18-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer’s immaculate 2017 form continues as he reached his 29th major final on Friday. He’ll take on Marin Cilic for today’s final for his eighth Wimbledon and 19th Grand Slam crown.
Cilic has tasted major success before when he lifted the US Open title in 2014 and he’s showing the same raging hot form during this grass court season. Covers Experts’ resident tennis cappers, Tennis Insiders, break down the matchup and offer some value picks.
Few gave Roger Federer any chance of winning another major following last year’s semi-final defeat and subsequent six-month layoff with a knee injury. The greatest player of all time came back with a vengeance, winning titles in Australia, Indian Wells, Miami & Halle while compiling a 29-2 record. His decision to take another extended break and avoid the French Open was again the correct decision, allowing his body to recover for another Wimbledon title charge while avoiding the strenuous clay court swing. Marin Cilic suffered a disastrous end to the 2016 season. Croatia held a 2-1 lead in their Davis Cup final and Cilic led two sets to love against Juan Martin Del Potro. Cilic would lose in a deciding 5th set and Croatia dropped the tie 3-2 in front of their home crowd. This led to a sluggish start to 2017, early exits in Chennai & the Australian Open. He found form on perhaps his least favorite surface during the clay court swing and hasn’t looked back winning 26 of his last 37 matches, including semi-final and final appearances in grass court warm up events in Den Bosch & Queen’s respectively.
Route to the Final
This is the third time he’s reached the finals at SW19 without dropping a set, a perfect 5-0 in tiebreaks showing the mental strength that has delivered so much success throughout his career. His draw was significantly weakened when Novak Djokovic pulled out due to injury, but his quality of victories against Dimitrov, Raonic and Berdych have exemplified the standard of tennis he’s producing.
Cilic entered the tournament with rhythm and confidence on the surface and the results he’s recorded show just how confident he is on the grass. His draw was by no means straightforward, taking on a pair of German grass court specialists in Kohlschreiber and Mayer in the first two rounds. Steve Johnson and Roberto Bautista-Agut followed and he whitewashed the pairing in dominant performances. The latter rounds offered serious challenges but his greater mental strength proved crucial in the key moments against the big serving Gilles Muller and Sam Querrey.
Federer leads the head-to-head 6-1, with Cilic’s lone victory coming during his title run at Flushing Meadows in 2014, when he demolished Federer in straight sets. Their latest meeting came at the quarter-final stage of this tournament last year, when Cilic dropped a two set lead before Roger stunned the Center Crowd and roared back to win. He was clearly carrying a knee injury though, and now fully healthy is a huge favorite to win the title.
The Federer backhand has improved beyond belief in 2017. It’s become an ultra-aggressive shot during the rally and service return, yielding huge results. Questions were raised about its ability to cope with the low bounce on the grass court and yet again Federer answered them emphatically. Cilic has massive weapons, but Federer remains the more consistent server and returner throughout the course of a five set match.