''Cilic ready to come out of age''
, one article written before the quaterfinals vs Roddick from AO offical site.
Juan Martin del Potro broke out and won the 2009 US Open, but one of the up-and-comers he bested in New York, Croatian Marian Cilic, got a significant measure of revenge on him in Melbourne, chopping down the big Argentine in a marathon five-set win in the fourth round on Sunday.
While he’s not favored to win the title, it’s possible that Cilic could go the same way that del Potro did in New York and win his first major. At 198cm, he has the size and the power to hit through anyone. He has one of the cleanest and hardest-to-read backhands down the line on tour, has plenty of pop on his serve, can whale a forehand, and doesn’t mind closing out points at the net.
The 21-year-old could still put some more meat on his bones, but under the tutelage of Bob Brett, who coached Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic and is a disciple of the former Aussie Davis Cup coaching legend Harry Hopman, Cilic has filled out both physically and mentally.
“I think now I'm in a good position where I can look at myself, how I'm supposed to play,” Cilic said. “Definitely physical part is one thing that I improved a bit in this off‑season. So that helps to play these long matches in a more consistent way. And also from the first few rounds, I had tough opponents, tough matches. So it just shows me how well I can play also, how well I'm prepared.”
In 2004, Ivanisevic recommended that that the greenhorn Cilic go and work with Brett in San Remo, and although Cilic didn’t want to leave his friends and family in his hometown of Medjugorje, he knew he had little choice if he wanted to become a prime-time player.
“He was a very good 15-year-old who already had a great backhand,” said Brett, who also coached Wimbledon champion Boris Becker. “He was able to move a player around the court and dictate points, but not with a lot of power. He already had a good understanding of the court.”
While Brett was critical to Cilic’s development, so was his father, Zdenko, a hard worker who rarely had time for sports when was growing up.
“My father was determined that my older brothers, Vinko, Goran, and I would get the opportunity to play sport, as he did not get any opportunities growing up,” said Cilic, who began to play tennis at the age of seven. “The town had no tennis tradition prior to 1991, when the first tennis court was built. My friends and I were among the first to play on it.”
Ivanisevic has predicted great things for Cilic, saying he “can be a future top 10 player easily”. He’s been prescient, as Cilic is already ranked No. 14, and when he leaves Melbourne, might already have made that jump.
Last year, Cilic won a career-high 48 matches and captured two titles, Chennai and Zagreb, and he began this season by impressively repeating as the titlist in Chennai.
After upsetting Andy Murray but then falling to del Potro in New York last September, Cilic knew that he had to improve his conditioning and court stewardship. He needed five long sets to best Aussie teen Bernard Tomic in the second round, four sets to overcome 19th-seed Stan Wawrinka, and then five to outlast del Potro. He’s clearly coming of age.
“Everybody has his own way,” he said. “But since the US Open, I started to play much better. To win against better guys more often. Here, I had some tough matches in the first few rounds, and also that gave me a little more in one way that I was hitting a lot of balls. But also physically‑wise I was maybe a little bit skeptic what it was going to be. But [against del Potro] I felt really good physically, and that in the end was the main difference.”
Brett has cautioned Cilic not to get overly excited with his wins, and not feel too down after his losses. Becoming a great player is all about process, learning the ins and outs of the tour and your opponent’s tendencies, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses. Cilic has improved a ton, but he’s still three matches from his first major title. He’ll face the experienced Andy Roddick on Tuesday, a heck of a fighter who has reached the Australian Open semi-finals four times and sees a clear path to his first final.
If Cilic is going to take out the seventh seed, he had better be ready for a cage match, because Roddick relishes the battle.
“I believe I'm going to be ready. I'm coming with good background.” Cilic said.
“I played great matches, winning against del Potro also shows that I didn't go in that match, not to lose anything. I’ve come to quarters. Now I'm not going to let it go easy.”