Cilic braces for tough Thiem in Brisbane

Having disposed of one tyro, Croatian Marin Cilic has his sights set on tearing down another after booking his spot in the Brisbane International’s final eight.

Third seed Cilic earned a hard-fought straight sets 7-5 7-6 (7-3) victory over Korean teenager Hyeon Chung to move into the tournament’s quarter-finals at the Queensland Tennis Centre.

He will face rising Austrian star Dominic Thiem, the eighth seed in Brisbane and the youngest player in the ATP top 20, who rolled American Denis Kudla in less than an hour with a quickfire 6-3 6-2 win earlier on Wednesday.

Cilic, the 2014 US Open winner, has never played Thiem before but has practised with the prodigious 22-year-old, who broke through on tour last year with three ATP titles, and knows what to expect.

“I think he’s going to definitely come up with some big shots, big serves. He can play extremely well. I have to be ready for that,” Cilic said.

“I have to just be focused on my game and try to play the best I can my own part of the court.

“Physically I was really, really good. I’m feeling positive for the rest of the week, too.”

Backing up from his three-set defeat of James Duckworth on Tuesday, Thiem’s serve was well and truly on point against Kudla in a sign of what Cilic can expect in their quarter-final.

Thiem didn’t face a single break point and smashed seven aces in total, wrapping up his comprehensive victory in just 56 minutes.

The other man through to the next stage in Brisbane is former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori, who will next face either Australia’s Bernard Tomic or Czech veteran Radek Stepanek.

The Japanese star extended his career record against Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin to 4-0 with a professional 6-3 6-4 victory on Pat Rafter Arena.

“I think he really started well. He was playing aggressive, great backhand, and I tried it mix up,” Nishikori said.

Nishikori, a two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist, will be aiming to go at least one step further than his past three visits to Brisbane, which have all ended in semi-final defeat.

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