So it shouldn’t be a big surprise to have Roger Federer and Marin Cilic in the Wimbledon final. Why? Well, that’s what I picked at the start of the event. And I don’t see myself going back on that now.
Yesterday, Federer played just well enough to thwart a game Tomas Berdych. I thought Federer wasn’t at his best at times (some sloppy play) while Berdych played pretty well. But in the breakers and late in the third Berdych relented and Federer closed him out.
Roger reaches his 11th Wimbledon final and he does it by not giving up a single set for a third time en route to the title match. I thought Federer would get back, but I figured he lose a set or two somewhere. Clearly he’s in form and hasn’t dropped a set since that Stuttgart loss.
So too is Cilic. The big 6-foot-6 Croat stopped Sam Querrey’s best-ever Slam, beating the American in four tough sets. Cilic choked in that first set breaker after that delay at 6-6, then got right. Late in the fourth, Marin again showed some nerves getting broken but down the stretch he was able to convincingly finish off Sam.
Obviously, it was a great result for Sam beating Andy Murray to reach his first semifinal at a Slam. At 29, maybe this can be bigger and better things. We’ll see. He’s got a big enough game but does he have the desire to match it?
We know Federer and Cilic are not lacking in that department. To the final.
Roger Federer v Marin Cilic
The old saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” comes to mind here. Just like earlier today, we all just thought Venus Williams would get that 6th Grand Slam title. Why? She’s Venus! And the other girl, well, she’s not a legend, not a No. 1, she’ll come apart, especially on grass.
But that’s why they play. Venus fought hard for about 40 minutes then got rocked by the younger, better, stronger, Garbine Muguruza.
And I think that kind of applies to the men’s final. We have an ageing legend in Federer against a younger, hungrier Cilic. And like Muguruza, Cilic isn’t afraid because he has big Grand Slam title winning the US Open in 2014 when he shocked Federer in the semifinals.
Cilic also should have beaten Roger at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals. The tough loss dropped Cilic to 1-6 against Federer. Now, he’s got a shot for some revenge, finer revenge because it would mean a second Slam.
“It would mean absolutely a world to me,” Cilic said of possibly winning Wimbledon. “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 ’cause 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.”
Going inside the matchup. As always on grass, the serve will be the barometer and along with those big points – maybe a tiebreaker or a break point. That’s often what it comes down to.
“I have to play offensive,” Federer said. “If you give Marin now time on the ball, he can finish points nicely. The court is still playing quite fast. It helps on my serve, but it also helps him. I’m sure it’s going to be a close match.”
We know Federer is one of the all-time greats when it matters the most. To beat Federer on grass, Cilic will have to be that good. Can he be? I know he’ll be tough on serve and overall he’s just better than Berdych, but can he come through in those key moments? If he can, he’ll win the match.
But I think Federer will again win the key points and Cilic gets tight again. Like I said, Federer didn’t look great against Berdych, but Cilic had his own issues against Querrey.
In a title match, Federer has the experience and at almost 36, the urgency to know these chances won’t come around much more (chances like winning a Slam without beating Rafa, Andy or Novak!). Cilic, though, is saying the right things.
“I believe this is his home court, place where he feels the best and knows that he can play the best game,” assessed Cilic. “Obviously I’m going to look back, as well, 12 months ago I was one point away from winning a match over here against him. Definitely I believe that if I’m going to be playing him, in my own abilities to get through and to win it.
“But I still know that it’s a big mountain to climb. Roger is playing maybe one of his best tennis of his career at the moment, having a great season. So I know it’s going to be a huge challenge. But I believe I’m ready.”
Cilic will be ready and I think he gets a set or two to keep things close, but in the end Federer pulls through in a tight one.
The Pick: Federer in 5
Virtually any results wouldn’t shock me here. Federer could sweep Cilic and Cilic cloud just get hot like the US Open and run Roger off the court. And maybe Cilic fights off Federer in five sets. I could see that, also.
But again, the women’s final served as a reminder that you still have to play the match. And the sentimental pick doesn’t alway work out.
ESPN will have live coverage of the men’s final at 9am ET.
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