Wahoo! One of Roger's most memorable matches at Wimbledon as the GOAT saved three match points to come back from 2 sets down and beat Marin Cilic 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-3 in three hours and seventeen minutes.
The win sees Roger make his 11th Wimbledon semi final where he will face Milos Raonic who took out Sam Querrey in 4 sets over on Court 1. It's also the 10th time the Swiss has come back from two sets to love down in his career and this is surely up there with the best of them. It didn't look pretty for the most part but he somehow hung in there and finished strongly when the match looked like it was done and dusted after the first 2 sets.
Quick Match Recap
Cilic won the toss and elected to serve. The Croat had recorded ridiculous numbers on serve throughout the tournament so far and he kicked things off with a love hold. Roger matched it serving 2 aces en route to levelling at 1-1.
In game 5 the Swiss fashioned 2 break points but couldn't convert as Cilic held for 3-2. With return points at a premium for both guys, routine holds were exchanged 3 times on the spin and the set went into the tie break.
The first point saw Roger nullify the Cilic serve but then shank an easy ball into the tramlines. The inexplicable miss cost him the breaker as Cilic ran away with it 7-4.
Into set 2 and Cilic used momentum to his advantage, taking care of Roger's short balls to crush his ground strokes and move up a break to lead 3-1. No break points were created for either player from there on as Roger failed to make an impact on the return losing the set 6-4.
By now Roger was in deep in trouble and at 3-3 he slipped to 0-40. Somehow he held and took advantage of a Cilic double fault on break point to lead 5-3. He served out the set to 30 to take it 6-3.
Set 4 saw Roger's level rise significantly but Cilic wouldn't go away. The 2014 US Open Champ held 2 break points in the third game which Roger saved. Cilic then had to save 2 break points of his own to lead 3-2. The next piece of action came at 4-5 with Roger serving to stay in the match, here he slipped to 30-40 but Cilic's return went long as he held for 5-5. It was the same story at 5-6 with Cilic again holding a match point but Roger went big on the serve to hold and force a tie break.
A good start was needed in the breaker but like the first set Roger went down a mini break. This time however he recouped the advantage and moved into a 6-4 lead with the second set point on his own serve. Cilic saved it (or more like Roger missed a routine forehand) and then held his third match point at 7-6. Roger fired down a 100MPH+ second serve to erase it and lead 8-7. Again Cilic saved set point but at 8-8 a double fault gave Fed another set point which he again failed to take. He did however pull off some incredible defence at 9-9 to give himself a fifth set point which he finally converted to take the breaker 11-9.
Momentum was now firmly on Federer's side and he had the benefit of serving first in the fifth, pulling off an important hold to 30 in the opener. In game six Roger fashioned a break point but netted an unconvincing backhand which let Cilic off the hook. However with Cilic serving at 3-4 the Swiss got the breakthrough, making a sweet pass to setup break point and converting to lead 5-3. He served it out to 15 firing down an ace on match point. BOOM!
|MATCH STATISTICS||R. FEDERER||M. CILIC|
|FIRST SERVE % IN||106/169 (63%)||93/163 (57%)|
|WIN % ON 1ST SERVE||84/106 (79%)||76/93 (82%)|
|WIN % ON 2ND SERVE||37/63 (59%)||38/70 (54%)|
|NET POINTS WON||18/27 (67%)||26/39 (67%)|
|BREAK POINTS WON||2/9 (22%)||1/8 (13%)|
|RECEIVING POINTS WON||49/163 (30%)||48/169 (28%)|
|TOTAL POINTS WON||170||162|
|DISTANCE COVERED (M)||2625.8||2511.8|
|DISTANCE COVERED/PT. (M)||7.9||7.6|
Thoughts on the Match
Well what can you say about that! It's one of those matches that is fun to be a part of whether you're courtside, watching on TV or refreshing the live scores at work. I wasn't feeling at all confident at 2 sets down but fortunately Roger wasn't in that frame of mind as he found a way back into it and pulled off one his best ever comebacks. Just epic really considering he's barely played all year but finds a way to win a 5 setter from 2 sets down.
As for the match itself Cilic started pretty much like their US Open encounter 2 years ago with his serve and ground strokes dictating play from the word go. Roger did a decent enough job of nullifying a lot of the first strikes but he could never transition into attack. Either hitting too short when he had a chance to steal the initiative or missing an easy ball from the baseline. Had he managed to take those early break points then the first set would have probably gone his way but that routine miss at the start of the breaker let Cilic get comfortable and the Swiss was having to play reactive tennis thereafter.
The second set was completely forgettable from Fed's perspective as he was stuck in a rut watching Cilic's serves go by and almost looked out of ideas with no real change up on the return. Even in the third the outlook looked bleak (only 4 points had gone beyond 9 shots as Cilic continued to force the issue) but he somehow turned it around. The 3 missed break point chances at 3-3 in the third clearly planted some doubt in Cilic's mind and let Roger take the set. And even though the Croat looked like he had halted Roger's momentum in the fourth, there was still enough uncertainty from him on the 3 match points (he got second serves on two of them but failed to put the ball in play) which allowed Fed to escape and finally win the lengthy tie break. The fifth set always felt like a Roger win after he held the opening service game and he made more returns (adjusted his position which paid off), served big (15 of his 27 aces came in the last 2 sets) and got his rewards to break and close it out in style.
Predictions vs. Raonic
Next up is Milos Raonic who defeated Sam Querrey in four sets. I haven't seen any of it but it's a decent win for Raonic who's looked impressive on the grass with his new coach John McEnroe sat courtside.
Like the matchup today Raonic is a big danger on this surface thanks to his serve and forehand. He's also making more an effort to get to net this tournament which seems to be paying off for him and also helped him make the final at Queen's Club where he lost to Murray in 3 sets.
The good news for Roger is whilst Raonic is dangerous, he's definitely less destructive than Cilic. The Canadian will serve more conservatively and doesn't have the easy power off both wings that Cilic possesses. His forehand is certainly a weapon but he is more about setting up points whereas Cilic can just fire winners at will. That should mean Federer can get more of a look in and be able to get more of an upperhand from the baseline. He'll need to be moving well to do it though and make enough returns to force Raonic into difficult positions.
Putting the outcome and manner of the victory aside Fed's ground game was average today so he will definitely have to take it up a notch on Friday and miss less routine balls. If he serves as well then I like his chances and I think his return will work better against the Raonic serve especially the short slice. It will be interesting to see how he holds up physically too after playing his first 5 setter since the US Open 2014 against Monfils. The match wasn't actually that long today so he should be ok but he doesn't have much tennis in his legs this season, hopefully those 7 matches in Stuttgart and Halle help. Assuming there's no let down physically / emotionally I will pick Fed to get it done in 4. But it will likely be another close one. See you Friday 🙂