Novak Djokovic vs Marin Cilic: Queen’s Club final preview and prediction
RealSport preview the Queen’s Club final between former world #1 Novak Djokovic and top seed Marin Cilic.
In a heavyweight-clash former world #1 and 12-time Major champion Novak Djokovic takes on world #4 and 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic for the Queen’s Club title. The Serbian is looking to win his first title for nearly a year and his first ever at Queen’s Club. Cilic, meanwhile, was crowned champion in Kensington in 2012 and also made the final last year (lost to Lopez). Will he get his hands back on the trophy or will it be Djokovic to add his name to the roll of honour?
Djokovic and Cilic have met fifteen times so far in their careers in a head-to-head that has not favoured the Croatian. In those fifteen meetings he has walked away the victor just once, although that was in their most recent meeting when he defeated Djokovic 6-4 7-6 in the Bercy quarterfinals in 2016, a loss that stripped Djokovic of his #1 ranking. Prior to that Cilic had taken some stinging losses at the hands of Djokovic, including in back-to-back Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2014 and 2015 and a bruising 0-6 1-6 2-6 that ended his US Open title defence in the semis in 2015.
Path to the final
Djokovic began his campaign for a first Queen’s title with a convincing 6-2 6-1 win over Australia’s John Millman. He backed that up by dismissing world #5 Grigor Dimitrov, who was far from his best, 6-4 6-1 to claim his first top ten win in over a year. Adrian Mannarino made a fine start against him, leading by a break in the first set, but when Djokovic turned the set around Mannarino’s challenge faded and the Serb progressed 7-5 6-1. He then earned a hard-fought 7-6 6-4 victory over Jeremy Chardy.
Cilic opened his account with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Fernando Verdasco, who recent reached the last 16 in Paris where he lost to none other than Djokovic. Cilic then recovered from dropping the first set to Gilles Muller to win 4-6 6-3 6-3 thanks to some big serving. That was followed by a 7-6 6-2 win over a fellow former champion Sam Querrey to set up a semifinal clash with Nick Kyrgios. It was a close affair, but Cilic played his best when it mattered most to win 7-6 7-6 and return to the final.
How do they match up?
Djokovic has looked close to his best this week, but he has not yet faced an opponent of Cilic’s quality. The Croatian has the power to really test Djokovic’s defence and can hurt him off both the forehand and backhand side. Djokovic rose to the top of the game because he was able to stand up to big hitters like Cilic and knock them down himself, but it has been a long-time since he reigned at the top of the mountain. Whether he still can is uncertain.
He will also have the serve of Cilic to contend with. Whilst Djokovic is surely the greatest returner of all-time, there are few more dangerous when stepping to the line than Cilic, particularly on a grass court. Equally, however, if Djokovic is able to get a handle on the Cilic serve it will give him a significant advantage by robbing his opponent of his biggest weapon. So far the Serb has broken serve 13 times this week, but Cilic has been broken just once. It certainly feels like the decisive battle.
This is a tough match to call between two men who are in good form and are amongst the best players of their generation. But grass courts favour the bold and Cilic’s power from the back of the court makes boldness an easy quality for him to call on. That, coupled with the lingering signs of rust and uncertainty in Djokovic’s game will be just enough to swing this in the top seed’s favour. Expect him to claim his first title of the year in three tight sets.