Cilic Overcomes Querrey To Reach Wimbledon Final
Croatian looks to become the first seventh seed to capture the Wimbledon trophy
Marin Cilic grit his teeth and battled to overcome a mental struggle on Friday at The Championships to move to within one match win of a second major trophy. The Croatian will look to emulate his former coach, 2001 wild-card champion Goran Ivanisevic, when he plays seven-time former titlist Roger Federer for the sport’s ultimate prize.
Cilic, one of the cleanest hitters on the ATP World Tour, denied the United States its first finalist since Andy Roddick in 2009, when the seventh-seeded Croatian defeated No. 24 seed Sam Querrey 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-5 in two hours and 56 minutes. It was their third meeting at the All England Club, which includes Cilic beating Querrey 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(3), 17-15 in the 2012 Wimbledon third round.
The 28-year-old Cilic, with his coach Jonas Bjorkman, will now prepare for his first Wimbledon final on Sunday.
- Cilic has a 1-6 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Federer
“It's definitely great for me to be in the final of a Grand Slam again," said Cilic. "I felt that my level of tennis in the past several weeks is really on a high level, and that has given me a lot of consistency with my mindset. Obviously, it's going to be a big match for me. But it's great thing that I have already played one Grand Slam final, and I believe it's going to be easier to prepare.
“It would mean absolutely a world to me [to lift the trophy]. I feel that when I won the US Open in '14, it just opened so many possibilities in my mind for the rest of my career. To be able to do it again would definitely mean, I would say, even more because I know how much it meant for me to win that first one. It would be absolutely a dream come true to win Wimbledon here.”
Cilic went 7-8 in tour-level matches by early May, prior to winning the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open (d. Raonic). Now 29-13 on the season, the Croatian has gone 12-2 on grass courts in recent weeks, including a runner-up finish to Feliciano Lopez at the Aegon Championships.
How The Semi-Final Unfolded
The Centre Court soon fell silent in awe of the power level of both players, peppered by few groundstroke winners in the early exchanges. It was only in the eighth game, when Cilic led 4-3, that the returner won the first point for 0/15 of a service game. At 1/1 in the tie-break, Cilic broke clear with a forehand crosscourt winner for a run of three straight points, but the momentum swung back in Querrey’s favour as he combined aggressive serving with deft touch.
Cilic saved one set point at 5/6, when Querrey struck a backhand into the net. After a Hawk Eye challenge on the next point, overruling a Cilic ace as out, a spectator in the crowd collapsed. After a two-minute delay, Cilic folded in making successive backhand errors to hand Querrey the 48-minute set.
Frustrated in not sealing the first set, Cilic controlled his nerves to keep plugging away. Although the Croatian was unable to convert break-point chances in the first and fifth games of the second set, Querrey’s movement became compromised – perhaps as the fatigue of three straight five-setters caught up with him. Cilic roared his approval when he drew Querrey to the net for a backhand pass to break to love for a 4-3 advantage. From there, groundstroke errors began to creep into Querrey’s game, while Cilic’s strong emotional effort reaped dividends.
The early stages of the third set became a mental struggle: a personal battle. First for Querrey, when his serve and energy levels appeared to be in terminal decline, then for Cilic as witness to an American resurgence and the recoup of an early break. Both players competed with endeavour in the tie-break, realising the enormity of the situation. But it was Querrey who made two costly errors on serve, when he made a backhand error and forehand approach error to give Cilic a 6/3 lead.
Failure to hit first serves into court early in the fourth set put Cilic under pressure and Querrey broke in the third game en route to a 4-2 lead. Yet Cilic regrouped to win five of the next six games to book his place in his second Grand Slam championships final (2014 US Open). At 4-3, Querrey was unable to capitalise on a 30/0 lead and paid the price as Cilic won four straight points ending with a drop shot winner. Though Cilic got tight on a backhand, on his first match point at 6-5, with Querrey serving at 15/40, the Croatian struck his 26th forehand winner - his 70th of the match - on the next point.
What The Players Said
Cilic: "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. Then just to come short in that tie-break, I was 4-1 up, and Sam made a few good points. I was a little bit unlucky on a few challenges. But I managed to regroup and felt that mentally in the critical situations, I was really good. Even having a break down in that fourth set.,I managed to turn it around. I would say I played throughout the match a really high level."
Querrey: "Marin is just really good. I mean, 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 [set]. When he broke me back, he just played a great game. [It] kind of deflated me a little bit. But he just does everything really well... He didn't seem to have many holes. I played him a handful of times before. Lost a bunch. But he did seem to play at a really high level today."