After a three-year absence, Marin Cilic returns to the Aircel Chennai Open as the top-seed. The two-time winner has had a highly successful year in which he reached a career-high No. 6 in the ATP rankings. Sportstar caught up with 2014 U.S. Open champion as he spoke about his return to Chennai, his life as a Grand Slam winner and more.
How do you feel on returning to Chennai, a place where you have won twice?
It’s a place which brings great memories. I started my ATP career in Chennai, in qualifying, way back in 2007. Then I had two wins in 2009 and 2010. It’s always a beautiful memory and I am just hoping I can win, coming back in 2017.
Also I felt, maybe, in the past Chennai has worked the best for me in terms of conditions and preparations. Especially for the Australian Open as the conditions are a little bit warmer and more humid.
Stan Wawrinka is missing after a long time. How do you rate the player field here?
Roberto Bautista Agut is an amazing player. He played really, really well this season. He made it to the final of a Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai. There is Borna [Coric] who is coming back to Chennai. He has played a couple of years now in Chennai and he is a great talent. We are going to see a lot from him in the next few years.
Stan has played the last few years here. So, I guess it is quite a popular tournament. I think it often crossed people’s minds when Stan was doing so well in Australia. He would start his season in Chennai and that sent a message.
The year 2016 has been great for you — Davis Cup final and a career high ranking. What was the highlight?
Getting to the World Tour Finals and reaching the top six. That has to be the highlight.
How has it been working with Jonas Bjorkman as coach? How has he helped you so far?
I joined Jonas in August and we’ve already started to work on a lot of things and achieved a lot of success. For example, how I approach the nets. He has a different understanding of the game [compared to others] and I’m really enthusiastic about how it’s going to pan out in the next season.
Reaching the top six shows how much I have improved and have been able to transform in such a short period.
What is it that you have learnt after becoming a Grand Slam winner?
My life has changed after the U.S. Open victory. Definitely the hunger [to win] has increased. People recognise me more. There is more media attention and it brings in a lot of obligations. It adds a little bit of pressure definitely, but now I am used to that. I do like having a little bit of pressure. It pushes me a little bit more, to be focused and to be a little bit stronger, mentally. It’s quite important to learn to play with responsibility, especially being in the Top 10.
What are your expectations for the coming season?
My first goal will be to reach the top five. Also to win another Grand Slam or may be more. I know it is difficult to achieve, but I believe in myself and my game, and I will push myself to do these things.