Before Roger Federer took on Marin Cilic in his quarterfinal match on Wednesday, the 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 straight sets thrashing that Cilic inflicted on him in 2014 US Open semifinal, would certainly have been playing on his mind. That was also the last time Federer had played against Cilic. Though the Swiss had a 5-1 head-to-head record against Cilic before the start of the match, he had always been wary of his opponent. The mental block continued in the first two sets and Federer found himself hanging by a thread as Cilic took both sets. The Swiss took the third set but in the fourth, his condition worsened. Cilic looked determined, when Federer got ready to serve and save the match at 4-5. It was in this 10th game that the Croat earned his first match point. Later in the match, Federer saved two more match points before bouncing back to beat Cilic in five grueling sets. It was a huge comeback for the 7-time Wimbledon champion. But the road to his 8th title is still not smooth. He takes on Canadian Milos Raonic next and in all probability, it will be the irrepressible Andy Murray in the final. On his part, Murray also had a five-set duel with Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before beating him. The Scot will play against Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych in the other semifinal on Friday.
The first set in the match between Federer and Cilic went on serves. Cilic was able to dish out great speed even with his second serve. At 40-0 in the opening game, Cilic’s second service traveled at 112 miles an hour and Federer couldn’t do much except netting his return. Federer began his own game with two consecutive aces and with both players holding their serves, the set slipped to the tiebreak. Cilic raced to a 5-0 lead and finished off at 7-4. The Croat carried the momentum into the second set and found an early break in the third game. Federer had a chance for the break-back, in the next game but he muffed it.
After an hour and 15 minutes, the match tilted in Cilic’s favor as he took a 2-set lead. Surprisingly, Federer looked relaxed at the start of the third set. Nothing happened until the seventh game but in the eighth, Federer feasted on a double-fault by Cilic on break point and led 5-3. The next game saw him reduce the set deficit to 1-2.
But the third-set win for Federer didn’t change the course of the match as Cilic raced to a 5-4 lead in the fourth and Federer got ready with his serve to stay in the match. At 30-30, Cilic produced a frightening backhand that sent Federer sliding on the court. Now the Croat had a match point as silence enveloped the center court. The release of tension was palpable as Federer somehow managed to hold. The set went to the tiebreak and Federer was still not out of the woods.
The first six points were won on big serves from both players as they came level at 3-3. But Federer took the next two points to lead 5-3 and when he made it 6-4, the applause on the set point was deafening. But Cilic was not finished. Federer missed the first set-point by mistiming a forehand and Cilic boomed an ace to draw level at 6-6. Another huge serve from the Croat gave him a third match-point at 7-6 and tension returned in the theater called the center court. Federer missed his first service next but managed a speedy second to coax Cilic into making an error. At 7-7, the thrill continued. Federer had a set point next at 8-7 but Cilic drew level again. The Swiss had another set point at 9-8 but Cilic wasn’t giving up. At 9-9, they changed end. The next point was remarkable. Cilic seemed to have won a point with an unstoppable backhand down the line but Federer amazingly found space to put the ball back into the court. When Cilic sent a volley out, Federer had another set point at 10-9. This time, Federer kept his nerve and the decider was on.
The first game of the final set went to deuce on Federer’s service but the Swiss finally took it. After three hours on the court, they were still fighting at 3-3. In the eighth game, Federer brought his best and broke Cilic’s service to lead 5-3. Now it was just the service hold between staring defeat earlier and the semifinal berth. Federer didn’t disappoint his admirers and finished the match with an ace for a 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 victory over an opponent, who almost had the match in his pocket at one stage.
Federer has another promising opponent in the semifinal now. Canadian Milos Raonic has John McEnroe as his coach for the grass season and it could have been a proxy-match between McEnroe and Stefan Edberg but Federer has a new coach in Ivan Ljubicic after his split with Edberg. Raonic reached the semifinal by defeating USA’s Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. In the other semifinal on Friday, Andy Murray will have deal with Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych. In their quarterfinal matches, Murray had to work hard for five sets before defeating the feisty Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1. Berdych had it rather easy against another Frenchman Lucas Pouille as the Czech won in straight sets 7-6, 6-3, 6-2.
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