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Sunday, 16 July 2017 18:31 PM BST
Blisters and tears for Cilic
Losing finalist Marin Cilic broke down on court because he 'could not give my best' READ MORE

For all its beauty and grace, tennis can also be a cruel sport.

Battling with a painful blister and trailing the greatest male tennis player of all time by a set and a break on the sport’s biggest stage, Marin Cilic broke down.

Playing seven-time winner Roger Federer in his first Wimbledon final on Centre Court, nothing was going the Croat’s way, and after 45 minutes, he asked for a medical timeout.

By the time the physio, doctor and tournament supervisor arrived, the powerful, 6ft 6ins Cilic was sobbing uncontrollably into his towel.

“It was just a feeling that I knew that I cannot give my best on the court, that I cannot give my best game and my best tennis, especially at this stage of my career, at such a big match,” Cilic said. “It was very, very difficult to deal with it.”

It was an astonishing moment in a Wimbledon final, which had not seen a retirement since 1911. Could the unthinkable happen? It was never on Cilic’s mind.

“That’s what I did throughout my career, I never gave up when I start a match,” he had told the BBC at the trophy ceremony after losing to Federer, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 with 23 unforced errors and five service breaks in one hour, 41 minutes.

Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that

- Marin Cilic

“That was my idea also today, I gave my best,” said Cilic, who had handed Federer what the Swiss last week called a “brutal” defeat en route to his first Grand Slam title at the 2014 US Open. “That’s all I can do.”

Cilic, coached by former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jonas Bjorkman, grew up in the southern Bosnian Pilgrimage town of Medjugorje before moving to Croatia when he was a teenager.

Up against one of the sport’s greatest frontrunners, only a miracle could save him after he lost the first two sets in just over an hour.

 “Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that,” Cilic said.

Cilic’s movement was hampered by what he called “a really bad blister” sustained in a bruising four-set semi-final win over big-serving American Sam Querrey.

“Obviously in the match I tried to change it up and tried to play serve and volley, not to put myself in a situation where I have to move laterally left and right, and try to just do something different,” Cilic said.

“Still, I was a break down and Roger was playing really well. Serve and volley is actually not something that I'm so used to,” said the 28-year-old.

Federer knows all about injuries, having missed six months with a bad back and surgically repaired knee after losing in the Wimbledon semi-final last year. Incredibly, he’s rebounded by winning two grand slam title this year.

“It is cruel sometimes, but he fought well and is a hero,” said Federer, who almost lost to Cilic in five sets last year at Wimbledon when he was forced to save three match points.

Although it was an anti-climactic final, Cilic can leave the All England Club with his head held up high. He is only 28 years old, and has years left at the highest level. A proud man, he will be anxious to make up for this defeat, so don’t be surprised to see him going on a tear at the US Open, which starts at the end of August.

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