ATP Spotlight for the first title
Croatian Marin Cilic captured his first ATP title Saturday at Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven, defeating American Mardy Fish 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
The 19-year-old Zagreb resident becomes the eighth first-time ATP winner this season. ATPtennis.com caught up with Cilic after his maiden triumph on Saturday.
How does it feel to win your first ATP title at 19?
It feels great. Before the season started my secret goal was at least to play one ATP final, but I did play that and I won it so it’s a big accomplishment.
You played really high-level all week and you were in control throughout most of your matches this week, only losing two sets. What did you do effectively this week to make this breakthrough and win the title?
Well I came from Beijing and didn’t feel too good the first couple of days I was here but as I passed through the first few rounds I was feeling much better, playing very well and enjoying the atmosphere here and the good weather.
Did you have a hard time adjusting from your trip to Beijing?
It was hard, but I had a bye first round and in the second round Troicki retired against me so that was a little bit of a relief because I had another day to practice and to adjust, so that was a big help.
You’ve had a lot of recent success from your country – Mario (Ancic), Ivo (Karlovic), Ivan (Ljubicic) – you’re joining them, you’ve won a title, you’re ascending in the rankings. How good is this for the country and the sport in your country?
I think it’s pretty big now because I’m coming up as a youngster, coming from a new generation and joining them in a very good way. I jumped very high in the rankings, I think that’s going to help for our Davis Cup team and also for, I believe, younger ones that they can work more when they practice and play tournaments. They will have us as their idols and that’s really going to be big if I continue to play like this and, of course, if Mario is going to be at the top.
Because you came up a couple of years behind them, did any of them have a particular influence on you?
Well mostly Goran Ivanisevic did. He was finishing his career and he was practicing with me a lot when I was 14, 15 and he put me together with Bob Brett his ex-coach that, I think, helped me the most. From Bob, I learned a lot of things and he gave me a lot of influence and helped me a lot on the court.
This week last year you were ranked outside the Top 100 and lost in the 1st RD of qualifying at the US Open. What has changed since then and how great does it feel going into the US Open to make your first main draw appearance as one of the Top 30 seeds and an ATP title holder?
It feels really good and I know that I practiced really well at the beginning of the year and I had really good wins and good runs in the summer. Now I’m going into the US Open with big confidence and I hope I’m going to play very well there. Of course, I have a lot of room to improve more and I hope I’m going to be even better next year.
So where can you improve? What should we be looking for?
Mostly I think I’m going to get much stronger physically as I stop growing (upwards) and now I can grow wider (laughing). I think that’s going to help a lot. As you become stronger your shots become more consistent and your serve gets better. So I think that’s going to be a big improvement in the next few years.
How will you change your diet to bulk up?
What hobbies, interests do you have away from tennis?
Mostly, when I have free time, I got to my hometown and spend time with my family as the year is very long and I need some time off over there. Of course I go out with my friends, my cousins and I relax and have a good time there.
Family seems important to you, you had your brother here. Even though it was 3am (in Croatia), your family back home was pretty interested in what was going on.
Well I think that this night was the easiest one for them because they were at least watching it on the TV. The last two nights when I played my matches they were just following the scores on the Internet, and I know that’s very tough to just watch the numbers rolling. They were really big support and they’re always there, even in the bad times, they raise me a little bit. I’m really thankful that my brother could come here, as a brother and a friend, so it’s a big help.
Did your family get you going in tennis? How did you get started?
My father wanted each of us to play sport; I was at a good age to play tennis so I started to play and loved it. In the next couple of years I was showing at tournaments that I was really talented and that I was one of the best in the generation.
Are you doing anything special to celebrate this win? Buying a car?
Not right now (laughing), I’m just going to focus on the US Open coming in a couple of days. I hope I’m going to get ready for it and relax a little bit too to get going again.