Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey have had a spirited history on court, most of it on grass. Both men are six-feet-six inches tall. Both have giant serves. Both can rocket forehands crosscourt and down the line that whizz in the wind and leave their opponents flat-footed.
Friday’s quarterfinal match at The Queen’s Club was no different, in a sense. They combined to hit 17 aces over the course of Cilic’s 7-6(3), 6-2 win. Both men scored above-average points off their first serves: Cilic at 91 percent and Querrey at 76. Yet in the break-point category a difference emerged. Querrey converted none, but Cilic pounced on two of the five chances he created in the second set, his momentum and locked-in mean-Marin gaze an illustration of the threat he will bring to Wimbledon in 10 days.
“I know how important it means to play well here and then that form can easily be transformed to Wimbledon,” Cilic told the ATP in a pre-tournament interview.
Cilic and Querrey have both used this tournament to prime their engines for Wimbledon. Cilic is making her 12th appearance at the prestigious Queen’s Club in west London, Querrey his 11th. They have hoisted the fantastically large silver trophy once each: Cilic in 2012 and Querrey in 2010. However, Cilic has consistently performed better on grass, a surface players must quickly conquer in order to prepare for Wimbledon.
“It is sort of difficult to put expectations high,” Cilic continued with the ATP. “[The season] it’s so short, playing one tournament and then Wimbledon. It starts with (the) Queen’s tournament. You have to be ready to already play great tennis; it starts with the first match.”
Cilic’s first-round was relatively easy, if you think playing a veteran figure like lefty Fernando Verdasco has no pitfalls. Nonetheless, Cilic closed it in straight sets. In the second round against Gilles Muller, Cilic was tested. Quickly down a set, Cilic relied on one of his best assets to set the score straight and then prevail.
“It certainly was not easy, but I upped my serve from the beginning of the second set,” Cilic said, The Express wrote. “I didn’t give him many chances on the return and that just pushed me to stay in the match and to put back pressure on him.”
The same thing happened Friday. Rarely can we say that one point or one strike of a ball turns the tables in a match, but a forehand Cilic smacked crosscourt during the first-set tiebreaker certainly can be highlighted as a moment when the Croatian entered the zone. There was little Querrey could do — that is not a criticism of a man who has taken Cilic to the edge in four of their five matches. Remember the third-round at Wimbledon that went 17-15 in the fifth in 2012? That was followed five years later by a similar semifinal last year, which went four grueling sets.
“Anything can happen there [Wimbledon],” Cilic told the ATP. “So many guys playing really big, really good tennis, so can’t really expect anything. I’ve had a lot of success on grass over the last four years. It has given me my inner confidence, inner belief that I am playing well and that I can deliver when I need to.”
The quarterfinal Friday was a crisp example of lawn tennis, lasting a bit over an hour and 15 minutes. It was somewhat reminiscent of quick-strike tennis from the 1990s when, for example, Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic would serve and volley their way through a Wimbledon draw. Ironically, Ivanisevic coached Cilic the year he won the U.S. Open in 2014, transforming his serve to look an awful lot like Goran’s while giving Marin insight and strength of character to win his first Grand Slam. After all, Ivanisevic was the only man to have won Wimbledon as a wild card, a feat not likely to be repeated.
Next up for Cilic is Nick Kyrgios, the mercurial man with talent who could break any bank. Cilic is banking on his grass-court form, in evidence against Querrey, to answer another set of queries from the Australian on Saturday.