Wimbledon Final Preview Roger Federer Vs Marin Cilic All Roads Lead to SW19
Roger Federer (3) and Marin Cilic (7) will compete for the 2017 Wimbledon Men’s singles title, a final both men have been on the road towards for some time, at the end of which one is looking to add some finishing touches to the most glittering of empires, the other to decorate further an already finely bejeweled palace . The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.
Roger Federer’s 2017 has seen the Swiss put the finishing touches to the game he reconstructed back in 2014, namely on his single handed backhand’s potency and resilience under the pressure of its greatest potential demolishers, and consequently swell his legacy and build the second quarter of his season around the one achievement that would leave that legacy as out of reach for his competitors as London’s Shard is to the buildings it towers over.
The 18 times slam champion’s decision to skip the clay season in order to prepare himself for the Grass was easy to understand considering the Swiss’ age, the timing of his resurgence, and his skills on the surface, a decision he could afford to take after unexpectedly winning the Australian Open and then following it up with titles in Indian Wells and Miami, his best start to the season since 2006.
Marin Cilic, aged 28 and seven years younger than the Swiss, may not have built his season around the Championships, but his season has shaped into its best form just in time. The Croat did not have such an impressive start to the season as the Swiss- in the events Federer won in the first quarter, Cilic went second round, opening round, opening round- but Cilic found his form on the clay, winning Istanbul and reaching the quarters of Monte Carlo, Rome, and the French Open, and in the process getting some much need match fitness and confidence if he was going to make a push for the Wimbledon title.
While Cilic was working his way into form, Federer’s decision to take a rest from the Clay season and focus on Grass paid off as the Swiss won Halle and then beat Alexandr Dolgopolov, Dusan Lajovic, Mischa Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych without dropping a set and while suffering a hold cold.
So so happy and privileged to be in another @Wimbledon final. See you all Sunday 😀
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) July 14, 2017
Cilic’s hard work also paid off, too, as he reached the final of the AEGON championships and beat Philipp Kohlschrieber, Florian Mayer, Steve Johnson and Roberto Bautista Agut all in straights at Wimbledon and then Gilles Muller, one of the in form Grass courters, in five sets and then top seed Andy Murray’s conqueror Sam Querrey in four to reach his first Wimbledon final after 11 attempts where he play a man playing his eleventh Wimbledon final in all.
Both Federer and Cilic have taken very different roads to get to this Wimbledon final, and those roads did not just begin at the start of this season, but can be followed all the way back to 2014 when Federer lost the Wimbledon final, his first slam final since Wimbledon 2012, while the statuesque Cilic, long touted as a potential winner in SW19, reached the last eight for the first time and took the eventual champion, Novak Djokovic, to five sets.
That Cilic 2014 SW19 run laid the foundations for a breakthrough for the 2010 Australian Open semi-finalist whose career had never reached its potential, a tendency to choke and to be inconsistent week in week out seeing him trapped under rubble when he should have been scaling the heights.
Where better than to scale the heights than the city of Skyscrapers and a couple of months later in New York, with Federer closing in on the No.1 ranking, and Djokovic knocked out of the US Open, Cilic showed he had the mental strength to reach the top as he defeated the heavily favored Swiss in a straight sets demolition, going on the win the final and enter the very small circle that is 21st century men’s tennis Grand Slam winners.
Cilic’s career would not escalate after that slam win, however, the Croat suffering a shoulder injury that kept him out of the 2015 Australian Open. Federer, meanwhile, did not let up chasing the No.1 ranking, and though he would not take it, in 2015, Federer, playing his best tennis since 2012, would reach another Wimbledon final, and Cilic would get his career back on track, reaching another SW19 quarter-final, losing to the eventual champion Djokovic again, this time in straights.
With both men such prominent figures at the tournament, it seemed only inevitable they would eventually meet on Center Court, and one year later, Federer and Cilic, two of the favorites for the title, went head to head in the 2016 last eight. The match was a classic, Cilic leading two sets to one and holding match points against a Federer struggling with a knee injury but determined to revenge the US Open defeat, the Croat going on to lose the match, and Federer losing the semi-final and then taking six months out the game.
While Federer was out, Cilic made an odd progress of sorts in his career, a rare one on the tour, the Croat one of only seven active slam champs, and the youngest of all, winning a first ATP 1000 title, in Cincinnati, and a first ATP 500 title in Basel, and reaching a career high ranking of 6, displaying the consistency he could build on to win more slams, and the ability to stay strong under the pressure of being the favorite against lower ranked in form opponents or higher ranked but compromised rivals.
Federer knows only too well about being the favorite, having contested 29 slam finals, winning 18 of them, and collecting 74 other titles. The Swiss also knows about how to handle being the favorite in a match up, having defeated Cilic 6 times and losing just the once.
The Swiss matches up better to big servers and big hitters than he does big returners and consistent aggressive base-liners, matching the likes of Cilic service game for service game and having a stronger return to get that decisive edge, and, failing that, the shot-making skills, superior all round game and career experience to get the upper hand in tiebreakers.
The Swiss is only vulnerable to such players when they, as Cilic did in New York in 2014, red-line.
Cilic will need to paint the lines again if he is going to beat a Federer in this fitness and form on Center Court this Final’s day. More likely, though, the Croat’s game will hit highs and lows as he experiences a heady mix of adrenaline and nerves from the dizzying heights of the dream come true of his first Wimbledon final while the Swiss, who has lived the dream eleven times over, and lived the nightmare of it, too, stays steady under pressure, and then plays even better, producing his best grass court tennis on the big points to claim a record eighth Wimbledon title.
A title Federer has been on the road towards for a few years now, a road well-traveled, one he knows Cilic is not far behind him on, the Croat ready to overtake him should the Swiss take a wrong turn in the race to whatever lies at the end of the stretch, an empire already glittering or one on the verge of exploding.
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