He’s something of a forgotten man. He doesn’t have the fanfare or the following of the Big Four, and Stan Wawrinka and even Milos Raonic are often considered bigger threats at Grand Slams than he is.
But Marin Cilic does have a major title, you might remember, and now he’s one win away from capturing his second.
The 2014 U.S. Open champion defeated surprising American Sam Querrey, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5, on Friday to reach his first Wimbledon final and second career major final.
As expected, this match pitting two lightning-fast servers came down to a pair of tiebreakers and who could manage to break. Neither was able to do so in the first set, as they traded holds before a tiebreaker gave Querrey an early lead.
"Sam came out serving huge, hitting big," Cilic said.
As the match progressed, the 6’6” power hitters began to adjust, even if just a little bit. The seventh-seeded Croat broke Querrey in the second and leveled the match, and they each broke each other in the third, forcing a second tiebreaker.
This time around, the more accomplished player took it to go up a set.
It appeared that Querrey was going to take this match the distance—he outlasted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kevin Anderson and Andy Murray in five to get to the semifinals—when he broke Cilic early in the fourth set. But the 24th seed allowed Cilic, who’s been so clutch this fortnight, to break back—just his fourth of the match, which turned out to be enough—and subsequently book his spot in the championship match.
"After that [first tiebreaker], I was just a little bit better on the return games," Cilic said. "I was making him [play more] on his service games."
The stats tell much of the story, as Cilic had 70 winners to Querrey’s 46 and 25 aces to Querrey’s 13. The world No. 6 had five fewer unforced errors and absolutely dominated on his first serve, winning 88 percent of those points.
It was impossible not to think of their 2012 marathon during this match, when Cilic defeated Querrey 17-15 in the fifth set of their third-round match at Wimbledon. It didn’t get that far on Friday, thankfully, as Cilic improved to 5-0 against the world No. 28 and 12-2 on the grass in 2017.
Cilic will play either Roger Federer or Tomas Berdych in the final on Sunday.
—GRAND SLAM WEEK: Watch Wimbledon Primetime on Tennis Channel, and catch up on the other 2017 Grand Slams on Tennis Channel Plus
—Watch encores from the 2017 French Open and Australian Open on Tennis Channel Plus, including matches like the AO Final showdown between Serena & Venus Williams