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An Interview With: Marin Cilic

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Q. Nice win. Semifinals of the US Open. First time. Just talk about what you're feeling right now.

MARIN CILIC: Thank you. Yeah, it was a great performance today, I would say. Was very tricky with the conditions. Very gusty. I mean, for both of us. We are big guys. Not easy to deal with the wind and with, I mean, the ball moving in the air. I felt that I was using the wind a bit better today. Just considering the conditions and the opening of the match went in my side, that sort of relaxed me a bit more. I felt that I'm in a good driving seat and that Tomas was all the time catching me and I was serving good in the right moments. So, yeah, it feels great to be in the semis first time after three tries in quarterfinals. Lost both times to eventual winners. Just feels great to be here.

Q. Where were you during the US Open last year? What were you thinking during that time?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, I was back in Croatia and I was training. I was preparing for a time when I'm going to play. Definitely, I mean, it was a difficult period. I didn't know when I'm going to start back. But was also good period for me. I matured a bit more and I was working day after day. I wasn't, you know, relaxing and doing nothing. So I think that helped me to improve physically. Also, it helped me to have, you know, enough time to put some new parts in my game, which are helping me to play this good now.

Q. Did you ever envision during that time that you would be in the semifinals as quickly as you are?

MARIN CILIC: I was feeling already at that time that I was improving. I improved a lot. But when you come to the tournaments, when you start the season, it's completely different atmosphere. It's completely different things than when you're playing on the practice court. I felt that I needed just a couple of months to adjust with the game. Even though I had great success beginning of the year, I felt that I started to play really well somewhere from French Open. Since then I think the things are in good place for me and moving really, really good with everything.

Q. What happened to you last year, have you used that as motivation? Or have you just put it behind you and moved on?

MARIN CILIC: In that period, I have used it, I mean, to work hard, to do everything what I can. Of course was a huge motivation for me when I came back. I felt that I was more happy. Like if I would compare it with the times before, I was more enjoying much more in the tennis court and still working hard for it. I was, I felt, more tougher with myself in preparations and during the matches just clearer with my goals.

Q. You know what it's like to have tennis taken away from you.

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, yeah. So it feels, you know -- it's worth more now.

Q. So you had this really tough thing happen to you. You were a popular, successful pro. When you were sidelined, what was your thinking? Did you have a lot of anger? Did you just accept it? How did you mature?

MARIN CILIC: Well, I mean, it angered me how all the process went because it was not fair to me. It wouldn't be fair to any tennis player. So that was just very bad memories. But, you know, when you're against big organizations you are small hand. You can't do much. So I just accepted it. When I came back to tennis court I erased it from my memory. I just used the positive parts, which, you know, made me tougher. I felt that I was more, you know, directed to the goals I want and just with a great atmosphere in my team. I feel it helped me to gain much more in all different areas.

Q. Have you spoken to Viktor, and do you think there is a drug problem in our sport?

MARIN CILIC: I mean, I have spoke with Viktor in April. I have seen him, but I haven't seen him since he started to play. He was in Europe. I mean, he also had extremely difficult period. I mean, he wasn't positive on a test and got suspended for a year. That's, I mean, difficult to understand. But, I mean, I don't think there is drugs in our sport. I feel that it's pretty safe.

Q. Can you give a little preview what you expect to see tonight in the Monfils/Federer match?

MARIN CILIC: I mean, they played in Cincinnati. Over there I think they played, and over there I felt that it was similar. They played also night match. I feel that, I mean, when Federer is playing well -- Monfils is more defensive kind of player. Serves big. I think it's gonna be more about how is Roger gonna play. If he's gonna play well, I think Gaël is going to have big trouble. But, you know, it's very difficult conditions. It's very windy. You know, you never know with Gaël. He can play amazing.

Q. Going back to your previous answer, you said the process was unfair. Could you explain in what way it was unfair or how you weren't treated properly?

MARIN CILIC: Well, I mean, first, a notification letter what they have sent me they sent me that I was positive to a substance which I wasn't. That proved to be one of the main things that were talked about in the hearing and that, you know, I was released basically. On the day of the decision it was already four months past, so it was basically like they were giving me zero. That was difficult to understand, why it happened like that and why. I haven't gotten any explanation for that. I mean, for me there was nothing much I could do because they played with the rules and they used it for their advantage.

Q. Did you miss a lot of tennis in that period of struggling? Or in a way you said, Well, it's the destiny. You take it like fate or nothing you can do against a big power and I will survive?

MARIN CILIC: I missed a lot of tennis, for sure. I mean, you are all the time on the tour from one day to another and you are not anymore on the tour. It was just very difficult even to deal with that. But I sort of didn't think about that too much. I was training all the time. You know, I had good times as well off the court, so that was positive.

Q. Other players don't like you to compare, but do you think you're playing the best tennis of your career right now? If yes, what are the things you have been improving since last year?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, I feel I'm playing probably the best tennis of my career. I think what helped me also was the consistent play over last five, six months. This year I haven't lost too many matches against guys who are lower ranked than me. That's always very positive. So overall in the game, I think what I was also mentioning also before, I feel I'm, you know, playing well but I'm not, you know, getting satisfied too easy. I'm happy, but I still want to do well. I feel that it's still a lot to improve even in some matches. I, you know, want to keep going and even, Okay, now I made it to the semis and it's completely different for me now atmosphere than what I have been in 2010. At that time was maybe a little bit, let's say, too shocked for me and I didn't know how to deal with it afterwards. But now I'm, you know, cool and it's going well.

Q. When you were off the circuit, who were the one or two people who really stepped up and helped you the most? How did they help you? Secondly, if you would just talk about playing in such a small country like Croatia, in the shadow of Serbia. Talk about that.

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, my team was around me. We knew that nothing happened and that I'm going to be stronger when I come back, so that was, you know, great for the people around myself like a small group. We worked a lot. I think we still had good times even though it was tough times. For the other part, I mean, coming from a small country, it's also another positive thing. I feel we are very emotional from Croatia and maybe from all this part of Europe where we love to, you know, compete. I feel that a lot of players are coming through that are, you know, having very high ups and downs with winning and losing. I feel that makes us all stronger. I mean, comparing to Serbia, I mean, they had huge success with Novak and with the girls and with the rest of the guys. But, you know, with Croatia it was huge success that we already have for last 20 years.

Q. As a kid, if you can remember what age, when did you first know about Goran [Ivanisevic]? When was he first sort of on your radar? What's it been like working with him?

MARIN CILIC: I mean, probably the only matches I watched on TV was Goran's Wimbledon matches. That's the only memory, you know, from tennis at very young age. And then later I started to play with him when I was 14 few times. He was out due to his shoulder injury. He played with me and one other kid from Croatia my age, and that was, for me, huge at age of 14 to play with my idol. Was amazing. Then I think he helped me a lot with pointing me in a good direction with my coach, long-time coach, Bob Brett. I think that was a very crucial part of my career.

Q. As a coach now these days, what's it like? Is he a very boring guy, or...

MARIN CILIC: Not really. (Laughter.) You know Goran, so Goran is everything but not boring. Yeah, I feel that it's very entertaining. We work a lot, but we still -- I mean, even some days we are preparing, you know, we would have sessions of three, three-and-a-half hours or whatever, and we always have good time. I think that's most important. It's, I would say, can't be better.

Q. Given that you had this enforced very intense training session, as you're able to look back at it now, was this in some way kind of a blessing that you were taken off the tour when you would have spent so much time playing matches?

MARIN CILIC: I mean, I used it the best I could. I mean, you always think on the positive things. If I would have played I would say it's great, I'm playing matches. But I used it well, and I felt, you know, that that changed my game now looking back. I would rather, you know, stop my own than being stopped from somebody else. I felt that sort of my game just transformed and I was able to - when I came back - start from zero.

Q. You mentioned 2010, your last semifinal. You said you were a bit shocked to be there. Now, four years later, considering all you went through last year and the extra work that you were able to put in, I mean, do you feel less shocked and more like you belong in this semifinal that you did, say, four years ago?

MARIN CILIC: It was just the period, not -- I would say I deserved it at that time, too, to be in semifinal, but sort of I was putting more pressure on myself with the expectations. I wanted to do too well. Like on each match, on each training session, I was looking from my own self for too much. Then after a couple of months everything breaks, so I feel now I'm steadily progressed a lot. I feel like I'm playing well but still I want to, you know -- I feel like I can still improve.