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.
US Open Must Allow Entourages Of Three Or Four People, Says Thiem
The world No.3 says he is feeling good ahead of the return of professional tennis next month.
Dominic Thiem has come out against proposals to restrict the number of coaching staff that can travel to this year’s US Open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s New York major will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history and will be implementing a series of measures to help minimise the threat posed by the virus. Part of their plan is to limit how many people a player can bring with them to the tournament. It was originally reported that only one team member per player would be allowed to travel, but it has emerged that the limit has since been extended to three.
Speaking about the limits, three-time Grand Slam finalist Thiem said the idea of only allowing one member of his team to travel with him would be a risk for some players on the Tour.
*”I do not think so. Three or four people must be allowed. It would be extremely risky to travel without your own physio. You need a local coach for this,’ Thiem told The Kronen Zeitung newspaper on Sunday.
Thiem last played a match on the ATP Tour at the Rio Open in February where he lost in the quarter-finals. However, throughout the lockdown he has still managed to maintain his match fitness by participating in numerous tournaments. In total he has played 24 matches across three different countries, including one named after him called Thiems 7.
“Right now I feel very good,” he said. “I have played a lot of exhibition games in the last two months and I am not tired at all. I really wanted to play tennis again, since my start of the year was very good.’
“During This period of confinement at home I have been crushing myself a lot in the physical aspect and already when I returned to training. I have decided to improve the backhand and the serve a little more.”
The ATP Tour will resume next month with Thiem hoping that he can continue his form generated from earlier this year. At the Australian Open he reached the final for the first time in his career before getting edged out by Novak Djokovic. Although when he returns, tournaments will not be the same as before due to the ongoing pandemic with strict safety measures and reduced crowds in place.
“When the circuit returns, the matches will be exactly the same as we had previously, but the atmosphere will be different,” he said.
“All tennis players will miss playing tournaments where many people travelled to see us every day. In New York, Paris or Melbourne there are between 60,000 and 70,000 people every day in the facilities. That previous life we had will not be the same and we may have to get used to this new normal for a few years.”
Thiem is one of only four men to have already made more than $1 million in prize money so far this year on the ATP Tour.
*NOTE: Since the publication of this article quotes have been edited following a translation mix-up.
Nick Kyrgios Slams Thiem Over Defence Of Controversy-Stricken Adria Tour
The world No.40 has accused the Austrian of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to understand his view.
Australian star Nick Kyrgios has continued his public criticism of the Adria Tour by taking aim at two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.
The 25-year-old has repeatedly hit out at the exhibition event, which Thiem participated in. Organised by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, the event took place in Belgrade and Zadar before it was scrapped following an outbreak of COVID-19 among both players and coaching staff. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric all got infected. The outbreak came after the Adria Tour was criticised for a lack of social distancing and players attended various public events together. Although at the time, all of their actions were done in accordance with local regulations. Something the Serbian Prime Minister now admits was a mistake.
However, Thiem has called out Kyrgios over his vocal criticism of fellow Adria Tour competitor Alexander Zverev. The German attended a party in southern France less than a week after the COVID-19 outbreak despite issuing a statement saying he would go into self-isolation.
“It was his mistake, but I don’t why a lot of people want to interfere. Kyrgios has done a lot of mistakes. It would be better for him to come clear instead of criticising others,” Thiem told Tiroler Tageszeitung.
Continuing to defend the actions of his fellow players, Thiem also jumped to the defence of Djokovic. Who has been under heavy criticism over the event with some going as far as questioning his position as president of the ATP Players Council.
“He didn’t commit a crime. We all make mistakes, but I don’t understand all the criticism. I’ve been to Nice and also saw pictures from other cities. It’s no different from Belgrade during the tournament. It’s too cheap to shoot at Djokovic.”
The comments have now been blasted by Kyrgios, who stands by his previous criticism of players. Accusing Thiem of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to see his point of view.
“What are you talking about @ThiemDomi? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here or there? Which everyone does?” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
“None of you have the intellectual level to even understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable.”
“People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake,'” he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide and some players have voiced concerns over travelling to America which has recently seen a rise in cases. On Wednesday Alexi Popyrin became the first player to say he won’t play the US Open due to health concerns.
The ATP Tour is set to resume next month but it is unclear as to what events Thiem and Kyrgios will be playing in.
Roger Federer Eyeing Olympic Glory At The Age Of 39 In 2021
The Swiss tennis star isn’t ready to step away from the sport just yet.
20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has vowed to play at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo after undergoing two surgeries on his knee.
The former world No.1 hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January. Since then he had twice undergone arthroscopic surgeries which is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to diagnose and treat problems with the joints. Federer announced shortly after having the procedure done for a second time that he will not be returning to the Tour again this year.
Despite the setbacks, the 38-year-old has vowed to return to action at the start of 2021 with Olympic glory one of his main targets. He is already a two-time Olympic medallist after winning gold in the men’s doubles back in 2008 followed by silver in the singles draw at the 2012 London Games.
“My goal is to play Tokyo 2021. It’s a wonderful city. I met my wife in my first Olympics in 2000. It’s a special event for me,” Federer said on Monday during the launch of ‘The Roger’ shoe with Swiss brand ON.
“I had two surgeries and I can’t hit at the moment, but I’m very confident I will be totally ready for 2021.
“I do miss playing in front of the fans, no doubt. Now, I think if tennis comes back we know it won’t be in a normal way where we can have full crowds yet.”
Federer will be 39 when he returns to action, but is yet to speculate as to when he may close the curtain on his record-breaking career. He is currently the second oldest man in the top 200 on the ATP Tour after Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, who is 41.
Besides the Olympics, the Swiss Maestro is also setting his eye on Wimbledon where he has claimed the men’s title a record eight times. However, he hasn’t won a major title since the 2018 Australian Open. The Grass-court major has been cancelled this year for the first time since 1945 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Of course I miss Wimbledon, of course I would like to be there currently playing on Centre Court for a place in the second week,” he said.
“Clearly, one of my big goals, and that’s why I do recovery work every day and work so hard, and why I’m preparing for a 20-week physical preparation block this year, is because I hope to play at Wimbledon next year.”
Even though he is not playing for the rest of the year, Federer incredibly still has a chance of qualifying for the ATP Finals due to recent changes in the rankings calculations. Due to the pandemic, players are now allowed to use their best results at 18 tournaments based on a 22-month period instead of 12 months. Something that could enable him to remain inside the top eight until the end of 2020 depending on how his rivals fair.
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