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By Randy Walker



“The fairy tale continues,” said a teary Roger Federer in his post-match speech after once again making history at the 2018 Australian Open.

Federer’s 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 final-round victory over Marin Cilic marked his men’s record-extending 20th major singles title and his record-tying sixth singles title in Melbourne.

Federer also becomes the only men’s player to win three different major titles at least five times (Wimbledon, Australian, U.S. Open) and two different major titles at least six times (Wimbledon, Australian Open). His win concluded a successful defense of the dramatic Australian Open final he won last year as a perceived washed-up No. 17-seed recovering from a knee injury who was down 1-3 in the fifth set against chief rival Rafael Nadal. It marked the first time he successfully defended a major title since the 2008 U.S. Open – a decade ago!

All of these accomplishments for Federer come at the age of 36. (Although Ken Rosewall still holds the record as the oldest Australian Open champion at the age of 37 in 1972.)

Against Cilic, Federer jumped out of the gate in the final like a Swiss Olympic downhill skier, winning 15 of the first 18 points of the match to cruise in the first set. On ESPN, John McEnroe called Cilic “a ghost” in the first set while younger brother Patrick called Federer, “the greatest starter” in tennis, “especially in big matches.” It appeared as though Federer would replicate his straight-set win over Cilic from the Wimbledon final the previous July. However, Cilic started to find his range – and got his nerve – in the second set and gutted out the second- set tiebreaker 7-5, marking the first dropped set for Federer during the fortnight.

Federer rebounded in the third set to take a two-sets-to-one lead and in the fourth set, he appeared to be close to finishing off the match, breaking Cilic to take a 2-0 lead. However, Cilic broke Federer at love to square the match at 3-3, en route to winning five straight games to force a fifth set as Federer’s serve deserted him.

Federer nearly lost control of the match in the first game of the final set. After a non-challenged out shot from Cilic that was missed by the linesman – that would have given him an easy service hold – Federer faced a break point. Cilic missed an easy forehand off a Federer second serve that he may remember for a while. He had another break point a point later, but again missed a forehand return, but off of a strong Federer first serve.

With Cilic serving at 30-30 in the next game after Federer held serve, Cilic hit a second serve that Federer missed but Federer almost simultaneously challenged the serve call. It was revealed to be out, and a Cilic double fault, that gave Federer the break point. Federer took full advantage and jammed Cilic with his return of serve and broke to take the 2-0 lead in the fifth set. Cilic then began to misfire off the ground and began to tire as Federer held for 3-0 and 4-1. He broke Cilic again for a 5-1 lead in the final set before serving out another championship.

Federer’s fairy tale tennis career certainly started with uncertainty as he struggled to get over the hump and win his first major title in 2001 and 2002 when he was anointed to be the next great player. After finally winning his first major title at Wimbledon in 2003, Federer also cried tears of joy and satisfaction.

As documented in my “Days of Roger Federer” book, Sunday’s final against Cilic came exactly 11 years to the day when Federer broke into the double-digits in his Grand Slam tournament title haul with his 10th major title with a straight-set win over Fernando Gonzalez in Melbourne. It took Federer three-and-a-half years to win his first 10 majors and 11 years to win his second 10 majors.

Federer’s sixth Australian Open ties him with Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson for the most men’s singles titles Down Under.

Federer joins Margaret Court (24), Serena Williams (23) and Steffi Graf (22) as the only players to win 20 or more major singles titles.

Federer moves again farther away from his major rival Nadal, who won his 16th major singles title at the U.S. Open last September, in the men’s major haul

“It continues to exhaust superlatives,” said Chris Fowler on ESPN of Federer and his greatness.

Randy Walker is the author of three published books, On This Day In Tennis History, The Days of Roger Federer and On This Day In Golf History.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

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About Admin
Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the books ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY and THE DAYS OF ROGER FEDERER

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