PARIS (AP) – In his first match since his return from a four-month ban for a positive doping test, Marin Cilic beat Dutch qualifier Igor Sijsling 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 Monday to reach the second round of the Paris Masters.
The Croatian served 21 aces and hit 42 winners to only 17 for Sijsling, who double-faulted to give Cilic a 4-3 lead in the deciding set.
“All the players, they know me and they were really happy to see me and they were really happy that this is over for me,’’ Cilic said. “Everybody knows it was like honest mistakes, and it can happen to really anyone. I’m of course definitely against doping, against the players who are cheating, and I would say that there should be some more seminars for the players to be more aware about these things that can happen.’’
Cilic tested positive for a banned stimulant in May but claimed he ingested it inadvertently though a glucose tablet bought at a pharmacy.
The International Tennis Federation found traces of nikethamide in Cilic’s urine sample from a tournament in Munich, where he lost in the second round to fellow Croat Ivan Dodig.
Nikethamide is prohibited in competition but can be used out of competition. Cilic said he had ingested the tablets five days before his match.
When notified in June by the ITF of the positive test, Cilic accepted a provisional suspension and withdrew from a second-round match at Wimbledon, citing a knee injury.
Cilic reached a career-high No. 9 ranking in February 2010. His ranking has dropped to 41st from 12th at Wimbledon. In September, the ITF hit Cilic with a nine-month ban back-dated to May 1.
“I would definitely say it was the worst time of my life to experience this as a player,’’ Cilic said.
The governing body’s anti-doping tribunal later said Cilic hid behind the excuse of a knee injury to withdraw from his second-round match against Kenny de Schepper at Wimbledon and avoid negative publicity after failing a doping test.