Cilic had clearly come into the final carrying an issue on the sole of his left foot.
The Croatian played four-and-a-half hours more tennis than Federer on his way to the final and while it didn’t appear to have taken its toll on his legs, it was a different story for his feet.
"I never give up in a match,” Cilic said afterwards, breaking down into tears once again.
“I gave it my best – it's all I can do.”
Marin Cilic broke down midway through the Wimbledon final
I never give up in a match
And while that may have been true, his tears smacked of a lack of mental preparation.
Physical preparation is easy, in some ways. You watch some tape, plan your tactics, have a hit, ice the sore bits, strap up the broken bits – it’s all there in front of you.
But it underestimates the mental challenge of playing the best player of all-time, on his ‘home’ court with history beckoning, all the while knowing you’ve got a bulging blister that could burst at any time. That is the real challenge.
So much of tennis is a mental game, one where if you can keep your head clear, your game will follow. Every shot you play in a match you have played a thousand times before, it is just about being able to produce it once again.
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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It is what makes Federer so good – and is perhaps one of the under-sung secrets to his success. His mental fortitude is what helped him battle back against Cilic last year, when he was two sets down and struggling. He “hung tough” and kept himself in the match, fighting through to win.
And while he is so robust and strong mentally, he is also excellent at recognising when others are not. The ruthlessness of his win was clear – testing Cilic’s blister with a drop shot shortly after his treatment. It wasn’t cruel – although Roger used the word to describe Cilic’s fate afterwards – but it was smart tennis.
It might have been avoided though. Had Cilic spent some time preparing himself, either privately or with a sports psychologist, for the pain he was going to go through, the tears in the second set might have been avoided.
Marin Cilic was clearly suffering with some serous blistering on his left foot
The injury was not a surprise. Had he slipped and fallen, tearing a muscle, I might have forgiven the tears, out of shock as much as anything else.
However, to openly sob and show his rival exactly how much trouble he was in, gave Federer an opportunity he was never likely to turn down. Knowing Cilic’s ability to implode, he seized upon it and cruised calmly off into the distance as a 19-time Grand Slam champion.
If Cilic wants to be back on this stage again, he must find a way to deal with the challenges ahead of him before they present themselves. That is what champions do.