It’s rare to use the term “grass-court specialist” because the ATP season on this pastoral surface is more of an interlude than a season. But any short list of dangerous grass-court players has to include Marin Cilic.
While the top three players in the Queen’s Club draw were ousted in the first round, Cilic hammered his way to the singles final with little resistance. For good measure, he’s winning in doubles, too.
The Croat is built for grass’ speedier, low-bouncing hops. His serve squirts off the surface like a watermelon seed, and he has excellent hand-eye coordination and athleticism to attack and defend with quick-strike tennis. He won the Queen’s Club title in 2012 and a year later lost to Andy Murray in the final, but the Scot declared in Sky Sports that “(Cilic) is one of the best grass-court players in the world.”
However, his success and setbacks have been curious. Cilic won the 2014 U.S. Open and 2016 Western & Southern Open on fast American hard courts, but he has been snake-bit on grass. He lost in the Wimbledon quarterfinals three straight years to Novak Djokovic (twice) and Roger Federer. The 2014 and 2016 losses were five setters that he had controlled.
Can Cilic win Wimbledon? He has dominated with his serving at Queen’s, losing only six points with his first serve in the first three matches combined.
Opportunity could be ripe for picking through the upcoming Wimbledon draw. Djokovic has fallen from his former dominance and Murray has had uneven results. Aging legends Federer and Rafael Nadal can be vulnerable to power players like Cilic.
The Croat has tasted championship success, and he could be ready for more at Wimbledon.