World Tour Finals preview and prediction: Federer vs. Cilic

Roger Federer and Marin Cilic will “only” be playing for 200 ranking points and $191,000 in prize money when they conclude their round-robin campaigns at the World Tour Finals on Thursday night. Strictly from a tournament perspective, nothing is on the line. Federer is already through to the semifinals and Cilic has been mathematically eliminated.

The two veterans have squared off on eight previous occasions, with Federer dominating the head-to-head series 7-1. Cilic famously rolled to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 upset at the 2014 U.S. Open en route to his lone Grand Slam title, but he has otherwise struggled against the Swiss. They have faced each other twice since that 2014 encounter, with both meetings having come in London–albeit at Wimbledon as opposed to the O2 Arena. Federer survived a five-setter in 2016 before coasting through this year’s title match 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.

Due in part to a back injury, the 36-year-old could not clean up the rest of the tour during the hard-court summer like he did at the All-England Club. Now 100 percent, though, Federer is once again the best player in the world at the moment. He is 12-0 since the U.S. Open with titles in Shanghai and Basel. The world No. 2 has improved to an amazing 54-12 lifetime at the World Tour Finals with wins this week over Jack Sock and Alexander Zverev, dropping one set to Zverev in the process.

Federer’s Tuesday night victory over Zverev clinched the No. 1 spot in Group B while ending Cilic’s semifinal hopes. The fifth-ranked Croat really sealed his own fate by squandering break leads in the third set against both Zverev and Sock. He dropped his opener to Zverev 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 before seeing Sock get the best of a 5-7, 7-2, 7-6(4) thriller.

“It is frustrating, absolutely,” Cilic admitted. “Definitely (it was) disappointing in both matches in that third set, being in a good position, putting myself in a good position. But, unfortunately I didn’t close it…. I was quite motivated in both matches. I felt that I played well. I know that I wasn’t playing the best, especially in those critical moments I was not coming up with some great shots…. That was just a little bit unfortunate that I wasn’t able to close. I was putting myself in a really nice position.”

The 29-year-old was in this same position at the 2016 World Tour Finals, where he was eliminated at 0-2 before picking up his first-ever victory at the O2 Arena by defeating Kei Nishikori. Motivation will not be a problem for Cilic, who could see Federer try out some different things as the six-time year-end championship winner prepares for semifinal Saturday.

The result should be a competitive contest, but Federer will also be motivated to keep alive his bid for an undefeated run through London.

Pick: Federer in 3

29 Comments on World Tour Finals preview and prediction: Federer vs. Cilic

    • My favorite part of the article “Now 100 percent, though, Federer is once again the best player in the world at the moment”.

      R. Federer will win, I don’t know which sets, he might be complacent but should win.

  1. Federer and Rafa Nadal are the greatest modern rivals in tennis, but they’re also great friends.
    I’m personally a big fan. Did an illustration of these guys a while back.
    You can check it out and download it for free if you want on the following link:
    Let me know what you think

  2. i hate to vote against the GOAT but I think he’ll conserve energy for the Semis…thus I’m taking Clic in straight.

  3. Fed in 3, foresees probable worn out Roger after this match.

    He should tank conspiratorially if he wants to have better chance in the weekend. But he would aim for 5-0 playing TOP 8 in the year end.

    We will see another grumpy old man showing tonight:).

  4. Fed’s profligacy with break points is quite something! 0 from 4 in the first set missing makeable shots. Double fault in the breaker.
    Looks a bit comatose out there.
    Cilic isn’t very convincing.. He looks a bit like a tennis marionette at times!

  5. Th way Cilic plays, he will drop out of top ten next year, when he will fail to reach the final at Wimbledon to defend his points.

    He’s such a mental midget, and still ranked ahead of Delpo who fought with so much heart! I wish Delpo will reach top four or five next year, that’s where he rightfully belongs.

    • I really really want delpo to get back to the top again! Would love to see him win a slam! I was very cross when he didn’t play AO this year..
      Vamos delpo!!

  6. I hope Cilic doesn’t qualify for WTF next year; he’s such an embarrassment to the top eight guys. He could lose from a winning position not once, not twice but three straight times within a tournament.

    At least Thiem fought his heart out and won a match despite not playing well, this Cilic with big weapons to win on HCs couldn’t win a match when all three times he had chances of winning.

    • To be fair, Thiem beat Carreno Busta. And Cilic would’ve smoked Carreno Busta. In fact, Cilic probably would’ve made it out of the semis in the other group.

      • Nah, Cilic would still lose to PCB in three, it’s typical of him. PCB played well, Cilic won’t smoke him!

        • I have to agree with Lucky. Cilic is so mentally weak that he loses matches he should win. He certainly has the game on HC to be competitive here. But he does not have it between the ears.

          I am surprised he’s still in the top ten, but getting to the Wimbledon final helped him stay there. I don’t see him staying in the top ten next year.

  7. I think among all the eight guys, Dimi is the only one who plays consistently well all his matches so far. I can’t say the same for the rest of the guys.

    Fed played subpar tennis in two of his matches yet he won them both because his opponents played worse than him. I hope Sock vs Zverev won’t disappoint us.

    • Yeah, Dimi has been pretty solid thus far. He did take a walkabout at the end of the 2nd set against Thiem, and definitely should have closed it in two, but aside from that he’s been very good. Luckily for Fed and the other Big 4 guys, they don’t have to play their best to beat non-Big 4 players most of the time. They can get away with playing sub-par (by their high standard) through much of the match, and stepping it up, or not making errors, in the few big moments when it counts. That’s been one of the biggest keys to their respective periods of domination. If you want to be dominate, you must be able to consistently win with your B, or sometimes even C, level against players who are capable of beating you when you’re at your C or B level.

    • I don’t think Fed played nearly as badly as some are saying here. He served great, for a start. Cilic hit some great shots, and the first set was mostly very high quality. But Roger’s play was a step up from the Zverev match, for sure, and he’ll be fine for the semis. I don’t see him losing from here; Zverev and Cilic were his toughest opponents on this surface.

  8. Saw another article the other day, where Fed mentioned that he slept past midnight. People sometimes forget how Fed maintains balance between his family and tennis and he gets along so well with everyone and people feel its a foregone conclusion that Fed IS FIT always. Rarely throws tantrums . No wonder, he is a great ambassador for game of tennis.

    Did not play well today and romped home . You are in awe of him !!

    • Playing the kind of tennis he does while having a family of four children is nothing short of unbelievable. Of course it helps that he has endless piles of dosh, but still.

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