A season where he managed to award himself a Grand Slam final spot will generally be estimated at a higher pedestal for a guy who never managed to do so in the past three years. Also, in the same season, he managed another major quarter final and finished World No. 6. In an ideal situation, this would mean that his confidence is riding high; that Marin Cilic is about to inflict serious damage on the tour.
But if one focuses closely at his year, it becomes very difficult to support such lofty expectations. Cilic started the year at World No. 6 and ended it exactly at the same position. This is an ordinary performance considering what happened to the top crop of 2016 players in 2017.
At the start of the strangest year in Men’s Singles Tennis, the top 5 in the world were, respectively, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori. All 5 of them either had an extraordinary fall of level, or had to cut back on their season, or both.
That naturally meant that a huge void was formed at the top of the game. Of course, the men who took the biggest advantage of that were the game’s two greats, Federer and Nadal. But the next guy with the most experience at the top level is Cilic himself.
Marin Cilic can use an accolade to his name that very few can: A Grand Slam Champion. Also, he has been in the limelight for almost 8 years. Take all of the experience, and combine his threateningly aggressive game, we should ideally have a player making it big in such a rare year on tour.
Curiously, his biggest match in 2017 at the Wimbledon Final saw him deliver his worst performance. Roger Federer walked off with the title almost without dropping a sweat. It was similar to his performance against Novak Djokovic at USO when he was defending the title.
As the toughness of the situation goes higher, Cilic’s nerves come out as a big collaborating partner for his opponents. Events of his earlier meetings with them remind him of his shortcomings and his strengths take a back seat in his mind.
Marin Cilic can either be a surprise threat at the bigger stages or be a regular at the top 10. Only he knows what is best for him. But Tennis fans miss the former version of him. The courageous version that saw him beat Berdych, Nishikori and Federer to lift his maiden Grand Slam.