Rublev had denied Novak Djokovic to win the Serbian’s home tournament in Belgrade, but had not won a set in any of his four previous visits to a Grand Slam quarter-final.
The 24-year-old had done it the hard way just to reach this stage.
He dropped a set in each of his four prior matches, including the fourth round in which he benefitted from the retirement of Jannik Sinner to a knee injury.
Story of the match
Rublev had claimed four of the pair’s six encounters but his 33-year-old opponent showed some of his brilliant hard-court best in a return to form at Melbourne Park when he rolled Rublev under lights in the third round in January.
Rublev could not wait to sink his teeth into this battle, needing to backtrack into the tunnel before his name was even called.
Windows of opportunity on the Cilic serve were sure to be few and far between and a razor sharp Rublev created two when he walloped a forehand cross-court on the run to elicit the first break points of the set.