Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Marin Cilic is one of a few men in the modern era to manage to wrestle away one Grand Slam from the much heralded ‘Big Three.’
The 2014 US Open champion is fighting his way back up the rankings, currently No.36, following a turbulent 2019.
His wife gave birth to a son earlier this month and the Croatian is loving every moment as a father.
Officially a team of 3. 👨👩👦👶😊 pic.twitter.com/MChwFZREXk
— Marin Cilic (@cilic_marin) February 2, 2020
“It’s still quite fresh, it’s only been three weeks. Emotionally I’m feeling extremely happy. Me, my wife and the baby boy, we wake up so happy,” said Cilic with a huge grin spanning across his face.
However, the 31-year-old was quick to snap back to tennis, to mention his desire to regain his destructive best on court.
“But still I love what I do. It’s important to have that motivation to drive you forward, no matter of the times. You can have great seasons, but everybody goes through ups and downs, but at the end of the day the most important thing is to enjoy what you do, to have fun, to keep looking forward.
“I definitely have that and life with the baby boy is making me extremely happy on and off the court.”
Cilic is delighted to be back at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, hoping to gain some momentum and provide a platform for the ‘Sunshine Swing’ in America next month.
“It feels good, I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since I played her for the first time. It’s always a great tournament to participate at, a lot of great players are here and the environment is very easy going for us,” added the Croatian.
“I also think it’s a really good combo for Indian Wells, with the desert air, so hopefully it will be good preparation for that too with some good results here.”
The former world No.3 hasn’t contested an ATP Final since he held the 2018 Queen’s Club trophy aloft in London, but is aware on what he has to build upon.
“Looking into short term and long term goals. For example, my serve can still be a bit more damaging. I need to regain when to be aggressive, when to put pressure on my opponents. That comes with matches,” stated Cilic, who last year fell in the Dubai first round against Gael Monfils.
He arrives this time off the back of a morale-boosting fourth round in the Australian Open.
“I’m feeling pretty good. The last four, five weeks have been really positive. I played well in Australia and came through some decent matches. Generally I’m feeling good, my game is on a good level and I just need to transform that into winning more matches,” continued the three-time Grand Slam finalist.
“Hopefully that will come as soon as possible. If I can win a few more in a row then my game I know will get to another level. That adrenaline comes in and the confidence boosts you even more. That’s what I’m looking for here, for a few matches to give me more wind in the back, more momentum.”
My kind of meditation.💆♂️😁🎾 pic.twitter.com/rasx3o3kom
— Marin Cilic (@cilic_marin) February 19, 2020
Rewind to January at the Australian Open and the Croatian became embroiled in a blistering five-set thriller with world No.21 Benoit Paire, taking the decisive tie-break.
Cilic, victor in their past five matches, faces the flamboyant Frenchman in the Dubai first round on Tuesday.
“It was crazy, with a great atmosphere. It got down to a couple of points at the end, it was a huge battle,” he said, reflecting on their Melbourne duel.
“He’s extremely dangerous and he’s been serving really well. He started the season with a final in Auckland and that definitely would have helped his confidence.”
It’s going to be a busy Tuesday for Cilic, who is also teaming up with a certain Novak Djokovic in the doubles.
“We’ve been on the tour so long now. Once we were talking about it and it didn’t fit our schedule,” said Cilic ahead of a tricky opener against top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.
“This time he asked me and I said ‘Of course, why not? That would be great.’ Obviously, another part of it, is it is an Olympic year. So that would be great for me to participate in Tokyo, hopefully get a medal for my country.
“Matches like these can definitely help highlight what you need to work on and specially to play with him is a great honour. Hopefully we will click together on the court.”
Blissfully happy on and off the court, fine-tuning his game with the world No.1, it appears Cilic is intent on embracing the challenges ahead to recapture his glory days.