For the first time in his professional career, Marin Cilic will arrive at an ATP-level tournament as a Grand Slam champion. His first task as titlist is to work his way through the tricky draw at the China Open in Beijing, where he will begin his week against qualifier Yan Bai. This will serve as the first meeting between the two competitors and likely one that will heavily favour the Croatian champ.
The United States Open final saw the crowning of a brand new Grand Slam champion, 25-year-old Marin Cilic, who followed in the footsteps of his coach Goran Ivanisevic, and concluded a magnificent championship run with a Grand Slam title to defy all odds. None expected the Croatian, who spent a portion of last season on the sidelines dealing with a drug suspension, to storm through his competition – including 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer – en route to capturing the coveted title in New York. He would even follow up with a decisive fifth rubber win against the Dutch Davis Cup team.
Now that he has crossed the Rubicon, Cilic is now in a position where he is required to prove his consistency to the remainder of the tour, yet he intends to simply play tennis and enjoy his run through the draw.
“I’m very excited,” said Cilic. “It’s always nice to be back in China. Here I played twice in the final. It’s one of my best achievements in the [ATP World Tour] 500-level events. The tournament is really great and as you can see there are many good matches from the first round, so it will be very interesting.”
Cilic’s opponent, Yan Bai, has not played an ATP World Tour level match throughout the 2014 season, and has managed a 5-5 record in Challenger tournaments this year. He is 1-5 in his most recent outings, which does not bode well for his chances against a Grand Slam champion on Monday afternoon.
Prediction: Marin Cilic in Straight Sets