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Tennis: Comeback kid Cilic inspired by Ivanisevic

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Marin Cilic tackles Novak Djokovic for a Wimbledon semi-final spot Wednesday, hoping to emulate coach Goran Ivanisevic's magical run to the 2001 title, just a year after he was embroiled in a doping shame.

The 25-year-old Croatian reached his first quarter-final at the All England Club on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6 (10/8), 6-2 win over France's Jeremy Chardy, a victory which would have seemed impossible this time last year.

Cilic withdrew from the 2013 Wimbledon citing a knee injury, but it was then revealed that he had tested positive for a banned stimulant leading to a six-month ban which was eventually reduced to four.

Despite his protests of innocence over the substance which was contained in a food supplement bought over a pharmacy counter by one of his coaching team, the stigma of drugs is always hard to shake.

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was just one player to criticise Cilic's naivety.

In his darkest hours, Cilic turned to national hero Ivanisevic for support and the former Wimbledon champion agreed to become his coach in November 2013.

"For me, the most important part was that I found some mental toughness out of all of what happened last year," said Cilic, who fired a huge 33 aces past Chardy.

"When I came back, it sort of gave me more motivation to work and use every opportunity I have to be prepared for every tournament. Obviously I used that time as well for physical preparation."

Cilic is the fourth Croatian man to make the quarter-finals at Wimbledon after Ivanisevic (1994-1996, 1998 and 2001), Mario Ancic (2004, 2006 and 2008) and Ivo Karlovic (2009).

He will need all of Ivanisevic's help and experience against Djokovic against whom he has a woeful 9-0 losing record.

"The main part that is coming from Goran to me and what I feel in this relationship is big confidence," said the world number 29.

"All the things we are working on, they're working for me on the court. Having him beside me is definitely another plus, big plus to have him in my box. He's been many times in the second week of Wimbledon. It's working very well."

Quiet and unassuming, Cilic is a polar opposite to Ivanisevic who famously warmed up for his 2001 final win over Pat Rafter by watching episodes of children's TV show, Teletubbies.

"Goran is different when he plays and when he's off the court. When he's coaching he's very calm character and very positive," said Cilic who has already claimed one major scalp at Wimbledon by knocking out sixth seed and 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych in the third round.

"It's a nice combination. He's eager on the court when we are working that things become better, and of course the other part where he's calm in certain other situations."

Djokovic said he will have to put his friendship to Cilic to one side on Wednesday.

"We both want to win. It's the same as with Radek (Stepanek, his second round opponent). We are friends and an hour after the match we were joking in the locker room and we practiced the day after," said the Serb.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140630/tennis-comeback-kid-cilic-inspired-ivanisevic