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Cilic Eyes No. 1 In ATP Rankings This Year

Marin Cilic was close, just not close enough.

Playing with great focus and pin-point accuracy on his world class groundstrokes, the 29 year old Croatian battled back from a break down in the fourth set and found himself with break points of his own to start the decisive set in the Australian Open final, which would see Roger Federer emerge victorious after three tense hours.

One return into the net. One wide.

And that was it.

Federer would run away with the fifth set, claiming his record-equaling sixth Australian Open crown (alongside Roy Emerson, Novak Djokovic) and an unprecedented 20th Grand Slam title in the Swiss’ storied career. Cilic had come so close to achieving a second Grand Slam success following his triumph at the US Open in 2014, yet came up short once more.

Nevertheless, Cilic remained optimistic about his showing in the final, becoming the only player over the fortnight to take a set – two, in fact – off of the defending champion, who had hitherto maneuvered his way through the draw with relative ease.

“I was hitting the ball great. I was just playing phenomenal,” said the Croatian. “Then first game of the fifth set was more or less crucial at the end with having those... break points that I didn't convert. [It was] just a little bit tougher game, my [next] service game... [It] just ran away from me.

Marin Cilic reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open in 2010 – eight years later, he finishes runner-up.
“But looking overall, I'm really pleased with the performance,” he added, assessing his efforts, which included 45 winners and 16 aces. “[I] played great tennis over these two weeks. I had tough matches, tough opponents, beating Rafa [Nadal], reaching [the] final, which is definitely amazing. Looking at my own game, I think I improved a lot. I'm playing great tennis. That's really exciting for me for this 2018.”

Cilic will rise to No. 3 in the ATP Rankings next week, eclipsing his career-best of No. 4 achieved in the fall of last year. Citing multiple improvements in his game, the 29-year-old has his eyes on the top prizes – and the top ranking – in the coming season.

“My ultimate goal is to reach No. 1,” said Cilic. “That's what I'm working for. Even in these last one or two years, the progress that I did is big. Last year, I improved a lot in different areas. Now in these last couple months, I improved even more. So that gives me big confidence."

As the ATP World Tour picks up pace again in February, Cilic is slated to play a series of clay court events in South America before he tries for his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown (Cincinnati 2016) at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Miami Open presented by Itau. With “World No. 3” as his titular heading into the next swing of the 2018 season, Cilic is taking nothing for granted.

“No. 3 feels and looks amazing, especially behind [Federer and Nadal] as well. But I know how difficult it is, knowing as well Novak and Andy [Murray] and many other guys had a tough last season. For me it's a great time that I improved and that I am continuing to improve. Big times ahead for me.”


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