In his opening-round match against Roberto Carballes Baena at the 2023 Maharashtra Open in Pune on Wednesday, Marin Cilic needed three sets to get the win and reach the quarter-finals. His 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory came after two hours and two minutes of play but for almost the entirety of the match, Cilic looked to be in control.
As far as starts to the new season go, this was a worthwhile beginning to the Croatian’s, adding momentum to the uptick he’d witnessed in his form last year. At the start of the 2022 season, Cilic was ranked 30th in the world.
That year, he did win a couple of titles – in Stuttgart and St. Petersburg – but largely struggled in the Slams, not making it past the first round at the Australian and US Open, and falling in the third round and second round, at Wimbledon and the French Open respectively.
2022: The year Marin Cilic surged anew
In comparison, in 2022, although Cilic didn’t win any title – he reached and lost the Tel Aviv final to Novak Djokovic – he bettered himself, especially at the Slams.
Cilic lost two competitive fourth-round matches to Felix Auger-Aliassime and Carlos Alcaraz at the Australian Open and US Open, respectively. But his best came at the French Open, where he reached the semi-finals. The 34-year-old lost that match to Casper Ruud in four sets but the momentousness of that run spilled over for a couple of significant reasons.
The first was that in making it that far in Paris, Cilic joined Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray as the (then) only four players still on the professional circuit to reach the semis of all Majors.
Beyond this, on a personal front, it was the first time in almost four years that Cilic had made it this far at a Slam. Since losing the 2018 Australian Open final to Federer, Cilic’s best performances at the Majors were reaching the quarter-finals at the French Open and US Open the same year.
With having to wait for so long to string together a continuity of match wins in this fashion, it’s not surprising that in his pre-tournament press conference in Pune, he referred to 2022 as “a positive year”.
“I would say that 2022 was, I have to say positive very positive year for me because a couple years prior to that, were up and down, you know, looking for the form, (and) Covid. You know, everything just put together wasn't perfect and ideal for part of my career but last year was extremely positive,” Cilic cited.
Looking back at his results, the Medjugorje-native, who’s been ranked as high as no. 3 in the world, credits his Roland Garros outing for adding more shape to his form in the latter part of the year. “And then from that point on until I would say the last couple tournaments of the season everything was really good.
I was positive, played really good US Open summer”. Given that he made it to the title round in Israel immediately after his noteworthy showing at the US Open, it’s only fair to say Cilic’s summer extended beyond the American shores.
Segueing into 2023 at this juncture, the 2014 US Open titlist is keen on maintaining this status quo of his playing fortunes. “So, all in all very enthusiastic for this year and trying to keep that wave and build them on top of that.
Still keep the space but trying to get one step further,” he said. Ergo, enter Pune, a tournament where that statement could fructify into a reality given that his previous best in the event here, in 2018, was reaching the semis right before he made it to the finale at Melbourne Park.