28 Jan 2018

Federer downs Cilic for 20th Grand Slam title


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Photo: Paul ZimmerRoger Federer (SUI)

It may have been a different setting and a very different dynamic to the match this time, but in the end Roger Federer made it look easy as he battled his way past Marin Cilic to win a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title and his 20th major title overall.

A little more than six months after they last met in a Wimbledon final that did not offer much in the way of a contest, Federer had a much tougher assignment on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night against his Croatian rival but overcame the challenge to win 62 67(5) 63 36 61 in just over three hours. He now stands level with Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson for the most major titles in Australia.

Despite the lengthy scoreline, for much of the first two sets it again seemed a foregone conclusion. Federer took advantage of a missed overhead smash from Cilic to seal a first break which was the catalyst for a rout that saw him win the first set in just 24 minutes.

Cilic was looking to become the first Croatian player to win multiple Grand Slams and add to his 2014 US Open title, and for large parts of the match he played like a potential major champion. The 29-year-old needed five deuces to hold his service game at 1-1 in the second set, but began to find a rhythm as – unhampered by the blisters that preceded his downfall last summer – he went toe-to-toe with the Swiss.

A second set tie-break saw the Croatian become the first man to take a set off Federer at this year’s tournament, having survived the anguish of losing two set points earlier on. From then on it was a game of shifting momentums, with Federer showing off some gorgeous movement and shot selection and Cilic finding the power and accuracy in his serve and forehand.

Another day of intense heat in Melbourne meant the roof was closed for the showdown but the intensity of competition did not waver. Despite losing the third and being 3-1 down in the fourth, Cilic showed the qualities that has seen him rise to a career-high No. 3 in the rankings, making Federer look vulnerable as he rattled off five games in a row to ensure the Swiss would have again to raise his game.

Ultimately, the match turned on the opening game of the decider, that Cilic later referred to as ‘crucial’. He failed to take either of two break points that came his way and was unable to cope with the subsequent onslaught from his 36-year-old opponent, who is now the oldest Grand Slam champion since 37-year-old Ken Rosewall triumphed here in 1972.

Federer broke down in tears as the magnitude of his achievement became apparent – even by his now godlike standards. “I’m so happy, it’s unbelievable. Winning is just an absolute dream come true. The fairy tale continues for me. After the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.”

Cilic, though disappointed, acknowledged he had played his part. “I was hitting the ball great. I was just playing phenomenal,” he said. “I'm really pleased with the performance. Played great tennis over these two weeks. I had tough matches, tough opponents, beating Rafa, reaching here a final, which is definitely amazing. Looking at my own game, I think I improved a lot.”

In the men’s doubles competition, it was a first major title for Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic who defeated Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 64 64 on Saturday. Austrian Marach, who is a Grand Slam champion on his 40th attempt, is now 5th on the list for most appearances before winning a men’s doubles title at the majors. His 24-year-old Croatian partner is the youngest men’s doubles champion at the Australian Open since Michael Llodra in 2004.



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