Australian Open

Federer Beats Cilic For 20th Major Crown

Swiss wins record-equalling sixth Australian Open crown

January 28, 2018
Roger Federer celebrates becoming the first man in tennis history to win 20 Grand Slam championship trophies on Sunday at the Australian Open.
Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Roger Federer celebrates becoming the first man in tennis history to win 20 Grand Slam championship trophies on Sunday at the Australian Open. By ATP Staff

Roger Federer added another chapter to his phenomenal career on Sunday when the Swiss superstar captured his 20th Grand Slam championship crown to retain his Australian Open title with a thrilling 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Marin Cilic in the night-time final.

Twelve months on from beating Rafael Nadal in a pulsating five-set final, the 36-year-old once again drew upon his great skill and ingenuity to build upon his legacy as the greatest player in tennis history by winning a record-equalling sixth Australian Open crown (with Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic), coming through a draw that respected observers thought would be problematic.

"I'm so happy, it's unbelievable,” said an emotional Federer, with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup trophy in his hands once more. "It's been a long time waiting for this final. It's easier in the afternoon, but when it's at night you think about it all day. I'm happy it's over now. It's a dream come true and the fairy-tale continues. After the year I had last year, it's incredible."

Grand Slam Title Leaders

Player Total Titles Australian Open Titles
Roger Federer 20 6*
Rafael Nadal 16 1
Pete Sampras
14 2
Roy Emerson 12 6*
Novak Djokovic 12 6*
Rod Laver 11 3
Bjorn Borg 11 0

*Federer, Emerson and Djokovic are tied atop the Aussie Open titles list

Federer has now won three of the past five major championships and the victory, secured over three hours and four minutes, in his 30th major championship final, ensures that Federer is now just 155 points behind World No. 1 Nadal in the ATP Rankings. With Nadal not expected to compete until the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in late February, Federer would have the chance to add to his 302 weeks at the pinnacle of men’s professional tennis. He was last No. 1 on 4 November 2012. Read More

Federer has now won 96 tour-level career crowns, with only American Jimmy Connors (109) ahead. His 20 major crowns moves him four ahead of second-placed Nadal (16) in the all-time Grand Slam singles title list.

At 36 years, 173 days, Federer has become the third man in the Open Era (since April 1968) to win four or more Grand Slam championship trophies after turning 30, following in the footsteps of all-time great Australians Rod Laver (1969 Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open) and Ken Rosewall (1968 Roland Garros, 1970 US Open, 1971-72 Australian Opens).

When asked what keeps him motivated, Federer said, "I think by not overplaying. I enjoy practice, not minding the travel [and] 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.

"Then, of course, my wife [Mirka] who makes it all possible. Without her support, I wouldn't be playing tennis no more since many years. But we had a very open conversation, if she was happy to do this or not, years ago. I'm happy that she's super supportive, and she's willing to take on a massive workload with the kiddies. Same for me, because I wouldn't want to be away from my kids for more than two weeks. This life wouldn't work if she said, 'No'."

Grand Slam Title Leaders Aged 35+

Player No. of Titles Titles Won
Roger Federer 3 2017 & 2018 Australian Open, 2017 Wimbledon
Ken Rosewall 3 1971 & 1972 Australian Open, 1970 US Open

Read: How The 2018 Final Was Won - Set-by-Set Analysis

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Under a closed roof on Rod Laver Arena, due to the extreme heat, the perfect conditions favoured Federer, whose majestic stroke-play – a throw-back to a bygone era – ensured that the second seed raced out to a 4-0 lead. Having lost just two of his first-service points in the first set, Federer’s momentum stalled when Cilic’s serve and forehand potency began to reap dividends. Although sixth seed Cilic dumped a backhand into the net on set point opportunity at 5-4, with Federer serving at 30/40, the Croatian regrouped and played decisively in the tie-break, finishing with a composed smash winner.

Federer held his ground, waited for his next opportunity and when it came, at 3-2 in the third set, he capitalised on a forehand error from Cilic – letting out a scream of “Come On!”. Federer won five of the next six games and in breaking Cilic’s serve in the first game of the fourth set, the Swiss player’s grip tightened on a 20th major trophy (20-10 record).

With a Croatian flag fluttering barely four metres from the support team of Federer, Cilic gained inspiration and in a dramatic turnaround from a 1-3 deficit, the Croatian broke twice and clinched the fourth set courtesy of rediscovering his serve and winning the longer rallies. Federer ended a run of five straight games for Cilic by winning the first game of the decider, not before saving two break points.

"[I was] just really trying to get back winning a game again," said Federer. "So for me it was really just trying to break his momentum. [I] tried to serve well. [I] tried to get lucky a little bit. I think I was able to get that first game, at least get on the board. From then on, maybe momentum shifts a little bit, and it's exactly what happened. I think experience helped me there a little bit, and also a little bit of luck, I felt like I needed a little bit tonight."

Federer didn’t blink and seized his chance to take a 3-0 lead. Although Cilic, 27-13 in fifth sets, continued to fight, with the trophy in sight and another historic chapter in his glorious career almost finished, Federer didn’t let down his guard. He broke once more for a 5-1 lead when Cilic hit a forehand approach into the net. At the end, Federer had a look of a player unaware of his achievement: 20 Grand Slam crowns. Tears soon rolled down his cheeks.

Longest Streaks Of Grand Slam Titles By Federer & Nadal

Length of Streak Federer's Titles Nadal's Titles
11 majors 2005-07 Wimb, 2005-07 USO, 2006-07 AO 2005-07 RG
6 majors  2008 USO, 2009 RG, 2009 Wimb 2008 RG, 2008 Wimb, 2009 AO
5 majors
2017 AO, 2017 Wimb, 2018 AO 2017 RG, 2017 USO
4 majors 2010 AO 2010 RG, 2010 Wimb, 2010 USO

"It was an amazing journey for me," said Cilic, who beat Nadal in the quarter-finals and will rise to a career-high No. 3 on Monday. "It could have been the best two weeks of my life. I had the chance at the beginning of the fifth but he played a great match. My team have been unbelievable for the last two weeks. We started this year amazingly well and hopefully we can reach more finals and lift more trophies!"

Federer improved to 9-1 lifetime against Cilic in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, having also won their 2017 Wimbledon final clash. The Swiss hit 41 winners to Cilic’s 45, but it was his stronger service consistency – 67 of 84 first-service points won and 32 of 55 second-service points won – that ensured he was able to remain in contention, despite surges in match-momentum for Cilic. Federer also hit 24 aces to Cilic’s 16, converting six of his 13 break point opportunities on the Croatian's serve.

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