Cilic thrilled to be back
Croatia's Marin Cilic expressed his delight after marking his return from a doping ban with a first round victory at the ATP Paris Masters.
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The 25-year-old Croat has endured a tough few months on the sidelines after incurring a ban for a positive test at the Munich Open back in May.
Cilic saw the ban reduced from nine months to four months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week, meaning he was able to compete in Paris.
He took full advantage of the ruling by beating Holland's Igor Sijsling on Monday and admitted the opportunity to get back out on court again was a real joy for him.
"I felt like a kid playing tennis for the first time," an exuberant Cilic said after his 5-7 6-1 6-4 triumph.
"I would say the feeling was amazing just to be back on the court, to be competing, and I enjoyed every moment.
"With the game, of course, I'm extremely satisfied, as I haven't played any match since Wimbledon. So it's great feeling to win again."
The Croatian acknowledged his anti-doping violation - which he insisted was the result of him taking a banned substance by accident - had been the most painful experience of his life.
"Yeah, I would definitely say it was the worst time of my life to experience this as a player," he continued.
"I have been on the tour for six, seven years and have been always really careful and really honest and fair as much as I could with all the other players.
"And then to be in that kind of situation where when I found out about the positive test, and then also the media started to write and it was extremely difficult situations where people were even calling me a doping player and a cheater.
"I knew I didn't cheat, and the most important, I haven't taken anybody's prize money and I haven't beat anybody in that tournament.
"It's not a fun thing to go to the hearings, and I wouldn't recommend that to anyone because it's very, very stressful and definitely it leaves a big scar on anyone."
Next up for Cilic is world number five Juan Martin del Potro, who will be looking to carry on the momentum from his Swiss Indoors win in Basle last week with the ATP World Tour Finals just around the corner.
Feliciano Lopez came through a two-hour 23-minute epic against Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic.
The Spaniard was a 6-4 6-7 (4/7) 7-6 (7/1) winner to set up a second-round clash against Stanislas Wawrinka, who will be hoping to book his place in the Tour Finals this week.
Lopez's compatriot Fernando Verdasco squeaked past Latvian Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (7/5) and will next face Richard Gasquet, another contender for the end-of-year tournament in London.
Japan's Kei Nishikori was impressive in seeing off home hope Julien Benneteau 6-4 6-2, while Benoit Paire was dismissed 6-2 6-2 by Pierre-Hugues Herbert in an all-French match-up.
Lukas Rosol sealed a straightforward 6-3 6-4 win over Jeremy Chardy, Robin Haase dispatched Denis Istomin 7-6 (10/8) 6-3, Santiago Giraldo upset the higher-ranked Adrian Mannarino 6-3 2-6 6-4, while Philipp Kohlschreiber overcame Andreas Seppi 6-3 3-6 6-4.