After two weeks of 2018 Australian Open action crammed with upsets and classics, Roger Federer and Marin Cilic square off in the men’s final.
History: Played 9: Federer 8 V Cilic 1.
Last meeting: November 17, 2017: Federer d Cilic 6-7, 6-4, 6-1.
Final Thoughts: Roger Federer effectively earned a free pass through to the final, up a set and ahead 5-2 in the second when semi-final opponent Hyeon Chung succumbed to injury. The world No.2 is yet to drop a set at the tournament, including a blistering straight-sets victory over in-form Tomas Berdych in the quarters.
Sixth seed Marin Cilic’s path to the final has been considerably tougher, winning three tie-breaks in a four-set fourth-round win over Pablo Carrena Busta before outlasting Rafael Nadal, who retired with Cilic up 2-0 in the fifth set, and accounting for boom Brit Kyle Edmund in straight sets in the semis.
Cilic’s lone win over Federer came in the semi-finals of the 2014 US Open, which the Croatian went on to win. But since then the ‘Fed-Express’ has ousted Cilic at Wimbledon in 2016 (quarter-final) and ’17 (final), and the ATP Finals two months ago.
The 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 drubbing in last year’s Wimbledon decider – during which he famously broke down as he battled painful blisters – will still be fresh in Cilic’s mind.
The 29-year-old lines up for just his third grand slam final, and his powerful serve, forceful attacking style and timing will need to be at their peak to challenge Federer. Incredibly, Federer is eyeing off his 20th slam title in his 30th major final. The 36-year-old has won five of six finals at the Australian Open.
Just four of the last 13 Australian Open men’s finals have been won in straight sets, with six going to four sets and three going the maximum five. Only five times in the past 37 years has a player won a slam title without dropping a set (Federer did it at the 2007 Australian Open and Wimbledon last year, while Nadal achieved the feat at three French Opens).
Marin should push Roger harder than anyone else has in the past fortnight and take a set off him, but the G.O.A.T. appears destined to clinch yet another piece of silverware.