Sports have always been about 'what have you done for me lately,' and despite exerting themselves with quality play for 81 games, Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey ultimately had to answer that question. In the end of the second-longest match in Wimbledon history (five hours and 31 minutes; I think you know the first), Cilic did just a little bit more, breaking Querrey at 15-15—so the 31st game of the fifth set—in what seemed like the only service stumble in hours. Cilic then served out the marathon match, winning 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (3), 17-15.
There was a bit of foreshadowing at around the 5:15 mark, with the two level at 14 games all. There, with Querrey serving, he denied Cilic two break points—one-eighth of the Croat's break point total for the match. Cilic was even stingier on serve, offering but eight break chances to Querrey (Querrey converted three; Cilic converted five).
While it wasn't uncommon to see break opportunities wiped away, it was one of the first openings either man had seen in some time. Both were within two points of victory on multiple occasions, but whenever such a moment presented itself, the player with his back to the wall generally smacked an unreturnable serve or benefited from a backhand error. But it was more the former; this was higher quality tennis than what John Isner and Nicolas Mahut gave us two years ago. The impersonations these two gave should be lauded, and it was fitting that Isner's sometimes doubles partner and buddy Querrey played a role.
But this time, the hard-serving American would not prevail. Querrey's serve and forehand are tailored for success on grass, and we saw that throughout this epic contest. But leading 30-15 in the 15-15 game, Querrey hit two double-faults, giving Cilic another look at a rare break. This time, he made Querrey pay, taking advantage of a short ball that eventually found the net on the opposite side of the court. 16-15, Cilic.
The last game had arrived—and I mean that even if Querrey had broken back. Matches around the grounds had already been called at this time; it was fast approaching 9 p.m. If Cilic didn't hold serve to win the match, both men would walk off No. 2 Court and sleep on a 16-16 in-the-fifth score for two days (presumably), what with idle Middle Sunday.
This scenario entered my mind when the end game reached 30-all, but Cilic then played and won the point of the tournament, an all-court crossfire of heavy groundstrokes mixed with admirable defense, including some timely slice backhands which reset a very tense and important point. Patiently, as he had to be all day, Cilic won the point to reach 40-30. When Querrey subsequently returned serve long, Cilic had reached the fourth round, even if he's basically played four rounds of tennis already, two of which came today.