New York - Marin Cilic tried to find confidence from the heartbreak of an injury-hampered Wimbledon final loss in his return on Monday at the US Open after an adductor muscle strain.
The thigh injury left him in tears on the court as he lost to Roger Federer last month in a bid for a second Grand Slam crown after his 2014 US Open triumph.
"I knew that, OK, I was not physically 100 percent in that final. That was just tough for me to handle, especially in that moment," Cilic said.
"But I took all positives out of it. Up to the end of Wimbledon, I had really consistent play, maybe the best ever in my career, so that's extremely positive for me. Now I'm looking to build on that."
In his first match since Wimbledon, the Croatian fifth seed outlasted 105th-ranked American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 on Monday to reach the second round on the New York hardcourts.
"Reaching another Grand Slam final is big motivation for me," Cilic said.
"I'm looking forward to getting to my good form, keep it month after month. Hopefully next 12, 18 months I can be looking back with some great results as well."
After the long injury layoff, Cilic hopes to quickly play his way into shape as the Flushing Meadows fortnight unfolds.
"Everything feels OK physically. I'm very happy with that. That's the number one thing," he said.
"On the court I'm just lacking a little bit of that consistency point after point, to be continuing with my aggression. After those first two sets, which were quite good considering I haven't played, just dropped little bit with my game.
"I was actually feeling that could be also quite good for me to get in some rallies, battle it out, just mentally wise to get myself in a good position. Not the best as I would want, but still in a good way."
Cilic inherited the draw spot belonging to Britain's Andy Murray when the second seed withdrew Saturday due to a left hip injury, meaning a new path to the final and a switch in first-match foe from Frenchman Gilles Simon on short notice.
"It didn't bother me much in my preparation," Cilic said. "Basically still my biggest focus is on myself, to get my game on a good level.
"It's a great opportunity. That bottom part of the draw is a little bit more open there. Still focusing on myself to get to the good form and try to pass first couple rounds. Then I think my tennis is going to get better."
With defending champion Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic joining Murray out of the event, and stars Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the other half of the draw, the chances for Cilic improve to reach another Slam final.
The only higher-ranked rival on his side of the draw is German 20-year-old fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who has never gone past the fourth round in a Slam.
"I had to take a long break without tennis, without running, so just pushed me back a bit," Cilic said. "The opportunities are there. It's just whether to be ready or not."
Results from day 1 of the US Open on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Sam Querrey (USA x17) bt Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
Dudi Sela (ISR) bt Christopher Eubanks (USA) 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
Radu Albot (MDA) bt Ernesto Escobedo (USA) 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
Lu Yen-Hsun (TPE) bt Karen Khachanov (RUS x25) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3
Mischa Zverev (GER x23) bt Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (USA) 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3
Benoit Paire (FRA) bt Lukas Lacko (SVK) 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5)
Hyeon Chung (KOR) bt Horacio Zeballos (ARG) 3-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4, 6-3
John Isner (USA x10) bt Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
Jordan Thompson (AUS) bt Jack Sock (USA x13) 6-2, 7-6 (14/12), 1-6, 5-7, 6-4
Thomas Fabbiano (ITA) bt John-Patrick Smith (AUS) 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4)
Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) bt Joao Sousa (POR) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2
Gilles Muller (LUX x19) bt Bernard Tomic (AUS) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Kevin Anderson (RSA x28) bt JC Aragone (USA) 6-3, 6-3, 6-1
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) bt Alessandro Giannessi (ITA) 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 7-5
Borna Coric (CRO) bt Jiri Vesely (CZE) 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/2), 6-2
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x8) bt Marius Copil (ROM) 6-3, 6-3, 6-4
Denis Shapovalov (CAN) bt Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 7-5, 6-1, 6-2
Steve Johnson (USA) bt Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5)
Kyle Edmund (GBR) bt Robin Haase (NED x32) 6-3, 7-5, 6-3
Albert Ramos (ESP x20) bt Denis Istomin (UZB) 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-7 (3/7), 7-5
Nicolas Mahut (FRA) bt Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/3)
Cameron Norrie (GBR) bt Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) 7-6 (9/7), 6-1 -- retired
Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP x12) bt Evan King (USA) 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5)
Lucas Pouille (FRA x16) bt Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) bt Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT) 7-6 (7/3), 5-1 -- retired
Jared Donaldson (USA) bt Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-0, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6)
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) bt David Ferrer (ESP x21) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1
Diego Schwartzman (ARG x29) bt Carlos Berlocq (ARG) 6-2, 6-1, 6-3
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) bt Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 6-7 (5/7), 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3
Florian Mayer (GER) bt Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA) 7-5, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4
Marin Cilic (CRO x5) bt Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Alexander Zverev (GER x4) bt Darian King (BAR) 7-6 (11/9), 7-5, 6-4
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x5) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM) 6-1, 7-5
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) bt Mona Barthel (GER) 6-2, 6-1
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) bt Ipek Soylu (TUR) 6-4, 6-2
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO x29) bt Monica Puig (PUR) 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4)
Maria Sakkari (GRE) bt Kiki Bertens (NED x24) 6-3, 6-4
Arina Rodionova (AUS) bt Richel Hogenkamp (NED) 7-5, 7-5
Ocane Dodin (FRA) bt Pauline Parmentier (FRA) 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 (8/6)
Venus Williams (USA x9) bt Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
Petra Kvitova (CZE x13) bt Jelena Jankovic (SRB) 7-5, 7-5
Alize Cornet (FRA) bt Heather Watson (GBR) 6-4, 6-4
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) bt Anna Zaja (GER) 6-2, 6-3
Caroline Garcia (FRA x18) bt Tereza Martincova (CZE) 6-0, 6-1
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK x31) bt Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-3, 6-4
Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) bt Misa Eguchi (JPN) 6-2, 6-2
Duan Ying-Ying (CHN) bt Claire Liu (USA) 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (7/3)
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x3) bt Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 6-0, 6-3
Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) bt Johanna Konta (GBR x7) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) bt Johanna Larsson (SWE) 7-5, 6-4
Zheng Saisai (CHN) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
Julia Goerges (GER x30) bt Annika Beck (GER) 6-1, 6-0
Ashleigh Barty (AUS) bt Ana Konjuh (CRO x21) 4-6, 6-0, 6-1
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) bt Julia Boserup (USA) 6-2, 6-2
Sloane Stephens (USA) bt Roberta Vinci (ITA) 7-5, 6-1
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x11) bt Jana Cepelova (SVK) 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x16) bt Carina Witthoeft (GER) 7-5, 6-1
Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) bt Irina Begu (ROM) 6-2, 7-6 (9/7)
Donna Vekic (CRO) bt Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) 6-2, 6-1
Peng Shuai (CHN x22) bt Amandine Hesse (FRA) 6-4, 6-1
Sofia Kenin (USA) bt Lauren Davis (USA x32) 7-5, 7-5