Roger Federer might have reaffirmed his status as the greatest tennis player of all time by claiming his eighth Wimbledon title, but his opponent’s mid-match emotional breakdown has been just as big a talking point.
For some of us, it was heartbreaking to see Marin Cilic so distraught during the final.
For others, it was cause for ridicule and disdain.
Doesn’t the Croat know there’s no place for crying in professional sport?
British broadcaster Piers Morgan set tongues wagging with this post on Twitter.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 16, 2017
Fellow UK personality Katie Hopkins was just as disparaging with her post-match tweet: “Very disappointing. It was a girls [sic] men’s final.”
They weren’t alone, with plenty of others using terms from ‘cry baby’ to ‘jerk’ to deride the 28-year-old.
Cilic was overcome midway through the second set – already down a set and 0-3 – when he was forced to call the trainer and doctor for treatment to blisters on his foot.
He later clarified that it was the realisation that he couldn’t perform at his best, rather than any pain from the blisters, that saw him bury his head in a towel and sob.
“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 explained.
Cilic has never retired due to injury in 742 professional matches, yet here he was faced with that prospect in the biggest of his career.
He’s had to work extremely hard to restore his reputation and ranking following a ban for an anti-doping violation in 2013.
The suspension was reduced from nine months to four on appeal, and he came back to win the 2014 US Open in his only previous grand slam final appearance.
Now, after three successive quarter-final appearances at the All England Club, he had gone two matches further to reach the final.
Should anyone be surprised that it meant so much to him?
Maybe nothing has ever meant that much to the likes of Morgan, Hopkins, and the other Cilic critics.
Cilic went out there with the highest of expectations and it was a lot for him to process when the realisation that he couldn’t achieve his goal suddenly hit mid-match.
How can anyone be upset that a sportsperson cares so much?
Cilic played outstanding tennis for six matches, more than earning his runner-up prize money while boosting his world ranking to No.6.
Did he let down his supporters, or tennis fans in general? Hardly.
But his emotions got the better of him during the final, and that’s not something he should be allowed to get away with – according to the critics.
Have any of them ever criticised Federer for going the blub each and every time he accepts a winner’s trophy?
No, because that emotion is socially acceptable, even admirable. Look at that, a sporting superstar who isn’t a robot (even if he plays as if he is).
It’s hard to understand what the critics expect.
Would we even care about sport if the protagonists didn’t?
Would we be as excited by a close contest, a thriller which goes down to the proverbial wire, if every match did?
We need light and shade in all things, and sport is no exception.
That’s why anyone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight barracks for the underdog.
In the end, if you can’t handle the unpredictability of sport, you just can’t handle sport.