With a forehand winner, Marin Cilic sealed his place in a first Wimbledon final.
The Croat, a US Open champion in 2014, struck that shot to wrap up a 6-7(6) 6-4 7-6(3) 7-5 victory over surprise semifinalist Sam Querrey on Friday on Centre Court.
Cilic, the No.7 seed, will next face Roger Federer in the title match after the seven-time champion beat Tomas Berdych in the second semifinal on Friday.
“I would say my mental toughness was on an extremely high level, considering that both of us played amazing tennis in the first set,” Cilic said.
“The level was absolutely unbelievable from both ends. Then just to come short in that tiebreak, I was 4-1 up, and Sam made a few good points. I was a little bit unlucky on a few challenges. Lost that set.
“But I managed to regroup and felt that mentally in the critical situations, I was really good, even having a break down in that fourth set. I managed to turn it around.
“I would say I played throughout the match really a high level.“
Although Cilic came into the match with a 4-0 record over the American, he and Querrey had a history of torrid battles on grass.
All three of their grasscourt encounters had extended the distance, including two five-setters at Wimbledon.
In the most recent of those, in 2012, Cilic prevailed 17-15 in the final set.
There appeared the possibility that we were in for a similar battle when both men failed to earn a break point in the opening set and the resultant tiebreak became locked at six points apiece.
Then, drama. A four-minute delay ensued when a fan collapsed in the stands and had to be escorted from the stadium, and when play resumed, Cilic sprayed two straight errors to surrender the set.
The first break of the match came in the seventh game of the second set when Cilic fired a backhand passing shot winner down the line to move ahead 4-3. Not long after that, he levelled the match at a set apiece.
The Croat then broke in the third game of the third to take control of the match; Querrey then promptly broke back.
And so to another tiebreak, which Cilic dominated. With a serve out wide and a forehand winner into the open court, that lovely little 1-2 punch handed him a two-sets-to-one advantage.
Querrey, who’d beaten world No.1 and defending champion Andy Murray in five sets, looked set to extend this match to five sets as well when Cilic coughed up a backhand error to hand the American a break and a 2-1 lead.
Yet Cilic earned a break back point in the eighth game thanks to a feathery drop shot winner, and when Querrey sent a clumsy backhand well wide, the match was back on level terms at 4-4.
He beats Sam Querrey 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-5 pic.twitter.com/wKeBJt8yXs
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 14, 2017
Serving to stay in the match, Querrey lost his rhythm when Cilic clipped the tape on a groundstroke, sending the reply long and wide for 15-30. A backhand fired long made it 15-40.
Cilic missed his first match point but converted on the second with that aforementioned forehand to advance.
The Croat takes an unenviable 1-6 head-to-head record into Sunday’s final against Federer, yet does own a win over the Swiss superstar – a straight-sets mauling in the 2014 US Open semis.
“Definitely it’s great for me to be in the final of a Grand Slam again,” Cilic said.
“Felt that my level of tennis in last several weeks is really on a high level, and that has given me a lot of consistency with my mindset.
“Now looking ahead, obviously it’s going to be a big match for me. But it’s great thing that I have already played one Grand Slam final, and I believe it’s going to be easier to prepare. I feel that when I won the US Open in ’14, it just opened so many possibilities in my mind for the rest of my career.
“To be able to do it again would definitely mean, I would say, even more because I know how much it meant for me to win that first one.
“It would be absolutely a dream come true to win Wimbledon here.”
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