We never wanted Federer to leave, Tour will be different now: Cilic

Roger Federer was such an inspiration around the world that no one ever wanted him to leave the game and the ATP Tour will not feel the same without the iconic Swiss tennis player, world number 17 Marin Cilic said on Monday.

Federer bid a tearful adieu to the game in September 2022, playing his last game during the Laver Cup alongside his greatest on-court rival Rafael Nadal.

The season-opening tournaments have begun in Pune, Adelaide while the inaugural United Cup is being played in Australia in three different cities.

Cilic, who clashed with Federer 11 times in his career and came out triumphant only once when he went on to win the US Open title in 2014, said the ATP Tour will now feel different.

“We all never wanted Roger to leave, you know, because he’s a great guy, obviously incredible inspiration not only for us on the tour, but for many kids around the world,” Cilic said at a media interaction.

“Also to many of these next-gen guys that are now at the top, he was, and probably still is an idol. So, so, definitely difficult to see him go and the tour is definitely going to be different,” the 34-year-old said.

Cilic, a winner of 20 titles on the ATP tour including the 2014 US Open, said though the game is poorer without Federer, there are two players who are keeping the audiences hooked to the sport.

“But I would say that, you know, we are still lucky to have Rafa playing Novak (Djokovic) playing also and by playing they’re still keeping this enthusiasm of tennis up there. It’s not the same without Roger, but I think the guys know that the tour doesn’t feel okay.” The three players share 63 Grand Slam titles between them and according to Cilic, the success of Big-3 lies in their killer instinct and that too from the very first point of the game.

He was asked what separates a Grand Slam champion from other players.

“I think there is a slight difference in competing. There is mentally a difference to competing in Grand Slams, and competing on other tournaments because when you’re entering best of five matches mentality needs to be there from the first point,” he said.

“I think the guys that we’ve seen now Roger, Rafa, Novak and for many years those guys played with killer instincts and unprecedented attitude. They require from you to be at the top of your game throughout the whole match you know, and so that’s I think that gives them the biggest edge,” he explained.

A new tournament has been added to the Tour, the United Cup — a mixed team event where the round-robin format consists of two men’s and two women’s singles matches, and one mixed doubles tie.

Six countries qualified based on the ATP ranking of their number one ranked singles player and six countries qualified based on the WTA ranking of their number one ranked singles player.

The final six countries qualified based on the combined ranking of their number one ranked ATP and WTA players.

Cilic is fine with the new addition but says ideally more and more players should get to play tournaments.

“In my own sense, I think there should be more opportunities for guys to play for the first week. We have tournament here (Pune), tournament in Adelaide, and United Cup, but it doesn’t cover enough spots for the top 100 players to play.

“I’m definitely perfectly fine with United Cup just something a mix of sort of like a tournament like Hopman Cup but there should be a little bit more opportunities for guys, for guys to play specially in the first week of the year, and preparing for Australia (Open),” he said.

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