Marin Cilic avoided some major obstacles at Wimbledon and will now face off with Sam Querrey, who defeated Andy Murray on Wednesday.
When Wimbledon started, Marin Cilic was looking at a draw that could have pitted him against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and Andy Murray in the semifinals.
Both of them are two-time champions at the All England Club, and both of them are now out of the tournament.
“I was obviously following them (Nadal and Murray) and following all the rest of the guys,” said Cilic, the U.S. Open champion in 2014. “But for me, it didn’t make a big difference. It’s not going to make big difference.”
Cilic reached the semifinals on Wednesday by beating Gilles Muller 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-1. He will next face Sam Querrey on Friday.
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Muller defeated Nadal in five sets on Monday in the fourth round, and Querrey beat Murray in five sets on Wednesday.
“Players at this stage of the tournament are playing great tennis. You can’t take that for granted,” Cilic said. “The only part that it could be easier for me is that Sam hasn’t been at this part of the tournament so far … Maybe that can have a small part in playing that match. But I don’t think it’s going to matter big-time.”
Cilic has also never been this far, at Wimbledon at least. He won his only major title three years ago in New York, beating Roger Federer in the semifinals and Kei Nishikori in the final. But at Wimbledon, he had lost in the quarterfinals the last three years.
Two of those losses came against Novak Djokovic, but he’s also out of the tournament. That only leaves Federer, the man who beat Cilic in the quarterfinals last year, if both get through their semifinal matches.
“Yeah, I would agree it’s quite early,” Cilic said about a possible rematch against Federer. “Still a huge match in front of me and in front of Roger, as well.”
Muller came into Wednesday’s match with history against him. The last six players to beat Nadal before the final at the All England Club all lost in the next round. It happened to Muller in 2005, and it happened to him again on No. 1 Court on Wednesday.
“I don’t think the match (against Nadal) had an impact,” Muller said. “I think I did my job pretty well after that match to stay focused, didn’t try to let all the hype around me take any effect.”
Thanks to Muller’s victory on Monday, Cilic won’t have to worry about the “Nadal effect” in his next match against the 24th-seeded Querrey.
Querrey’s road, however, doesn’t get much easier by playing Cilic.
“Marin is ranked, like, 5,” the American said, mistakenly moving Cilic up a spot from his No. 6 ranking. “He’s right outside of the ‘Big Four.’ That’s going to be a tough one.”
Cilic and Querrey have played twice before at Wimbledon, with the Croat winning in five sets in 2009 and 2012. The latter, in which Cilic won the final set 17-15, lasted 5½ hours and is the second longest men’s singles match in Wimbledon history.
“We played few times. Most of the matches were very tight, quite long, especially here,” Cilic said. “He’s got a big game. Potentially that can hurt anyone in the game.”
If past success were all that mattered when Venus Williams faces Johanna Konta in the Wimbledon semifinals, the matchup would be quite a mismatch.
For Williams, Thursday’s semifinal will be her 10th at the All England Club. For Konta, it’ll be her first – and the first for any British woman in 39 years.
For Williams, it’ll be the 22nd Grand Slam semifinal of her career. For Konta, her second.
“I definitely think experience helps, for sure. For a lot of the players I’ve played, it’s their first time in the third round or the quarterfinals (or) fourth round,” said the 37-year-old Williams, who is making her 20th Wimbledon appearance. “So I have an opportunity to bank on experience in having dealt with those sort of pressures before.”
One more discrepancy: Williams is aiming for a sixth Wimbledon singles championship and eighth overall at major tournaments. Konta owns zero such trophies.
“What Venus and her sister have given our sport is absolutely tremendous. The way they’ve elevated women’s tennis is truly inspiring,” Konta said. “So I feel very excited and very humbled to be sharing the court with her again.”
The other semifinal also is rather lopsided in terms of past accomplishments: 14th-seeded Garbine Muguruza vs. 87th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova. Muguruza won the French Open last year and was the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2015. Rybarikova, in contrast, had never been past the third round at any Grand Slam tournament in 35 previous attempts.
“She’s going to be (the) favorite,” Rybarikova said. “I’m here to enjoy the match. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
They’ve played each other four times previously, each winning twice. Muguruza won the only past match at a major, 14-12 in the third set at the Australian Open in 2013. Rybarikova won the only past match on grass, 6-3, 6-1 at Birmingham in 2015.
This will be the sixth meeting between Konta and Williams. Konta won three, including at the 2016 Australian Open, where she made her only other run to a major semifinal. Williams won their most recent match, on red clay at the Italian Open in May.
“I’ve never played her on grass,” Konta noted, “so that will be a new challenge for me.”
Indeed, the slick surface lends itself to Williams’ power-based game, making her terrific serve that much tougher to handle and giving her groundstrokes extra sting.
“She’s been on these courts many, many times, over many, many years,” said Anabel Medina Garrigues, who coaches the woman Williams overwhelmed in the quarterfinals, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. “It’s like home for her.”
Williams served at up to 119 mph (192 mph) against Ostapenko, finished with eight aces and only was broken once.
The American, the oldest Wimbledon semifinalist since Martina Navratilova was the runner-up in 1994, used body serves to tie up Ostapenko and could try that tactic again against Konta.
“It’s definitely a real asset. Been working on that serve. It’s working out for me just in time, just for these later rounds,” Williams said. “I’d like to think that I can continue to rely on that as the matches continue.”
Williams said she thinks Konta plays with “a very similar style” – which, coming from her, is certainly a compliment.
One dynamic that never existed when they’ve met in the past: Konta will have thousands of spectators pulling loudly for her at Centre Court.
“I’m sure she’s confident and determined,” Williams said. “She’s probably dealing with a different kind of pressure, playing here at home. But she seems to be handling it well.”
Virginia Wade was the last British woman to win Wimbledon, all the way back in 1977. A year later, Wade was the runner-up to Chris Evert. Since then, the locals never had a countrywoman to cheer for this late in the tournament.
“I’m just surprised,” said Wade, who sat in the Royal Box for Konta’s quarterfinal win, “it’s taken so long.”