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Cilic Stands Between Phenomenal Federer And More History

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July 14, 2017

Some players look like they were made for tennis. Roger Federer is so great that it looks like tennis was made for him. If you are lucky enough to see him play on Sunday, prepare to be mesmerised.

We saw the full stunning array of Federer brilliance as he downed Tomas Berdych in straight sets, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4. Shots we had seen before…and some we hadn’t.

Exquisite, spontaneous half-volleys that only he can execute. Scintillating cross-court winners of the kind that decided the key, second-set tie-break. And then instinctive shots that don’t even have names, such as the lunging drive down the line from so far out wide that we should have seen him lose balance and collapse in a heap. Or the body-shot defensive smash that should have gone anywhere but where it did – back across the net for a winner.

Yes, the beautiful game of tennis was made for Federer and was waiting for Federer, because no one has ever played our sport as well as him. It’s very hard to imagine that anyone ever will again.

So this is it. Roger Federer is back in the Wimbledon final, his eleventh, hoping to win his eighth title. Can he do it?

Standing between the Fed and more historic glory is Marin Cilic – a mere mortal but one who has had success against Roger on a big stage in the past.

Cilic looked impressive during his 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win over Sam Querrey. He wasn’t out of this world, but he was strong, decisive and possessed an intensity that Querrey simply didn’t show in the biggest moments.

Federer knows he will face a significant challenge on Sunday. But if he can just enjoy the moment and not allow himself to tighten and want that glory too much, he will prevail.

Federer was cautious as he said:’I feel very privileged to get into another final. I know how much it means to some players to go out on Centre Court at any time in their career and I’ve got to do it so many times and now I have the chance to do it again on Sunday in a final again.

‘I can’t quite believe it. I’m glad I have a day off on Saturday to get ready.

‘It was a long way back last year and it was so difficult to stay calm and speak to the team and wait a bit longer and take more time out. I’m so glad I did it beause I gave my body more rest and got to have a life outside tennis.

‘There were doubts I’d ever come back and play on Centre Court but now I’ve done it many times and I’d like to thank Wimbledon for putting me on Centre Court every match this year.

‘Last year’s match against Marin was brutal. I got really lucky to win. He’s a lovely guy, I’m happy for him that he is in his first Wimbledon final.

‘He crushed me at the US Open final a couple of years ago. Hopefully he won’t play like that again.’

At least Federer will know how aggressively he’ll have to start. And he will take strength from the fact that he served superbly during the tie-breaks and whenever he was seriously threatened with a prolonged turning of the tide in the match against Berdych.

But Cilic will take heart from being reminded that, for all his skill and grace, even Federer is not perfect when he is put under pressure.

The great man double-faulted for Berdych to break back to 4-4 in the first set. And an undefended forehand down the line gave Berdych break point at 3-3 in the second. Had either one of the tie-breaks gone the Czech’s way, the complexion of the semi-final could have been altered.

In the last set, Berdych had two break points when he was 3-2 ahead. Massive Federer serves got the older man out of jail. His opponent clearly still hadn’t forgiven himself for the wasted opportunities when he was broken in the very next game. That is the psychological nature of tennis.

Which brings us back to Federer’s required mindset on Sunday. He must remember Australia earlier this year, and how he rode the wave of that simple thrill he felt at being back in the big time when no one expected it.

This time, just a few months later, everyone expects Roger to win Wimbledon. Tough as it will be, Federer should ignore that expectation, and instead go into the match assuming an almost innocent awe at his own good fortune, determined to enjoy every moment of the occasion – and of course determined to seize the day.

If he wants it too much, he will become as tight as his wife Mirka looked in the players’ box on Friday. And that could lead to defeat against the Croat, who will try to sniff out any moment of weakness to unleash his own significant power.

Federer has enough time to adopt the correct mental approach. And that, together with his unparalelled skill, should bring him the victory the entire world seems to crave.


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