Roger Federer is now a 20 time grand slam champion after winning the Australian Open for a record equalling sixth time. However, he didn’t have it all his own way with Marin Cilic taking the first two sets Federer had lost all tournament to force a decider. Federer eventually took it 6-2 6-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 to extend his slam total lead over Rafael Nadal to four.
Having won 17 straight sets this tournament, it looked like business as usual for Federer when he rushed into a 4-0 lead on his way to the first set. His dominant head to head against Cilic suggested this wouldn’t last long but serving first in the second allowed Cilic to exert some pressure. The Croatian failed to convert a set point on return but was not to be denied in the second set tiebreak after coming from 2-3* down.
The pair traded the third and fourth sets with the momentum looking to be in Cilic’s favour going into a decider. Federer was 29-20 in fifth sets overall and looked to be in trouble when Cilic earned himself two break points in the first game. On both occasions, he failed to get a return into play and that was that for his chances of another grand slam title. A deep return forced Cilic into a netted forehand break point down and Federer added a second break to serve for it at 5-1. An unreturnable serve remained in by the finest of margins to close the match for Federer, who continues to make history at the age of 36.
Cilic was not disappointed with his performance despite the disappointing ending. “I was hitting the ball great. I was just playing phenomenal. Then first game of the fifth set was more or less crucial at the end with having those four, I believe, breakpoints that I didn’t convert. Just a little bit tougher game, my service game next game. It ran away from me but really happy with the performance that I did. Mentally it was tough, also was difficult with conditions.” he said on the match.
While Federer’s success continues from on-court improvements, he recognised the value off his off-court set up too. “I think by not overplaying, not playing every tournament possible. I enjoy practice. Not minding the travel. Having a great team around me, they make it possible. At the end it’s seeing that my parents are incredibly proud and happy that I’m still doing it. They enjoy coming to tournaments. That makes me happy and play better.” he noted.
It’s now three slams in the past 12 months and unless Novak Djokovic/Andy Murray return fully fit any time soon, the Swiss has to remain the favourite for at least one more this year – and even possibly two. 22 or 23 seemed impossible a few years back but is now a distinct possibility.