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Marin Cilic vs Novak Djokovic Fever-Tree Championships tennis live: Resurgent Djokovic targets 15th win over Cilic and first Queen's Club title

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 23 Jun 2018
  • Marin Cilic vs Novak Djokovic is live from Queen's Club at 2.30pm local time/BST on Sunday
  • Djokovic has won 14 of their 15 previous meetings
Novak Djokovic (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

A marquee final awaits at the iconic Queen’s Club on Sunday as top seed Marin Cilic faces former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the 2018 Fever-Tree Championships title.

Into his first final in almost a year, a resurgent Novak Djokovic targets a maiden title at Queen’s Club when he takes on last year’s Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic for the silverware. After a slow and concerning start to the season, Djokovic has now won 12 of his last 14 matches and is gradually raising his level with every passing match - but will it be enough to beat 2012 Queen’s champion and further two-time runner-up Cilic? The Croatian has lost 14 times to Djokovic - but he did win their last meeting at the Paris Masters in 2016 - can Cilic repeat that result and secure a second Queen’s Club title? Djokovic and Cilic take to court at 2.30pm local time/BST on Sunday.

It was a frustrating and worrying initial return from injury for Djokovic in 2018, but he picked up his form towards the end of the clay season and he’s continued that momentum into the start of the grass campaign, competing at Queen’s Club for the first time since 2010 and advancing into his first final at the tournament since 2008 (lost to Nadal) with a series of impressive performances.

Indeed, Djokovic has yet to relinquish a set in his four matches so far, crushing John Millman 6-2 6-1 in the opening round before scoring his first top five win in almost 18 months with a clinical 6-4 6-1 dispatch of Grigor Dimitrov. Djokovic then went on to defeat the unorthodox Adrian Mannarino 7-5 6-1 in the quarter-finals (a victory that doubled as Djokovic’s 800th tour-level win) and another Frenchman in Jeremy Chardy to progress into the final. Djokovic’s 7-6(5) 6-4 triumph extended his sets winning streak over Chardy to a staggering 26 as he stormed into his 99th career final.

"It is a special moment for me. Obviously I have been hoping to get here and working hard for it. So now that I get a chance to fight for a trophy in one of the biggest tournaments in the grass-court season, it means a lot to me," Djokovic said. "I'm really pleased with the way I have played throughout the whole week."

While Djokovic is still far from the absolute peak of his powers, it’s been a very encouraging last month or so. The Serbian has made at least the quarter-finals of his last three tournaments, reaching the semi-finals at the Rome Masters (lost to Nadal), the quarter-finals of Roland Garros (lost to Cecchinato) and now the final of Queen’s Club. There’s no denying his French Open exit to Cecchinato was disappointing and raised more question marks as to whether Djokovic was ever going to get back to his best (and he even said himself, knee-jerkingly in hindsight, that he was considering skipping the grass season after the loss), but that obviously hasn’t happened and Djokovic’s steady progress has continued on the lawns.

A champion in Eastbourne 12 months ago before shutting down his season with an elbow injury after Wimbledon, can Djokovic secure a first Queen’s Club title on Sunday?

Marin Cilic (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Marin Cilic is the man who stands in his way. The Croatian, who won the Queen’s Club title in 2012 with that famous default win over David Nalbandian and a further two-time runner-up in 2013 to Andy Murray and 2017 to Feliciano Lopez, Cilic has joined Murray, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt as the only players to make the final of Queen’s in the last two decades. Cilic conquered Fernando Verdasco in the opening round before surviving a three-set contest with the big-serving Gilles Muller to reach the quarter-finals. A 7-6(2) 6-2 win over Sam Querrey followed, while Cilic took his chances and raised his level at the critical moments as he eliminated the big-serving Nick Kyrgios 7-6(3) 7-6(4) in the semi-finals on Saturday.

"From before the match, I knew that Nick was going to be serving big," said Cilic. "He served really big in his first three matches, especially his last two. He was serving more than 30 aces in a match and both of those matches were in two sets. I was expecting that it's going to end up being either a point or two or even a wrong decision that can make a big difference. I was keeping myself really focused, really composed, patient.
"I'm happy with the performance, especially as consistently to serve on that big level. It's not easy and also when you know that you are under pressure to hold your serve most of the time. That's another big plus. I'm really pleased with the mental approach to the game and also executing it really well."

Cilic has got to be considered among the top four favourites (at least) for the Wimbledon title in a couple of week’s time, with the 29-year-old making the finals of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open over the last 12 months, the latter of which propelled him to a career-high ranking of No. 3 in the world. However, Cilic hasn’t been great since reaching the final in Melbourne - he bombed out early in Indian Wells and Miami before gradually regaining some form during the clay season, advancing to the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo, semi-finals in Rome and quarter-finals at Roland Garros.

But he is playing extremely well on the lawns of Queen’s Club, and his serve has been in devastating touch. And it will need to be again as he prepares to face a man who has beaten him in 14 of their 15 previous encounters. Yes, Djokovic isn’t the same man (yet) as most of those matches, but the Serbian has swiftly regained his confidence this week and is looking very good. One of Djokovic’s man strengths when he was at the peak of his powers was his return of serve - and if can get a read on Cilic’s delivery on Sunday, I really fancy him to create some pressure and outlast the Croatian from the baseline. It’s somewhat of a gamble, but Djokovic traditionally loves this match-up - and I think he’s playing well enough again to emerge triumphant.

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Marin Cilic vs Novak Djokovic Fever-Tree Championships tennis live: Resurgent Djokovic targets 15th win over Cilic and first Queen's Club title

A marquee final awaits at the iconic Queen’s Club on Sunday as top seed Marin Cilic faces former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the 2018 Fever-Tree Championships title.

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