Q. Last time when we interviewed you it was in this room the day when you won the final. You were very happy. US Open brings the best out of you. Is it special for you to play at the US Open, especially after last year?
MARIN CILIC: Yeah, I think this tournament is giving me the best chance to play the best over here. Even before last year, in the past years I was always playing pretty well and reached few times quarterfinals. Even in those matches had some chances. Close to making it to the semis. Coming this year again is definitely very special moment for me in my whole career. This experience of, you know, defending the Grand Slam title for the first time is something that I'm going to learn for sure a lot from. I feel that usually in my career I have been playing pretty well when I was a bit under pressure, even at some Davis Cup ties or Grand Slam matches where it was going the distance. I feel that this tournament could give me also some extra. And just feeling that I have won last year over here gives me more belief, you know, that I'm on a special place and that I can play my best tennis over here.
Q. You mentioned before you feel like this could help you, being able to go through the experience of defending a championship. Does it feel different now that you are the defending champion coming back here? Does it feel different coming back as a winner?
MARIN CILIC: It changes, absolutely, in your mind looking at the tournament. It's for sure a different approach. But you still have to bring that to your mind, that it's another Grand Slam, of course. It's going to be more important than the other ones, but you still have to simplify it. Still the most important parts of the preparation of the game are going to be the same. You know, the performances on the court are the most important. I am feeling that definitely it's a pressure thing to do that, but, of course, if you approach it in the right way, as I'm trying to, it gives me more positive looks at it.
Q. As the defending champion, are you a bit surprised that you were on the No. 2 court and there was a pretty small crowd out there? Are you going to have to win again to convince these folks to come see you play?
MARIN CILIC: Not really. It's the start of the tournament. Louis Armstrong Court is not that small. It was a pretty nice crowd out there for a hot day today. You know, it's pretty humid. The match before went five sets. The crowd also needs some refreshments. But, you know, I'm not too bothered by the court where I'm playing. The courts here are all pretty big. Definitely, of course, Arthur Ashe is the place where I was playing the best, so looking forward to come back there.
Q. Are you surprised to see Nishikori lose?
MARIN CILIC: Well, yes and no. I knew that Paire is a very good player, very dangerous. He's very up and down during the year. Even in Cincinnati he lost in quallies. He had a great match with Novak. So you never know what to expect. Kei was there very close to winning, but ending up losing in the end. But it can happen.
Q. Apart from yourself, of course, who is your favorite this year?
MARIN CILIC: I think for sure you have to put there Novak. He had extremely consistent year, playing the best on the tour. Obviously everybody knows that. Roger, Andy Murray is playing great; Stan is very dangerous. The top guys are always going to be contenders, and that's the reality. The guys like myself, like Berdych, Raonic, Dimitrov, Ferrer, we are all, I guess, half a step behind looking to get our forms in the right path. For me, it's a bit different understanding of going to these big tournaments than before I won the Grand Slam. Now I'm more focused on myself and know that I have the abilities to win.
Q. How did Croatia receive you when you went back?
MARIN CILIC: Yeah, I felt the most special welcome was in my hometown, Medugorje, the small city, population of 5,000 people. But it was incredible reception. Most of the people there I know from when I was a kid. It was incredible. More than like 30,000, 40,000 people was there. It was amazing experience. I won't forget that for all my life, that's for sure. And I would like to repeat that. like Berdych, Raonic, Dimitrov, Ferrer, we are all, I guess, half a step behind looking to get our forms in the right path.