Cilic cannot get enough of seeing his new friend

Sat Nov 1, 2014 11:02pm EDT
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By Pritha Sarkar

PARIS (Reuters) - Marin Cilic cannot get enough of pursuing his new number one hobby -- polishing the life-size replica U.S. Open trophy that now sits proudly on a mantelpiece in his Zagreb home.

"I have to (polish it myself), it's my friend now. I have to see it every day," the 26-year-old Croatian told Reuters in an interview as he broke into laughter.

That trophy not only realized a dream that had been two decades in the making, it also brought joy to Cilic following a tumultuous 2013 when he served a four-month doping suspension after testing positive for a banned stimulant that had been present in some glucose powder he had ingested.

While doping authorities acknowledged the Croatian had 'inadvertently ingested nikethamide and did not intend to enhance his performance in doing so', the episode allowed Cilic to re-evaluate his life.

"It changed me (as a person). At that time I found out who are my close friends, and those who pretend to be my friends... It made me more aware of what kind of people I have around me," Cilic said as he stroked his dark beard.

"I was very surprised with Novak (Djokovic). He stepped up for me ... I think rarely you'll see someone at the top of any sport expose themselves like he did. I'll be very grateful to him for the rest of my life for the ... way he supported me.

"It made me stronger inside and I don't get stressed by some difficult times or some difficult days."

Unsurprisingly, life on the tennis tour is no longer as carefree as it used to be before for Cilic.   Continued...

Croatia's Marin Cilic celebrates a point against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin during their Kremlin Cup men's semi-final tennis match in Moscow October 18, 2014.  REUTERS/Grigory Dukor