Cilic reached the final last year to face Federer, who was chasing his eighth title, and was expected to pose a serious challenge to the Swiss.
However, blisters left him sobbing on Centre Court and Federer took a straight-sets win to make it title No 9.
But there were no signs of shell-shock in Cilic as he opened his 2018 campaign with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Nishioka, who was never able to threaten.
Ever a popular figure, the No 3 seed might feel himself a little unlucky to have been relegated out to the furthest show court from Centre, but if he was affronted he showed none of it on court.
He was likely buoyed by the events of last night – “Idemoooo!!” he roared on Twitter after Ivan Rakitic’s penalty put Croatia into the World Cup quarter-finals – and there were plenty of red-and-white chequered shirts in the crowd to remind him that he could bring his nation a remarkable double in just under a fortnight’s time.
His very first strike in anger, as if to consign last year’s final to history for good, saw him ace Nishioka out wide; it was the first of 21 such winners in the match and it was only four miles an hour short of his quickest all day.
More to follow.