Wimbledon Men’s Final Storylines



There are several.

Brainstorming these kinds of elements (adding to the overall perspective of the match) can help one see either a strategy or a theme that may help clarify the outcome – which is often coincidence. But there could be irony, logic, tragedy and beauty (emotion) that all come into play in such an event, especially one that involves humans contesting a tennis match, one-on-one, mano y mano, the stakes so incredibly high (or not that high really, considering it’s just a tennis match and there are so many other things we can and should worry about in our world and our lives).

Start with the Federer legacy, his drive to reach numbers that may be more important to his legion of fans than to him (probably not). Numbers on the line: #8, #19, and then the year-end numbers that would coincide with reaching #1, year-end #1, WTF title count, etc. (Sampras has said that the year-end #1 was one of the most important achievements of his storied career – he ended the year #1 a record six times).

How about the 2017 storyline that continues and is part of the numbers. But the resurrection itself has a story, the continuation of 2017 Fedal, how these two have cemented their legacies together even more because of their incredible success this year, dominating the tour at the Masters and the Majors. Unreal really.

So, to be clear, 2017 Federer is a big storyline.

I would remind everyone, regardless of the outcome of tomorrow, how Federer’s run here, this fortnight, also extends his historical consistency, his insanely persistent high-level of tennis into his mid-30s. When all is said and done, this kind of relevance (and dominance) at this age could be the real deal-breaker when one enters that discussion of greats. He’ll be 36 in about a month. How well will Nadal be playing in five years, Djokovic in six years? Exactly.

What about Cilic? He’s won a major already and has made the WB QF, I believe, four consecutive years. That’s a trend. At the USO, there was virtually no warning before 2014 when he stormed the tournament and turned-away everyone, including Federer in the SF. At least at WB he’s made some steady progress and seems ready to take that next step.

Speaking of the USO, there is the similarity here that people are seeing between this match-up and the 2009 match-up in the USO final between Federer and Del Potro. Federer has another youthful 6’6″ power broker with whom the three-seed has to negotiate, somehow, a profitable outcome. Federer was up 2-1 sets in that affair before the quiet giant stuck-around and outlasted a much younger Federer.

I think this youth (Cilic isn’t exactly “young” but he’s playing an almost 36 year-old, so he’s “young”) vs. age is a critical story-line. This plays-out in sports all the time, as Father Time is undefeated. Venus Williams’ run ended today in this exact way.

Federer has been dominant in 2017, but he hasn’t had to play an in-form Djokovic, his victory in Melbourne came, in the end, against a Nadal who is not young. His victory over a monster Kyrgios in Miami may have been some of the most impressive tennis we saw from the Maestro this year. He turned-away a youngster.

But here again he has to play a guy who is younger, stronger and may be playing better (we have to wait for tomorrow’s match to determine this last comparison).

Federer will have to outsmart Cilic as much as out hit him. He will need to out-clutch the Croatian as much as out-serve him (Cilic has twice as many aces as Federer in this tournament: 130 to 64).

Indeed, the youth vs. old age theme is a biggie in my book. Federer has to do a lot to overcome that in my estimation.

As for the tennis statistical arguments and themes, help me out here with some of your own research. Federer has been better than Cilic in the UE department (~12 to ~23 a match — though WB apparently is pretty conservative with these numbers). Federer, we know, has to continue to be much cleaner than his opponent. If we get that FH abandonment or his vaunted (improved) BH goes awry, we have the 2014-15 Federer who just doesn’t have the goods in the end, in the final, against a younger, stronger player (Novak, Cilic, et al.).

I think a very interesting trend could be one that Federer might have broken or bucked. Go watch the 2014 and 2015 WB semi-final matches in which Federer routined Raonic and Murray, respectively; of course, he came-up short in the final with what people might describe as less ascendant form. Even though this year’s SF vs. Berdych was in straights, I think many of us agree Federer’s tennis seemed a bit “off” his more dominant 2017 form. So, is this the case where he’s saved his best for last, kept his game in a lower gear vs. Berdych early-on in order to save some of that higher gear for the final?

This will be an interesting one to watch, for sure.

There are probably several others that add to our perspective and understanding of this match. Chime-in. While there’s still time.


32 thoughts on “Wimbledon Men’s Final Storylines

  1. wilfried

    It’s a close call, with Cilic having the best odds imo.
    My feeling is that it is better for Roger not to win this title, because at his age it is not very evident to win a slam, let alone win two slams in a season, and when this would happen anyway, many people inevitably will start wondering how this is all possible, especially after Roger having been absent for almost two months from any competition.
    So personally I hope he plays well, but he doesn’t need to win for me.


      1. Pierrotsz

        After 6 months and return like this? Running like 2004? Yeah, I love his tennis and I’m rooting for him but let’s not be naive.


      2. Pierrotsz

        It’s impossible to be and compete at the highest level, the system allows them not be, but that’s a long story.


      3. Pierrotsz

        At his age it’s just… obscene, ridiculous to still play like this? I’m not sure if it’s the right word; he’s on the spotlight right now, I guess, so it’s inevitable.


  2. Jason Bourne

    There is one possible symmetry/anti-symmetry that I can recall here. AO 2004 & 2005 vs WB 2016 & 2017, Safin & Cilic. Federer won straights in AO 2004, then beaten in 5-setter in AO 2005. Federer won in 5-setter against Cilic, and how will it become tonight. Cilic & Safin on the surface has similar strengths, both are big men. So…will Cilic straight-set Federer tonight to complete the symmetry?


    1. I’m stumped on this one. There’s the symmetry, the revenge and the tennis match between two players.

      As I said a long time ago, Federer doesn’t win this because it would be too much, too dominant. A bit of a hedge, but having followed sports of all kinds, #8/19 would tip the balance of power too much – end any debate that we all love to have.

      On a more basic level, I think Cilic comes-out with so much drive, power and preparation to win this. He’s a big underdog; if I was betting, the real value and my general sense here is he’s the pick.

      But there’s the magic and the Ivan factor. We won’t be surprised if Federer flashes too much brilliance for even this monster, Cilic.

      I think the longer it goes, the more this favors the Croatian.

      At the same time, you saw him struggle a bit with Sam.

      I’m stumped. It’s a collision of the past and the future. Hope it’s a great match.


      1. Jason Bourne

        And IIRC, before that match the H2H between Federer – Safin was 7-2. This one is 6-1, i.e. a difference of 5.

        But here’s what breaks the symmetry: last yr meeting was a QF, while Safin’s was SF…so what does it mean? LOL.


  3. Utsav

    Dear Matt,

    Wish we had a better match but happy that Federer has won. Sad to see Cilic going down like this though; Roger barely had to do anything.

    Onward to the USO! Many storylines will culminate their. BTW how are the Fed’s chances of year-end no 1 now? Any clue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. #1 is a race between Nadal and Federer, as they are way out in front. Apparently, Federer has said this is perhaps the most important goal of the season, claiming #1.

      Best part of the season coming up. Lots to talk about with this match today and then some.

      Everyone raise your glass to the sport, which has been, officially now for those of you who did not drink from my HRFRT spring, ruined.


      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha. I began that a year ago. The chapter I did not write concerns the Djokovic role in this argument (a role that has evolved in bizarre fashion since last summer. As has Roger’s role, in a big way.)

      Damn, I love being out-front of this stuff. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jason Bourne

    Those words coming out again off Fed’s mouth…essentially not certain if he’s going to be back next year. That is after a similar thing he said in AO. So…could this season be really his farewell tour? This win could either motivate him for more, or that he’s done proving to himself what he can do. I hope that the former is the case, but at this age and with his now larger family, I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Utsav

    Assuming the Fed plays all the Masters from here till the USO – he could be No. 1 by Cincinnati. And year-end No. 1 would be a sure thing with a deep run in USO and 2-3 more titles. I honestly expect more from Fed than Nadal on the North American hard courts and the indoor season.


  6. Tennisisthebest

    Incondite! Drinks on me as promised! Bel20ve!!! Cheers and well done to Matt on this blog, keeping us entertained and most importantly, INTELLIGENTLY informed (saw you predicted straights for Federer in Twitter. Oracle. Yes, you are, Matt)Please finish your HRFRT and publish it! You are light years ahead! Look forward to your post! Bittersweet end but I’ll take it. Don’t think Cilic would have pulled out a win if he had been 100 percent; 4 sets maybe. One thing is clear. Roger 2017 is a different animal. Stronger, more stable backhand (and oh that variety; I can die happy just watching the magic from that bh)clutch, mental focus/sharpness, quick movement, much improved ROS (used to be almost non-existent), urgency, tactics. He has indeed evolved and can now be truly called the peRFect player (never really accepted he was perfect even in his hey day) Djoker indeed dodged a bullet; the LUCKY Serb. I’m thinking what if Roger had changed to a bigger racket earlier? Scary…. So much to discuss, Matt. Waiting (im)patiently your first class views and perspective, Matt….No pressure😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jason Bourne

      I’m missing something here… what is HRFRT? Lol.

      I have so many thoughts regarding this win, I haven’t organized it yet. Among my thoughts are: the importance of scheduling and focus and how the ATP field will set up.

      On the latter, it’s quite a wonder who will take the mantle once the big five (ok, big 3 + Murray + Stan if you’re being picky). Of the players born in the 1990s, perhaps Dimitrov & Thiem are the leaders. That’s saying something…compared to the big 5 even with their age, wear & tear, Dimitrov’s still a weakling, Thiem is showing promise but I feel he’s still missing something. I feel like he’s overexerting and without a kind of miracle such as a gluten-free diet, he may burn out pretty quickly. Who are the other contenders? The 2 messed up Aussies with motivation as unpredictable as the weather and utter disrespect for the game? Could Nadal keep winning FOs till he’s 35, and Federer Wimbledons till he’s 39? Perhaps Murray & Djokovic here and there, as well (if they do recover well)? It just feels like the golden generation of tennis will be succeeded by a deep black void, unlike Sampras & Agassi were succeeded with even more brilliant ones. Apparently it’s becoming a race between how much longer the big five can stay healthy and how much the less talented/motivated youngsters can pick up the crumbs the big five leave.

      Are all these a sign that the game needs to somehow revert back to its brilliant past? Back to wooden rackets, anyone?


  7. wilfried

    I watched the recording of the first set and a half last night, after having visited my 95-old mam yesterday (and having seen the second half of that final at her home, where I grew up).
    I didn’t expect Cilic to be that fragile and Roger to be that strong.
    My last comment here was influenced by what I had been reading on your blog as well as by Ruans article about Djokovic’s retirement and the comments on that article.
    I should have more confidence in my own opinion.
    As a matter of fact I had not seen much of Cilic before the final, only the first two sets of his SF against Sam, and didn’t even continue watching that match any further, as I could see Sam was not gonna win that contest. I literally thaught at that moment though: this Cilic guy, making all these unnneccassary errors, is – no way – a match for Roger Federer, if Roger makes it to the final.
    In his first week Roger himself had not been very impressive for me either, but I thaught his level against Dimitrov and Berdych was not bad.
    You, Matt, you’ve got indeed that ‘fingerspitzengefühl’, that recognition of what is important in the game and what is not, and you stick with it. Credit for that.
    Same for tennisisthebest, whose comments I’ve been reading for long, and whom I’ve always know as an enthousiastic, loyal and quite knowledgable Federerfan.
    I’m pleased, happy myself with Roger’s 8th Wimbledon title and looking forward at the unfolding of the rest of the season.


  8. RJ

    “The 2 messed up Aussies with motivation as unpredictable as the weather and utter disrespect for the game?”

    Agreed with Tomic but I believe NK is on an upward trajectory with sorting his sh*t out. He’s 22 lads. Plenty of time to refocus and avoid becoming another Lost Boy adventuring in ATPNeverland with Peter Pan. Furthermore, there’s another Aussie you have failed to mention, Kokkinakkis. Admittedly hometown bias aside, if his come back from injury remains on course and he gets back to when he first arrived on the scene…..well he’s in the conversation too.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Utsav Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s