Roger Federer beats Cilic in Aussie final; wins 20th major title

The Swiss player has won more major tennis titles than any man

As Roger Federer cried while accepting his 20th Grand Slam title, Rod “Rocket” Laver took a chance to snap a picture for posterity.

Federer has won more major tennis titles than any man, including a record-equaling six on the court that bears the great Rod Laver’s name at Melbourne Park.

This one, following a tension-filled, momentum-swinging 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Marin Cilic in Sunday’s Australian Open final, was a keeper.

Laver has been involved in the on-court presentations in the past, witnessing Federer’s tears at close range. This time, Laver — the only man to twice win all four Grand Slam titles in one season — held up his mobile phone to get the shot from the stands.

“I didn’t see that through my thick tears, that he was taking a picture of me crying,” Federer said. He joked in a TV interview that “I couldn’t lift my head, I was so embarrassed.”

Surely, it’s only an embarrassment of riches.

Federer arrived in Melbourne at the start of 2017 after an extended injury layoff and on a Grand Slam title drought that dated back to 2012 at Wimbledon. Having successfully defended his Australian title, Federer has now won three of the last five majors in a stunning career resurgence.

“I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable,” Federer said, taking deep breaths and choking back tears. “Of course, 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 started to tear up toward the end of the trophy ceremony as he thanked his team in the stands: “I love you guys. Thank you.”

He then received a standing ovation as tears streamed down his face.

At the age of 36 years, 173 days, Federer became the second-oldest man to win a Grand Slam title in the Open era after Ken Rosewall, who won the 1972 Australian Open at 37.

The match wasn’t entirely without controversy after organizers decided early to close the roof for the final, just as they had for the afternoon mixed doubles final when Mate Pavic and Gabriela Dabrowski beat Rohan Bopanna and Timea Babos for the title.

Former champions were among the commentators questioning the decision, suggesting there’d been hotter days earlier in the tournament when the heat policy was not enacted.

“I was surprised to hear they had the heat rule in place for a night match. I never heard that before,” Federer said. “Half an hour before, we got the word that it’s going to be indoors. For me, it doesn’t change anything in the preparation, to be honest. I was ready for either.”

Tournament referee Wayne McEwen has the option of closing the roof when the temperature reaches 40 degrees Celsius and a measure called the wet-bulb globe temperature — which combines factors such as heat, humidity and breeze — reaches 32.5C.

The temperature hit 38C an hour before the men’s final, when the WGBT reading was 32.7C.

“With no dramatic reduction forecast, the referee exercised his discretion and called for the roof to be closed,” Tennis Australia said in a statement defending the decision. “At no other time during the event this year has the WBGT reading reached the threshold.”

Federer took instant advantage of the air-conditioned venue, breaking Cilic’s serve in the first and third games.

“Mentally was tough. Also was difficult with conditions. Throughout the tournament I played all my matches outdoors, also preparing a hot day,” Cilic said. “Then first match for the final to play with the roof closed, it’s difficult.

“It was just little bit difficult to adjust, especially the beginning of the match,” he said, “especially for the final to be in that kind of a situation.”

It was clear early on that the crowd would be heavily pro-Federer. The arena was filled with the red and white colours of the Swiss flag, with Federer supporters featuring Swiss flags on their shirts, hats, signs and faces. Looking ahead to a possible Federer victory, one fan held a sign reading, “The Big Two-Oh. Go Roger!”

Federer was quick off the mark, getting service breaks in the first and third games and forcing Cilic to go to his equipment bag for a new racket after just 12 points. Federer only conceded two points on his serve in the opening set, which lasted just 24 minutes.

But Cilic rallied in the second, getting his big forehand working and, after missing a set point on Federer’s serve in the 10th game, levelled the match in the tiebreaker. That was the first set Federer had dropped in the tournament.

Federer easily won the third set and was up a break in the fourth but the momentum swung again, with Cilic going on a roll to level the match. The sixth-seeded Cilic had two chances to break Federer’s serve in the first game of the fifth set, but wasted them both with two unforced errors. He then double-faulted twice in the second game to drop his own serve, giving Federer the decisive lead in the set.

Federer is now 9-1 against Cilic, including last year’s Wimbledon final. His only defeat was in the semifinals of the U.S. Open in 2014, where Cilic claimed his first major title.

After serving out at love, his celebration was delayed slightly by an unsuccessful challenge from Cilic on match point. It was a similar end to his five-set win over Nadal here last year. And, just like 12 months ago, the tears flowed.

“I’ve won three Slams now in 12 months. I can’t believe it myself,” said Federer, showing no signs he’s ready for his resurgent run to stop. “I just got to keep a good schedule, stay hungry, then maybe good things can happen. I don’t think age is an issue.”

John Pye, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Saratoga Speedway celebrates its 50th opening night of racing May 5

In 1968 the central Vancouver Island communities and business came together to… Continue reading

Cumberland May Day Bean Dinner planned

Labour Minister Harry Bains as guest speaker at annual event

Draft plan for Union Bay coal hills remediation to be submitted this spring

West Fraser Mills is paying for the installation of an engineered membrane

Crowdfunding page created for family of Comox Valley man killed in Peru

A GoFundMe page has been created for the family of Sebastian Woodroffe,… Continue reading

Comox Valley’s living wage sees four per cent increase from 2017 – report

Advocacy groups say the Valley’s inflation rate was nearly double the provincial average

Canadian musician duets with ancestral Indigenous voices on debut album

Toronto’s Jeremy Dutcher has mixed his operatic tenor with his Wolastoq First Nation roots

Dr. LipJob ordered to stop doing botox and other medical procedures

Rajdeep Kaur Khakh ordered to stop unlawful practice of medicine

B.C. to prevent for-profit blood, plasma collection

Voluntary Blood Donations Act would make it illegal to pay for blood, plasma donations

Bill Cosby guilty in sexual assault case

Comedian convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

B.C. legislates recreational marijuana sales

Age limit 19, province retains wholesale cannabis monopoly

COLUMN: Stanley Cup playoff second-round predictions

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins continue their quest for their third straight Stanley Cup

B.C. seeks court ruling on new pipeline regulations

Province wants to require permits for any new bitumen transport

Former child watchdog to head UBC centre on residential schools

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to lead university’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

Most Read