Last year’s finalist and recent Queen’s Club champion Marin Cilic will look to continue his fine grass court form when he takes on Guido Pella of Argentina in second round action at the All England Club. Cilic is flying slightly under the radar thanks to the plethora of other big names in the draw, but the Croatian is unquestionably a serious title threat at this year’s Championships. But will the industrious Pella be able to stop him in his tracks?
Cilic and Pella have met just once previously despite both men now having over a decade under their belts as touring professionals. That match came three years ago at the US Open in the first round. Cilic, then taking to the court for the first time in New York as defending US Open champion, won the match in straight sets, but did not have it entirely his own way as Pella battled valiantly throughout. Ultimately, however, his power told as he won through 6-3 7-6 7-6.
Path to the second round
Cilic arrived at the All England Club fresh from defeating a resurgent Novak Djokovic from match point down in the final at Queen’s to reclaim the title he first won in 2012. His opponent in the first round in SW19 was the talented Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka, playing on a protected ranking after a bad ACL tear last year that required surgery. Nishioka played well enough, but had no answer to Cilic’s quality as the Croatian advanced a 6-1 6-4 6-4 winner.
Pella, who arrived in Wimbledon after playing three grass court warm up events, but winning just two matches, both in Stuttgart, was drawn against 25-year-old Australian qualifier Jason Kubler. Kubler, a former junior #1, was making his Wimbledon debut after a series of knee injuries held back his development. He acquitted himself well against Pella, but the Argentine’s greater experience ultimately proved the difference over four sets as he won 6-4 7-5 4-6 7-6.
How do they match up?
Cilic’s strengths of a huge serve and a powerful forehand make him exceptionally well-suited to grass court tennis. His backhand lacks the potency of his other strokes, but it is solid enough and the world #5 is comfortable changing direction with it, particularly when taking the shot down the line. His volleys are not a strength, but at 6’5” his wingspan is large enough that he is a difficult man to pass. He also moves well on a grass court, which is not something that can be said of all his colleagues on Tour.
Pella is far more comfortable on the clay courts he grew up on than the grass and his victory against Kubler was his first ever at Wimbledon. His game reflects that upbringing, with his strengths the consistency of his groundstrokes and the tirelessness of his legs, as opposed to the sort of weapons possessed by Cilic. When he does step into the court Pella will likely look to do most of the damage with his forehand and he is also a fair volleyer.
This match looks like it should be a routine victory for Cilic. For all Pella’s commendable work ethic, he has rarely been able to challenge the game’s very best, and he has only two top ten wins, defeating Janko Tipsarevic in 2013 and Dominic Thiem last year in Chengdu. On his least favourite surface against a player of Cilic’s quality, playing on his preferred surface, the outlook does not look good. Expect Cilic to pick up a second straight sets victory.