Spotting a Mirage: An Awed Email About Marin Cilic – from 2008

You may have noticed that Marin Cilic lost today to Andreas Seppi in five sets. Cilic even had a two sets to one led over the 28-year-old surfer look-alike. Before you ask, yes, Cilic is higher ranked than the blond Italian. Nine spots higher. He also had a 5-3 edge in their head-to-head before this match. This marks yet another disappointing loss by the 24-year-old Monte Carlo resident.

In 2008, Marin Cilic had a coming-out party of sorts at the Australian Open. In the third round, the Croat faced the previous year’s finalist, Fernando González, whose blistering run in the 2007 Australian Open was still fresh in people’s minds (you can read about the Chilean”s God-like performance in the semis against Haas here) . Cilic was 19 years old then and ranked barely inside the top 60 in the world. The tall Li-Ning ambassador (then with Fila) simply ran over Gonzo that day: 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-1. I watched that match, and was so impressed I sent the email below to Steve Tignor and Pete Bodo, both from Tennis Magazine and

I have not edited the email: it’s presented here verbatim. Without further ado, have fun at my expense:

TO: Steve Tignor, Peter Bodo

DATE:     Fri, Jan 18, 2008 at 11:23 PM

RE: An awed email about Marin Cilic


Oh. My. God.

I watched Cilic play Nalbandián as a very late replacement to the perennially injured Ancic in Davis Cup two years ago. He looked like he was two years younger than he was, but showed some promise. Nalbo quickly dismissed him in straight sets.

I can’t believe that’s the same kid I’m watching right now. He’s blasting Gonzo off the court with everything you can imagine as a weapon. As I was describing to Amy (Ed. note: my then fiancee and now wife), who was stuck with Blake’s improbable comeback, this kid has everything: Croat serve, Agassi-like return (off both wings!), movement like he was 4 inches shorter, net skills that would make Roddick cry, and a forehand to make Gonzo rethink his.

Maybe it’s because I’ve not had much sleep and it’s a little late, but it feels like something really important is happening.

The thing I’ll remember from this match is how in the third set, after Cilic gave away his break stupidly, proceeded to break Gonzo at love by blasting returns and forehands in about a minute in a half. Then he did it again in the fourth. And he should have at least contested the second set tiebreaker, but he still hasn’t learned that tiebreakers are won by not making mistakes, and avoiding crazy shots unless it’s impossible to.

Anyway, with Kohlschreiber and now this, you just have to love Grand Slam tennis.

Hope all is well with both of you.


ps: could one of you forward this to Tom? (Ed. note: I meant Tom Perrota)

Juan José loves a well struck backhand down the line, statistics that tell a story, a nice lob winner, and competent returns of serve.