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Marin Cilic could easily climb even higher in the Emirates ATP Rankings in early 2017.

Cilic's Simple Path To Success

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers explains how Cilic reached his career-high ranking in 2016

It must be nice to end a season and see your career-best ranking next to your name. Hello, Marin Cilic. Hello, No. 6 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

The 6’6” Croatian had a breakout season back in 2014, winning the US Open and three ATP World Tour titles while compiling a 54-21 record. This year, he went 49-24 and won two ATP World Tour crowns, including his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati. But in many ways, for Cilic, the past 12 months have been a more impressive body of work than his 2014.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Cilic’s booming first serve identifies it as the centerpiece of his powerful game, with opponents having a near impossible task of breaking him once he gets ahead on the scoreboard.

Consider this: In the past two seasons, Cilic has forged ahead 40/0 on serve 460 times. He won all 460 of those service games. In 2016, he led 40/15 on serve 324 times. He won 323 of them.

When Cilic got ahead by even just one point at the start of his service games, moving the scoreboard to 15/0, his winning percentage in 2016 was 92 per cent (495/539). It was pretty much lights out when he won the next point and got to 30/0 as well. He won a mind-boggling 99 per cent (337/342) of those service games.

Marin Cilic 2016: Ahead In The Point Score When Serving

 Score  Games Won/Lost  Number Of Times Lost Serve  Held Serve Percentage
 15/0   495/539  44  92
 30/15  334/352  18  95
 40/30  228/239  11  95
 30/0   337/342  5  99
 40/15  323/324  1  99
 40/0  240/240  0  100 

When facing break point in 2016, Cilic saved a dominant 74 per cent (106/144) of them when he landed his first serve. If he missed his first serve, that win percentage plummeted to about 49 per cent as he saved just 61 of 125 break points behind his second serve.

For Cilic to continue to climb the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2017, a focus point should be simply to make more of his potent first serves. Cilic finished the 2016 season impressively ranked sixth on the ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS Serve Rating, powered by the Infosys Information Platform, but was surprisingly 69th best on tour in getting his first serve in, at 55.3 per cent.

Cilic collected only 135 points in his first three events of 2016: Brisbane, the Australian Open and Montpellier. That personal-best ranking may be getting even better in the not too distant future.