Marin Cilic trailed Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final by a set and 3-0.
He was facing an onslaught from Federer up the other end of the court, and had sent many of his own shots long, wide and into the net.
He sat down at his courtside chair, summoned the trainer and began sobbing uncontrollably.
It was initially unclear what the problem was – Cilic did not take a medical timeout and instead played on, winning the next game to get on the board.
Federer struggled to understand it. “I don’t know what his problem was really, to be honest,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you if he was struggling moving to his forehand or to his backhand. Because he was serving big. He was serve and volleying. So I guess movement for that reason wasn’t the biggest problem maybe.
“I thought when he called the doctor first, I thought maybe he was dizzy or something.”
It wasn’t until after the second set that Cilic took a timeout; there the trainer treated his already-taped left foot.
After the match, the Croat revealed the extent of the problem.
“I got a really bad blister,” he explained. “Even I felt it in the match with Querrey in the semis. Fluid just came down under my callous in the foot.
“The last 30 hours, (the doctors and physios) were just constantly almost with me. They did as much as they could, but unfortunately I still felt the pain. Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that.
“Obviously was very tough emotionally because I know how much I went through last few months in preparation with everything. It was also tough because of my own team. They did so much for me. I just felt it was really bad luck.
“If the score would go really badly, I wouldn’t push it so much. But I really wanted to give my best, you know, to try as much as I could.”
Cilic, who’d dropped just two sets en route to the final, believed he was playing some of the best tennis of his career coming into the decider against Federer, whom he’d pushed to five sets on this very same court 12 months earlier in the quarterfinals.
He’d beaten Federer in their previous Grand Slam meeting, a straight-sets demolition in the US Open semifinals of 2014.
Yet with the opportunity to add a second major title to his collection, nothing went right.
Gathering himself after breaking down in tears, he tried rushing the net to avoid moving laterally, yet finished that set a desultory one-from-eight in the forecourt.
He collected his runner-up plate less than two hours after first stepping on Centre Court on Sunday, the victim of another masterful performance from Federer, who went through the fortnight without dropping a set.
“For me was actually very difficult to focus on the match, as my mind was all the time blocked with the pain. It was tough for me to focus on the tactics, on the things that I needed to do,” Cilic said.
“I wasn’t serving very good today because of that. Also, I was just not able to set up properly on the balls. It was very, very tough to deal with it.
“I didn’t have actually time on the court also to congratulate Roger. Don’t want to put down his victory in any way. I mean, he deserved it completely. These things are part of the sport.
“Really congratulations to him and his team for everything he did, for another title here.”
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