The Croat put a towel over his head and started crying at 6-4 3-0 down as he struggled to deal with blisters.
He didn't quite throw that same towel in – Cilic composed himself and at least gave Federer a match in the third set – but this was a legend at work.
And, in truth, he never needed to get out of first gear as he claimed a record eighth win at all All-England Club, 14 years after his first.
The straight sets victory – 6-3 6-1 6-4 – ensured he didn't drop a set for just the second time ever on his way to a Wimbledon title.
- Boris Becker reveals why Marin Cilic broke down in tears
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- Roger Federer vows to play on and defend his title
Federer won the match with an ace before raising both hands to the crowd and embracing Cilic at the net.
Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic (left) in three sets to win Wimbledon
Marin Cilic broke down in tears during the match
He then headed to his chair, set eyes on wife Mirka and children Lenny, Myla Rose, Charlene and Leo in the stands, and let out a cry himself.
Federer said: "It's cruel sometimes but Marin fought well and he's a hero.
"He should be really proud. I hope we can play some better ones down the road.
"It's a dream to play here. It's not my last match here.
"I hope to come back next year and defend the title."
Marin Cilic breaks down in TEARS during Wimbledon 2017 final Sun, July 16, 2017
Marin Cilic broke down in tears during the Wimbledon final against Roger Federer.
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Beaten finalist Cilic said: "I never give up in a match. I gave it my best – it's all I can do.
"I had an amazing journey here. I played the best tennis of my life. I really want to thank my team – they gave so much strength to me.
"Of course, to all my fans in Croatia. It was really tough today. I gave it my all. I will hope I come back here another time."
Federer was praised by British tennis star Tim Henman, who said: "Who writes these boys scripts? It's just unbelievable.
Roger Federer has now moved to 19 Grand Slams
"Six months ago if you said to the tennis fraternity, Federer is going to come back and only play two Slams this year and win them both, you would have got pretty long odds today."
Boris Becker, who said on the BBC that blisters was the reason for Cilic's tears, added: "Marin is one of the most-respected and liked players in the dressing room. He doesn't take an injury as an excuse and he actually didn't retire from the match, he finished.
"For him it was very important to find a way to finish but it was heartbreaking, he was crying. The whole of Croatia was crying with him at that moment.
"You want to see a proper match, you want to see four or five setter. He's never played so well in the Championship.
"Roger didn't want to win it like this, he wanted a real match."
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