Cilic wins on Astana debut, then leaves a lasting mark on the capital city
Source: KTF press-service
A tennis professional for 17 years and playing in 36 finals, Marin Cilic is accustomed to quick tournament transitions.
They are still tricky, however.
Cilic was thus proud of his «mental mindset» after a comeback 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-2 win over Oscar Otte to begin his campaign at the Astana Open on Wednesday.
Used to planting aces over the course of his distinguished career — he struck seven against the German — the Croatian then planted a fir tree in an initiative he called both «very correct and interesting.»
On Sunday, he had contested the final of the Tel Aviv Watergen Open, losing to his friend, Novak Djokovic.
«Coming here, little bit cooler conditions in the stadium, slower surface and it took me a bit of time to adjust to that,» said Cilic. «I have to say, a great win in terms of the mental mindset.
«Just staying in there, focused, doing my own thing and giving myself a chance the end of the second set. Slowly my game was rising towards the end of the second set and finally, the third set was really fantastic from me.»
The No. 14 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings faced his only two break points in the first. He created 16 break point chances himself, including nine in the decider.
Cilic traveled to Astana with Djokovic, his fellow Grand Slam winner, and practiced with the Serb on Monday.
They could trade strokes once again in the quarterfinals, though, from his perspective, Cilic must defeat Karen Khachanov in the second round.
Djokovic and Cilic entered Wednesday side by side in the ATP Live Race to Turin, 15th and 16th, respectively.
Cilic sits about 600 points behind No. 8 Alexander Zverev but insists he isn’t dwelling on reaching the Nitto ATP Finals for the fifth time and first since 2018.
«I know there is a possibility but I am just trying to focus on my game, keep my head down,» said Cilic, who completed his set of Grand Slam semifinals this year at Roland Garros.
«I think for me it’s keeping the focus on the game and trying to sort of push my level higher inch by inch higher. It’s been going well the last several months, somewhere just prior to the French Open. That’s always vital.
«If I can keep the form steady steady and lift it up, even a touch, it’s fantastic, move in a forward direction, giving myself a chance to play well end of the season.»
Cilic enjoyed the atmosphere in Tel Aviv and is getting good vibes in his Astana debut, too.
«It’s funny how you’ve never been to some places but people recognize you,» said Cilic. «Kids really giving support, so that’s something really fantastic. I’m enjoying it so much.»
He left a mark in Astana by planting the tree post match outside the National Tennis Center.
«We must feel responsible for the state of the planet,» he said. «I hope that today’s event will become an example for many.»
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