Marin Cilic has finally ended his three-year quarter-finals losing streak at Wimbledon by coming through a tough five-setter against Gilles Muller and is ready to face American No24 seed Sam Querrey in the semis on Friday.
Cilic is looking to reach his first Grand Slam final since he won the 2014 US Open and goes into his match-up with Querrey carrying a 4-0 head-to-head record against him, including two triumphs over the American at Wimbledon in 2009 and 2012.
The Croatian world No6 is having a strong season that saw him make the quarters at Roland Garros – on his worst surface – reach the final in Queen’s on grass, and win the Istanbul clay title.
The 28-year-old is looking more and more confident by the day and even Roger Federer said that he predicted he would go deep at Wimbledon this fortnight.
“It’s great for me to hear that even him, and a lot of players around, even ex-players, when they were looking before the tournament started, that they were seeing me as a player that could go quite deep,” said Cilic on Wednesday.
“That had given me a little bit more belief, a little bit more confidence that, you know, players and people around are also seeing that I’m in a great form, that I’m able to do great things. I think that just gave me a little bit more reassurance in myself, and obviously a great power that I managed to get to that level.”
Ahead of Friday’s semi-final against Querrey, Sport360 sat down with Cilic’s coach Jonas Bjorkman, who explains how the Croat is finding his inner beast, and becoming a feared opponent once again on the match court.
Jonas Bjorkman: I think we had very high hopes going into Wimbledon since Marin had such a great run on the clay, which was his most consistent clay season and finished off with his best performance in Paris, he gained a lot of confidence out of that one. And then heading into his favourite season with the grass, and then got off to a very good start playing well in s-Hertogenbosch and Queen’s, so we obviously felt the form was there, the confidence was there, I would say we had very high hopes.
JB: We’ve been working a lot on the volley first, and then the transition to get comfortable up there but also to sort of hit and come in and commit for that. It’s a lot easier in practice and then the transition over to matches it always takes more time. He’s been playing a little bit more doubles because I think match practice is always better than normal practice. 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. And he’s been winning a lot already out there, which obviously helps of feeling that it works and you can continue with it. So I think that’s been the greatest progress on the grass – what we’ve tried to work on since I came into the team. 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.
JB: That was probably the thing I felt most happy about yesterday when he played Gilles, because he was so much better in the fourth, couldn’t convert a break point and then all of a sudden Gilles connected on one and then had maybe a few lucky points and then all of a sudden you lost a set. He didn’t even look back, he just looked forward and how he executed that fifth set for me was very impressive.
His body language was really, really good, there was no letdown. We’ve been talking a lot about the body language, and always feeling positive and I think already after losing to Feliciano Lopez in Queen’s, in a match where I think also he was better, but sometimes on grass that’s a match you can lose, one or two points here and there. He took the positive things out of that match and left all the other things behind him and just moved forward, and I think that’s been the two biggest keys heading in to play so well here.
JB: We’ve been talking a lot about that. He’s nearly two-metres-tall and it’s all about body language out there, intimidate the players a little bit. And I think he’s done that really well. He has much more positive energy out there, he’s showing that he wants to win the matches. Sometimes you can go into patterns and you’re so used to hitting good shots, but I think if all of a sudden you show your opponent as well that you’re here to win and you’re ready to fight for whatever it takes, it’s something that makes pressure for your opponents as well, so it’s not only for helping yourself. Tennis is a mental boxing match you know, I think that’s really a key for him to continue and hopefully more success.
JB: He probably will feel like he’s the favourite but that probably comes from being the higher seed, higher ranked, I don’t think it would be too much with the head-to-head because they’ve always had tight matches. But obviously if you’re the higher-ranked player, you’ll always be the favourite. I think he’s used to facing that most of the time unless he’s playing top-five opponents. It’s something he has to deal with but they’ve had close matches and both of them will want to come out and serve well. I think the key for tomorrow will be the returning, to get the ball in play and that’s hopefully the edge for Marin.
JB: We have spoken about it a little bit, we watched a bit of that match, you can always learn. You have tough losses where it’s going to hurt a lot but in the end once you get over the first frustration of losing, you can always look back and see if you can learn something from it. And that’s where I think he always wants to improve.
What helps him is that he knows what it takes to win a Slam. He’s one of the few who have managed to come through of a dominant five and for me it’s important for him to take advantage of that, because that’s something that could help him down the road when it comes to matches like this.
At an age when her contemporaries have long since retired, Venus Williams says she is playing some of the best tennis of her life, but the Wimbledon finalist isn’t finished yet as she eyes a place in the record books.
Williams is the oldest Wimbledon finalist for 23 years after she over-powered Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2.
The 37-year-old returns to the All England Club title match after an eight-year absence and will be the oldest Grand Slam champion in the Open era if she beats Spain’s Garbine Muguruza on Saturday.
That would give Venus a sixth Wimbledon title, and eighth Grand Slam crown, nine years after she last lifted the trophy, completing an incredible comeback after she battled an autoimmune disease that left her fatigued and threatened to force her out of tennis.
In the twilight of her career, Venus has hit a rich vein of form over the last 12 months. She was Australian Open runner-up in January to sister Serena, only to have her life thrown into turmoil last month when she was accidently involved in a car crash in Florida that led to the death of an elderly man.
A less strong-willed personality would have gone into hiding, but Venus, after choking back tears when asked about the incident at the start of Wimbledon, has taken solace in her tennis.
“There were definitely some issues. There’s definitely a lot of ups and downs,” Venus said. “I just try to hold my head up high, no matter what is happening in life. In sport especially, you have injuries. You have illnesses.
“You’re not going to be always playing 100 per cent. If I decide to walk out on the court, I try to just compete that day. That’s what I try to do.”
Ominously for Muguruza, who lost the 2015 Wimbledon final to Serena, the American is certain she is close to the form that saw her dominate a decade ago.
“I’ve played some good tennis in different points of my life. I think it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to play well and to be strong,” she said.
“Experience can either work against you or for you. I like to think it’s working for me. This year has been amazing in terms of my play, playing deep into the big events.
“I’m definitely in the position I want to be in. It’s a long two weeks. Now I’m knocking on the door for a title. This is where I want to be.”
Konta had marched onto Centre Court hoping to become the first British woman to reach the final since Virginia Wade in 1977, but the world number seven trudged off 73 minutes later with her dream in tatters
Serving a 106mph second serve on break point at 4-4 in the first set was just one example of the nerveless way Williams shattered Konta’s spirit.
“I don’t know if it was the be all and end all but it took my break point chance away. It showed why she’s a five-time champion,” Konta said. “That was one of the few opportunities I had and she took them away.”
Despite losing for the second time in a Grand Slam semi-final, Konta is convinced her run proves she can win a major one day.
“Quite honestly I think I was in with a shot of winning the tournament. I definitely don’t see why I won’t be a position to win a title like this one,” she said.
Inspired by the soothing words of former champion Conchita Martinez, Wimbledon finalist Muguruza believes she is ready to follow in her fellow Spaniard’s footsteps.
With Martinez in her corner, Muguruza will play Venus in Saturday’s final after crushing Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1, 6-1 in the last four on Thursday.
Martinez became the only Spanish woman to win Wimbledon when she defeated Martina Navratilova in the 1994 final and now she is back in a key role at the All England Club as Muguruza’s temporary coach. With Sam Sumyk, Muguruza’s regular coach, missing Wimbledon due to his wife’s pregnancy, Martinez offered to assist the 23-year-old.
Their partnership has proved an instant hit as Martinez, who also coaches Spain’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams, helped guide Muguruza back to the final two years after she lost to Serena Williams.
“I think she’s helping me to deal with the stress of the tournament, because it’s a long tournament,” Muguruza said of her 45-year-old compatriot. “I’ve been here a while already. So she just knows how to prepare, how to train, what to do.
“Not that I’m doing something different, honestly. But to have her by my side gives me also this little confidence on having someone that has won before.”
Muguruza is the first Spanish woman to reach more than one Wimbledon final since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who lost twice in the 1990s. Fittingly, it is Venus who lies in wait for Muguruza as the American star is the oldest Wimbledon finalist since Navratilova was beaten by Martinez 23 years ago.
Martinez’s calming influence has been ideal for the emotional Muguruza, who also remains in phone contact with Sumyk.
“Conchita and Sam are really working together. They are in contact. Before I do something, they both decided. So that magic is still happening,” said Muguruza. “I think I’m here because I’ve been working not only the last few days, but longer time, getting ready for this kind of moment.
“I think a lot of things are clicking also with her and the team this week, so it’s very nice.”
Since winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open last year, Muguruza had endured something of a sophomore slump as her ranking dropped out of the top 10.
But she has rediscovered her mojo on grass and would climb into the top five if she wins Wimbledon.
To do that, she must emulate Martinez and stop another Williams name being etched onto the trophy.
“All the names that I read on the honours board, I know all of them. For the last years, you see a lot of Williams surname,” she said. “So I look forward to putting a Spanish name back there.”
* Story provided by AFP, video courtesy of wimbledon.com
We’re down to the final four at Wimbledon and Roger Federer finds himself as the last ‘Big Four’ member standing.
This is the first Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2003 where all semi-finalists are ranked outside the top four in the world rankings. Federer is seeded No3 but he is ranked No5 in the world at the moment.
The winner of the semi-final between Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey will top the list for most attempts before reaching the final at Wimbledon in the Open Era, ahead of Pat Rafter, who reached the final on his eighth appearance. Cilic is playing his 11th Wimbledon while Querrey is appearing in his 10th.
Here’s a closer look at all the stats and figures behind Friday’s semi-finals.
– Federer has played 100 matches at Wimbledon, becoming just the second man to do so. He heads the table for the most Wimbledon match wins amongst active players with 89.
– Federer is trying to reach an all-time record-extending 11th Wimbledon final, and a record-extending 29th Grand Slam final.
– Federer is 10-1 win-loss in Wimbledon semi-finals.
– This is the third time Federer has made the Wimbledon semis without dropping a set (2006, 2008, 2017). He has done that nine times at Grand Slams overall.
– Federer is bidding to win a 19th Grand Slam title this fortnight.
– Federer is facing Berdych for a ninth time at a Grand Slam (Federer leads 6-2) and third time at Wimbledon (tied at 1-1).
– Federer, at 35 days and 343 days, is looking to become the second oldest man in the Open Era to reach the Wimbledon final after Ken Rosewall, who was runner-up in 1974 (39 years and 246 days).
– Federer is contesting his 70th Grand Slam event, tying Fabrice Santoro’s record for most appearances at a major.
– Berdych is bidding to reach his second Wimbledon final.
– Berdych is trying to end a seven-match losing streak to Federer. The last time the Czech beat him was in Dubai 2013.
– Berdych could equal Rafael Nadal in fourth place on the list of most match wins at Wimbledon amongst active players if he beats Federer on Friday for a 43rd victory at the All England Club.
– If Berdych wins on Friday, he joins Ivan Lendl as the only Czech men in the Open Era to reach multiple Wimbledon finals.
– Berdych has won his last three matches against top-10 opposition.
– Wimbledon is Berdych’s most successful Slam, and it’s the only one where has made three semi-finals.
– Just one of Berdych’s 13 tour-level singles titles has come on grass – Halle 2007.
– No11 is Berdych’s lowest Wimbledon seeding since 2010.
– Querrey is just the seventh man in the Open Era to win three five-set matches in three consecutive rounds at Wimbledon.
– If Querrey wins on Friday, he would join David Ferrer at the top of the list for most attempts before reaching a Grand Slam final in the Open Era. It is the American’s 42nd Grand Slam appearance.
– Querrey is facing Cilic for a fifth time overall and third time at Wimbledon. He has never beaten the Croat.
– Three of their four previous meetings have gone to a final set.
– Querrey is bidding to become the first American man to reach a Grand Slam final since Andy Roddick at Wimbledon 2009.
– The 28th-ranked Querrey is bidding to become the lowest-ranked Wimbledon finalist since Mark Philippoussis in 2003.
– Querrey is 3-11 win-loss against top-10 players at the majors.
– Cilic has defeated just two players on five occasions without defeat (he’s 5-0 against Robin Haase and Sergiy Stakhovsky).
– Cilic has only ever lost two Grand Slam matches to American opponents (James Blake at 2008 Australian Open, Jack Sock at 2016 US Open).
– Cilic is bidding to become just the second Croatian player – man or woman – to reach the Wimbledon final after Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.
– Cilic had lost in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in his last three appearances before he finally made his first semi this year.
– By defeating Gilles Muller in five sets in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, Cilic improved to 6-4 in five-set matches at Wimbledon. He is 26-12 in five-set matches overall.
– Just one of Cilic’s 17 titles has come on grass (2012 Queen’s when Nalbandian was defaulted for kicking an advertising board that hit a linesman) .