Roger Federer took his Australian Open tally to six titles and his Grand Slam tally to 20 titles and in doing so, the Swiss legend matched one record and with the second, he extended his already stupendous number. He joined Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson with a sixth Australian Open title and edged Rafa Nadal even further in the majors titles category by registering a 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Marin Cilic at a closed Rod Laver Arena.
“I’m so happy , it’s unbelievable, it’s been a long day,” Federer said. “I’m happy it’s over now. The fairy tale continues for us, for me, it’s incredible,” said an emotional Federer as he cradled the Norman Brookes trophy.
At 36-years-old, Federer’s title win further highlights the game is not bound by the age anymore – a notion of the past – even with the game getting significantly physical. To Federer’s credit, he has been careful and smart in choosing his calendar and the tournaments he plays ever since taking a six month injury break in 2016. He came back last year and won the Australian Open and then the Wimbledon – also against Cilic. With the win on Sunday, Federer has joined legendary Rod Laver, who was in attendance, for winning four Grand Slam titles after turning 30.
Federer came into the final without dropping a set but Cilic ruled out the chances of that streak continuing with incredible hitting from the back of the court. It was well visible in the second set and the fourth set. In the fourth set, Cilic came from 1-3 down to break Federer’s twice in a row to go on and hold his and force a decisive fifth set.
But just as Cilic looked to have an opening in the fifth set and looked to be headed towards a second Grand Slam, Federer roared back with composed play. The major difference between the two players proved to be the number of errors committed. While they were close with winners, Cilic’s 45 to Federer’s 41, the unforced errors count tipped the balance in Federer’s favour. The Croatian committed 64 unforced errors as compared to Federer’s 40 and this tally tipped 16 to 5 in the decisive fifth set and made the entire difference.
“I kept thinking about the outcome quite often. It kept playing in my mind, ‘What if I lost?’At the end it is a relieving feeling. I’ll think about it for a long time!” he said in front of a packed crowd.
“It’s an outdoor tournament — it’s like Wimbledon. Why is the roof closed?” said Pat Cash during commentary for BBC radio. “The way Roger plays, he swings so hard at the ball and takes it so early, any wind or variation of the ball moving will take it away from him. It’s why he’s one of the best players ever indoors.” The fact that the roof was closed also played into Federer’s hands, reckon some, despite both players taking the match into a fifth set.
However, Australian Open organisers issued a clarification that the decision was taken before the match began in accordance with the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT). The organisers revealed that the WBGT had breached the dangerous 32.5 level throughout the afternoon and was doing so even when the match began – as predicted. The decision was thus taken by tournament referee in consultation with Bureau of Meteorology team on site and the tournament’s chief medical officer.