Federer Not Taking Cilic Lightly
Seven-time champion aware of potential dangers ahead on Sunday
The Swiss star was in a similar position during their 2014 US Open semi-final, but Cilic put in one of the finest performances of his career to dismiss Federer in straight sets. The match was one of the few times where Federer simply didn’t have answers on the court.
“It puts all the other great performances against me to shame,” reflected Federer. "I thought he played very well. He was clocking returns and serves at will. He was doing a great job. He was confident and feeling it and seeing it. It was definitely very, very impressive.”
Federer leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head against Cilic 6-1, but their lone match since that US Open battle came in the 2016 Wimbledon quarter-finals. The seven-time champion saved rallied from two sets down and saved three match points to prevail in a classic encounter.
Sunday’s final marks the first time since the 2009 US Open (del Potro) that Federer is going up against someone outside the Big Four in a Grand Slam championship, but he said it won’t change his preparation in any way.
“Thank God I've played also guys who were not called Rafa, Andy or Novak in the past, like Marcos Baghdatis and Fernando Gonzalez and others,” said Federer. “I don't want to say it's more relaxed going into it because I have a good head-to-head record against Marin, even though the matches were extremely close. But it's not like we've played against each other 30 times. You feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. It's a nice change, but it doesn't make things easier, in my opinion.”
Federer’s decision to skip the clay-court season and focus on the grass has paid off handsomely. He won a ninth Gerry Weber Open title last month (d. Zverev), and has prevailed in his last 11 matches and 27 sets on the surface. Although he has vowed that there will be no more breaks this season, Federer said that having a sensible schedule will remain essential in boosting his chances at more success.
“Health definitely has a role to play in my decision-making, As I move forward, I'll be very cautious of how much I will play and how much I think is healthy,” said Federer. “Then it's just discussions I always have with my wife about the family, about my kids. Is everybody happy on tour? Are we happy to pack up and go on tour for five, six, seven weeks? Are we willing to do that? For the time being, it seems like absolutely no problem, which is wonderful.
“Then success, to some extent, is also key for staying out there,” he added. “This tournament hopefully helps me to stay on tour longer, to be honest.”
Experience will also be on Federer’s side in the Wimbledon championship. This Sunday marks his 29th Grand Slam final, compared to two for Cilic. However, Federer’s familiarity in these occasions doesn’t mean he will be immune to nerves. The Swiss maestro admitted feeling anxious before his second-round match this fortnight against Dusan Lajovic and said he may be forced to handle nerves before he takes the court against Cilic.
“Sometimes it slows down your legs, your pulse starts racing, your head starts -- not spinning, in the sense that you have a million ideas, but you have to take the right one. That can stress you out a tad,” he admitted. “But I always say I'm happy I feel that way because it means I care. It's not like I’m going through the motions. That would be a horrible feeling.”