Friday, July 14, 2017

Federer favorite vs. Cilic in Wimbledon final

The men's singles final at Wimbledon will have the two best grass-courters of 2017 facing each other. After skipping the clay season, Roger Federer returned with an upset loss to Tommy Haas. Yet since then he won the Gerry Weber Open title in Halle and reached the record-improving 11th final at Wimbledon, extending his streak of consecutive sets won to 28.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer will be facing the 2014 US Open champion Marin Čilić in the final. Čilić's grass season has been showing an upward trend. A week after making the semifinals in 's-Hertogenbosch, Čilić  made the final at Queen's Club, losing to Feliciano López in three close sets. At Wimbledon, Čilić was yet to drop a set before the quarterfinals where he was taken into five sets by Gilles Müller who had beaten Rafal Nadal in an epic, long five-setter the previous round. Čilić made the final by defeating Sam Querrey in four sets in a semifinal battle of two tall, big-serving players.

Federer leads the head-to-head against Čilić 6-1. In their only meeting on grass, Federer beat Čilić in five sets in last year's Wimbledon quarterfinals, after which these two have not faced each other. Čilić's only win is from maybe the biggest match of this rivalry when he beat Federer in straight sets in the 2014 US Open semifinals, on his way to his only Grand Slam title so far.

As it's grass, this should be on Federer's racquet. Grass may suit the big-serving, big-hitting Čilić's game, yet it also suits Federer's aggressive game. It's usually the slower surfaces where Federer is vulnerable against big-hitters who have the firepower to hit through. Yet on the faster surfaces like grass, Federer is able to keep up the tempo and take away the time from his opponents. Both players serve well so there may not be many break opportunities.

Federer lost his last two Wimbledon finals against Novak Djokovic. Though Čilić is a different player to Djokovic. Djokovic has a great return of serve and a great defense. What Čilić can do is to outpower Federer from the baseline, though Federer can take away the time from him.

I give the advantage to Federer. His semifinal win over Tomáš Berdych, even though in straight sets, appears closer on the scoreboard than it was in reality. I expect a similar performance in the final. Both players serve well so the sets will be close, yet I expect Federer to have the upper hand. My pick is Federer, maybe in four close sets, to achieve the record-breaking eighth men's singles title at Wimbledon.

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