You’re not alone if you felt that a semifinal between Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey was the driest, bitterest fruit the Wimbledon draw could have borne. Neither name really gets the juices flowing. No one wakes up early and perky to watch these two play a game of Serve Chicken until someone balks in the tiebreak. And tiebreaks were delivered, but they were good, and this match, taken as a whole, was startlingly juicy. Sure, Marin Cilic in top gear can produce sublime shotmaking, but who knew Sam Querrey has a sporadically buttery touch and the ability to carve drop shots and half-volleys that would make Andy Murray purr?
Instead of a dull lowlight reel of blown serve returns sailing long or kamikazing into the mesh, we got a tightly contested match, full of respectable rallies, that Cilic wrenched away, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5. Things were tense, especially in the third and fourth set, and for that we might as well be grateful. Below is a decent sampling.
File under Things we already knew, but that are good to be reminded of: Cilic can obliterate the ball at acute angles, even off his back foot, falling out of the court. File under Things that make life feel long and ripe with possibility: Querrey can get a short ball, and instead of crushing it with his reliable forehand, dink this soft gem.
The two battled in another pretty baseline exchange just a game later.
Then there’s Querrey soundly crushing a backhand and doing his best Federer impression, lightyears out of his comfort zone:
Here is the American smothering the court like someone who is emphatically not 6-foot-5, playing some noble defense before Cilic finally slits his throat:
Cilic would go on to win that third-set tiebreak. Querrey then went up an early break in the fourth set, intent on grinding this out to his fourth-straight(!) five-setter at Wimbledon. But then Cilic broke back with a slick drop shot of his own and some firm returning:
Querrey would briefly flicker bright before going out for good.
Not that the audience—in southwest London or the world over—is clamoring to see it happen, but a Marin Cilic this confident could well win Wimbledon.