Marin Cilic: Me and My Racket
Originally published on: 04/09/12 00:00
You've switched frames this year…
Yes, I changed from a HEAD Radical to a HEAD Instinct from the beginning of this year and I felt better with it. It’s similar to my old racket – just slight changes – but it feels good. It’s a new colour, obviously, which I don’t mind, but some players do. I heard from [Tomas] Berdych that he was struggling _ьto make the change with his but for me it doesn’t matter too much.
Did HEAD encourage you to switch rackets?
They gave me the option. I kept my preferences from my old racket. This is slightly different because it’s a new frame but mostly the racket has stayed the same.
What do you look for in a racket?
When I first switched to HEAD the only rackets they produced in my series had 18×20 string patterns so I asked if they could make me one with a 16×19 string pattern to give me a little more spin on the ball. These strings are a little wider and give me the option to have more acceleration to give more spin to help give me kick [on serves], which is really important. As soon as I took the racket it just felt perfect.
Are you interested in the specifics of how your rackets are modified?
Not really. I gave HEAD the rough idea of what I wanted and they came up to me and gave me one. From the first day it felt just right so I didn’t want to change anything. It’s just about keeping it that way. This is my fourth or fifth year playing with my racket as it is.
How many rackets do you travel with?
I carry 10 for the Grand Slams. When you’re playing best-of-five you want to have two or three different tensions in your bag on three or four rackets at least. I’m playing with gut and if the weather changes it varies a lot. If it’s very hot outside the gut stretches, if it’s cold the gut gets tighter, so in those situations I always have two or three different tensions and that’s why I carry that many. For the smaller tournaments, when you play best-of-three-set matches, I don’t need that many.
Have you ever forgotten your rackets or had any racket-related disasters?
No, no, no. I always take care of my rackets. I’m pretty careful with that. Usually I like to play with my rackets for a long period of time. I don’t like to use new ones too often because a new racket feels a little bit tighter than ones that you play with for three or four weeks. I always hate those first couple of weeks with a new racket.
Would you avoid changing to a new racket mid-match then?
It depends on the temperature. If the ball starts to fly off my racket then I take a new one, but if I feel good with the one I’m playing with I’ll never change.
You’re always so calm on court. Have you ever smashed a racket?
Yeah, I have! The last one was in Madrid against [Juan Martin] del Potro. Things weren’t going the way I wanted and I was upset with myself. I knew what I had to do on court, tactically and playing-wise, but I wasn’t executing. It just happens sometimes. You need to make a change. It can be helpful!
Does releasing aggression help focus your mind?
It depends. If you are smashing a racket because you can’t find a solution then it will go against you. If you are doing it to make your determination a little bit stronger and give yourself more conviction and focus on the court, then it’s a different thing.
What strings and tensions do you use?
I’m using gut in the mains, 1.25mm gauge, and I’m using Luxilon ALU Power at 1.30mm gauge on the crosses. As for tensions, it depends on the temperature. [In England] on the grass I play with 25 kilos, but at the French Open I played with 26. It was a little bit warmer in Paris and the ball was flying so I played with the strings a little bit tighter.
I always play with the same side of the grip because it fits my hand a little better on the forehand side and on the serve. Even if I roll the racket in my hand it fits the way it should on one side. When putting on a grip I can always feel if it’s good. In the match, too, I feel it and think, ‘Okay, this is it.’
This interview featured in the August 2012 issue of tennishead magazine. Why not subscribe here?