Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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For all its beauty and grace, tennis can also be a cruel sport.
Battling with a painful blister and trailing the greatest male tennis player of all time by a set and a break on the sport’s biggest stage, Marin Cilic broke down.
Playing seven-time winner Roger Federer in his first Wimbledon final on Centre Court, nothing was going the Croat’s way, and after 45 minutes, he asked for a medical timeout.
By the time the physio, doctor and tournament supervisor arrived, the powerful, 6ft 6ins Cilic was sobbing uncontrollably into his towel.
“It was just a feeling that I knew that I cannot give my best on the court, that I cannot give my best game and my best tennis, especially at this stage of my career, at such a big match,” Cilic said. “It was very, very difficult to deal with it.”
It was an astonishing moment in a Wimbledon final, which had not seen a retirement since 1911. Could the unthinkable happen? It was never on Cilic’s mind.
“That’s what I did throughout my career, I never gave up when I start a match,” he had told the BBC at the trophy ceremony after losing to Federer, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 with 23 unforced errors and five service breaks in one hour, 41 minutes.
Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that
“That was my idea also today, I gave my best,” said Cilic, who had handed Federer what the Swiss last week called a “brutal” defeat en route to his first Grand Slam title at the 2014 US Open. “That’s all I can do.”
Cilic, coached by former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jonas Bjorkman, grew up in the southern Bosnian Pilgrimage town of Medjugorje before moving to Croatia when he was a teenager.
Up against one of the sport’s greatest frontrunners, only a miracle could save him after he lost the first two sets in just over an hour.
“Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that,” Cilic said.
Cilic’s movement was hampered by what he called “a really bad blister” sustained in a bruising four-set semi-final win over big-serving American Sam Querrey.
“Obviously in the match I tried to change it up and tried to play serve and volley, not to put myself in a situation where I have to move laterally left and right, and try to just do something different,” Cilic said.
“Still, I was a break down and Roger was playing really well. Serve and volley is actually not something that I'm so used to,” said the 28-year-old.
Federer knows all about injuries, having missed six months with a bad back and surgically repaired knee after losing in the Wimbledon semi-final last year. Incredibly, he’s rebounded by winning two grand slam title this year.
“It is cruel sometimes, but he fought well and is a hero,” said Federer, who almost lost to Cilic in five sets last year at Wimbledon when he was forced to save three match points.
Although it was an anti-climactic final, Cilic can leave the All England Club with his head held up high. He is only 28 years old, and has years left at the highest level. A proud man, he will be anxious to make up for this defeat, so don’t be surprised to see him going on a tear at the US Open, which starts at the end of August.