Cilic Saves Championship Point, Beats Djokovic For Queen's Club Trophy
Marin Cilic entered the Fever-Tree Championships final having won just one of 15 FedEx ATP Head2Head series meetings against former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. In fact, after the first set, the Croatian had won just seven of 42 sets in their rivalry. And at 4-5 in the second set, the 29-year-old faced championship point.
But the World No. 6 saved it with a booming serve out wide, and then overcame a 1/4 deficit in the ensuing tie-break before eventually triumphing 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3 in two hours, 57 minutes on Sunday.
"I was just trying to stay mentally in it. And definitely, it was an extremely tough match," Cilic said. "No breaks for me until that last [return] game. I definitely feel relieved that I won it and what a great week."
One year ago, it was Cilic who was in Djokovic's position in the final at The Queen's Club. Feliciano Lopez hit a lunging volley from the service line to save championship point, before beating the Croatian in a third-set tie-break. This time around, Cilic completed a comeback to capture his 18th tour-level title. He has now lifted an ATP World Tour trophy for 11 consecutive years, and is projected to climb to No. 5 in the ATP Rankings on Monday thanks to the 500 ATP Rankings points he earns along with €427,590 in prize money.
The 31-year-old Djokovic, competing at The Queen’s Club for the first time since 2010 and in just his second final at the historic event, was seeking his 69th tour-level title. The Serbian's record in tour-level finals against Top 10 opponents falls to 47-27.
"He deserved to win," Djokovic said. "It's a tough loss for me today, obviously. But I have to see it from a positive side. I haven't played a final at any event in almost a year, so this felt great."
Despite landing just 36 per cent of his first serves in the opening set, Cilic controlled play from the baseline, redirecting groundstrokes and coming to the net when opportunities presented themselves. But Djokovic's defence was top-notch, treating the quick grass like clay, sliding from side to side.
Cilic failed to convert six break-point chances in the opening set, making a number of errors to allow Djokovic to battle out of trouble. Djokovic, who made 73 per cent of his first serves in the first set, then converted on his third set-point opportunity when the Croatian hit a backhand into the net. It looked like the Serbian would take control, as he began to push Cilic back with deep counter-punching.
At 4/5, 30/40 in the second set, Cilic found a great time to land a first serve, going out wide and seemingly surprising Djokovic. And then, in the tie-break, Cilic won both of his service points at 1/4 to put the pressure on the Serbian. A double fault on the next point shifted the momentum to the top seed.
"I was in a hole and I felt even in that first set I was maybe slightly better and unfortunately lost it towards the end," Cilic said. "I had a lot of break points throughout the [first] set and I felt that with my game, I was feeling really, really good, I was hitting the ball great. And I felt that when I connected and served well, I thought I was going to get a really good chance."
While Cilic did not take advantage of his first seven break points in the championship match, he laced a running forehand down the line past an approaching Djokovic to earn an eighth. The Serbian then hit a backhand in the net to allow the Croatian to serve out the match.
"[I'm] very delighted. Extremely happy for today’s win and also throughout the week, I was playing great tennis," Cilic said. "It was extremely tough today. I had to wait almost until the last game to get that first and crucial break… Novak was playing great tennis. It was definitely a joy to be a part of this final and to lift this trophy again."
It was still a successful week for Djokovic, who reached his first ATP World Tour final in 51 weeks, after triumphing at last year's Nature Valley International. After beginning his season 6-6, Djokovic has won 12 of his past 15 matches, reaching the semi-finals in Rome and the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. The Serbian earns 300 ATP Ranking points and €209,630 for his efforts on the London grass.