US Open 2014 – Marin Cilic: “It means everything. It's just a huge accomplishment for myself and for my team” - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2014 – Marin Cilic: “It means everything. It's just a huge accomplishment for myself and for my team”

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TENNIS US OPEN – 8th of September 2014. M. Cilic d. K. Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. An interview with Marin Cilic

 

Q. First of all, congratulations. Remarkable run. If you can just put into context what this means to you, you know, take into context where you were last year, what you have been able to accomplish this year and being a Grand Slam champion all in one.

MARIN CILIC: I mean, seems completely unreal to be called Grand Slam champion. I was dreaming about this all my life, and suddenly last four, five days everything started to change. And with my tennis especially. I started to play absolutely unbelievable starting with the fifth set with Simon. After that I had unbelievable run of the matches against these top guys. And what it means to me, it means everything. It’s just a huge accomplishment and huge moment for myself and for my team and for everybody around me who was with me all these years supporting me, believing in me and never giving up. So this is just the peak of the world.

Q. With the absence from tennis last year, do you think that was in a way a steppingstone to you, getting your game to the level? That it is, having the time to work on your game, but also a renewed perspective on importance of the game to you?

MARIN CILIC: I felt the first part that helped me was the mental toughness, being much stronger and I was much tougher with myself on the tennis court when I was practicing and also when I was playing matches. The other part was enjoying much more on the court before in these last several years since I had really good success in 2010. Then I started to slip a little bit and I was not enjoying so much on the court. I was always looking for the result, hoping it’s gonna come back. It was not working. So things changed around and flipped it over with trying to enjoy on the court and enjoy every moment, which helped me to be much more relaxed. I feel that was the most important part for my game.

Q. When you were playing final, my Croatian friends from Dubrovnik knew that I work for TV and they were telling me please scream (in Croatian.) When you won, I asked my friends, I’m going to press conference now. I’m going to ask him. Tell me what you want me to ask him. They’re like, just tell him that he’s our hero, that all Dubrovnik, all Croatia were just cheering for him. You’re going to go back. What do you feel? What can you tell to your Croatian friends because you made them so proud today?

MARIN CILIC: (Phone ringing.)

THE MODERATOR: They’re calling right now.

MARIN CILIC: I spoke with a couple of people, with my family at home, with my godfather in Zagreb. He told me that I cannot imagine how it is like everybody celebrating. Everybody was glued to the TVs. He was like, I mean, World Cup atmosphere all over Croatia. So for me the message would be to everybody big, big thank you for all the support and believing in me. That definitely made me stronger, made me more hungry to win. I think it’s a special day for me, but extremely special day for all of Croatia.

Q. Any idea this was possible when you landed in New York? Did you have to change your flight home and hotel booking?

MARIN CILIC: No, no, I mean, everything was planned to stay, that we leave on Tuesday. (Phone ringing.) Sorry. Oh, my God. (Laughter.) Yeah, everything was planned to leave Tuesday, but sort of I was not hoping. I mean, I was hoping, but I felt it was really far for me. You know, when you start a tournament you sort of win first match, second match, and you are playing well but you’re not playing against top guys. Sort of you don’t know what to expect, how you’re going to deal with the pressure. I mean, overall with all these last three players or four players that I played against I had losing record. So even coming into any of those matches was, you know, trying to win and not sort of knowing that I’m going to do it. Considering everything, I mean, it’s a miracle.

Q. At what point did you really start working intensively with Goran? Because the reports vary from June to November. And then in retrospect, did you feel that not being able to play for four months helped you change your game and evaluate your game?

MARIN CILIC: With Goran we started to work from day one very, very intensively and very hard.

Q. No, but what month?

MARIN CILIC: We started to work September 1st. Since then until like sort of end of the year we were working very, very hard. Goran in his day was I feel, and by most of the guys were saying, he was athletically and physically best player in shape. And he was absolutely ready for everything. We worked a lot on that. I felt that helped me to gain some, you know, extra steps in my game. With everything, that helped me to become

Q. You gave a terrific, emotional talk right after the final, the post-match. The address was: work hard; good things will come. How hard was it? You seem to be a very caring guy. You have feelings. How hard was it to not break down at that point? Work hard and good things will pay off. It was very motivational.

MARIN CILIC: Definitely. That’s what I felt in last several years. I was swirling around ranking top 20, 25, 15 and things were some days going well, some not. You are a lot of the time up and down. It’s, I feel, very inspirational for all the other guys out there who are, you know, working and sometimes losing motivation, having trouble to dig deep and to believe in the achievements. I would definitely feel much stronger if I would see somebody like me accomplish things like this. It sort of came out of nowhere for me. Few things clicked in just right before tournament sort of. I felt great about them, and match after match I played really good tennis. These last three matches, everything was working perfectly.

Q. Before the trophy ceremony you were trying to call somebody. Who were you texting with? Was it a guy, or gal who took a call from a Grand Slam champion?

MARIN CILIC: Well, the reception wasn’t there. I called — I wanted to call my family back home. Only my brother, my younger brother was here. He’s in college. He just arrived to college to U.S., so he was able to come. And at home was huge celebration. I mean, they were already celebrating after quarterfinal and having huge, huge — fun and huge party. I was just trying to talk with them to say thank you for all the support and for, you know, everything they did for me.

Q. So it’s not working, the network?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, no, I didn’t have time then, and I called them after.

Q. For so many years, just a few players dominated the majors. What do you think this US Open will mean not just for your future but for men’s tennis’ future?

MARIN CILIC: In one way, I mean, a lot of guys are saying people would like to watch top four guys much more to extend their streak at the top and to extend their run at the Grand Slams, because, I mean, they attract the most, the fans and the TV, and everybody else. But sort of one day definitely they gonna go out and there’s gonna be a need for somebody else. I feel this time, this year — I mean, I think the guys from second line were a bit lucky because Andy Murray was also having trouble with his back; Wawrinka was up and down with his tennis after Australia; few other players were not playing at the best all the time. And Rafa is not here. So that opened a little bit the gate for everybody else. I feel it’s gonna definitely be much bigger competition from next year. I feel the guys at the top are gonna pull the other guys, too. I think the game of tennis is definitely going to evolve much more.

Q. In the third set, about fifth or sixth game, you had a very tough service game. Two break points; missed a few forehand returns. Looked like you were a little bit nervous at that point. Seemed like it could have turned around there. You got through it. How did that happen?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, that was critical game definitely for the whole match to be able to be ahead. I was, at the end, playing through the wind. It was a bit tougher to, you know, just finish the point with a serve. The crowd got themselves going. They wanted to extend the match, for sure, to root for, Kei which is absolutely normal. When I came on that side on 4-1, I was just hoping to win one of the two games. Either to break his serve or to win my game. I felt that when I’m going to be at the end with the wind I’m going to definitely win one game, and that’s going to be enough. Yeah, it was very tense moment, and lucky that I got through those couple break points.

Q. (Regarding Goran’s sense of humor.) Did he ever tell you that no Croatian player lost a slam final on a Monday? (Laughter.)

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, we were mentioning that. They were saying 13 years past since he won his Wimbledon title and that happened on Monday, and now none of the Croatians can lose at the final on Monday.

Q. And then another thing about Croatian tennis, how do you explain? You win this slam, Ivanisevic, Wimbledon, Ljubicic No. 3 in the world, you won Davis Cup, Karlovic top 15. It’s a small country yours. You don’t have that much long, long, long tradition. How do you explain it? Is tennis a big thing? Not as big as basketball or soccer.

MARIN CILIC: I feel in Croatia most of the guys who play sport, doesn’t matter which sport, everybody is very, very emotional and emotional to win, emotional when they lose. The small group that are going through, the ones that are extremely emotional and being able to control it and also not to accept the loss and to fight through, I feel that this is, you know, what makes Croatians good. It’s no other explanation. We don’t have good tennis schools. We don’t have too long of a tradition, as you said. We don’t have tennis centers like in bigger countries, France, Spain, that year after year the young ones are going through. Just, you know, every several years some youngster just comes up out of nowhere and he’s playing great tennis, and I feel that that’s the most important part that is in every one of us.

Q. You talk about the joy that Goran gave you. Some of us have been around long enough to cover him. What kind of a goofy guy he can be? Can you give us an example of the kind of things he did goosing you up a bit over the years?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, I mean, we all know how Goran is emotional on the court, but that’s only when he’s playing. That’s his desire to win, and difficult to control the emotions. But sort of when he’s on the practice court, when he’s with me, he’s always really, really calm or nervous when he’s watching. He brought just, in the team, very relaxed atmosphere, besides extremely huge knowledge. The help he brought to me, I feel that the fun is the best spice of everything, that I think collects all the other pieces together. I mean, every day with him is extremely fun.

Q. When Goran came home he stripped off his clothes and jumped into the sea. Can you top that?

MARIN CILIC: No. (Laughter.) I’m going for Davis Cup.

Q. Wawrinka winning in Melbourne, he said it was a little bit complicated with his expectation and all the emotions. How do you think you will deal with being a Grand Slam champion now?

MARIN CILIC: I think I’m going to have to wait seven days when I come back to Croatia just to see what a huge thing I did, because with all the news and even — I mean, all the Croatian sport athletes were giving me huge support. Even the national football team. They made a video sending huge support for me. I feel it’s gonna definitely change my life. I don’t know in which kind of way, but I am definitely not gonna change. With that definitely it’s gonna come a lot of things that I’m going to have to do, but still I am gonna play tennis, enjoy, and always look forward to these big events.

Q. As you said before, you don’t have a great record against Kei. What was your mindset coming to this final and facing to Kei? Did you try to do some like different tactics or something this time?

MARIN CILIC: Well, we never played against each other on such a huge event. I mean, most important day for both of us. All our matches were either quarterfinals or even before that, and I knew that today if I’m going to be playing well I’m going to have a good chance. Because even few matches I have lost to Kei were extremely close. Even this year at Brisbane was very close match. Few years back when he won over here at the US Open was also extremely close match. And, yeah, I just felt if I’m going to be playing right, I’m going to have a good chance. But you never know when you come on the court. You can’t be stuck with your own tactics. If it’s working well, of course; but if not, you have to be open. I was, you know, just very focused on that to do my things well.

Q. Goran was a superstitious guy back in his playing days. Wondered if you or either of you have any superstitions here in New York?

MARIN CILIC: Absolutely. Every second day is the same day for all of us, and just before coming to, you know, tennis they would go have a – my fitness trainer, physio and Goran – would have a coffee, have breakfast at the same place. I would stay back at our place, have breakfast on my own. And then, I mean, many different things. Not shaving. Myself not shaving. Not shaving himself. Yeah, it was just Goran was going through his Wimbledon moments again. (Laughter.) We didn’t watch Teletubbies, though.

Q. There were a lot of Croatian journalists; this year no one, apart from today. What is the difference. Do you think for the Japanese who were 30 people, photographers, all behind Nishikori, was it better for you to be little more relaxed? I mean, not having too much pressure and media around?

MARIN CILIC: Well, concerning the, you know, Croatian journalists, they would all want to, you know, visit the big tournaments, but the economy is bad. So, I mean, everybody is saving. Well, if I had less pressure or not it’s difficult to say. But for sure, you know, from this year I sort of built around myself good team, and everybody is doing their own job. I’m not thinking about too much all these things around, media, whatever, whatever necessary. I’m just focused on tennis. That, you know, helped me definitely to become better. Yeah, I mean, it’s for sure huge days in Croatia and Japan. When I’m going to be back home it’s going to be a huge wave of journalists definitely.

Q. What was the key to winning the whole tournament?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, it was — I mean, the key was definitely I was playing my own game and it was working extremely well. Last ten sets I played I played amazing tennis with everything, starting from serve, starting from movement, all different shots. Return with Federer. In Federer’s match was great I think overall. My performances were great.

Q. Any thoughts about your former coach and the credit you give him for what you achieved today?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah, I mean, thoughts are just being grateful so much also to be with him and to learn from him as he coached so many great players, great champions. He sort of built for me a mindset and learned me about the game. Just he built, for me, huge base that I’m, you know, collecting all the berries of today. With Goran, definitely that just small piece made it, you know, special. So for Bob, I mean, I can’t be more grateful, because I’m also because of him a great player today like I am.

Q. Can you share with us how are you planning to celebrate?

MARIN CILIC: Well, I was told tomorrow I have a long day.

Q. Then celebration tomorrow?

MARIN CILIC: Yeah. Tomorrow in the evening we are leaving, so today is going to be the celebration… All over Manhattan. (Laughter.) I hope it’s not going to be hangover No. 4.

Q. Along the same lines, do you have any plans for $3 million?

MARIN CILIC: No. I definitely didn’t think about that. Of course you have that in your mind, but I was just focusing on to play well. Yeah, with that it comes big, big whatever, big gift. So, yeah, I’m going to definitely split a little bit with my team. They deserved it. It’s for all of us a huge moment.

ATP

‘He Did Everything I did, Only Better’ – Pat Rafter Names The Toughest Rival Of His Career

The two-time grand slam champion opens up about his toughest rivalry as he predicts a bleak outlook for the 2020 tennis season.

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Former world No.1 Pat Rafter has named an American tennis legend as the player who he struggled the most against throughout his professional career.

 

The 47-year-old was a star of Australian tennis during his playing days after achieving a series of milestones. His accolades include becoming the first player from his country in 28 years to reach the top of the ATP rankings in 1999 and becoming the first man to win the Rogers Cup, Cincinnati Masters and US Open within the same year. Rafter is also the last player outside of the Big Three to have won back-to-back US Open titles after triumphing in 1997 and 1998.

Despite his successes, there was one player that caused him difficulty. Rafter played Pete Sampras 16 times on the ATP Tour, but could only win four of those encounters. At one stage he lost to the 14-time grand slam champion eight times in a row.

“The toughest player I played against was definitely Pete Sampras – he did everything I did, only better.” Rafter told Eurosport.
“His record was the best so there’s no doubt about it Sampras the stand-out. I enjoyed playing Andre Agassi the most – I thought we had a really good battle, I really enjoyed playing him.”

The rivalry between the two was tense at times. Highlighted best by their encounter in the 1998 US Open semifinals. Sampras complained of a quadriceps injury following his loss to the Australian. Prompting Rafter to famously say ‘he’s becoming a bit of a crybaby.’ A few months before that comment, he admitted that his relationship with the American wasn’t solid by saying ‘We’re not the best of mates. I wouldn’t go out for a beer with him, put it that way.’

22 years on from the verbal exchange between the two, Rafter now describes it as a thing of the past. Insisting that his rival never took what he said to him ‘personally.’

“I can’t remember the exact words, but we had a run-in in Cincinnati one year – I probably told him to grow up.” He recounted.
“He cracked it when I beat him one time. But that was back in the old days, emotions were running high and don’t take it personally. It’s all good.”

No tennis in 2020

Besides reminiscing about his playing career with Eurosport, Rafter has also predicted a bleak outlook for this year’s tour. All professional tournaments have been suspended until July 13th due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time since 1945 Wimbledon has been cancelled due to the situation.

Many are now speculating as to when it will be possible for the tour to resume. The US Open is still optimistic that they can hold their tournament as scheduled later this summer. Meanwhile, the French Open is set to be played during the later part of September. However, Rafter doubts that either of those tournaments will happen.

“No, I think this (the virus) is going to be around for a long time.” Rafter commented on the chances of the 2020 season resuming. “Until they get a vaccine I can’t see how anyone is going to be playing.’
“Personally, I think it’ll be like the flu and we’ll have to get used to it.”

Potentially one solution for the tournaments would be to host matches without spectators. In order to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. An approach that has already been taken by other sports such as football. However, Wimbledon refused to consider that option this year.

“I think they could. No spectators. Sure. No ball-boys – I’d love to see the players pick up the balls themselves!” he concluded.

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‘Don’t Be Afraid’ – Nick Kyrgios Offers Support To Those Struggling During Covid-19 Pandemic

The bad boy of tennis says he will support those in need by delivering essential supplies.

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Former top 20 player Nick Kyrgios has urged members of the public to reach out to him if they require any help during the covid-19 pandemic in a social media post.

 

The two-time grand slam quarter-finalist has offered to deliver food to those who are struggling during the current crises, which has suspended the ATP and WTA Tours until at least July. It is estimated by economists that more than 500,000 people in Kyrgios’ home country of Australia will lose their jobs due to the outbreak. There have been more than one million cases of the coronavirus worldwide with many countries currently placed in a lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

‘If ANYONE is not working/not getting an income and runs out of food, or times are just tough… please don’t go to sleep with an empty stomach,’ Kyrgios wrote on Instagram.
‘Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to send me a private message. I will be more than happy to share whatever I have.
‘Even just for a box of noodles, a loaf of bread or some milk. I will drop it off at your doorstep, no questions asked.’

In Australia there have been 5687 cases of Coronavirus as of Sunday which has resulted in 34 deaths. This is according to figures provided by chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy.

It is not the first time Kyrgios has offered to support those in need. Earlier this year he was an instrumental figure in helping raising money for the Australian bushfire appeal. Donating AUS$200 for every ace produced during the first month of the season and participating in a series of exhibition matches. According to 7 News, Kyrgios raised in the region of AUS$100,000 for the bushfire fund.

Kyrgios is currently ranked 40th in the world and has won six out of his nine matches played earlier this season. At the Australian Open he reached the fourth round before falling in four sets to Rafael Nadal.

 

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Diego Schwartzman On Playing The Big Three And Who He Believes Is The Best

The top-20 player pays tribute to the three tennis legends as he cast his vote in the greatest of all time debate.

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When it comes to taking on the Big Three in tennis, Diego Schwartzman is perhaps one of the best players to provide an insight into how frustrating it can be.

 

The Argentine world No.13 has played a member of the illustrious trio no less than 18 times in his career, but is yet to gain a single victory to his name. Consisting of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the big three have dominated men’s tennis in recent years. Between them, they have won the last 13 grand slams and at least one of them has featured in 58 out of the past 60 major finals. Since February 2004, Andy Murray is the only player outside of the group to have held the No.1 position.

Schwzrtman’s record against the big guns has seen him lose to Nadal nine times as well as succumbing to both Djokovic and Federer on four occasions. Nevertheless, the three-time grand slam quarter-finalist isn’t bitter as he hails their achievements in the sport.

“Against Nadal you always come in hope of giving him a fight on any day and on any surface, but you quickly realize that it is almost impossible to defeat him.” Schwartzman said during an Instagram live chat with journalist Danny Miche.
“Djokovic makes me feel that in the second game of service I no longer have lungs. It’s unbelievable.’
“Federer gives you more air (time), but you don’t seem to know how to play tennis. It’s amazing how he hits the ball.’
“The three are unbelievable, in different ways.”

There is also the ongoing debate as to who should be named the greatest of all time. Each player has their own credentials. Federer currently has the all-time lead for most grand slam titles at 20. Nadal has won more ATP tournaments on the clay than any other player in history. Meanwhile, current world No.1 Djokovic has won more prize money in the sport than any other player – male or female.

Weighing on the debate, Schwartzman has given the edge to Djokovic. Prior to the suspension of the tour due to covid-19, Djokovic started 2020 by winning 18 matches in a row. Claiming titles at the ATP Cup, Australian Open and Dubai Tennis Championships.

“At his best, Djokovic has beaten Rafael Nadal many times on the clay and Roger Federer many times on the grass. So maybe I would say that he is slightly above the other two.” He explained.
“Let’s see if you can reach the records, now it was packed and saw that pace being broken. But Djokovic knows that he has to keep the level, because if he doesn’t win he will win the other two.”

Schwartzman started the year by winning nine out of 14 matches played. His best performance of the season so far took place on home territory when he reached the final of the Cordoba Open before losing to Christian Garin.

The Big Three head-to-head

Djokovic

Nadal

Federer

Djokovic

N/A

29-26

27-23

Nadal

26-29

N/A

24-16

Federer

23-27

16-26

N/A

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