US Open 2014 – Marin Cilic: “It angered me how all the process went because it was not fair to me” - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2014 – Marin Cilic: “It angered me how all the process went because it was not fair to me”

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TENNIS US OPEN – 4th of September 2014. M. Cilic d. T. Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 7-6. An interview with Marin Cilic

 

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. 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. 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. 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. As a kid, if you can remember what age, when did you first know about Goran? 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.

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Canada Daily Preview: A Huge Day of Action Headlined by Serena/Bencic and Medvedev/Kyrgios

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Serena Williams on Monday in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

On Tuesday, Serena Williams announced her retirement from the sport in a poignant essay.  With only a month left before one of the greatest players of all-time retires, Serena will play only her third match in the past 14 months on Wednesday, as she faces fellow Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.

 

In Montreal, the two ATP singles champions from last week will collide, as Los Cabos champ and world No.1 Daniil Medvedev takes on Washington champ and Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios

Those are just two of a plethora of high-profile second round matches on Wednesday.  Overall seven of the WTA top 10 and six of the ATP top 10 will be in action in a jam-packed day of tennis.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both Toronto and Montreal.


Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Not Before 1:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Medvedev did not drop a set during his title run last week in Mexico, and is the defending champion of this event.  But Kyrgios is having the best summer of his career.  He’s now claimed 12 of his last 13 matches, which of course includes his first Major singles final at Wimbledon.  And Nick is 2-1 against Daniil, though they’ve split two hard court meetings.  Three years ago in the final of Washington, Kyrgios prevailed thanks to two tiebreaks.  But at this year’s Australian Open, Medvedev was victorious in four.  Last year at this tournament, Daniil defeated a few other big servers such as Hubi Hurkacz, John Isner, and Reilly Opelka.  On Wednesday, his defensive skills may again prove to diffuse Nick’s serving prowess.  And as seen in the Wimbledon final, Kyrgios can get easily frustrated by opponents who can play elite-level defense.


Belinda Bencic (12) vs. Serena Williams – Not Before 7:00pm on Centre Court on Toronto

These next few weeks will be the last in perhaps the most remarkable career in tennis history.  Serena has said she does not want a lot of fanfare surrounding her last tournaments, but fans will surely be clamoring to see the all-time great one last time.  In just her third match this year, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in women’s singles faces the most recent gold medalist.  Bencic is now 28-13 this season, and two of her best results this season have come in the US.  She was a semifinalist in Miami, and the champion in Charleston.  Serena is 2-1 against Belinda, though Bencic’s only victory occurred in this same city seven years ago, when the Swiss star won this title as an 18-year-old.  Williams played some good tennis during her straight-set victory on Monday, and both players will assumedly be quite nervous knowing this is one of Serena’s final matches.  But considering Williams has not defeated a top 20 player since the 2021 Australian Open, Bencic should be favored on this day.  Regardless, this opportunity to watch Serena compete will be cherished by her millions of fans.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Swiatek is now 48-5 on the year, and has won her last three hard court tournaments dating back to February (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami).  Tomljanovic reached her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal last month.  Their only previous meeting also occurred in Toronto, when three years ago the Australian retired after only five games.

Elena Rybakina vs. Coco Gauff (10) – The new Wimbledon champion played for a full three hours on Tuesday, eventually defeating Marie Bouzkova 6-1 in the third.  On the same day, Gauff dropped only four games to fellow American Madison Brengle. 

Tommy Paul vs. Carlos Alcaraz – Alcaraz is now 42-7 in 2022, and is coming off back-to-back finals at clay events in Europe.  Paul has accumulated 25 wins of his own this season, 16 of which have come on hard courts.

Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Leylah Fernandez (13) – Fernandez gritted her way to a three-set victory on Monday night in her first match since injuring her foot at Roland Garros.  Haddad Maia has 34 wins on the year, and won back-to-back grass court tournaments in June.  Earlier this season in the semifinals of Monterrey, Leylah prevailed over Beatriz in straight sets.

Qinwen Zheng vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – Jabeur went 1-1 last week in her first two matches since her losing effort in the Wimbledon final.  Qinwen also lost to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon, after two tight sets in the third round of that event.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Alize Cornet – Andreescu overcame injury to defeat San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday evening, requiring multiple medical timeouts in the first set alone.  Earlier in the day, Cornet took out Caroline Garcia in three sets.  Alize is 2-0 against Bianca.

Yoshihito Nishioka (SE) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Nishioka was a surprise finalist last week in Washington, where he earned impressive victories over five top 40 players, including Andrey Rublev.  Auger-Aliassime has now lost four of his last six matches.  Yoshi leads their tour-level head-to-head 2-1, which includes a dramatic three-set win three years ago at Indian Wells in a third-set tiebreak.

Jack Draper (Q) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Tsitsipas has not played since his embarrassing behavior in a third-round defeat at the hands of Kyrgios at Wimbledon.  20-year-old Draper has earned 35 match wins at all levels this season. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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6, 5, 4…is the rise of Carlos Alcaraz going to continue this week?

Canadian Open and Cincinnati Masters 1000 may allow the Spaniard’s ranking to reach new zeniths

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CARLOS ALCARAZ OF SPAIN - PHOTO: ANGEL MARTINEZ / MMO

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Numbers are fascinating, even worshipped by some, unquestionable and reassuring. We may forget the fallibility of subjective evaluation and rejoice with the sense of power that comes with belief that any reality, from outer space to the inner world, can be measured, and expressed with numbers.

 

And numbers have been fuelling tennis headlines over the last weeks as Carlos Alcaraz has been heading on, his rise in the rankings unblemished by the losses to Musetti and Sinner in the finals in Hamburg and Umag and ticking on like an ultimate countdown.  

In the next two weeks Alcaraz will have limitless opportunities to reap points in the two Masters 1000 leading up to the US Open since he will only be dropping the points he earned last year in Cincinnati where, after qualifying, he reached the round of 32 before losing to Lorenzo Sonego.

There is more at stake for those he is chasing: Medvedev, winner in Canada and semi-finalist in Cincinnati is surely capable of bettering such results, but it will not be a walkover. Zverev is fully committed to rehab and unable to defend his Cincinnati 2021 crown. Nadal, who missed all the second part of the last season and could be a serious challenger in terms of point harvesting, has just had to pull out from Montreal owing to his still-healing abdominal injury.    

Nitpickers may suggest that the most recent hurdles cleared by Alcaraz have not coincided with immaculate victories and that what had seemed for a long time to be a perfect set-up engine, meticulously fine-tuned, has been starting to misfire.

No doubt that his 2022 campaign had been a crescendo up to his triumph in the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid, where he brushed aside Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev. The match with Djokovic was of supreme quality and will stand out as one of the gems of the year.

Till then, his loss to Korda in Monte Carlo was the only lapse and could be considered an incident, as it may occur to any guy setting foot on clay for the first time in months, adorned with a new status as a tennis prodigy after his win in Miami and awaited by a roaring buzz of expectations.

In Paris, a first yellow alert did appear when he was on the brink of defeat in round 2 with Ramos-Vinolas in a match stained by 74 unforced errors. Then followed shining performances against Korda and Khachanov before falling in the quarter-finals to Zverev who overpowered him throughout most of their match. But Zverev was formidable that day and Alcaraz strove to the very end to find an escape way and was close to coming back, missing a set point in the fourth set tiebreak that would have tugged him into a decider.

His star seemed to be shining at Wimbledon after his impressive dominance over Otte, but two days later was obscured by Sinner. On this occasion, for the first time in his newly established career, his game appeared blunted.

Was his body starting to remind him he’s a teen, capable of formidable performances, but still to develop that endurance and resilience which are needed to maintain peak cruising over longer stretches?

Then followed defeats in Hamburg and Umag finals on clay. A final itself cannot be considered a disappointing result, but his halo of invincibility was dimmed.

Particular concern was his second defeat in a month to Sinner, where he appeared at loss for solutions over the last one hour and a half, his boisterous self-confidence slowly deflating and his body language revealing frustration. In his press conference, Alcaraz admitted such a sense of helplessness and said to be determined to figure out a way to win against the Italian. 

The point is that Alcaraz made such a great impression in the first part of this season that it has become hard to believe he can lose a match.

At his best, he can deliver any shot at any moment, with a variety rarely seen before. In an inspired instant, he can switch from herculean ball-striking to caressing a dropshot, which will land, bounceless, a few inches after the net. What about his eagerness to volley, often following his wondrously effective kick serve? Not to mention his serve which alternates power and spin, his endurance in winning long rallies, scuttling far and beyond to fling in a winner from out of the blue. Opponents cannot but be befuddled. 

And then, is clay really the surface that best suits his game? In an interview with Marca, he said he’s comfortable on all surfaces but feels that his dynamic game most suits hard courts. If we couple this statement with his enthusiasm for being in Montreal and playing the Canadian Open for the first time, after throwing in some hard work for a successful transition from clay to hard, we can be positive that the fire has been kindled, and the countdown for reaching the highest ranking orbits is running once again.      

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Canada Daily Preview: Andreescu, Osaka, Raducanu Face Formidable Opposition

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Canada’s Bianca Andreescu won this title in 2019 (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

Tuesday’s schedule in Toronto features several Major singles champions taking on recent tournament finalists.  2019 US Open champ Bianca Andreescu faces San Jose champ Daria Kasatkina.  Four-time Slam champ Naomi Osaka plays Washington runner-up Kaia Kanepi.  US Open champ Emma Raducanu faces defending champion Camila Giorgi.  And another US Open champ, Sloane Stephens, plays Indian Wells runner-up Maria Sakkari.

 

In Montreal, many matches have been carried over from Monday due to rain, including Andy Murray against Taylor Fritz, which was previewed here.  Also on Tuesday, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini takes on Pablo Carreno Busta.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both cities.


Camila Giorgi vs. Emma Raducanu (9) – Second on Centre Court in Toronto

Giorgi was a surprising champion of this event a year ago, as she was ranked outside the top 70 at the time.  And she has failed to follow-up on that title run.  Camila promptly lost her next four matches, and in 2022, she’s just 13-13.  Of course Raducanu also won the biggest title of her career last summer, and has similarly struggled ever since, with a record of 11-13 on the year.  In their first career meeting, the pressure will be on Giorgi, as she’s never before defended a title of this caliber. That makes Raducanu the favorite to advance in her Canadian debut.


Daria Kasatkina (11) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Not Before 7pm on Centre Court in Toronto

What a season Kasatkina is having.  She is now 32-14, and is No.3 in the year-to-date rankings.  Last week in San Jose, she defeated two top six players en route to the title (Badosa, Sabalenka).  And at the same time, she’s influencing social change, as the Russian recently came out as gay, and spoke out against that subject remaining “taboo” in her home country.  In her own home country, Andreescu achieved great success three years ago, winning this title just weeks before becoming a US Open champion.  But the last few years have thoroughly tested Andreescu, as she’s battled injuries, COVID, and mental health issues.  Just a week ago in San Jose, she retired mid-match due to back pain.  In her first match in Toronto since her title run, it’s hard to imagine she’ll be fully healthy.  A confident, happy, and in-form Kasatkina is a strong favorite to continue her winning streak despite their history.  Bianca leads their head-to-head 2-0, which includes a three-set victory three years ago at this same event.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Matteo Berrettini (11) – This will be Berrettini’s debut at this event, while Carreno Busta is only 2-2 lifetime here.  Their only previous meeting occurred at this year’s Australian Open, which Matteo claimed in straight sets.

Kaia Kanepi vs. Naomi Osaka – Kanepi lost the final of Washington on Sunday to Liudmila Samsonova 6-3 in the third.  This will only be Osaka’s third match since May, and she’s coming off a straight-set loss last week in San Jose to Coco Gauff.  When they played five years ago at the US Open, Kanepi prevailed 7-5 in the third.

Maria Sakkari (3) vs. Sloane Stephens – Stephens was up a set and 5-2 over Sofia Kenin on Monday before eventually prevailing 7-5 in the third on her sixth match point in a highly-dramatic affair.  Sakkari was decisively defeated last week in San Jose by Shelby Rogers.  This is their first career encounter.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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