Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files: A quiet word can turn classy Marin Cilic into a big noise
Tuesday 25 June 2013
Holy cow, we are in the land of giants. There are not many players who Marin Cilic finds himself looking up to, but here comes one on to court this afternoon in this huge French guy, Kenny de Schepper, all 6ft 8in of him.
Cilic comes in at 6ft 6in and that is more than enough to help him get right to the pinnacle of the men's game. This is a guy who is going places – and he is a potential threat to Andy Murray down the line in these championships. Whatever the Croat does over the next week, or two, he is a Slam winner-in-waiting if he gets it right.
I have watched him go up and down over the last few years. He's been on the roller-coaster, man. He was top 10 back in 2009 when he was only 20 but slipped down the rankings over the next couple of years. This time last year he was mid-20s but now he is back to the top dozen and, by my reckoning, ready to go higher again. We're talking top 10 and counting.
This is a guy whose time is coming: the right guy in the right place at the right time. Looking at all the players across the game and those coming up, the next big things, I believe that Cilic has the ammunition to be a top contender, to beat anybody in the world and to have a chance to win Slams.
If I was in his corner what I think he needs right now is to keep it simple. Your game is all there, my boy, the big serve, great groundies, good movement, comfortable at the net. Tick the boxes off. What he needs is a very positive person who will not dwell on his game but will dwell on getting him to feel, to realise that he can truly be one of the best in the world.
You need the light touch when a player gets to this stage, right on the edge of the big time. He would not be here unless his game was in working order. What you have to do is keep his mind free, stay away from the bull, and then, almost without Cilic realising it, slip in a few simple instructions. One I would probably whisper in his ear as he was about to head out on court is: "You see the net up there, you see it? I bet you can't touch it." I believe he is very comfortable at the net and should come in a lot more.
The way I like to coach is to sit your guy or girl down and say: "Tell me about yourself, tell me about what you like, what you want, what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you think about life." And then I sit back and listen. Then I pick out one or two things that I catch from them and work like hell on those. Do it right and you have an improved player. I learnt a lot from listening to Boris Becker. With Boris it was always important to keep things short and sweet. You listen carefully then just make one or two tweaks. That's why we had a winning combination. I thought he needed to get in better shape but you need the player to realise that too, so I let him talk, ba-da-ba-da, I'm not moving well enough, badda-bing. What did you say? OK, let's do it. There we go, we get him in better shape.
As for the rest of Becker's game, here's a guy who won Wimbledon at the age of 17 so you are only making little adjustments. Cilic isn't at that stage; he has never been beyond the fourth round yet and has only made one Slam semi so far, but if you can make him feel like a champion then he can become a champion.
The big match: Cilic v de Schepper
M Cilic/K de Schepper
Croatian Nationality French
24 Age 26
Monte Carlo Residence Toulouse
Right-handed Plays Left-handed
6ft 6in Height 6ft 8in
12 World ranking 80
9 Career titles 0
$6.29m Prize-money $353,354
9-6 Wimbledon record (W-L)2-2
R4 Wimbledon best R2 (2008, '12)(2012, '13)
0 Head-to-head 0
Nick's prediction Cilic in straight sets
Coaching report: Watson was too rushed but watch Haas and Novak go
That was not a good day for Heather Watson, not good at all. I sent her coach a text this morning to pass on to her: "Take your chances." It just didn't happen and in the second set her serve left her and she struggled with her thought process in selecting her shots.
Some of what happened against Madison Keys can be put down to Heather not having played a whole lot but there are some tough days ahead. There was something a little rushed about the way she played. A lack of time on the court has meant she's lost a little bit of that ability to build points. She played into Keys' hands. Keys knocks the crap out of the ball – she has big weapons, a big serve and then hits hard. What will make the difference with her in the future is movement: if she can move then she has a future.
That is what Heather failed to do. She did not get Keys moving around the court. And she hit the ball too shallow, which played to Keys' strength. Heather lost three games to love and that is too many. It is going to take a little time to get her game back together. Last year she went to the third round and now she is going to lose those ranking points. It's going to hurt her. But somehow she has got to forget that. Start again and get some games under her belt. She can do it.
Tommy Haas looked fantastic in seeing off Dmitry Tursunov in straight sets. This is a guy who is not easy to play against – he is a dangerous player lurking in Novak Djokovic's half of the draw. That is a good first round, comfortable. Haas is dangerous and the way he dealt with Tursunov, man that was a good job done.
As for Novak – what can you say? He's immense. He does everything so well. He is going to take a whole lot of stopping.
My week at Wimbledon: No Nadal? It would be like ditching strawberries
The impact of Rafa Nadal's big fall was still being felt around here. What a story! And it's how I said, there are no easy rounds in the men's draw at Wimbledon. But now it is all about 'What next?' for Rafa.
You have to be careful trying to second guess him or make suppositions about what he should or shouldn't do until we have heard more from the man himself or his doc. Still there is going to be talk. Boris Becker said that he should never play here again. I said: "Boris – what? Never play Wimbledon again! Man alive, you cannot be serious – didn't somebody once say that?"
For Nadal not to play on grass again would take away any consideration that he could be thought of as one of the best ever. Unless the injury is so serious I don't think he will give up coming here. That would be a big call and if he does that it has to change where he stands in the game's history. The best clay court player – sure, that's a debate to be had, but beyond that hang on. No Wimbledon and it's a new ball game. And he's won Wimbledon so he can do it here. He's no stranger here. He has to come back.
I love coming back here. Every year I just love walking through these gates. It is a special tournament that has something none of the others – New York, Australia, Paris – do. For one thing it is so well planned, everything runs so smoothly, everything is clean and neat.
But hey, I have to say if I ran this joint I would have to put in more places to buy strawberries and cream. I saw a queue today for strawberries that was almost as long as the goddamn queue to get into Wimbledon. You can't get enough strawberries and cream.
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