Just seven men currently playing on the ATP World Tour have won a Grand Slam – and that makes a difference when heading into a major, says 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.
“Mentality-wise, for me, [things] changed dramatically,” said the Croatian, who has made it through to the quarter-finals at the Aegon Championships for a sixth time after beating qualifier Stefan Kozlov 6-0, 6-4.
“I was always playing well in Grand Slams, but it changed a considerable amount, which has helped me to understand that I'm able to win. That's what's most important. When you don't have a Grand Slam victory, you have always questions in your mind: can you do it, and are you ready, are you physically prepared?
“So, for me, those questions are out of the way, and the biggest focus is on me getting to the point with my form to be at a high peak.”
A brief shower broke out over Queen’s on Thursday morning, something of a relief after three days of courtside temperatures that hovered near or above 40 degrees. The mercury remained lodged among the twenties under cloudy skies in west London on Thursday as windy conditions made things trickier on centre court.
Not that the wind seemed to throw No.4 seed Cilic off his game, particularly his serve. The 2012 champion had claimed all 30 points behind his first delivery against John Isner in the first round, and 20 of 21 against qualifier Kozlov in the second. A third American, Donald Young, awaits in the quarter-finals, hoping to make more of a dent in the Croatian’s serve than the 13 service points he has given up over his first four sets at Queen’s this week.
It has been a fine season to date for Cilic, who will return to his career-best ranking of No.6 with victory over Young in the last eight. Three times a quarter-finalist at The Championships, he arrived at Queen’s on the back of a career-best, quarter-final run at Roland Garros before reaching the last eight in ’s-Hertogenbosch.
The addition of an extra week between the French Open and Wimbledon since 2015 has helped both Cilic and his rivals find their grass court groove better than years gone by, he believes. “I think in the end it helps out everyone’s performances at Wimbledon, that [their] tennis is maybe just slightly better,” he said.
Daniil Medvedev has taken full advantage of the chance to play more matches on the turf. Having claimed his first ATP win on grass in the Netherlands last week, the 21-year-old Russian is through to his second successive quarter-final after dispatching fellow ATP NextGen star Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-2.
“I showed some good tennis last year, even better this year,” said the world No.60 as he prepares for his main draw debut at The Championships this month. “I'm making good results. So I look forward to Wimbledon and hope I have a good draw.”
Medvedev faces 2014 champion Grigor Dimitrov on Friday, while Sam Querrey takes on left-handed serve-volleyer Gilles Muller, last week’s ’s-Hertogenbosch champion, after beating lucky loser Jordan Thompson 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3.
“He beat Tsonga yesterday, so he has to be feeling good,” Querrey said of Muller. “It's never fun to play a tall lefty, serve-and-volleyer on any surface, and the grass makes it a little tougher.”
Nevertheless, Querrey is happy with where his own game is ahead of Wimbledon – and insists the here-and-now counts for far more than his Queen’s title back in 2010.
“I get confidence from winning a handful of matches in a row. To be able to win two in a row now, that gives me more confidence than winning the tournament seven years ago.
“I feel like I always played well on grass, and Wimbledon was always one of my best slams,” Querrey added, downplaying the impact of his third round victory over Novak Djokovic at last year's Championships on his own game or status. “People might remember that match from last year, but I think I'm still viewed as kind of the same.”
Muller isn’t the only attacking southpaw left in the draw: Feliciano Lopez is also still in contention after surging past Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 7-6(4). The Spaniard, who reached the final in Stuttgart last week, faces Tomas Berdych for a place in the semi-finals.
Quote of the Day
“There’s like three left. He [Muller] is one, Karlovic, and… you know, Feliciano Lopez does but not all the time. That's really all I can think of. Oh, yeah. Mischa Zverev will do it. There's less than five.”
Sam Querrey admits he has to make it up as he goes along against a serve-volleyer like Gilles Muller, now that such tactics are so rarely encountered on the ATP World Tour.