Marin Cilic’s mind was willing, but his body was not. After playing some of the best tennis of his career to reach the Wimbledon final, a blister on his foot and the impeccable play of Roger Federer quickly sent him packing on Sunday.
The Croatian held three match points on the Swiss maestro when they played in the 2016 Wimbledon quarter-finals, but today was a different story as Cilic’s foot issue left him unable to push off on his serve or groundstrokes. He averaged 21 aces per match heading into the final, but hit just five against Federer. Cilic also hit just 16 winners in the final, compared to an average of 55 winners in his first six rounds. The frustration literally brought Cilic to tears as Federer cruised to a historic eighth title at the All England Club.
“It was definitely an unfortunate day for it to happen. I got a really bad blister. I even felt it in the match with Sam Querrey in the semis. Fluid just came down under my callous in the foot,” said Cilic. “I want to thank the physios here. They helped. They were almost constantly with me the past 30 hours. They did as much as they could, but unfortunately I still felt the pain. Every time I had to do a fast reaction or fast change of movement, I was unable to do that.
“It was obviously very tough emotionally because I know how much I went through the last few months in preparation for everything. It was also tough because of my own team. They did so much for me. I just felt it was really bad luck,” he added. “But I really wanted to give my best and try as much as I could.”
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Despite his blister woes, Cilic was also quick to praise Federer for his play throughout the fortnight. He complimented the eight-time champion on producing some of the best tennis of his career and said that Federer is equally as impressive off the court.
“I think his ability and his desire to continue to improve is definitely one of the best in the game. Even at his age now, he’s still improving and challenging himself to get better. All credit to him and his team for finding ways to get him to another level,” said Cilic. “He’s really a great gentleman and one of the biggest ambassadors of tennis.”
Cilic will try to focus on the positives of the past two weeks as he looks ahead to the U.S. hard-court season. Having won his maiden Grand Slam title at the 2014 US Open (d. Nishikori) and his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown last year in Cincinnati (d. Murray), he knows that he has the ability for more big results stateside. Experiencing success on multiple surfaces this year, including a clay-court title this April in Istanbul (d. Raonic), has given him the belief that he can win any match he plays.
“I know that these last two weeks have been great tennis from me. My level was in a position where it hasn’t been before on grass, so I’m extremely satisfied with that. This will give me much more confidence and much more strength for the rest of the year,” said Cilic. “I know that my level can go even higher, so that is something that I’m looking forward to and which is definitely making me more happy. The loss today is obviously a sad one, a devastating one, but I’m still very proud and thankful for all of my team that helped me to get here.”