It was another fine day for Roger Federer, even though he spent it relaxing with his young family. A cheer must have gone up in the household when news of Marin Cilic’s demise filtered through on Thursday afternoon. There is a sense of calm in the Swiss veteran’s kingdom, where the outlook could hardly look more serene after another would-be champion met a grisly end.
The challengers to Federer’s reign are teetering like Neymar at his theatrical worst, with one of the main obstacles blocking the No 1 seed’s path to a ninth Wimbledon title removed after Cilic succumbed to a second-round defeat by Guido Pella, an Argentinian who took advantage of a rain delay to fight back from two sets down.
Here was proof that Federer, who plays Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff on Friday, does not always have to pick up a racket in order to prosper on these lawns. The Swiss has already seen Borna Coric, who defeated him in the Halle final last month, and Grigor Dimitrov depart from his side of the draw and the 36-year-old’s route to a 12th final looks even more inviting now Cilic no longer stands in his way.
It was a dreadful disappointment for Cilic, who was cruising at 6-3, 6-1, 3-2 before being held up by a rain delay on Wednesday evening. That was the turning point. While play had been called off on the outside courts because of slippery conditions, they were more optimistic on No 1 Court. Cilic must have thought he had time to finish the job against the world No 82.
Yet when play resumed after a long and slightly farcical inspection of the grass, it was Pella who seized control, breaking to lead 4-3 after a Cilic slip. “It’s no good,” Cilic told the umpire, who decided to call it a night.
We were talking with the referees. They said if we want to keep on we can. We decided to give it a try. But the court was still quite slippery. It was a bit unfortunate to finish the day like that. We had the choice. We just gave it a try.”
Pella’s reward for giving it a go was the biggest win of his career. “It’s not my favorite surface but I am trying to improve,” he said. “The rain came and today I felt much more confident.”