Down 4-5, 30-40 in the second set, Marin Cilic was staring down the barrel at a Novak Djokovic championship point.
A big serve erased that, and kept the Croatian alive in the Queen’s Club final. But 15 minutes later, he trailed the ensuing tiebreak 1-4. A Djokovic victory seemed assured.
Yet Cilic rattled off six straight points to stun the 12-time major champion and send the final into a deciding set.
And he would go on to win 5-7 7-6(4) 6-3 to win his second title at the prestigious Wimbledon warm-up event in west London.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) June 24, 2018
“Last year I had a match point but I didn’t convert it,” Cilic recalled of his loss to Feliciano Lopez in the 2017 final.
“I was just trying to stay mentally in it (against Djokovic) and definitely it was an extremely tough match. No breaks from me until that last game (of the third set) and definitely I feel relieved that I won it.”
In the opening stages of the match it was Djokovic who was controlling proceedings. Despite the tight scoreline the Serb dictated the baseline rallies, forcing Cilic deep behind the baseline and getting him on the run.
While Djokovic cruised through the majority of his service games he forced Cilic to work harder in his; Djokovic held three break points in the second set, two in the second game and a third – which doubled as that championship point – in the 10th game.
But once Cilic got through that tense second set, he looked the more likely in the third.
A stunning forehand passing shot winner on the run saw him break for a 5-3 lead, and he served out the match at love in the following game against a deflated Djokovic.
“I waited for six years and I lost twice in the final in these last six years,” Cilic said.
“I feel that I’m peaking my form really well. (It’s) definitely in a very short part of the season playing on grass courts and you really want to play well in these few weeks and I hope that I’m gonna continue with my great form at Wimbledon as well.
“It’s really great to see him (Djokovic) coming back and playing so well.”
Indeed, Djokovic was appearing in his first final since winning Eastbourne last year.
It’s been a struggle for the former world No.1 in his comeback from a chronic elbow injury that necessitated surgery, but in recent weeks he’s shown a return to form, winning 12 of his past 15 matches in reaching the Rome semis, Roland Garros quarters and Queen’s final.
“Tough loss for me today, obviously, but I have to see it from a positive side,” Djokovic said.
“I haven’t played finals in any event for almost a year, so this felt great.”
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