Wimbledon 2017 - Cilic the last man standing against flowing Federer
The first Croatian to reach the Wimbledon men’s singles final since 2001 champion Goran Ivanisevic, Marin Cilic could not be facing a bigger challenge when he goes for the title on Sunday. The man on the other side of the net will be tournament favourite Roger Federer, who will be gunning for his eighth title in his 11th final appearance in the tournament final.
Cilic toughs it out
Marin Cilic has gone somewhat unnoticed in putting together the finest Wimbledon campaign of his career, one that he continued on Friday with an authoritative four-set semi-final defeat of Sam Querrey (6-7 6-4 7-6 7-5). The towering Cilic, who like the American stands 1.98m tall, had to work for it however, with Querrey showing plenty of composure in saving ten of the 14 break points he faced.
With big hitting the order of the day, it was a match that came down to mental strength as much as power serving. Showing the necessary resolve, Cilic, who sent down 25 aces in all, won through to his first final at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at the 11th attempt and his first Grand Slam final since his US Open triumph in 2014. In the process he has lost just three sets, a stat that says much for his rich vein of form. “It’s unbelievable,” said the Croatian, a runner-up at Queen’s a few weeks ago. “The way this tournament has unfolded I’ve been playing really great tennis.”
“Marin is just really good,” said Querrey. “He’s tough on both sides. I kind of felt like he pushed me around a little bit today. I had that break in the fourth. When he broke me back, he just played a great game [and that] kind of deflated me a little bit. He just does everything really well.” Not least his ability to hang tough on the big points, something of which Cilic was rightly proud: “I would say my mental toughness was on an extremely high level, considering that both of us played amazing tennis in the first set. The level was absolutely unbelievable from both ends. Lost that set... but I managed to regroup and felt that mentally in the critical situations.”
He will need to show that iron will again on Sunday. While he can draw on the experience of beating Roger Federer in the final at Flushing Meadows three years ago, there is surely no bigger challenge at Wimbledon than facing the Swiss on Centre Court. Undaunted, the Croatian said: “I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest challenge of my career, as I’ve already won a Grand Slam. But it’s a final and they’re never easy to deal with. I can’t say how I’m going to be feeling when I step out on the court, but I believe in my chances.”
Federer the tie-break king
As if the sparkling form he has shown over the last two weeks were not enough, in dispatching Tomas Berdych in straight sets on Friday Federer further underlined the fact he is playing as well as he has ever done, despite nearing his 36th birthday. And he did so by reminding everyone that few can play a tiebreak quite as well as he does. The ultimate champion, Federer showed his gift for seizing an opportunity and turning it into a platform for victory. After chiselling out a two-set lead, he stepped on the gas in the third, saving a couple of break points on his serve before then breaking his opponent in the very next game and kicking on to complete a 7-6 7-6 6-4.
The result was hard on the enterprising Berdych, but with the magical Federer hitting 53 winners, even the Czech’s best tennis was not enough. Playing the same superlative, flowing tennis he has produced since the start of the tournament, Federer maintained his record of having yet to drop a set. “I feel very privileged to be in another final,” he commented, after winning through to his 11th Wimbledon final. “I’ve got the pleasure to play on Centre Court another time. I can’t believe it’s almost true again. I’m happy to have a day off to reflect on what I’ve done at the tournament.”
Now just one step away from winning an eighth title at his second home, the man from Basel has no intention of easing up now or of underestimating Cilic, who earned match points against him in last year’s quarter-finals. “Last time we had a brutal match - I was two sets down,” recalled Federer. “I had to get lucky to win. Marin is a great guy. He’s a lovely guy. In his first Wimbledon final. He crushed me at the US Open a few years ago - I hope he doesn’t play that good.”