Coaches’ Corner: How Champion Cilic Is Continuing His Charge

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Marin Cilic arrives at the US Open holding fond memories, having soared to his maiden Grand Slam title in New York in 2014.

The Croatian, who defeated Roger Federer en route to the trophy eight years ago, will be aiming to build on recent third-round results in Montreal and Cincinnati as he aims to replicate his dream 2014 run this year at the hard-court major.

Ahead of his opening match against Maximilian Marterer, caught up with Cilic’s coach Ivan Cinkus to learn more about their relationship, the 33-year-old’s season, his upcoming aims and much more.


Marin is having another great season, how happy have you been with his performances?
Marin is doing great. Reached the fourth round in Australia and semi-finals in his first two tournaments. He is improving his game. He played really well on the clay. Ok, he lost to Sascha Zverev in Madrid, but he played well and it built up his confidence and it helped him at Roland Garros. He played really well in Paris and reached the semis. It is really good.

Roland Garros he was on top form. Everything we had done before meant he was rising in form and then in Paris, he put everything together. We as a team and myself as a coach are happy about it, with his improvement and mentality.

Marin has won titles consistently each year since 2008, How has Marin been able to stay at the top so consistently for so long?
He is always focused. Whether it is practise or matches. He is a really great worker on the court. A hard worker. He wants to improve his game. Marin is always wanting to improve his game. The top players have been doing this. You need to be focused all the time and that is the difference between players who have played on the Tour for 15 years and those who are in their first year or two.

Ivan Cinkus [above]. Photo Credit: Sam Jacot/ATP Tour
What is the biggest thing you have learned since you first started working with Marin seven years ago?
The thing I have learned is you need to be prepared. For example, in Australia in the 2018 Australian Open final, we were only told 20 minutes before the final that the roof was going to be closed. We asked every hour waiting to be told. Then we went to warm up on an indoor court. This is what you need to learn, to be prepared.

I also like seeing what other coaches and players are doing to be prepared to better myself. If you are a coach, you work with different players. So you need to adapt. For Marin one style works, for another it is something else, so you need to find a way to help them. That is the difference between the good coaches and the best.

How has your journey been so far and what is your relationship like off-court?
We were together for four and a half years and then we split for two years so he could have something fresh. Then in December 2021, we joined again, doing preseason together. We like to walk and visit sites. If we are in big cities, we like to go to the theatre and shows. We like to drink coffee and watch TV shows. We like to relax. Every time we go to a city, we want to see something new.

How would you describe Marin as a person?
Marin is a great person. A really warm person. He wants to help. Now he has two kids and he is enjoying time with them. He is more relaxed now with the kids. It has improved his life, his family and his kids. He really wants to talk and explain what he is doing. It is a good quality of his.

In 2019/2020 he a slight dip in level, not winning a title. Did he ever think about stopping?
No. With Covid, the atmosphere was a little bit down, but he never thought about stopping. He was ok and has proved it last season and this year so far.

What are your aims for the rest of the grass-court season and then the year overall?
We want to improve his net play, coming to the net. Improving his power on his groundstrokes and coming into the net. Also, to keep going on the serve. Reaching the Top 15 [in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings] is an aim. He is already close. We said at the beginning of the season it was Top 15. He was Top 30 last two seasons. You can’t say Top 10 as everyone wants to be Top 10. But I said Top 15 would be perfect and anything else would be amazing.


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Author: Sara Brooks