Wimbledon 2017: Men’s final preview

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    This is it. Only a minimum of three sets and one determined opponent stand in the way of Roger Federer and a record eighth Wimbledon title and 19th Grand Slam singles title overall.

    The Swiss Maestro has, for the third time, advanced to the final at the All England Club without dropping a set and tonight will be hoping to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to win the title with such a flawless run.

    The 35-year-old entered this year’s Championships as the title favourite despite missing the entire clay court season, including the French Open, to fully put his focus into attempting to break his Wimbledon title drought, having not saluted since he defeated Andy Murray in the 2012 final.

    Since then he suffered a shock second round loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky in 2013 before losing back-to-back finals to Novak Djokovic in 2014 and 2015. Last year, he lost to Milos Raonic and would not strike another ball in anger for the remainder of the year after opting to undergo knee surgery.

    Many believed that after the longest injury lay-off of his career, that Federer would never recapture the form that saw him become one of the two men to beat (the other, of course, being Rafael Nadal) throughout the noughties.

    However, he would prove his doubters wrong in more ways than one; in his first tournament back he would capture his fifth Australian Open title, and 18th major title overall, by defeating his great rival Nadal, who’d also endured his own share of injury woes in recent years, in the final.

    After capturing Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back for the third time, and bypassing the clay court season, Federer then slipped up in his first grass court outing, losing to Tommy Haas in Stuttgart, but would hit back by claiming his ninth title in Halle.

    That, an early loss for Andy Murray at Queen’s and injury briefly grounding Rafael Nadal following his 10th French Open title, saw the Swiss Maestro assume favouritism status for Wimbledon.

    When the draw was released two weeks ago, many started pondering the potential of another ‘Fedal’ final after the two great rivals were assigned to opposite sides of the draw.

    As Federer breezed through the draw without so much being challenged, winning five completed matches in straight sets, he also saw some of his rivals for the title crash out progressively, starting with compatriot Stan Wawrinka’s first-day loss to unheralded Russian Daniil Medvedev.

    Roger Federer

    (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

    Nadal then followed Wawrinka out the door when he lost a gut-wrenching five-setter against Gilles Muller in the fourth round.

    Federer’s title chances then multiplied further when Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic both lost their quarter-ties against Sam Querrey and Tomas Berdych, respectively.

    The Swiss, for his part, saw off the challenges posed by the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Berdych in consecutive matches to advance to his eleventh Wimbledon final and 29th major final overall.

    His next challenge does not get any easier, coming up against Croatian seventh seed Marin Cilic who is hoping to emulate the same glory Goran Ivanisevic achieved in 2001, when he won the title ranked 125th in the world.

    The 28-year-old won his first four matches in straight sets, but was then challenged by Gilles Muller and Sam Querrey as he attempted to better his previous best showing at Wimbledon, three straight quarter-finals (including once where he lost to Federer after holding a match point).

    He dropped his first set of the tournament against Muller but pulled through in five, while he also dropped the first set against Querrey but recovered to win in four sets.

    Cilic is now hoping to capture his second Grand Slam title, after previously winning the US Open in 2014 where he defeated Kei Nishikori in the final. En route to that title, he scored a stunning straight-sets win over his opponent in tonight’s final, Roger Federer, in the semi-finals.

    (Photo: AFP)

    That remains as his only win over the Swiss Maestro, having lost six other meetings including the aforementioned Wimbledon quarter-final thriller last year in which he had led by two sets to love before capitulating in five.

    Here is everything you need to know ahead of what promises to be another massive Wimbledon men’s final.

    [7] Marin Cilic (CRO) versus [3] Roger Federer (SUI)
    Sunday, July 16
    2:00pm local time (11:00pm AEST)
    Centre Court

    Head-to-head
    All matches: Federer 6-1
    In finals: First meeting
    At Grand Slams: Federer 2-1

    Last meeting: Federer won 6-7 (4-7), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11-9), 6-3

    Marin Cilic’s road to the final
    Round 1: defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-4, 6-2, 6-3
    Round 2: defeated Florian Mayer (GER) 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 7-5
    Round 3: defeated [26] Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4
    Round 4: defeated [18] Roberto Bautista-Agut (ESP) 6-2, 6-2, 6-2
    Quarter-finals: defeated [16] Gilles Muller (LUX) 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-1
    Semi-finals: defeated [24] Sam Querrey (USA) 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 7-5

    Roger Federer’s road to the final
    Round 1: defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) 6-3, 3-0 retired
    Round 2: defeated Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 7-6 (7-0), 6-3, 6-2
    Round 3: defeated [27] Mischa Zverev (GER) 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-4
    Round 4: defeated [13] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 6-4, 6-2, 6-4
    Quarter-finals: defeated [6] Milos Raonic (CAN) 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4)
    Semi-finals: defeated [11] Tomas Berdych (CZE) 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4

    Stats that matter
    * This will be Roger Federer’s eighth Wimbledon final, and 29th major final overall, while for Marin Cilic this will be his first and second in these respective categories.
    * This will be the eighth meeting between the pair overall, second consecutive at Wimbledon and fourth at a major. Federer leads these categories 6-1, 1-0 and 2-1 respectively, with Cilic’s win coming in 2014 US Open semi-final. This will be their first meeting in a final, though.
    * Federer is bidding to break the record of seven Wimbledon titles he has shared with Pete Sampras since 2012. This will be his third attempt to do so, after losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 finals.
    * Federer is also bidding to improve his own men’s record of 18 major titles, with a 19th at stake.
    * Not since Bjorn Borg in 1976 has a man won Wimbledon without dropping a set. Federer has also only won one Grand Slam title without dropping a set, at the 2007 Australian Open.
    * Cilic is attempting to become the first man from his country to win Wimbledon since Goran Ivanisevic did so in 2001, while ranked 125th in the world.
    * Ivanisevic’s title win 16 years ago is also the last time anyone ranked outside the top four has won tennis’ holy grail.
    * Cilic is looking to become the second active man, outside of tennis’ ‘Big Four’, to capture multiple Grand Slam titles (the other being Stan Wawrinka).

    Prediction
    Roger Federer in straight sets.

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