Cilic climbing back to the top

Cilic celebrates his win in Zagreb (thanks to

Cilic celebrates his win in Zagreb (thanks to

Marin Cilic will face Andy Murray tomorrow in the last eight of the ABN AMRO world tennis tournament in Rotterdam tomorrow. The tennis review looks at the momentum Cilic has been gaining since being cleared of drug use and assesses the Croatian’s chances.

Marin Cilic has compiled a 12-4 match record since his comeback from a cleared drug ban at the season ending Paris Masters 2013. Not bad for a man who was forced to miss 4 months of the season, and 4 of typically his most productive months, thriving as he does on hard and indoor courts.

7 of those wins have been consecutive, taking in the title at Zagreb along the way. His final performance against Tommy Haas was as straightforward as they come and a clear indication his head is even stronger than it was before the ban. As was his straight sets demolition of Tsonga in the Rotterdam last sixteen yesterday. Cilic’s shrugging off the Umpire’s decision to replay a match point Cilic had won but was challenged by Tsonga who stopped play when a spectator yelled in the crowd was particularly encouraging. Such an incident might have sent him off the boil once upon a time.

Not this time though. And his new coach Goran Ivanisevic might have something to do with that. The 2001 Wimbledon Champion took close to a decade to sort his own head out and reach his potential in winning in SW19 and will no doubt be offering words of wisdom to his young countryman. A countryman who is equipped with all the skills needed to emulate Ivanisevic’s Wimbledon record. Cilic’s big serve is a formidable weapon and since his teaming with Goran it has gotten flatter and boomier. If that shot can keep progressing and if Cilic can learn to keep his head cool under pressure, this comeback might turn into one of 2014’s tennis headlines.

Which is where tomorrow’s match against Murray comes in. Murray leads the Croat 9-1 in their head to head. And some of those losses have seen Cilic blowing big leads against the Scot. None more distressing than at the 2012 US Open where an on-song Cilic led the eventual champion by a set and a break. The Scot’s variety and defense proved too much in the end. As Cilic’s big serves and groundies came back with slice and spins of all kinds, the Croat began to go for too much, erroring until he went into his shell and backed off all the way to defeat. Should the Croat suffer another similar collapse from a winning position, it will be a sign there is still a lot of work to do. Should he win though it could mean he is on the verge of playing to his potential.

Murray is certainly vulnerable. On the comeback road himself after back surgery, he dropped a set to youngster Dominic Thiem today and is far from his best. The Scot though is a Major champion and a solid indoor player and will relish nothing more than a scrap against a man whose skin he knows he can get under.

Cilic will have to come out and hit a high first serve percentage, play himself into a rhythm and then paint the lines. If he does the win should boost his confidence and keep the momentum he is gaining going. And if he loses, it won’t be the end of the world. No doubt last year’s ban seemed like that at the time and he worked hard to move on from that. In fact, he may even have gotten better. Such an ability suggests that whatever happens tomorrow, Cilic will only grow. A growth that could bloom into a Wimbledon trophy in the not too distant future.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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