Cilic, Federer and the emotional toll of playing in the Wimbledon final

From ESPN - July 16, 2017

LONDON -- The 2017 Wimbledon men's final will be remembered for its tears as much as for its triumphs. For one man, they represented joy, and the other, heartache. The emotions from each were equally powerful.

After defeating No. 7 seed Marin Cilic in straight sets to win a record eighth Wimbledon title one year after experiencing a bitter defeat in the semis, 19-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer sat alone in the changeover chair and was overcome with emotion while he awaited the trophy ceremony.

But Federer's tears are not the ones that will be seared into viewers' minds long after the grounds at the All England Club have stilled. Those belonged to Cilic.

Down one set and trailing 3-0 in the second, Cilic took his seat during the changeover and called for the trainer and doctor. As the men spoke, Cilic lifted his towel to his eyes and began to weep uncontrollably. He took deep, labored breaths, and as television cameras zoomed in to bring the Croatian player's struggles more clearly into focus, he poured his emotions on to Centre Court.

In the arena, fans wondered what had happened to the powerful player they'd watched dance masterfully through the draw; the trainers never worked on an injury, yet they remained with him for the duration of the changeover. On TV, analysts wondered whether Cilic had panicked, if the enormity of facing the greatest men's champion on the sport's biggest stage was simply more than he could bear. Had he lost the last break point and simply broken?

When he arrived at his postmatch news conference an hour after accepting the runner-up trophy, Cilic did not shy away from questions about his cry. He did not make excuses, did not blame his injury, a blister on the bottom of his left foot that he and his trainers had been managing since his semifinal match. Cilic was not going to be embarrassed by his public display of emotion.


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