The final Federer serve was challenged by Marin Cilic as the latter felt it bounced out of bounds. Every eye in the Rod Laver arena followed the hawk-eye on the screen excitedly. The screen showed the ball leave Federer’s racket, sail over the net, and bounce on the left side-line before crashing into the advertising board. The centre court at Melbourne Park erupted. Roger Federer had just won his sixth Australian Open championship and 20th Grand Slam title. He raised his arms, acknowledging the cheering crowd, and hugged Cilic at the net. A thrilling five-set final came to an end.
The final began at 7:30 in the evening with the roof shut owing to the warm weather. Federer was at his aggressive best in the first set. A flurry of strong forehands and few well-placed volleys unsettled Cilic. In a short span of 26 minutes, Federer won the first set, 6-2.
Cilic gained momentum and found his rhythm in the second set. He got his big forehand going. Both players held their service games and the set headed to a tie-break. Cilic brought his best on court in the tie-break. A few strong forehands and a smash saw him clinch the second set, 7-6.
Federer hadn’t dropped a set until now in the tournament. The match was set for an enthralling middle period.
Federer hardly broke sweat and finished the third set, 6-3. The match had Federer written all over it.
However, fortunes turned in the fourth set. Cilic played some sensational tennis. Federer’s first serve percent fell drastically and Cilic capitalised on the same. Cilic bagged the fourth set, 6-4.
The match headed to an exciting finish. Federer’s five set record wasn’t as great at Cilic’s, and the Croat certainly fancied his chances.
However, Federer played some classic tennis in the decider. He capitalised on Cilic’s many errors and double-faults, and clinched the set, 6-1. The final set had a stamp of vintage Federer.
Roger Federer became the fourth player, after Margaret Court, Steffi Graf, and Serena Williams, to win 20 Grand Slam titles. His closest male challenger, Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam titles stand at 16.
After yesterday’s win, a flurry of records came by Federer’s name. He is tied with Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson for the most Australian Open titles. He holds the record of winning 10% of all open-era men’s singles Grand Slam titles since Tennis turned pro in 1968. He has won 96 ATP titles and stands a realistic chance of making them 100 by year-end. His next tournament is in Dubai in February. If he wins in Dubai, he will secure the top-spot in the world rankings and become the oldest player to hold the distinction.
Federer couldn’t hold back his tears as he accepted the Normal Brookes Challenge Cup. “I’ve won three Slams now in 12 months. I can’t believe it myself,” he said.
He is set for an exhilarating 2018. Every Federer fan hopes that 2018, like 2017, is the year of Roger Federer.