a late entry. “It’s great to be here and get another match, fire a few balls,” the world No.27 said. “It’s another chance to get the match feel.