Marin Cilic
Marin Cilic Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Former Grand Slam champion Marin Cilic is convinced players like him will have to raise their game to be more competitive to ensure success on the men’s Tour.

Ranked world No. 10, Cilic, who enjoyed a career-best four singles titles in 2014 including his lone Major at the US Open, has been drawn to open against Frenchman Gael Monfils on Tuesday at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The 30-year-old Cilic has had a slow start to 2019, losing in Round of 16 to Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets in Australian Open. He wanted to play at the Rotterdam Open but a minor injury didn’t allow him to do so.

“Coming here to Dubai, you have to expect that you’re going to play tough matches. Obviously from the first round, I was probably expecting to play somebody not as in the top form as Gael [Monfils]. Anyway, it’s going to be a tough match and a tough challenge. I haven’t beaten Gael so far,” he admitted at the media session on Sunday.

“On the other side, I’m coming back from an injury and feeling good. That’s quite important for me. I hope this stays as long as possible, that I’m going to be injury-free for the rest of the season. I’ve been practising well, feeling the ball well, but now it’s the time to put that into match play. I have to be on top while just trying to play the best I can,” he added.

Cilic observed that the competition on the Tour is getting tougher, forcing the old guard like him to stay sharper and healthier. “The matches are getting closer on the men’s Tour. Anybody can win any round. Even the guys that are ranked today in top 60, top 70, even top 100 are great players. I think generally when you look at the surface, it’s sort of more or less the same throughout the year. The tournaments are quite similar in that perspective, so the players are also improving and working on their game,” he noted.

“I think a great part in last several years was the increase of the prize money in general terms. That helped the lower ranked players to increase their support team to have bigger support from the people on the side — coaches, physios, fitness coaches. I think everyone is playing better and the game has evolved. If you are not 100 per cent, you can easily go out of the tournament,” Cilic added.