High-profile pullouts will not dampen Australian Open, insists Cilic

World No. 6 Marin Cilic, an able contender for Australian Open, believes the absence of stars is a blow for tennis but the level will still remain high. 

Marin Cilic believes the quality of tennis will remain high at Australian Open despite many Top 10 players suffering injuries at the same time.   -  R. Ragu

The year 2018 doesn’t look promising for tennis, yet.

Australian Open — the first of the four Grand Slams — has already lost a bit of its froth.  Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori have withdrawn from the tournament due to injuries. There is no clarity on Novak Djokovic’s presence too.  Murray is down with a hip ordeal and Nishikori is still nursing his torn tendon. Djokovic will test his elbow at an exhibition match.

Marin Cilic — who is flexing his muscles at the ongoing Tata Open Maharashtra — is also one of the contenders for the title.

READ: Cilic tames Herbert, reaches semis

The 29-year-old believes the absence of these popular names will not dampen the thunder of the tournament. “This is a unique experience for everyone. Around the 90s, a similar thing had happened when a lot of top 10 players were injured at the same time. I think it is a coincidence that all of them — Murray, Nishikori and Djokovic — are injured. It is a blow for tennis, but still, the level of play will remain high,” he said, after beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the quarterfinals of the ATP 250 event.

“Last year, tennis was very competitive. A lot of younger players pushed through and the intensity is going to be higher. All of us have to do the best we can on the site,” he added.

Cilic’s consistency last season awarded him his best rank (No 4). He has been putting in a lot of thought for the coming year since then. “The focus is to play day after day. I have been training a lot in the off season too. It is time to put those into these matches. I want to be as high quality as I can. In tournaments like Australian Open, you never know what happens. You can never expect what will happen to you. You can be at your best yet lose, or be at your worst, and go through to the next round. A player needs to take care of things that are within his power,” reasoned Cilic.

He is always looking to learn. “Even if it is one per cent or just one shot.”  Talking about his quarterfinal display against Herbert, he said: “He has been on the tour for a couple of years. He is a solid player, has a good serve and is aggressive. But when I broke him 5-2 to finish the set, it felt good. I was serving good and it gave me a few points. I could also hit freely from the back of the court.”