Switzerland's Roger Federer during a press conference after winning the Men's singles final against Croatia's Marin Cilic.

Federer Fends Off Cilic Assault to Land Australian Open

There may be young bucks nipping away at his heels, but Roger Federer shows no signs of giving up his crown any time soon after taking his grand slam titles tally to 20 with victory over Marin Cilic in the final of the Australian Open.

Grand slams 18 and 19 came in a renaissance year of 2017, which snapped a barren major run of five years when many were writing off the Swiss great.

But a tailored schedule and renewed hunger for the game saw him bounce back 12 months ago and he looks set to carry that momentum into 2018.

Cilic served up a spirited fight, with the Croatian taking plaudits for being the only man to take a set off Federer at the Australian Open. He took two, but a third proved beyond him as Federer turned on the afterburners in the fifth set – breaking Cilic on two occasions to seal a 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3 3-6 6-1 victory.

It was a match of contrasting fortunes, with Federer dominant in sets one and three – Cilic at his powerful, brutal self in sets two and four. But the Croat had an 8-1 losing record against the Swiss in their previous meetings and Federer drew on that dominance to take command.

In a match that lasted three hours and three minutes, you can points to any number of turning points. But without doubt the key moment came at the start of the fifth set. Federer was rocking, having been blasted off court in the fourth. The assault from Cilic continued in the opening game of the final set, but Federer withstood two break points; let out a roar of delight when holding serve.

From there, it was as if the Federer battery had recharged at a time when Cilic’s hit empty. The Croat wilted and Federer pounced to secure his sixth Australian Open crown.

“I’m so happy, it’s unbelievable,” Federer said, per the Australian Open’s official website. “I’m happy it’s over, but winning is just an absolute dream come true. The fairytale continues for me. After the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.”

As well as a 20th grand slam title, Federer will take back the world number one ranking from Rafael Nadal.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see what sort of schedule Federer puts together. He skipped the clay court season last year, focusing his efforts on Wimbledon. With the European clay never having been his preferred surface, the temptation must be to skip it again; 188BET have Federer priced up at 3.25 to defend his Wimbledon crown.

But for now, the 36-year-old can bask in the glory of grand slam number 20 and having kept the young pretenders at bay.