Marin Cilic surged into the Wimbledon final this afternoon, overcoming brave American Sam Querrey in a competitive semi-final on Centre Court.
Cilic lost the first set on a tie break but soon found a level beyond Querrey, showing more energy and conviction than his over-achieving American opponent. Querrey had surprised everyone by getting to the semi-finals, beating Andy Murray in the quarter-finals, but this match and this opponent was a bridge too far for him.
After Querrey won the first set his serve started to wilt, and it took all of his reserves of grit to stop the third and fourth sets for being easier wins for the big Croatian. Although he lost his concentration briefly in the first set and in the fourth, Cilic was the superior player. He deserved to win and now has the chance to add a Wimbledon title to his US Open from 2014.
It was not exactly the surprise of the summer when the first set went rigorously with serve. This was billed as the meeting of two big-hitters and it certainly felt from the start as if it would be decided by up to four tie breaks and most probably a marathon fifth set too.
So it went in the first set with not even a break point to mention as the two tall men held their nerve on Centre Court. Sure enough it went to a tie break which Cilic pushed himself into a 4-1 lead. But Querrey battled back to 4-4 and when it was 6-6, with Cilic serving, luck intervened. There was a pause after a spectator was taken ill. After the resumption, a distracted Cilic skewed a backhand wide, then did the same again. Querrey had the first set.
After three consecutive five-set wins there was a question whether Querrey had the legs for another epic and at the start of the second set his serve did start to wilt. Suddenly a break felt possible as Cilic forced break-points twice but could not take them. It felt inevitable, and at 3-3 Cilic finally broke through. The 19th game of the match, and the first not to go with serve. From there Cilic won the second set 6-4.
Now it was Querrey, the warrior who overcame Murray and Jo Wilfried Tsonga, who was on the ropes. Cilic nearly broke him at the start of the third set, but then did it the next time he had the chance. It felt as if the Croatian could run away with the set and the match from there. But Querrey found new reserves of energy and broke back. Cilic had to serve to stay in the third set, not a position he expected to be in, but did so to set up another tie break.
This time it was Cilic who seized control, taking advantage of two Querrey errors to give himself three set points. One strong forehand winner was all it took and now he had the lead, two sets to one.
With all of Cilic’s grand slam experience, that should have been enough to see him simply through to the final. But he lost focus again and out of nowhere, Querrey broke him at the start of the fourth set. Cilic was furious at himself, the last thing he needed was this being dragged out to five sets with the final on Sunday. But he fought back, winning a crucial break-back-point with a drop shot, which he took.
Now the pressure was back on Querrey and when he was serving at 6-5 down, he ran out of energy and edge. Cilic smacked a forehand winner down the line. He wheeled away, then went off to prepare for Sunday.