The US Open Sessions - Hear music made with tennis dataFind Tickets Online at ticketmaster

An Interview With: Marin Cilic

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Q. It must feel pretty special to play the kind of match you dream about playing in a tournament you dream about playing it in and doing it, eh?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, absolutely. Just for the performance today from, I mean, first point to the last I was absolutely playing the best tennis of my life. Considering the huge occasion I was playing in, I mean, for the second time in a semifinals of a Grand Slam, it just can't be more special. Considering also that, you know, even I was a set up and break up, you know, the crowd was rooting for Roger to come back. You know, it wasn't easy to deal with that, but I felt that my serve helped me a lot today, you know, to get some free points to breathe a little bit easier. It was, I mean, working perfectly.

Q. What was the key to the match today?

MARIN CILIC: Well, I felt that very similar to the Berdych match I adjusted pretty well to the wind and to the conditions we were playing in. It was a different game from different ends. With one end it was wind in the back, so it was a bit easier to play from that side. Most of my breaks I made from that end. You know, as soon as I felt in the beginning of the match that I'm serving well, that I'm pretty relaxed, that I could have a chance. It was important for me to keep my focus, even though I was two sets to love up. I knew that Roger, you know, can turn it around and the momentum can shift. So I was, you know, very focused. I think mental part of the game from my own side was on a good spot.

Q. What do you take out of the match in Canada that you brought in today? What did Goran tell you about this match to get ready?

MARIN CILIC: Well, over there in Canada, confidence-wise and belief-wise showed me that, you know, if I play well I can have a chance. Over there Roger was causing me much more trouble on his serve and I wasn't getting as many returns in the court like today. I felt today the return was extremely good, especially on the second serve and that, you know, opened up many more opportunities for me. I felt that, I mean, maybe fraction better I served today than in Toronto, but over there I think I played also pretty consistent match. I think by returning bit better opened a few more chances for me.

Q. What did Goran say going into it?

MARIN CILIC: Well, we just spoke a little bit. Nothing too specific.

Q. Did he relax you?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, definitely. I knew that I had to be aggressive. I can't just wait for Roger to miss, because that's not gonna happen over best of five-sets match. Just different, you know, small details that I used well today.

Q. You had three straight aces in that final game, too. Was your heart starting to race as you realized you had put Federer away in straight sets?

MARIN CILIC: Well, it sort of was just pumping a bit more when I missed the last one. On the first three I didn't feel anything. (Smiling.) Even when I was closing out the second set I served also great game, and I was very, very relaxed, yeah.

Q. You're a deep-thinking guy. What do you think this means to see you and Kei in the final? No big four in the final.

MARIN CILIC: Well, it's a bit of a changeup year considering all the past years that these top four guys were making to the final. Wawrinka opened the doors for us from the "second" line, and I think most of the guys have now bigger belief that they can do it on the Grand Slams. Just over here as well, Kei beat Wawrinka, beat Novak, and Milos, so played amazing, amazing tournament. I think it's gonna be extremely interesting for the next several, for sure, Grand Slams.

Q. When you saw Stan win in Australia, did you personally have a reaction and go, Hey, that means it can happen for me, too, knowing that it happened to somebody else after so long?

MARIN CILIC: Well, I mean, just being able to see that he's able to beat those guys. Okay, he was close. Last year semis here. But sort of he made that huge jump in short period of time. I wasn't thinking, Oh, I can do it, but I knew I had to work and it's possible. So that, I feel, brought different win to the game.

Q. Goran, he said that it's not what he tells you to believe, that you would listen to him. He said you have to believe in yourself that you can win. Is it difficult for you to have this belief?

MARIN CILIC: I mean, it's coming through longer period of time. I mean, you can't sort of believe in yourself if you're not performing well on the court and if you're not performing well on the big occasions against big players. You know, few last months I felt I played really well. I was close in some matches, and just that I have gave me more belief and motivation. When I'm playing now these bigger matches I feel like if I'm going to play well I have a good chance. So I think that's different mindset than what I used to have, because before I felt that I should, you know, play more than what I'm able to, and then, you know, the game breaks. So you can't sort of play more than 100% of your performance.

Q. He said he was very proud of you, also.

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, he told me. (Smiling.)

Q. You seem also physically stronger this year in addition to your mental strength in a lot of recent performances, and I wonder if you could talk about the interrelatedness of the strength.

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, absolutely. I feel in general I'm hitting the serve bigger, the shots are more compact, and I'm moving, I would say, very comfortably on the court. I'm able to run down some balls that I wasn't before. And even, you know, when I'm playing these long, long matches like the one with Simon, I'm able to recover quicker. So I feel that I'm -- I worked physically a lot. And also with Goran the intensity on the tennis court is pretty high. So I feel, you know, everything with that adds up to, you know, being better in all aspects.

Q. What do you remember about where you were last year during this tournament? How much were you watching? And how much does all of that make being here in the final only 12 months later more surprising or special?

MARIN CILIC: Well, I mean, I was at home and was working, preparing as much as I could and was using every day to train. Well, to be in this position I was working for all my life. You are sort of -- when you are young on the tour you always feel, you know, you have enough time. You have a lot of Grand Slams. You're gonna do well. But, I mean, when the time starts to pass by you are more anxious if it's gonna happen or it's not gonna happen. You know, the best guys are not going away and sort of feel if it's gonna happen ever. Just to be in this situation, I mean, I can say this moment is extremely huge achievement. Just by watching all the other players make it this far the Grand Slams, I mean, for most of them, for the guys that are top feels normal, but for some guys that are making for the first time it's, I mean, achievement of the career.

Q. You're talking about the physicality of your game and it improving. I'm wondering if that break at the end of last year and having to be home, was it an intense training block in a lot of ways to catch up, get faster, stronger, maybe a blessing in disguise?

MARIN CILIC: Absolutely. Yeah, I had maybe seven or ten days off in four, four-and-a-half months, and I was working all the time. That, you know, helped me to build up my strength and to also heal some of the injuries I had before with my knee. Now I'm feeling really good on the court. So I used that time, you know, the best I could. It's paying off.

Q. You mentioned the changing of the guard a few minutes ago, other guys breaking in at majors. What are your thoughts on the possibilities for Roger Federer going forward, his chances to win an 18th major?

MARIN CILIC: I mean, we never can rule out Roger out of Grand Slams. He's extremely consistent at these big events. He showed in these last few months that he's playing amazing tennis. From grass court season he lost to Novak extremely tough, tough match in Wimbledon, and here again made it to the semifinals. It's going to open up again for sure for him sooner or later, I believe. And he's playing well. I believe he can win a couple more.

Q. What about the psychology for the guys who are outside the Big 4 now? How much more difficult do you think it makes it for Federer's chances?

MARIN CILIC: Well, I mean, the competition is getting bigger. The guys there are from second line are moving closer and they are more often at the later stage of the tournament. They are going to get only better; they're not going to get worse. So the competition is going to get very difficult. But still, I mean, I feel that it's more opportunities for everybody. I mean, all these top guys for sure, and the guys from second line.

Q. Roger said that you were covering the court better than ever before. Are you seeing it and reading it better than ever before? Did that ball look a little bigger today than some other days?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, I mean, I felt that today I was hitting the ball extremely clean. I mean, I have some days where I am shanking a lot of balls, but today it was very pure from my end of the court. It was just, you know -- like today when I'm playing aggressively, sort of for the guys it's difficult to open up the court. I'm trying to play a little faster and, you know, in different situations if the guy's doing that it's difficult to, you know, find some angles or open up the court. So I feel with that I was covering the court even better.

Q. Did you have equal confidence in every ball that you were serving, forehand, backhand?

MARIN CILIC: Yes, for sure. It was different from one end to the other, and through the wind, of course, I was swinging a little bit harder. I mean, through the wind. With the wind I was placing the ball a bit better. I felt that tactical-wise from my own shots was pretty well made.

Q. Did you see any of Kei's match today or even in this tournament? What improvement do you see in him? What would be the biggest threat of his game?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, I saw some of the match. I didn't see everything, but I think Novak and Kei played in more humid conditions than us. After the rain it was a bit cooler. I felt that sort of, for the level of tennis they are both playing, it was difficult to sustain it, because both of them were swinging hard and it was, you know, fast rallies. I felt that Kei showed that he was matching Novak from the baseline extremely well, even probably better than Novak today, which is I think very -- I don't think many guys can do it on the tour. Kei improved a lot. Just knowing that he didn't play for last couple of weeks and to make it here to the final I think is extremely huge achievement.

Q. Could you just follow up on one thing, your thoughts about facing him in the final, the specific challenge, and styles of play.

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, yeah. Well, it's gonna be special day for both of us. I mean, opportunity for both of us to win a Grand Slam, to be a part of the history. It's gonna be definitely huge emotions on the court. And we played couple times already here at the US Open. Both of those matches were extremely tough under very difficult conditions. I feel that, I mean, we have both different game styles. I mean, Kei is extremely well -- I mean, he hits the ball extremely well from the back of the court. I think I'm going to have to just focus on my game to break that a little bit of rhythm and to try to serve well. I think it's gonna be a good sort of tactical matchup for the final.

Comments