Roger Federer wins Australian Open and 20th major after beating Marin Cilic

Story highlights

Federer wins over Marin Cilic 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 3-6 6-1

He collects record 20th major

First man to win 20 grand slam titles

Cilic lost last year's Wimbledon final to Federer

CNN  — 

Roger Federer is ageless.

Without a grand slam title from the middle of 2012 to the conclusion of 2016, the Swiss has now won three of his last four following a gripping 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 3-6 6-1 victory over Marin Cilic in Sunday’s Australian Open final.

He has reached the milestone of 20 grand slam titles – the first man to do so – and it is a mark that could stand for decades. Or longer. His six Australian Open crowns also drew him level with the all-time men’s leaders of Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic and he is the second oldest man to win a major in the Open Era.

The 36-year-old has often said other great players will come along when he finally does retire. That could be the case but there might not be another player quite like him.

Much to the relief of his legions of supporters, Federer’s form suggests he won’t be calling it quits anytime soon. The two sets he dropped against the sixth-ranked Cilic were the only ones he conceded the entire fortnight in Melbourne.

“The fairytale continues for us, for me, after the great year I had last year,” said Federer, who captured the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017 to end his grand slam drought. “It’s incredible.”

An emotional Federer then thanked the crowd, who had chanted, ‘Let’s go, Roger’ to get him over the finish line in the fifth set.

“I’d like to thank you for everything,” he said, his voice cracking. “You guys make me nervous, you make me practice.”

There were indeed tears from Federer a la the 2009 Australian Open final. But on that occasion, they were tears of sadness as he was defeated by great rival Rafael Nadal in five sets.

Federer admitted he was nervous in the buildup as he thought about getting to 20, which would explain why he wasn’t his usual efficient self in the second and fourth sets.

He had more time to ponder because the Australian Open is the only grand slam where the men’s final is contested at night.

“All day I was thinking, ‘How would I feel if I won it, how would I feel if I lost it?’ I’m so close, yet so far,” he said. “I think I was going through the whole match like this.

“I’ve had these moments in the past, but maybe never as extreme as tonight. Getting to 20 is obviously very, very special, no doubt.”

Federer’s late career revival after a knee injury truly began 12 months ago in Melbourne when he overcame Nadal in five sets in the final.

Extreme heat

Sunday’s affair was played under the roof at an air conditioned Rod Laver Arena as organizers implemented the extreme heat policy for the second day in a row – the thermometer soared to 37 degrees Celsius outdoors as the match began.

It appeared to contradict an earlier statement from the tournament that stated the temperature had to be at least 40 degrees – as one criteria – to institute the rule.

Some felt it was a considerable boost to Federer, since he is an especially fantastic indoor player. He played his semifinal against South Korea’s history maker Hyeon Chung under the roof due to rain.

Just how much being indoors affected the outcome is up for debate and given it went the distance, it probably shouldn’t be dwelt upon.

Cilic said he had the chance to practice indoors Sunday to get used to the conditions but chose not to.

“I didn’t mind to have the roof closed,” said the 2014 US Open champion. “But it was a huge difference in temperature from having outside 38, then when you came in, it was like 23, 24. It was way cooler than I expected.”