Can Marin Cilic do the unthinkable again?

Nearly two years after his maiden grand slam win, Marin Cilic is searching for more of the same as he prepares for the final grand slam of 2016. The big-serving Croatian tennis player has just won the Cincinnati Masters title and looks in great shape heading into Flushing Meadows.

Not everything has been fine and dandy for the Croatian since his US Open triumph though. Two high profile shoulder and knee injuries have proved difficult in recent years and months.

Can Marin Cilic put together another memorable run at Flushing Meadows?

There are a number of reasons that suggest this could be a fantastically advantageous period of the season for Marin Cilic. One factor that indicates he can triumph once again is that he has the benefit of previous experience of winning at this grand slam. That is something that not many active players can say they have achieved. Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro are the only active players that can boast of previous success in New York at the US Open.

The difference between a player ‘believing’ they can win a grand slam compared to a player ‘knowing’ is vastly substantial at this level. Just look at Tomas Berdych, a successful tennis player in his own right, but has not had the additional belief at this particular level. Why? One of many reasons being that he has not experienced the positive feeling of calling himself a grand slam winner. That label is invaluable for someone like Cilic, who notoriously can buckle under the pressure when the spotlight is firmly on him.

The realisation of being a grand slam winner not only affects Cilic. It can also impact his future opponents in the lead up to matches. Many will acknowledge the fact that Cilic has the weaponry and capability to win his seven matches, which can strike fear into some of the lesser opponents on tour. That in itself makes a huge difference.

Does Marin Cilic’s Cincinnati Masters triumph benefit or hinder him?

Well, there is no question that Cilic prefers flying under the radar. When he won his first ever grand slam, he basically won the title through slowly but surely making his way through match by match. This Cincinnati win means that Cilic is going to have to try to replicate his 2014 success. With knowledgable tennis supporters around the world being reminded that a former US Open champion is making a move –  that may restrict Cilic a lot in my opinion.

It is easy to forget that Marin Cilic defended a lot of his points by reaching the semi-final of the same tournament the next year. This was a very tough ask, especially considering he had only previously played two Grand Slam career semi-finals to that date.

One factor that will work in the Croatian number one’s favour is that he is a positive tennis player. He will seek out winners from the forehand and backhand, which makes him a considerable danger for most of the top players. The fact that he plays his tennis mostly on the front foot and tries to penetrate through the slowest of courts may help Cilic, especially on a hard court.

Can Marin Cilic do the unthinkable again?

Lastly, can Jonas Bjorkman make a great first impression and guide Cilic to further Grand Slam success? It would be an amazing story if the Swede could influence a title win on his first official tournament with the Croatian.

Marin Cilic’s build up to the 2016 US Open will feel very different to 2014, but can the 2014 US Open champion handle the mental side of the game as he prepares for Flushing Meadows as one of the contenders. Djokovic and Murray are the obvious contenders at the top of the pile, but aside from those two it has become a wide open field. Djokovic is still the favourite because of his consistency over the years, however, he has shown frailties and has endured injury problems of his own in recent weeks.

There is definitely an opportunity for someone like Marin Cilic to make a deep run. It is just whether he can make those giant strides once again when people will be anticipating it.