Cilic: ‘In Pune, the crowd is way more into the game’

World No. 6 Marin Cilic, who advanced to the quarters of Tata Open Maharashtra on Wednesday, rates the new venue (Pune) higher than Chennai.

Marin Cilic was appreciative of the conditions and crowd response in Pune.   -  R. Ragu

The hullabaloo regarding the shift of India’s only ATP event, Chennai Open — now called Tata Open Maharashtra (being held in Pune) — can rest now. World No. 6 Marin Cilic, a known face at the event, rated the new venue higher.

“Here, the crowd is way more into the game. Since the last few years, it was difficult to attract people in Chennai. Even the conditions are better. It is not as humid; it is nice and windy,” said Cilic, after thrashing Ramkumar Ramanathan to advance to the quarterfinals.  “It looks like a great tournament to start the year.”

Match report

Cilic also had encouraging words for his Indian opponent. The Croatian praised Ramanathan for being aggressive in his intent. “The level was good. I was serving well, apart from one game at the end of the first set. I think I was controlling most of the games,” he said, adding: “Ramkumar came with an aggressive mentality, he was serving quite good too. The balls were flying quick through the air and the points weren’t far. You get awarded if you play aggressive tennis.”

But the former US Open champion also stressed that the balls aren’t easy to hit when it gets old.  “When the ball is new, it will slide through the court better. After that, it tends to get heavier. It was not easy to hit winners in those balls. But comparing to other conditions where I have played, the balls have been moving quick,” he pointed.

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Cilic was all ears to the crowd who kept cheering for Ramanathan, but he didn’t let it slip. “I had to keep my focus high and ensure that I don’t slip on my serve to give him confidence. He is a home player and he could use the crowd and turn things around,” he added.

But Cilic also stated that Ramanathan’s backhand was not at its best today. “He has good pace and his forehand is also coming in quite good, but he was missing his backhand. It was not as consistent as it should have been, but he can still work on that. But overall, he was fighting well and had a good mentality,” said Cilic, who believes he has improved on speed, serve and accuracy. 

His goal for the new season is to keep the on-court mentality intact. “Sometimes, I play tactically and in some cases, with a free mind. Today, I went for the shots that I felt I could control,” he revealed.

Before Cilic takes his week off before the Grand Slam, he wishes to play enough matches in the ongoing tournament to remain fit and ready for the bigger stage.