With microphones pointed in his face and a crowd of loving fans cheering, even Roger Federer himself seemingly couldn’t believe he had just won another Australian Open title as he burst into tears while lifting the trophy above his head for the second straight year.
Second-seeded Federer defeated sixth-seeded Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in a thrilling five-set final match Sunday to capture his record 20th Grand Slam crown. The normally stoic Federer broke down with emotion while addressing the crowd at the trophy ceremony. The victory marked his sixth Australian Open title, but was one of his most special considering he is now 36 years old.
Federer jumped out to an early lead in the match, breaking Cilic in his first two service games to establish a commanding 3-0 lead in the first set. However, Cilic was able to respond in the second set, thumping a gutsy forehand winner and overhead smash in a tiebreak win to even the match at a set apiece.
In the third set, Federer recorded another early break of Cilic’s serve and cruised to win it 6-3 before the powerful Croatian responded in the fourth set, twice breaking Federer’s serve to take the match to a decisive fifth set. In the final set, Cilic fatigued while Federer remained his typically fluid and composed self during high pressure points and the Swiss served out for the championship.
Federer is in the midst of a remarkable career rebirth as he approaches age 40. After dealing with a handful of injuries and bouts of inconsistent play for several years, Federer is once again the man to beat on court. He has won three Grand Slams in the past year, two at the Australian Open and one at Wimbledon, which was also a five-set triumph over Cilic.
Prior to last year’s Australian Open title, which was capped with a dramatic win over rival Rafa Nadal in a match that signified each player’s return to the top of their game, Federer had not won a Grand Slam since 2012. This year, he was in peak form in Melbourne, not dropping a single set through five rounds until the final match. Although he is known largely for his dominance on the grass surface and record eight Wimbledon titles, Federer now has 11 hard court Grand Slam wins to his name.
While the next generation of tennis stars, consisting of players like Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov, pose a threat to Federer at each new tournament, he has been able to hold them at an arm’s length and remain at the top of the sport. During Federer’s five-year Grand Slam drought, stars Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray enjoyed stretches of dominance. However, each player has recently suffered serious injuries and faced confidence issues at Grand Slams, leaving the door open for Federer to rise again.
Federer’s incredible run will sooner or later come to an end, but tennis fans will continue to enjoy the beloved legend and the magic he produces each time he steps on the court until that day comes.
Story Salit is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.