It was in plain sight of the crowd that Marin Cilic was shaking his leg and making a painful face during the semifinal match of this year's Australian Open against Kyle Edmund. But why is it that Edmund was the one needing the medical timeout? Cilic was hoping that this discomfort was only fatigue instead of some serious underlying injury.
He managed to get through the semifinal just fine, winning the match off of the Brit at 6-2, 7-6, 6-2 and getting into the final with Roger Federer. "I'm playing very good tennis and definitely very excited for the rest of 2018", Cilic had anxiously said after his win.
But after the first grand slam of the year, the Australian Open, Cilic was off his game and strategies, going only as far as the second or third rounds of more than four tournaments. The Monte Carlo Masters and the Italian Open, the Croatian saw himself going through to the quarterfinals and the semifinals.
At Monte Carlo, he was defeated by Kei Nishikori. It might have been expected the loss because he was painful even at Monaco with a knee injury which carried through to the Monte Carlo Open. "I began feeling sharp knee pain back in Monaco and while I'm eager to compete, my team and I decided the best option is to pause and focus on rehab", he'd said.
The Italian Open was another lacklustre performance from Cilic, but playing opposite Alexander Zverev, who has the talent to dissect anyone's game, was a huge task on dismantling him. The French Open quarterfinal tested Cilic's endurance as he battled with Juan Martin del Potro but couldn't dissolve his game, losing to him in three sets.
The Croatian knew there was something he had to do to spark his gameplay up and his next opponent was Novak Djokovic who he met at the Queen's Club. Cilic's battle wasn't in vain as he did tough it out to win over the Serb in three hard-fought sets of 5-7, 7-6, 6-3.
He had felt as if he had slowly gotten his groove and magic back by defeating Djokovic and mentioned that "Last year I had a match point and couldn't convert it, this year it was Novak. I definitely am relieved. I've waited six years to win again".
He might have been relieved and feeling self-confident after playing Djokovic and confessed saying "My ultimate goal is to reach number one, that's my goal, that's what I'm working for". But Cilic started having inconsistent times again and lost to Guido Pella at Wimbledon.
There was afterwards the loss to Rafael Nadal in the quarters of the Canadian Open which took a hit on his mental stability. The Croatian had no luck in his competition at the U.S. Open quarterfinal either as he dropped that match too with Nishikori battling to a 5 set fiasco.
The remainder of the year, Cilic's performances were up and down and as he went into the Paris Masters he did go deep making it to the quarterfinals with Novak Djokovic again. He was the first to win a set, but Djokovic came back easily with a second set win.
The momentum was in the Serbian's favour as he won the last set but gave credit to Cilic saying frankly that "He has a big serve and big game from the back of the court. It's just a very powerful style of tennis..." Marin Cilic gave it all he had between the Davis Cup and the Nitto ATP Finals.
It was the Croatian who dropped a set, the first one in playing John Isner at Nitto. But he felt himself getting anxious and knew he had to keep being patient and aggressive of which he did to capture the first victory of this round-robin event 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.
As for the Davis Cup, it was pure delight for Cilic as at match point a few rallies were exchanged and then a perfectly executed overhead over Lucas Pouille, and Croatia was the winner over the French at the hands of Marin Cilic at 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 to capture Croatia's second Davis Cup.
Cilic could only say at the end of this extravaganza "It's not every day that you become a world champion...For us, it's a dream". So Marin Cilic becomes the man of the hour and the hero at the end of a challenging tour.
He has an excellent tennis resume of 18 titles and most likely will have his blockbuster year coming up if he can stay consistent and play as superb as he did at the Australian Open, the Davis Cup and the ATP Nitto Finals in London.