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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Wimbledon 2017: Roger Federer seeks historic eighth title but faces test from Marin Cilic

Roger Federer's eighth Wimbledon title may appear to be destiny but the man himself knows Marin Cilic is perfectly capable of spoiling the party

Roger Federer during a training session on Day 12 of the Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon.
Roger Federer during a training session on Day 12 of the Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon.

Roger Federer's eighth Wimbledon title may appear to be destiny but the man himself knows Marin Cilic is perfectly capable of spoiling the party.

Federer has made serene progress through the fortnight and watched all his usual major rivals fall by the wayside.

This will be the first grand slam final since the US Open in 2009 where Federer has faced someone other than Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray. And on that occasion in New York, he was stunned by Juan Martin del Potro.

"Thank God I've played also guys who were not called Rafa, Andy or Novak in the past," he said. "From that standpoint, I don't want to say it's more relaxed going into it, because I have a good head-to-head record against Marin, even though the matches were extremely close.

"But it's not like we've played against each other 30 times. You don't feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. It's more straightforward. It's a nice change, but it doesn't make things easier."

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Cilic has only won one of his previous seven meetings against Federer, but that stands out as one of the more remarkable performances of recent years.

Croatian Cilic simply overpowered Federer in the semi-finals of the US Open in 2014 and did the same against Kei Nishikori in the final to gatecrash the grand slam winners' circle.

He has been knocking at the door for many years at Wimbledon and 12 months ago had three match points against Federer in the quarter-finals before losing in five sets.

Federer has not won multiple grand slam titles in a season since 2009 but has rolled back the years through 2017.

A month short of his 36th birthday, Federer has lost just two matches this season, sensationally winning the Australian Open and then following up with Masters titles in Indian Wells and Miami.

After taking the second half of last year off to fully recuperate from knee surgery, Federer had always hoped he would be back to his best on grass.

"The Australian Open was such an unbelievable surprise to me," he said. "Then to back it up in Indian Wells and Miami, that part I couldn't believe, that I was able to sustain a great level.

"The first three, four months were just like a dream really. So this is something I was working towards, Wimbledon, to be in good shape. I'm happy it's paying off."

After Federer's dominance of the early part of the season, he sat out the whole clay stretch and Nadal took over, racing to a 10th French Open title. Now he has the chance to secure a record eighth Wimbledon triumph.

Cilic knows he has his work well and truly cut out, saying: "Definitely it's great for me to be in the final of a grand slam again. I've felt that my level of tennis in the last several weeks is really on a high level, and that has given me a lot of consistency with my mindset.

"But still it's a final. It's never easy to deal with it. You never know how your emotions are going to be when you enter that Centre Court.

"I'm believing that I have the ability and that I have a good game and I played really well during the tournament. That is obviously very important in giving me a lot of confidence to prepare for this final."

Cilic is the first Croatian player to reach a Wimbledon singles final since Goran Ivanisevic's famous victory in 2001.

Cilic remembers cheering on his countryman as a 12-year-old.

"It's a famous question in Croatia," he said. "Everyone knows where they were when Goran played.

"I was at a tennis summer camp, close to my home town. We were a big group of children, we watched Goran. It was a big celebration."

Overall head-to-head

Federer 6-1 Cilic

Head-to-head at Wimbledon

Federer 1-0 Cilic

Grand Slams titles

Federer 18-1 Cilic

Best Wimbledon performance

Federer: Winner (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012)
Cilic: Final (2017*)