In a battle between the last two seeds left standing, top seeded Marin Cilic takes on fifth seed Sam Querrey. Both men are former champions at the event with Cilic winning the title in Kensington in 2012 after Nalbandian’s default and Querrey defeating his compatriot Mardy Fish to win the title back in 2010. Both have also played some of the best tennis of their careers on grass courts. But who will take their place in the semifinals?
Cilic and Querrey have clashed five times over the course of their careers in a head-to-head the Croatian has dominated, winning all five matches. Interestingly, despite the comparative rarity of grass courts, four of those five clashes have been contested on grass, including three at Wimbledon. Their first match came at Wimbledon in 2009 with Cilic winning a thrilling five set battle 4-6 7-6 6-3 6-7 6-4. They met again on grass three years later in the semifinals at Queen’s with Cilic winning 6-3 3-6 6-3.
That was swiftly followed by a third round clash at Wimbledon that year, with Cilic winning another five-set thriller 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-7 17-15. When they met again in 2015 at Washington, their first match not on grass courts, it was another hard-fought affair with Cilic scraping through in straight sets 7-6 7-6. He then won their biggest match to date in the Wimbledon semifinals last year, downing the American 6-7 6-4 7-6 7-5.
Path to the quarterfinals
Cilic began his Queen’s Club campaign against the Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, who reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2013 and came to within a set of the last four. But that run looked a long time in the past as Cilic dismantled him to win 6-3 6-4. He then recovered from dropping the first set to overcome Gilles Muller in a rematch of their Wimbledon quarterfinal last year, winning 4-6 6-3 6-3 in a match dominated and decided by some big serving.
Querrey’s opening round assignment pitted him against the British wildcard Jay Clarke who was making his debut at Tour-level. That showed as Querrey’s quality overwhelmed the 19-year-old who fell to a 3-6 3-6 defeat despite a valiant effort. That set up a match with three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka. It was a closely contested affair for much of the match, with Querrey saving seven set points in the first set. But the American ran away with it in the end to advance 7-5 6-7 6-1.
How do they match up?
Though both men are well-capable of playing from the baseline, particularly Cilic, it seems inevitable that this match will be dominated by their respective serves. Both men tend to go big when stepping to the line, with Cilic having struck 26 aces already this tournament and Querrey at an even more impressive 41. But whilst Querrey is the better and bigger server, Cilic returns better, with his superiority especially apparent on the backhand side. That could prove vital.
When Cilic is in full-flight, as he was against Muller in the second and third sets, he is almost unplayable, and he was similarly impressive throughout in downing Verdasco. Add to that the hoodoo he seems to have had over Querrey in the past and all the signs point towards victory for the Croatian. It is likely to be close, and it would be a surprise if the match didn’t feature at least one tiebreak, but back Cilic to get the job done in three tight sets.