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Swiss legend de­nies Cilic in five-set thriller to cel­e­brate 20th grand slam ti­tle

EMO­TIONS spilled out of Roger Fed­erer af­ter he quelled Marin Cilic’s fight­back to win his 20th grand slam ti­tle at the Aus­tralian Open.

Cilic re­cov­ered from two sets to one and a break down to force a fifth set but Fed­erer proved stronger in the end to win 6-2 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 3-6 6-1 and join No­vak Djokovic and Roy Emer­son in claim­ing his sixth ti­tle in Mel­bourne.

The 36-year-old, the sec­ond old­est man to win a slam ti­tle be­hind Ken Rose­wall, moves four clear again of Rafael Nadal in terms of over­all ti­tles and is only three be­hind Ser­ena Wil­liams and four adrift of all-time record holder Mar­garet Court.

Fed­erer choked back tears at sev­eral points dur­ing his vic­tory speech be­fore breaking down com­pletely as he turned to his wife Mirka and sup­port team and said: “I love you guys.”

The de­fend­ing cham­pion said: “I think what hap­pened is I got to the fi­nals very quickly. The semis was cut short. I had a lot of emo­tions left in me be­cause I didn’t have to go to the ex­treme like last year.

“I hoped over time in the speech I would start to re­lax a lit­tle bit, but I couldn’t. I wish it wasn’t so some­times. At the same time, I’m happy I can show emo­tions and share it with the peo­ple.”

Fed­erer re­vealed he had been un­usu­ally ner­vous ahead of the match and felt that was be­hind the un­char­ac­ter­is­tic lapses that cost him two sets.

“You can’t ex­plain it some­times, it is just a feel­ing you get,” he said. “It’s like against (To­mas) Berdych (in the quar­ter-fi­nals), I felt like I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to lose this one. I was not neg­a­tive, but I just felt like I saw a loss was com­ing some­how.

“I didn’t fall asleep very well af­ter the (Hyeon) Chung match. I think it sur­prised me that at this stage of a com­pe­ti­tion in the semis, to get a walkover. I couldn’t fall asleep un­til about three in the morn­ing.

“All of the next day I was al- ready think­ing about how should I play Marin, how cool would it be to win 20, but no, don’t think of it, but how hor­ri­ble would it be to lose it. I had it for over 36 hours, it was a lot.

“I needed to prob­a­bly work through these emo­tions this way. That’s what made me ner­vous. I had a good start to the match. I think I lost the sec­ond be­cause of nerves. It’s all good. I like to care. It’s good I can care about these matches.”

In­evitably, Fed­erer faced ques­tions about how long he will be able to main­tain his re­mark­able form, but he sees no rea­son why he can­not con­tinue chal­leng­ing for the big ti­tles as long as he does not over­play.

He said: “I’ve won three slams now in 12 months. I can’t be­lieve it my­self. I’ve just got to keep a good schedule, stay hun­gry, then maybe good things can hap­pen. Then I don’t think age is an is­sue, per se. It’s just a num­ber. There’s ex­cit­ing times ahead.”

The crunch point of the match came at the start of the fifth set af­ter Cilic had bril­liantly bat­tled from 3-1 down to win the fourth. He piled on the pres­sure in the open­ing game of the de­cider and had two break points but Fed­erer saved them both. The sec­ond seed then broke serve in the next game and did not look back.

The Croa­t­ian was play­ing in his third grand slam fi­nal af­ter win­ning the US Open in 2014 and los­ing to Fed­erer at Wim­ble­don last sum­mer. He ex­or­cised some demons af­ter breaking down in tears dur­ing the match at SW19 as he strug­gled with blis­ters and was proud of his ef­forts.

The 29-year-old said: “I’m feel­ing a lit­tle bit dis­ap­pointed ob­vi­ously. It was a big bat­tle. I man­aged to turn it around. I was hit­ting the ball great. I was just play­ing phe­nom­e­nal.

“Then the first game of the fifth set was more or less cru­cial at the end. It just ran away from me. But I’m re­ally happy with the per­for­mance that I did.”

The match was played un­der the roof af­ter the ref­eree de­cided to im­ple­ment the ex­treme heat pol­icy even though it was an evening con­test and the tem­per­a­ture had not hit the stated 40C thresh­old.

Fed­erer de­scribed the de­ci­sion as sur­pris­ing while Cilic felt it con­trib­uted to him los­ing the first four games.

He said: “Through­out the tour­na­ment I played all my matches out­doors. I was pre­par­ing for a hot day. With the roof closed, it was way, way cooler than I ex­pected.”

I’m happy I can show emo­tions and share it with the peo­ple. Roger Fed­erer, af­ter win­ning his 20th grand slam ti­tle and sixth Aus­tralian Open.


SUPER STAR: Roger Fed­erer celebrates win­ning his sixth Aus­tralian Open ti­tle and a 20th grand slam win over­all af­ter beat­ing Marin Cilic.

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