New Year, Different Expectations For Cilic On Clay

Since producing the best clay-court season of his career in 2017, Marin Cilic has reached two Grand Slam finals and a career-high No. 3 in the ATP Rankings. Now, as he prepares to begin his 2018 European clay season at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, this year’s second seed has a different set of expectations.

“I’m feeling really good, a bit different than all the other years,” explained Cilic. “Seeded No. 2, straight away it sets up a different look at the tournament, different expectations as well and now I’m in a position where I am feeling, coming into any tournament, that I can go deep.”

Cilic, who lost in three sets to eventual runner-up Albert Ramos-Vinolas in 2017, will meet 2010 finalist Fernando Verdasco or fellow 2017 quarter-finalist Pablo Cuevas in his opening match at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. The Croatian could face fellow No. 8 seed Pablo Carreno Busta, as well as either No. 7 seed Lucas Pouille or No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev before next Sunday’s final.

In 2017, Cilic reached the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo, Rome and Roland Garros, while also winning his second title on the surface at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open, compiling a 12-4 record across five events on clay. The 2014 US Open champion’s confidence then flowed into the grass-court season, where he reached his second Grand Slam final at The Championships (l. to Federer).

“Last year was a great clay-court season for me,” said Cilic. “It also set up for grass-court tennis and I am looking at it this year again in that kind of way. If I would put [the season] in three different parts… I would say that [between now and Wimbledon] might be the most crucial part of the year. You get to play a lot of matches.”

Currently standing at his career-best ATP Ranking, World No. 3, Cilic took a moment to address his ‘ultimate goal’ of reaching World No. 1 in the future.

“I am aiming for that [No. 1 ranking],” expressed Cilic. “That is where I am aiming at. It is my ultimate goal. I am working for that. Every single day, week, month, I am dedicating for that. It is easier when I have that distant thing in front of me and that keeps my motivation high.”

The first step for Cilic would be a strong performance in Monaco, at the year’s first clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event — the Croatian is yet to reach the semi-finals on clay at this level. And as the No. 2 seed in the principality, the breakthrough may come sooner rather than later.

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