Federer fights past Cilic for slam title No. 20, Australian Open title No. 6

Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five…not 17, not 18, not 19…. No, Roger Federer is now the proud owner of 20 career Grand Slam titles.

Federer extended his count to a full score by holding off Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the Australian Open final on Sunday night. The Swiss emphatically bounced back from a brief fourth-set hiccup to triumph after three hours and three minutes of play.

For a while it looked like this one would not even go four sets. Federer had made 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 mincemeat out of Cilic in the 2017 Wimbledon championship match and more of the same appeared to be in the cards when he surged to a 4-0 lead at the expense of an out-of-sorts Cilic on Sunday. After only 24 minutes, the first set was over.

This time, however, Cilic was not beset by foot blisters and Federer was not quite as unflappable as he was at the All-England Club. The underdog managed to make their second head-to-head final in the span of three slams a much more competitive one, starting in the second set. Both players fought off multiple break points en route to a tiebreaker, which Cilic took seven points to five mainly thanks to forehand winners that gave him mini-breaks at 2-3 and 5-4.

Federer took the third almost as fast as he had won the first, breaking for 4-2 and coasting the rest of the way. It appeared to be all but over when the 36-year-old earned another scalp of the Cilic serve to begin the fourth and got a look at another break chance at 3-1 for what would have given him a double-break advantage. From completely out of nowhere, though, Cilic strung together five games in succession to steal the set and improbably force a decider.

But Federer was at his best with his back against the wall, just as he was last year when he won a trio of five-set matches on the way to the Australian Open title. He saved two break points in the opening game of the fifth against Cilic and that proved to be the underdog’s last gasp. Federer held for 1-0 and was off to the races, picking up breaks for 2-0 and 5-1.

It ended in similar fashion to the 2017 final against Rafael Nadal–on a challenge. When Federer’s out-wide serve at 40-0 was confirmed to have caught the line, it was over.

“It’s amazing what you guys do year after year,” Cilic told Federer and his team, the combination of which has suddenly delivered three titles in the last five Grand Slams. “It was an amazing journey for me to come here to the final. It could have been the best two weeks of my life. I had a slight chance at  the beginning of the fifth set, but Roger played a great fifth set.”

“No idea,” Federer responded when asked how much longer he can keep playing at this level. “Honest, I don’t know. I have no idea. I’ve won three slams now in 12 months. I can’t believe it myself. I just got to keep a good schedule, stay hungry, then maybe good things can happen.

“I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable. Of course, winning is just an absolute dream come true. The fairytale continues. After the great year i had last year, it’s incredible.”


14 Comments on Federer fights past Cilic for slam title No. 20, Australian Open title No. 6

  1. I remember 33 yr old Agassi winning in 2003 and how amazing it seemed to everyone.
    A drop in a very big ocean compared to Feds achievement!

    • Rosewall’s first and last slams were nearly 19 years apart, which is even more than Serena’s (18 years). But Fed has the record for men in the open era, and Rafa is not far behind (over 12 years). If Rafa (or possibly Novak) doesn’t break Fed’s record, that’s one that I think won’t be broken.

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