Marin Cilic saved a match point before beating Novak Djokovic to win his second title at Queen’s Club.
The 29-year-old Croat fought back to win the Fever-Tree Championships 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 in the longest final in the tournament’s history.
Cilic, who won the title in 2012 and was runner-up last year, saved match point at 5-4 in the second set and came back from 4-1 down in the tie-break.
His serve was crucial in the final set as he won in two hours and 57 minutes.
“It was a special win for me because last year I had a match point and didn’t convert it,” said Cilic.
“It was a tough match, with no breaks for me until the final set.”
Former world number one Djokovic, seeking to secure his first title since winning at Eastbourne last year, was upbeat despite his loss.
“I have to congratulate Marin on a fantastic week,” said Djokovic, who was playing in the tournament for the first time in 10 years.
“He deserved to win and came up with some big shots. It’s a tough loss for me. But I have to see the positive because I haven’t played a final in almost a year.”
Cilic fightback stuns Djokovic
Djokovic, 31, took a wildcard in an attempt to regain his best form before Wimbledon, having had surgery on his elbow in January.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion went into the 99th final of his career with a 14-1 head-to-head record over his opponent.
His return of serve and athletic play blunted Cilic’s powerful serve in the first set and with the Croat struggling to assert himself looked on course to end his long wait for a trophy.
But Cilic denied Djokovic match point with a blistering serve and went to take the game and then force a tie-break.
Djokovic led 4-1 in the tie-break but nerves seemed to affect him and Cilic won six points in a row to set up the decider.
It was a tense final set and Cilic produced a moment of quality to tee up the only break of serve at 4-3.
Chasing down a wide ball, the Croat fired a stunning forehand winner that left Djokovic applauding.
The world number six then served it out to love to complete his victory.
‘Victory will boost Cilic’s Wimbledon hopes’
For much of this match, many of Djokovic’s trademark qualities were in evidence. He was serving well, defending resiliently and showing great speed across the court – and seemingly on his way to a first title for a year.
But he wobbled a little when just three points away from the prize, as a double fault and a backhand error contributed to Cilic’s run of six points in a row in the tie-break.
Cilic had lost his three previous finals, but he grew in confidence in the final set. His serving improved and his running forehand pass to set up the pivotal break of serve was breathtaking.
A second consecutive win over Djokovic, after 14 prior defeats, should further fuel his confidence ahead of Wimbledon.
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Marin Čilić is a Croatian professional tennis player. Over the course of his career, Čilić has won 17 ATP singles titles, including the 2014 US Open. His career-high singles ranking is world No. 3, achieved on 28 January 2018. Čilić first came to international prominence by defeating then-World No. 2 Andy Murray in the fourth round of the 2009 US Open, and then reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open a few months later. He was also runner-up at the 2017 Wimbledon Championships and the 2018 Australian Open, losing to Roger Federer both times. Čilić has reached at least the quarterfinal in all four grand slam tournaments. He is known for his fast serves and powerful ground-strokes.
Čilić started to develop his career at a young age; his first steps of tennis started in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His potential was discovered by local hometown coaches who saw him play and encouraged his move to Zagreb for further training. He was soon befriended by his countryman to be Goran Ivanišević, who introduced him to coach Bob Brett. Čilić turned professional in 2005, and ultimately hired Ivanišević as his full-time coach in 2013. Čilić parted ways with Ivanišević in late July 2016, after advancing to the 2016 Davis Cup semifinals.