‘Satisfaction is on a different path’ – Don’t call Marin Cilic a veteran
He might be nine years older than his vanquished opponent, but the Croatian isn’t motivated by generational revenge
Andrey Rublev is almost a decade Marin Cilic’s junior. In the Australian Open third round, the 33-year-old Croatian out-thought, out-manoeuvred, and out-gunned his younger opponent to take a 7-5, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 win.
But he refused to say that he took even a modicum of pleasure from beating one of the much-heralded next generation.
“Satisfaction is on a different path,” he told the post-match press conference. “Satisfaction is there because, you know, I played incredible match, and gave me such a great excitement. At the moment I’m feeling really positive about myself – obviously worked a lot and went with, you know, lots of ups and downs, then a couple of difficult seasons.
“And to play this well, at this kind of a tournament, it’s definitely absolutely great satisfaction for me.”
Cilic – I need to build my form gradually
With no Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer, and Andy Murray already out, Cilic’s Grand Slam credentials shine in the remaining field, with a New York title in his locker. He may have nothing to prove on the big stages, but it has been some years since he has been fully fit and in top form.
But 2021 showed a glimmer of that old Cilic. He won his first titles in three years, in St Petersburg and in Stuttgart, and as the current world No 27 is now at his highest ranking since August 2019.
“I’m that kind of player where I need to build my form gradually, and everything started somewhere in the summer last year, had some good matches, good wins, and, you know, played some quite good tournaments end of the season,” he explained. “Was really positive for me, so building up slowly. Also start of this season was two good tournaments in Adelaide. Several really high-quality matches.
“Then that just gives me quite a good belief in my own game. That’s extremely important in my own vision to the game, because doesn’t matter in the end who I play, if I’m playing the best I can, then, you know, it’s a great opportunity for me to beat almost everybody on the tour.
“It’s happened quite similar today where quite a lot of things I was trying to be dictating and being aggressive, a little bit more aggressive than my opponent today, Andrey. So those things, when they are built up gradually over several months, then I usually had some good tournaments.”
Cilic – Felix will be another difficult challenge
Next up is a man even younger than Rublev – 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime, who defeated Dan Evans 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.
“I’m expecting absolutely another difficult challenge ahead,” predicted Cilic. “Felix started the season very well. They won the ATP Cup and here today I saw he played incredibly well against Evans. We know each other well. We played few times, and he’s, as you said, big hitter, big serve, big forehand, on my own side as well as the net doing quite similar things.
“So it’s going to come down to who is going to be better at those critical points and who’s going to have whatever, better outcomes in those important points.”