Zagreb: In the first days of summer the best players in the world occupy the most famous tennis courts. Among those who dream of Wimbledon glory are four ladies and three gentlemen from Croatia.
For Marin Cilic it will be emotional comeback to All England Club, a year after he was forced to leave the tournament, injured and falsely accused of using prohibited performance-enhancing substance.
"I can recall that it was very stressful period in my life. I was in good shape and played great in Queen's. But now that's all behind me, it's all blurry. I don't have a feeling that it was just one year ago. I can use it now as a motivation," Cilic said in an interview with Xinhua.
He entered the draw as the 26th seed and got to play 32-year-old Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round.
"I know him well. It will be our eighth meeting, second in Wimbledon. I won in 2008 but it was a tough match and this time I can expect the same. His current ranking doesn't show his quality," Cilic said about his opponent who is currently ranked 88th in the world.
Cilic is ranked 29th in the world. And because of this ranking, Cilic is paying more attention to the draw than he did before.
"It happened to me in Paris, where I was 25th seed, that I had to play Djokovic in the third round. I did play a great match but lost and had to leave the tournament in the third round."
If he'll pass Mathieu and beat the winner of the match between Brit Kyle Edmund and Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer, Cilic could play against former Wimbledon finalist, sixth seeded Czech Tomas Berdych in the third round.
"I think I have better chance against the best in the world on faster surfaces than I have on clay."
This will be his eighth Wimbledon appearance and his best results were two fourth-round showings (2008, 2012). He played only one competitive match before this championship but Cilic doesn't see it as a problem.
"It may be a good thing for me because it's always tricky to change from clay to grass because of the different movements. I had a good 10 days of practice so I don't see it as a handicap."
Cilic is looking to find form, from the beginning of the season when he won titles in Zagreb and Delray Beach.
"The first part of the season was great. On clay I didn't have great results but that is my least favorite surface. I hope that I can have some good results and improve my ranking to be among the best 16 in the world. That would help me with the draw at Grand Slam tournaments, preventing me from meeting the best in the world before the fourth round."
Every four years Wimbledon has to share sporting spotlight with football World Cup. Cilic doesn't mind. He enjoyed watching his Croatia beat Cameroon.
"We watched almost every match, not only Croatia. We will be all watching and cheering on Monday. I hope that Croatia will beat Mexico and go through to the second phase. It would be more interesting for us Croatians to follow the tournament with our national team in it," he said.
It was 16 years ago that Croatia won the bronze medal at the World Cup and at the same time Goran Ivanisevic came close to winning the Wimbledon title, losing the final to Pete Sampras in five sets. Cilic would love to emulate his coach's feat.
"I'll have to ask him for the advice. It's great to have him in my corner as I can't imagine anyone better. I am sure that he will be of great help for me," said Cilic.
With Ivanisevic in his corner, Cilic will be a dark horse. Without heavy burden of expectations he can be dangerous, even for the best in the world.