ATP: Marin Cilic

Did Marin Cilic win? It’s not merely a question, but also a Twitter account, one programmed to answer that question at the conclusion of each Cilic clash.

For a long time, the answer was often “No.” A US Open champion in 2014, Cilic is yet to match that career high but has managed to come close thanks to relentless consistency, twice reaching major finals—at Wimbledon and the Australian Open—and peaking at No. 3 in the ATP rankings. A protracted knee injury threatened to curtail that longevity, sending him out of the Top 15 and making 2019 his first year without a title in 12 years.

It wasn’t until last year’s grass-court swing that Cilic finally rounded back into form. In Stuttgart, Cilic stormed to his 19th career title over hot-shot Felix Auger-Aliassime, and made it an even 20 in October when he emerged from an impeccable Russian fortnight with victory in St. Petersburg (he also made the Moscow final).

Back inside the Top 30, the 33-year-old can hope to be seeded at major tournaments once more, a potential launchpad back up towards the game’s elite.

“I’m feeling wiser than I was when I started on the tour,” he mused last fall in Paris. “And, you know, we would all say if I would have had this kind of mindset when I started the career, you know, who knows what would have been.”

Did Marin Cilic win? The Croat is in a better position to answer “Yes” a lot more.

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After finishing 2018, 2019 and 2020 in the Top 5, Osaka finished 2021 at No. 13. Can she bounce back in 2022?

After finishing 2018, 2019 and 2020 in the Top 5, Osaka finished 2021 at No. 13. Can she bounce back in 2022?

WTA: Naomi Osaka

In one year, Osaka went from the tour’s presumptive No. 1 to leaving many to wonder whether she’d ever play again. It’s hard to remember just how dominantly she began 2021; on the back of a second US Open triumph, she repeated her 2018-19 hard-court Slam double in Australia, topping Serena Williams in the semis before edging past debutante Jennifer Brady to win a fourth major title.

Still, success on all surfaces was a priority for the 24-year-old, who was already looking ahead to clay and grass: “It’s just something that I have to get more used to.”

Success on clay proved slow in coming, triggering a crisis of confidence ahead of Roland Garros that culminated in a refusal to attend post-match press conferences. Faced with a stern response from the Grand Slams, Osaka withdrew after her first-round win, and opened up about struggles with depression and anxiety.

“I’m proud of what I did,” she said in Cincinnati, reflecting on the positive reception from athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, “and I think it was something that needed to be done.”

Osaka was back, but below her best when she endured a shock defeat at the US Open; she then announced another hiatus. Ten weeks later, she shared practice images on Instagram, implying an Aussie Open return.

Having learned much about herself, and having taught the world even more, one hopes her return will yield all she’s ever been, and what she can still very much be.