AAP Tennis

Tomic falls to Cilic in Australian Open

By AAP Newswire

Bernard Tomic's return to the Australian Open has been short, losing a first-round clash with 2018 finalist, Marin Cilic.

The sixth seed defeated the rejuvenated Queenslander 6-2 6-4 7-6 (7-3) in two hours and three minutes on Monday night.

Tomic, who failed to qualify for last year's event, struggled with the big-serving Croatian's power game on his return to his home slam.

The 26-year-old might have been a straight-sets loser but was dignified in his performance against one of world tennis' powerhouses.

Cilic crushed 24 aces and 56 winners on Margaret Court Arena, keeping Tomic at arm's length and not allowing the reformed bad boy to get his staccato game rolling.

"Definitely it's always really tricky to play Bernard ... he jerks you around the court.," Cilic said.

"I started to feel he was starting to play great so it's good to get through the tiebreak."

Tomic showed fight in the first set, rallying from 0-40 down in a marathon eighth game only to fall to a superb return winner from Cilic to lose it.

The Australian had chances to break at 2-2 and 4-4 in the second set, Cilic again stepping up his game to lead two sets to love.

The match looked a foregone conclusion at 5-2 in the fifth before Tomic showed pluck to break back and force a tiebreak.

By this stage, the rowdy Melbourne Park crowd was firmly behind Tomic, who was carrying none of the baggage that has seemingly dogged his career.

The match's crucial point came at 4-3 in the tiebreak, when Tomic had the chance to pass Cilic at the net, only for the Croatian to pull out a superb drop volley at full-stretch to take control.

Cilic moves on to a second-round clash with American Mackenzie McDonald on Wednesday.