Thirteen years after recording his first ATP Tour match win, Marin Cilic is continuing to add to his legacy.
The Croatian’s latest milestone arrived on Thursday when he earned his 500th tour-level win against Ivo Karlovic at the VTB Kremlin Cup. Cilic is one of just 10 active players on Tour to achieve the feat.
“It would definitely mean that I’ve had an amazing career. I’ve been on the Tour for many years and, more or less, every season has been quite consistent from me,” Cilic told ATPTour.com. “I’ve played a lot of matches and there’s always an opportunity to learn from every match. That’s the nice part of tennis.
“I’m aware of [the milestones] when I achieve them and it’s a huge satisfaction that the work is showing itself in the results. Overall, my goal is to be the best I can be. You always want to be pushing that limit and never be too satisfied. It’s definitely important to have that motivation to keep moving you forward.”
CAREER 500 MATCH WINS CLUB (Active players as of 17 October 2019)
|1) Roger Federer (SUI)||1,229|
|2) Rafael Nadal (ESP)||967|
|3) Novak Djokovic (SRB)||878|
|4) Andy Murray (GBR)||666|
|5) Tomas Berdych (CZE)||640|
|6) Fernando Verdasco (ESP)||544|
|7) Richard Gasquet (FRA)||537|
|8) Tommy Robredo (ESP)||533|
|9) Stan Wawrinka (SUI)||509|
|10) Marin Cilic (CRO)||500|
Utilising one of the best serves of his generation to set up an aggressive baseline game centered around his forehand, Cilic has been a staple at the highest levels of the sport for more than a decade. He’s won 18 tour-level singles crowns, including victories at the 2014 US Open (d. Nishikori) and 2016 Western & Southern Open (d. Murray). He also led Croatia to the Davis Cup title last year. The 31-year-old has spent 191 weeks inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings and peaked at No. 3 in January 2018.
Cilic’s maiden Grand Slam crown was “a dream come true” for him. From the moment he stepped on Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time that year, the Croatian fed off the raucous energy of the New York crowd and delivered three of the greatest matches of his career in succession. Cilic sprinted past World No. 7 Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals, then emphatically defeated Roger Federer for the first time in six attempts before dominating Kei Nishikori in the championship clash.
Fittingly, among those in attendance was Goran Ivanisevic, Cilic’s then-coach and the only other Croatian man in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam singles title.
“[I] had an incredible time… played tremendously well and just enjoyed every single moment,” Cilic told ATPTour.com in August. “It’s just an electrifying atmosphere with the whole stadium screaming and enjoying tennis, loving the game and giving us great pleasure to play. When you are there battling it out, you definitely feel appreciated by all the people. You just try to play the best you can and when you are pumped with adrenaline, I think the best tennis comes out of you.”
But while Cilic’s US Open triumph made him a hero in Croatia, he looks back on his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati with equal fondness. He hadn’t reached the last four at a Masters 1000 event prior to that week, but outlasted Grigor Dimitrov in a marathon semi-final that finished at 1:30 am before putting on a flawless serving display to defeat Andy Murray for the title.
“It was just incredible in every single department,” Cilic said. “When you’re a youngster just coming on the Tour, you feel that you have so many years in front of you and that your chance is going to come. But when you get on the Tour, you see the competition is extremely strong and everyone is so motivated. You start to notice that years are going by and you’re getting less chances.
“When you do take that chance as I did, it’s just incredible. It gives you extra belief and confidence in your own game. You don’t need to worry about if your game is good enough to win these types of events, especially against the best guys.”
Cilic isn’t one to rest on his past accomplishments, though. He still feels motivated to pursue more big wins on Tour and believes there are plenty of years left to continue adding to his tally.
“I’d like to be able to get 600 wins,” Cilic said. “It would be an amazing achievement.”
CILIC’S MILESTONE MATCH WINS
|1||Igor Andreev (RUS)||2006 Zagreb 1R|
|100||Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)||2009 Vienna SF|
|200||Lukas Rosol (CZE)||2012 Queen’s Club 3R|
|300||Kei Nishikori (JPN)||2014 US Open F|
|400||Steve Darcis (BEL)||2017 Istanbul QF|
|500||Ivo Karlovic (CRO)||2019 Moscow 2R|