I cannot say I am particularly surprised at the two men who will be competing in the Wimbledon Final on Sunday. Federer has had a great season, winning an eighteenth Major in Australia, two Masters Titles, as well as a grass court event in Halle leading up to Wimbledon. He was the bookmakers favourite, and that has been vindicated, the Swiss not dropping a set en route. Cilic, my dark horse for his half of the draw, has a Major Title to his name, and has shown grass court pedigree, reaching three quarter finals at Wimbledon on the bounce prior to this years championships, as well as being a finalist at Queens three times, winning in 2012 courtesy of Nalbandian’s angry outburst, and finishing runner up twice, including three weeks ago in an epic against Lopez in which he held a match point.
Federer goes in tomorrow as the clear favourite. He has won this event seven times, as well as finishing as runner up on three occasions. I waxed lyrical earlier on this years tournament wins, in addition to those he has lost just twice this year. He has not had things all his own way, Berdych I believe pushed him relatively hard with his raw power, forcing two tiebreaks. The Swiss was also more edgy than usual, cursing from time to time in Swiss German.
Cilic has had a less convincing path to the title match. Although he did not drop a set in the first four rounds, Muller, the conqueror of Nadal, stretched him to five, whilst Querrey put the Croatian under the cosh in the semis, winning the first set, and threatening a comeback in the fourth. Despite this, he should be as fresh as Roger, Muller and Querrey both offering more in the way of aggression than attrition in those two closer contests.
In terms of their head-to-head, Federer leads six matches to one. Marin beat the Swiss en-route to his only Major title in New York in 2014, routing the Swiss in three sets. Federer though had only just squeaked past an on fire Monfils in five sets, with I believe little time to recover. Cilic also played Federer close in last years quarter finals, stretching him to five sets, failing to convert those in a gut wrenching loss.
It is clear however that Federer is playing better tennis and is in good shape compared to those two matches. In this fourth season playing with a larger racket head size, he appears to be utilising it to its full effect, taking on serves and strokes directed to his nominally weaker backhand earlier, robbing opponents of their time. He is also moving unhindered, transitioning to the net seamlessly where, under Edberg’s coaching in 2014-15, he shored up his volleys where even though the hands were always there, the execution of them could occasionally be wanting.
All is not lost for Cilic. Although at 6 ft 6 he is not the quickest of movers, he is more nimble than a lot of his tall peers on the tour. His big serve has nuance to it, often not attempting the more obvious play of going for an outright ace, instead kicking it up and wide, or hitting a body serve to produce a weak return that allows him to dictate with his powerful ground game, or approach the net where he himself is an above average volleyer.
I think tomorrow may prove too much of an uphill task though for Cilic. He has navigated himself skilfully to the final, but is yet to play an opponent of the same calibre as Federer. The Swiss is rested, seemingly injury free, and although lacking the explosiveness and raw power that he possessed ten years ago, his shot selection, placement and ability to attack decisively and often I believe will overcome the Croat, a fine player and for me the most overlooked on the men’s circuit.
Winner: Federer in four sets.