PUNE: Croat Marin Cilic is the lone Grand Slam winner taking part in the season-opening ATP 250 Series Tata Open here at the Balewadi Tennis Complex, and this genuine shot-maker is hoping to get enough preparation to challenge the best in the business at the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open in Melbourne starting on January 15.
“I have come here to play in singles mainly as I want to do well in Melbourne,” said Cilic, who heads to Kooyong Classic in Australia to get acclimatize with the weather conditions.
Asked whether there was the burden of expectations on him when players such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are in the twilight of their careers, have kept raising the bar, Cilic said he remains unfazed by their exploits, which actually spurs him to do well.
“Over the years we have seen so many changes in Nadal’s serve and forehand and now he is adapting to an entirely different style of play.”
“Last year he improved on his second serve speeds. Roger has been improving his backhand. For me, it is a challenge but also a great time to play amongst them. It is going to be extremely exciting to go into this new season,” Cilic, who made it to Wimbledon final last year, added.
Cilic had a great season in 2017 as he achieved his career-best ranking of No. 4 in October. But the loss in the Wimbledon final, while suffering from a blister on his right foot, and a deflating performance in the ATP World Tour finals, where he lost all three round-robin matches, made it less than special.
“I got a mentally bit tired, I guess towards the end of the season. I had played a lot of tennis. Since the US Open, I had played the Davis Cup, Laver Cup and Asian tour. So I felt a bit drained mentally. So in a way, I learnt a lesson to be a little bit smarter with my scheduling,” said Cilic.
“In that grass season, I was in every possible way the best I could ever be,” Cilic said. “I had had a great clay season, then made the Queen’s final and then had a great run at Wimbledon. Unfortunately, I was not able to play at my best in the final.”