A Fed­erer win over Cilic is far from a done deal

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY CHUCK CULPEP­PER chuck.culpep­per@wash­post.com

wimbledon, eng­land — The coro­na­tion sched­uled for Sun­day might not go on as planned. Up­dates will be pend­ing. Com­pli­ca­tions could oc­cur. Please stay tuned.

Two re­cent turns of ev­i­dence sug­gest that Roger Fed­erer, seek­ing his record eighth Wimbledon ti­tle and his record 19th Grand Slam ti­tle to com­ple­ment his record this and record that and record the other thing, might ex­pect a slog in the Wimbledon men’s fi­nal against Marin Cilic. Just be­cause Fed­erer finds him­self in a fi­nal with­out No­vak Djokovic (who beat him twice here), Rafael Nadal (who beat him once) or Andy Mur­ray doesn’t mean he caught a break.

In both the 2014 U.S. Open semi­fi­nals and the 2016 Wimbledon quar­ter­fi­nals, the last two times he played Cilic, things got thorny.

Case No. 1: Cilic d. Fed­erer, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

“He blew me off the court,” Fed­erer said later.

Case No. 2: Fed­erer d. Cilic, 6-7 (4-7), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11-9), 6-3 (de­spite three match points against him).

“Def­i­nitely felt like I got lucky to some ex­tent to­day,” Fed­erer said then.

They say Croa­tia went nuts 16 years ago when Go­ran Ivani­se­vic out­lasted Patrick Rafter on a Mon­day af­ter a rain-drenched Wimbledon with a dra­matic score of 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7. Might it cel­e­brate again even though Fed­erer, of course, seems to have ev­ery na­tion­al­ity?

“It would ab­so­lutely be a dream come true to win Wimbledon here,” said Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open cham­pion, a 28-year-old and the world’s No. 6 player. He also said, “I be­lieve this is his home court,” an ac­knowl­edg­ment that Fed­erer, while Swiss, is also Bri­tish as well as Amer­i­can, Aus­tralian and French, among oth­ers.

Fed­erer first won here long, long ago, in 2003, at age 21. It was so long ago that he had a pony­tail, a mat­ter that seems to make him cringe these days, at 35. Af­ter a six-month hia­tus in late 2016 and a 10-week hia­tus in the spring of 2017, he has zoomed through this Wimbledon in 16 undi­luted sets (ac­count­ing for the fact that one of his wins came in a se­cond-set re­tire­ment). He has combed through Grigor Dim­itrov, the No. 11 player in the world; Mi­los Raonic, the No. 7 player; and To­mas Berdych, the No. 15 player who spent a big chunk of his life camped out in the top 10.

Now, still at 6 feet 1, he will play the 6-6 Cilic, as Fed­erer says: “Look, ev­ery­body’s grow­ing. Ev­ery­body’s get­ting taller. I won­der how the game is go­ing to be like in 50 years. It’s go­ing to be like we have to raise the net, push the lines in a lit­tle bit.”

Cilic has got­ten through No. 19 Roberto Bautista Agut; No. 26 Gilles Muller, who felled Nadal; and No. 28 Sam Quer­rey, who felled Mur­ray. “Ob­vi­ously I’m go­ing to look back as well,” Cilic said. “Twelve months ago I was one point away from win­ning a match over here against him. Def­i­nitely I be­lieve . . . in my own abil­i­ties to get through and to win it. But I still know that it’s a big moun­tain to climb. Roger is play­ing maybe one of the best tennis of his ca­reer at the mo­ment, hav­ing a great sea­son. So I know it’s go­ing to be a huge chal­lenge. But I be­lieve I’m ready.”

With fi­nals, one never knows, but fac­tor in what Cilic re­minded ev­ery­one Fri­day: “I have won a Grand Slam al­ready.” And with fi­nals can come the nerves, but Fed­erer mas­ters even the de­scrip­tion of that: “Some­times it slows down your legs, your pulse starts racing, your head starts, not spin­ning, in the sense that you have a mil­lion ideas, you have to take the right one. That can stress you out a tad. I al­ways say I’m happy I feel that way be­cause it means I care. It’s not like go­ing through the mo­tions, like care­less. That would be a hor­ri­ble feel­ing, to be hon­est.”

Car­ing so much got him through four sea­sons with­out a Grand Slam ti­tle — nor­mal for most of the 7 bil­lion Earth­lings but not for him — and to this gleam­ing year with a chance to claim two of the first three of the sea­son, count­ing Jan­uary’s Aus­tralian Open.

Even Gar­bine Mugu­ruza, the women’s cham­pion, ad­mit­ted she would like to dance with Fed­erer at the Wimbledon ball be­cause, she said, “I want to see if he’s that el­e­gant also danc­ing.” A whole clos­ing Wimbledon on Sun­day seems primed to cel­e­brate per­haps its most trea­sured player. But things might get hard.


Roger Fed­erer, above, has cause for con­cern against Marin Cilic.

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