Add Marin Cilic’s name to list of those who won’t even make it to the weekend at Wimbledon. The No. 3 seed and 2017 runner-up crashed out to Argentine lefty Guido Pella today in the second round.
The match resumed with Pella up a break in third, and he finished the Croat off but still had to win two more sets. Cilic was so strong in the first two sets but then stumbled – literally – and was broken before play was finally called Wednesday night.
Today, though, it was Pella the better player. And after coming from a break down in the fourth, he seized control and served his way to the biggest win of his career – first over a Top 5 player – and into his first Grand Slam third round with a stunning 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-5 win.
“Every time you play these types of player, they try to break your serve in the first game so they can get confidence,” Pella said. “And I think that’s what he got in the first two sets. He broke me a lot of times, I couldn’t move well on this surface – it’s not my favorite surface but I’m trying to improve my game – so after that the rain came and today I felt much more confident in my game. I served much, much better and I was so calm until the end because I lost three match points before I could close the game. So I am very happy.”
Cilic made no bones about it, and credited Pella with his play.
“Yesterday, I played really good,” said Cilic. “[I] played a great two sets. It was a little bit unfortunate to stop last night when I was break down and when we came back the court was also very slippery. I lost my serve.
“Today, obviously, he won that third set. In the fourth, I just was struggling a little bit to find my rhythm off the ground. I was missing some balls. We exchanged two breaks during the set. I had even a mini break in the tie-break, 2/0 and lost it… I was not as accurate as yesterday. I was just missing some balls, giving him chance to keep playing.
“I think he played solid,” he added. “Obviously, he played much better today than yesterday. But I felt I had two different levels from yesterday and today. Even at some points, on a lot of points actually I had some short balls, and I was not executing them well. That was probably the decisive thing at the end.”
Pella’s two countrymen had mixed results. Juan Martin del Potro dominated Feliciano Lopez in a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over the iron man. Delpo has yet to lose serve all event and seems to be in full flight.
“I played my best game today,” Del Potro agreed. “I was focused all the time since the beginning of the match to the last point of the game. I took all my break point chances and I think that was the key.”
Delpo next gets Benoit Paire who ended the hopes of Denis Shapovalov in four sets.
As for the other Argentine, Horacio Zeballos was quickly dismissed by 3-time champion Novak Djokovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. But close to the end of the match, Djokovic received treatment for a knee injury.
“It was a bad move during the point and it affected my knee a little bit. Yeah, I felt it all the way to the end of the match, basically, last couple of games,” Djokovic said.
“I’ve been doing check-ups now. It seems like it’s nothing major. Hopefully, you know, tomorrow I’ll see on the practice session how it feels. Hopefully it’s going to be fine.
“When I say ‘not major,’ if it was major I’d be pulling out from the tournament. What I’m saying is that it’s most likely a twitch, you know, in the muscle or something like this, that has affected the knee a little bit. Hopefully it’s nothing that will concern me, so to say, that I’ll be able to perform.”
If Djokovic is Ok, it’s good news becuase he is playing well.
“I’m very pleased with the way I played… I thought my serve was working really well. Playing on grass, obviously having 10-plus aces in a match, it’s not a common feeling that I get to experience a lot… It helps me relax in other parts of my game,” added Djokovic who now gets British No. 1 Kyle Edmund on Saturday.
Also playing well is Rafael Nadal who overcame a break deficit in the third to deny Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. Nadal moves on to face 19-year-old Australian Alex De Minaur who beat Pierre Hugues-Herbert in four sets.
“He’s good. He’s young. He’s dangerous. Good player. So let’s see, it’s a good challenge for me,” Nadal said. “I am very happy the way that I played today. That’s going to be a good energy to play the next round.”
The young Aussie wasn’t the only teen to come through. Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas came from a break down in the fifth to upend American Jared Donaldson. And 20-year-old Frances Tiafoe toppled the retiring Julien Benneteau also in four sets.
The top NextGenner is in trouble as Taylor Fritz led Alexander Zverev by two sets to one before play was halted due to darkness just before 9pm local time. Fritz took the third set breaker at love over the German.
Fritz’s countryman John Isner saved three break points late in the fifth and cracked 64 aces in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-7(3), 7-5 thriller over qualifier Ruben Bemelmans.
Karen Khananov won in five over Marcos Baghdatis. Nick Kyrgios and Kei Nishikori set a Saturday showdown and Ernests Gulbis was also a winner. He’ll await the Fritz-Zverev victory.
And Stan Wawrinka went down to qualifier Thomas Fabbiano in the completion of their match.
On tap Friday, the third round gets underway with Roger Federer facing off against Jan-Lennard Struff. Big men John Isner and Kevin Anderson return as does Milos Raonic and Sam Querrey who takes on Gael Monfils in the match of the day.
FRIDAY WIMBLEDON SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT – 1:00PM
1. Sam Querrey v Gael Monfils
2. Kristina Mladenovic v Serena Williams
3. Roger Federer v Jan-Lennard Struff
NO.1 COURT – 1:00PM
1. Taylor Fritz v Alexander Zverev
2. Kiki Bertens v Venus Williams
3. Karolina Pliskova v Mihaela Buzarnescu
4. Dennis Novak v Milos Raonic
NO.2 COURT – 11:30AM
1. Philipp Kohlschreiber v Kevin Anderson
2. Julia Goerges v Barbora Strycova
3. John Isner v Radu Albot
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