In a clash between one of the game’s established elder statesmen and one of the most mercurial and exciting stars in the sport, Marin Cilic takes on Nick Kyrgios. The top-seeded Croatian is looking for a second Queen’s Club title after winning the title back in 2012 and will be hoping to set himself up for another big run at Wimbledon having made the final last year. But Kyrgios is in fine form himself and doubtless harbours ambitions of his own of Wimbledon glory. Who will come out on top?
Cilic and Kyrgios have met twice so far in their careers in a head-to-head that is tied at one win apiece. It was Cilic who got the first, defeating Kyrgios in the second round at Roland Garros back in 2013 in straight sets 6-4 6-2 6-2. They renewed their rivalry two years ago in the Marseille final with Kyrgios delivering a superb performance to defeat Cilic 6-2 7-6 and claim a first Tour-level title, to which he has since added three, including in Brisbane this year.
Path to the semifinals
Cilic began his campaign for a second Queen’s Club title against former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Fernando Verdasco. But the Spaniard looked along way short of the performances he put in during that run, losing 3-6 4-6. Cilic then battled past Gilles Muller of Luxembourg despite losing the first set, advancing a 4-6 6-3 6-3 winner thanks to some huge serving. He then defeated Sam Querrey 7-6 6-2 in a clash of the former champions to reach the last four.
Kyrgios faced the tough opening round assignment of five-time champion and former world #1 Andy Murray, who was returning after a 342 day absence from Tour action. It took Kyrgios a while to warm to the task, but he eventually overcame the Briton 2-6 7-6 7-5. He then ended British hopes of a Queen’s Club champion by downing Kyle Edmund 7-6 6-7 6-3. He backed that up by ousting defending champion Feliciano Lopez 7-6 7-6.
How do they match up?
Both men have been serving magnificently so far this week, particularly Kyrgios, who has already struck 82 aces in his three matches so far, including 32 against both Edmund and Lopez. Cilic’s numbers when stepping to the line aren’t quite so impressive, but the Croatian has none-the-less managed a respectable 36 aces so far at Queen’s. But Cilic is the better returner of the two, with his considerable wingspan making him a difficult man to ace.
That could well lead to more protracted rallies in the match than Kyrgios would like. Whilst he is not short of quality off the ground, particularly off the forehand side, whether he will be able to stand up to the power of Cilic is uncertain. There are few players more adept at using the pace of a court to their own advantage than Cilic, who is also equipped with serious power, striking a 106 mph forehand in his victory over Muller.
Cilic may have the greater pedigree as a long-established member of the top ten and a former Grand Slam champion, but Kyrgios is in such devastating form that it is hard to see anyone stopping him if he continues in this vein. His serve has been almost completely unplayable all week, and his haul of 32 aces against Lopez was a Tour record in a two set match. Back him to get the job done in three sets thanks to that most dangerous of weapons.