He’ll have another.
Roger Federer recovered from a fourth set stagger to earn his 20th grand slam title in a back-and-forth five-set victory over Croatian Marin Cilic at the Australian Open Sunday night.
The Swiss world number 2 claimed his sixth title in Melbourne by a final score line of 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
“I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable,” Federer said. “Winning is an absolute dream come true. The fairytale continues for us, for me. After the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.”
Federer was all but gifted the first set after a slow start by Cilic. The Croatian made three unforced errors in the opening game including a missed smash on break point. Two games later, the Swiss doubled his advantage by breaking Cilic again and eventually led 4-0 after winning 16 of the first 20 points overall.
Cilic eventually stabilized somewhat and was able to hold his final two service games of the set, but he was unable to play his way into any of his return games.
With Federer serving for the set at 5-2, Cilic managed to at least reach 15-all in the game with an impressive forehand pass, but the world number 2 quickly responded with a pair of aces and a service winner to wrap up the opener.
The Croatian continued to steadily improve his game in the early stages of the second set, starting with a routine hold and then earning two break chances in Federer’s first service game. The Swiss responded with an ace and then a forehand winner to erase the opportunities and eventually held.
At 1-all, Cilic saved a break point amidst a service game that reached five deuces. In his next service game he saved another.
The players went on to trade relatively easy holds until 4-all when Federer fired a backhand pass winner to earn a break point. Cilic responded with a gutsy second serve ace and eventually held. Soon after, in the next game, it was the Croatian who had a set point thanks to a pair of double faults by Federer, but the world number 6 dumped a routine backhand into the net.
Following that drama, the players exchanged routine holds again to send the second set into a crucial tiebreaker.
Federer struck first in the tiebreak, earning a 3-2 lead and a mini-break with a strong backhand setting up a forehand winner, but Cilic immediately responded with a forehand return winner to level proceedings at 3-all.
The Swiss held his next point to go up 4-3, but serving again two points later, Cilic seized the crucial moment with a forehand winner to take a 6-4 lead. The Croatian would go on to level the match on his second set point with more strong hitting finished off by a smash.
To start the third set, it was Federer’s turn to try to stabilize. He did so with a routine hold. Cilic faced slight adversity in the form of going down 15-30 in his first service game, but he went on to win the next three points.
Federer appeared to try to increase his aggression in the early stages of the third set. In the first two, he tallied a dozen aces but only 10 winners otherwise.
The first five games of the third set went with serve in simple fashion, but serving at 2-3, Cilic’s level of play dipped. He committed two unforced errors and was unable to reach a difficult volley to go down love-40. The Croatian was able to fend off the first break point but committed another error on the second.
Undaunted, Cilic took the first point of Federer’s next service game and appeared in position to also go up 15-30, but Federer came up with a miraculous forehand pickup to maintain control of the game and eventually held.
After a Cilic hold to love, Federer offered no opportunity for his opponent to break back. The Swiss struck four strong first serves and closed the set out with an ace out wide.
As the fourth set got under way, the Fed Express continued to roll on, fueled largely by Cilic’s level continuing to drop from its second set peak.
The Croatian won the first two points of his opening service game, but then committed three unforced errors to surrender a break opportunity. A tricky Federer slice forced the 6’6” Cilic into the forecourt and he was unable to get his reply over the net.
Federer would go on to hold to 15 to consolidate his break and lead 2-0.
Cilic managed to at least hold in his next service game by fending off a break point, but Federer held to love again to stretch his lead to 3-1. While his game was not as sharp as in the second set, the Croatian’s fighting resolve crucially remained true, holding to 15 to at least remain in touch.
With Federer only three holds from his 20th major title, Cilic staying in touch early in the set paid off. He launched a pair of immense returns to reach love-30 and then got to triple break point when Federer double faulted. The Croatian earned his first break of the match with another strong pair of groundstrokes pressuring Federer into error.
Federer recovered to earn himself a break point in the ensuing game, but Cilic erased it with a smash winner. Two points later, he held and led in the fourth set for the first time.
Cilic continued his resurgence with a quick jump out to love-30 in Federer’s next service game. Two points later, the Swiss made a forehand error to hand over a double break point opportunity. Cilic missed a backhand into the net on the first and then pulled a big swing at a return wide on the second. However, the Croatian continued to look the stronger of the players and earned a third opportunity which he capitalized on with a forehand winner.
Serving for the set, the Croatian was nearly flawless. He knocked off a volley winner, forced Federer into error, and then fired two service winners to send the match into a fifth.
After having previously served immaculately, Federer made only 36 percent of his first serves in the fourth set and had only one ace.
With the Swiss serving to open the final set, those struggles continued. Cilic continued to dominate the baseline rallies and earned another break point. His forehand return landed in the net, but he quickly got another chance after forcing Federer to push a backhand long. The world number 2 hung on with another service winner and eventually held with a backhand crosscourt winner.
After the match, Cilic specifically lamented those two missed opportunities.
“Today was a tough match. I had a slight chance at the start of the fifth set,” Cilic said. “But Roger played an unbelievable fifth set.”
With help from a pair of double faults by Cilic, Federer earned his own break point opportunity in the next game. He then showed increased aggression by coming over a backhand return and rushing the Croatian into error to take the lead.
Cilic battled to deuce in the following game, but Federer fired a strong service winner up the middle and then consolidated his break after a forehand error from the Croatian.
Like in the fourth set though, the Croatian showed no signs of going away. He raced to a love hold to get on the board in the fifth, but Federer responded with a routine hold of his own. It was the first time since 3-2 in the fourth that Cilic did not at least reach deuce and it appeared that Federer was rediscovering his serve rhythm.
As Federer’s level once again rose, Cilic’s continued to decline. Serving at 1-4, he fell down love-30 after missing an easy backhand and then granted Federer double break point with another backhand miss. On the first chance, the Swiss was able to grab the double break advantage that eluded him in the fourth after Cilic dumped a forehand into the net.
The Swiss closed it out to love, finishing things off with a service winner. In a final bit of suspense, Cilic challenged, but the review showed that the ball had barely clipped the line.
An emotional Federer thanked his support team and fans during his winner’s speech.
“It wouldn’t be the same without you guys. My team, I love you guys. Thank you.”
With his win Sunday, Federer will close the gap between he and world number 1 Rafael Nadal to only 155 points.