Marin Cilic crashed out of Wimbledon in stunning fashion against Guido Pella, with the third seed looking comfortable with a two-set lead. However, an untimely rain delay turned the tables in favour of the world number 82 from Argentina, with Pella finding new form to advance to the third round with a 3-6 1-6 6-4 7-6 7-5 win. While the weather may have disrupted Cilic's momentum, the Croat will be bemoaning his inability to put away an opponent with little pedigree on grass courts. What makes the defeat even sourer for Cilic is that he was considered to have an excellent chance to win a second Grand Slam and a first Wimbledon title.
The presence of Roger Federer in a Wimbledon draw effectively turns all others into dark horses, with veritable greats in the shape of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic perceived to have little chance of adding to their Wimbledon titles. Nadal would prefer the green carpets of Wimbledon to be dusty clay, while Djokovic has not recovered from injury to the extent that would make him considered a worthy foe for Federer. Cilic has enjoyed consistent success over the past few years and looked ready to banish the demons of last year's final.
Cilic had to endure the criticisms of uninformed observers when falling to Federer last summer, with some questioning why Cilic was reduced to tears in a straight-set defeat. For "uninformed observers", read "Piers Morgan"; the heartless television personality mocked Cilic's tears in both a gross misunderstanding of the player's passion and of the foot injury that was preventing him from playing his best. If Cilic had been at his best, he could have pushed Federer far closer. Instead, it allowed Federer to extend his stunning renaissance. The various injury problems of Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray have opened the door for a new cohort of stars, but so far it is the old elite of Federer and Nadal that are blocking other players from entry. Cilic is a different proposition from the younger prospects Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, with his 2014 US Open trophy placing him in a select group of active players with a Grand Slam title to his name.
Cilic will likely be among the leading contenders at bookmakers when this year's US Open arrives in August. Punters wanting to take a chance on the 29-year-old can find more security when comparing free bets available with no deposit across a variety of bookmakers at Oddschecker, with the bonuses available to new customers a real fillip when it comes to taking on legendary players such as Federer and Djokovic. Cilic's poor Wimbledon performance may serve to make his price at the US Open more appealing, but the caveat is that he will be arriving in the United States with his most recent Slam outing being a failure. However, form often goes out of the window when it comes to Grand Slams.
His proven form at Wimbledon was one reason why many were suggesting that Cilic was the man to challenge an ageing Federer. Their pre-Wimbledon preparation added further support to Cilic's cause. Cilic saved match point in a gripping final against Novak Djokovic at Queen's, with a 5-7 7-6 6-3 win marking him out to The Guardian as someone heading to Wimbledon with high spirits and a strong chance. Federer also made a final in his warm-up for Wimbledon, but lost to Cilic's compatriot Borna Coric in the final at Halle. While a lesser player would be using defeat in an ATP500 final against one of tennis' hot prospects as encouragement, for Federer it marked potential fallibility.
Cilic would have been on course to face Federer in the Wimbledon semi-final, with Federer's loss to big server Milos Raonic at the same stage two years ago marking his possible vulnerability. Yet Cilic's shock exit significantly opened up the draw while theoretically giving Federer an easier passage to another Wimbledon final. Pella admitted that the rain delay enabled him to reflect on his strategy and he came out reinvigorated with a more aggressive style. Cilic found the delay inhibiting, with the imperious form that yielded just four games to his opponent in the first two sets washed away by the rain. Before this season Pella had only won two matches on grass, both in 2015's Wimbledon qualification. However, the clay-courter did deliver a reasonable showing in the first round in 2016, pushing a strong favourite much closer than expected in a 7-6 7-6 6-3 defeat. That strong favourite? Of course, it was Roger Federer.
Relevant news:Wimbledon final preview and prediction: Marin Cilic v Roger Federer
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Rotterdam QF previews and predictions: Berdych v Klizan, Cilic v Tsonga, Dimitrov v Goffin
ATP Rotterdam previews and predictions: Kohlschreiber v Pouille, Mahut v Simon, Klizan v Verdasco, Cilic v Paire
Montpellier previews and predictions: Zverev v De Schepper, Brown v Cilic, Benneteau v Lopez
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