Desmond Kane caught up with Croatia's world number 12 and former Australian Open semi-finalist Marin Cilic to hear how his preparations are coming along ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season. The Croatian concedes grass is his favourite surface, but would like to at least equal his best returns at the French Open in 2009 and 2010 when he reached the fourth round.
How are preparations going for the tournament in Paris?
MC: It was a bit cold when I arrived. It actually felt a bit like winter. I'm just adjusting to the conditions. I've been out on the main court so get the feel of the place. So far, so good. Most of the players are going to be arriving in the next few days to Paris. I did most of preparation and am just waiting.
What I would say, is that Paris is going to be a little more special to me. I am carrying the (HEAD) RED Special Edition racquet bag. I'm going to be using this bag during the French Open along with 74 other players. HEAD are going to be selling their bags all the world to help in the fight against AIDS.
It is good for me to do this in the privileged position I am. For me, it is a huge pleasure to be part of this and working to help raise awareness of and funds for the fight against AIDS.
What is your goal at this year's French Open? Any set agenda?
Obviously, the further I go into the tournament would be better. It is going to be tougher the deeper I go into the week, but I am always looking to progress. And knowing myself that I gave my best possible effort at the end of the tournament.
At the end of the tournament, I hope to be competing at a high level. But I know the field is always strong at the Grand Slams. It is a tough competition, but I look forward to giving 100 percent. I can't control what the other opponents are going to do.
Is Rafael Nadal the outstanding favourite for this tournament?
I would say so. I mean, he has been amazing this season coming back like a bull. He has had only two losses this year, one of them coming against Novak (Djokovic) in Monte Carlo. It is difficult to say if they come together who is going to win, but Rafa has showed against all the other players that he plays amazing tennis. He is always going to be considered first favourite for the French Open.
Do you have to adapt your game a lot for the French Open?
Yes, very much so. After coming off the hard courts and the weather in the US made it difficult coming back to clay on Europe. I have not had too many great results in the early weeks of the season on clay, but hope to improve in Paris.
Do you think Andy Murray was wise to withdraw with his back injury with Wimbledon around the corner?
He has difficulty with his back, and playing five sets is not going to help your back to become more healthier. In any case, whether it is a small tournament or Wimbledon, your health is always the most important aspect of life and you don't want to risk that situation. He had big problems and for him missing one Grand Slam must have been a difficult decision, because we all look forward to playing in them.
How difficult is to recover from playing at the French Open in time for Wimbledon if you manage a long run?
I'm maybe not the best person to ask. But I have been to the second week a few times. Of course, it takes a lot of energy out of you if you play longer matches. But I think overall you can recover pretty quickly. I don't think it has too much of an impact for Wimbledon.
Does Wimbledon remain your favourite tournament of all the Grand Slams?
Wimbledon is always going to be my favourite during the year. The people there are special. And playing on grass makes it even more special. Getting good results there would make me very happy.
Are you playing Queen's Club next month after winning it last year?
I am playing it again. I had good success there last year. And have no reason to miss it this year.
Perhaps you will be looking for a more satisfactory outcome if you reach the final this year after David Nalbandian was disqualified? (Cilic was awarded the match after Nalbandian bizarrely cut a line judge by kicking a piece of plywood into his leg during the opening set)
That was pretty difficult to see. And also for the tournament. It wasn't easy for anybody there. Even for the fans and for us players. We just hope things like that are behind us. As always, Queen's is going to have a great field of players, and some of the best tennis is going to be played there.
When is your first match at the French Open?
The draw is on Friday so we are going to see what the draw brings. They are going to have 16 matches on Sunday. So it will be possible there will be a Sunday start. We will see.
Marin Cilic has been working with HEAD Tennis and (RED) on a campaign designed to raise awareness of and funds for the fight against AIDS. For further information go to http://head.com/red
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