Roger Federer and Marin Cilic meet in the Wimbledon men’s final on Sunday, but who will prevail?
Federer is bidding to win his 18th Grand Slam and record-breaking eighth title at Wimbledon, while Cilic is aiming to win his second major, having won the US Open in 2014.
Who has the better of the head-to-head record? Who has been the best grass-court player this season? And who is “proving his greatness” over the last two weeks? All you need to know about the Wimbledon final…
After losing in the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year and then taking six months off following a knee injury, there were some doubts whether Federer would return to the top of the game.
But 2017 has been a golden year so far for the Swiss. He kicked off the year by winning the Australian Open before victory in Indian Wells, Miami and then the grass courts at Halle.
He is yet to drop a set at Wimbledon and is into his 11th final at the All England Club. He last won the tournament in 2012 and is currently tied with Pete Sampras on seven Wimbledon titles.
“I don’t see anything that would indicate Roger is getting older or anything like that. I think he’s just proving his greatness in our sport,” said Tomas Berdych after his straight-sets semi-final defeat to the 35-year-old.
“If you look at the other guys who are 35, 36, I think you can very clearly see that the age and the years on tour are affecting them. But not with him.”
Roger Federer’s route to the final
- First round: defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3 3-0 RET
- Second round: defeated Dusan Lajovic 7-6 6-3 6-2
- Third round: defeated Mischa Zverev 7-6 6-4 6-4
- Fourth round: defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 6-2 6-4
- Quarter-finals: defeated Milos Raonic 6-4 6-2 7-6
- Semi-finals: defeated Tomas Berdych 7-6 7-6 6-4
While Federer started the season strongly, Cilic was 7-8 in tour-level matches in early May.
However, his form has improved in recent months and he boasts the best grass-court record among male players this season of 12-2, having lost in the final of the Aegon Championships to Feliciano Lopez.
He powered into the quarter-finals at Wimbledon without dropping a set, before battling past Gilles Muller in five and then beating Andy Murray’s conqueror Sam Querrey in four sets.
Marin Cilic’s route to the final
- First round: defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4 6-2 6-3
- Second round: defeated Florian Mayer 7-6 6-4 7-5
- Third round: defeated Steve Johnson 6-4 7-6 6-4
- Fourth round: defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 6-2 6-2
- Quarter-finals: defeated Gilles Muller 3-6 7-6 7-5 5-7 6-1
- Semi-finals: defeated Sam Querrey 6-7 6-4 7-6 7-5
“Marin is just really good,” said Querrey after defeat on Friday. “He’s tough on both sides. I kind of felt like he pushed me around a little bit today. 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.”
Cilic has only won one of seven matches against Federer, although the Croat might feel he should have come out on top in their last meeting at Wimbledon a year ago, having led by two sets to love in the quarter-finals and spurned three match points in the fourth set.
Cilic’s only victory over Federer was in the semi-finals of the US Open in 2014, when he won in straight sets before going on to clinch his first major.
Reflecting on their most recent meeting, Federer said on Friday: “Last year we had a brutal quarter-final…At some stage things were extremely complicated and I had to get really, really lucky to win.
“And he crushed me at the US Open a few years ago, he played unreal there against me…I hope he doesn’t play that good.”
Cilic boasts one of the biggest serves in the game and also some of the most powerful groundstrokes, which were described as “awesome” by John McEnroe after the pair met in the 2014 US Open semi-final.
He has hit 130 aces at Wimbledon this year, behind only Querrey (139) on the leaderboard.
Jonas Bjorkman, who started coaching Cilic last autumn, told that they have been “working a lot on the volley”.
“He’s been playing a little bit more doubles because I think match practice is always better than normal practice,” added Bjorkamn. “So I think it’s been some good signs on the grass where he’s been feeling a lot more comfortable and has been playing a little bit of serve and volley.
“Also with the returning, to be a little more aggressive there. It takes some time obviously but we’re starting to see some positive signs.”
Federer has looked at his all-round best over the last fortnight, and while his serve is not as flat-out fast as Cilic’s, it has only been broken four times.
The Swiss has also been clinical at the net, winning at least 70% of points when he has come forward in every completed match he has played.
One of his most noticeable improvements under coach Ivan Ljubicic has been on the backhand side.
He told earlier this year: “Before Seve [Luthi, coach], then Ivan insisted on a simple concept: “Take the ball early especially on return. No one is stronger than you inside the baseline.”
That concept appears to be paying dividends.
Back to the top?
A win for Federer would see him boost his chances of finishing the year as No 1 in the world.
The 35-year-old would move to No 3 with victory, within 920 points of Rafael Nadal and 1,205 points of Murray. And while Murray has 5,460 points to defend after Wimbledon – and might be facing a spell out with injury – Federer has no points to defend for the rest of the season.
The last time Federer was at No 1 in the world was November 2012.
Cilic, meanwhile, will move into the top five for the first time if he wins the final. He is currently at a career-high No 6.
What they’ve said
Cilic: “This is Roger’s home court, the place where he feels the best and knows that he can play the best game. Obviously, I’m going to look back, 12 months ago I was one point away from winning a match against him here. But it’s still a big mountain to climb.
“It’s a 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 the world to me [to lift the trophy]. I feel that when I won the US Open in 2014, 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.”
Federer: “I feel very privileged to be in another final. I’ve got the pleasure to play on Centre Court another time. I can’t believe it’s almost true again.
“I was hoping to be in good shape when the grass court season came around. The first three, four months [of the year] were just like a dream really. So this is something I was working towards, you know, Wimbledon, to be in good shape. I’m happy it’s paying off here now.
“It makes me really happy, making history here at Wimbledon. It’s a big deal. I love this tournament. All my dreams came true here as a player. To have another chance to go for number eight now, be kind of so close now at this stage, is a great feeling. I’m unbelievably excited. I hope I can play one more good match. Eleven finals here, all these records, it’s great. I’m so close now.”
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