Roger Federer was in tears again, but this time he had just beaten Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to win his 20th Grand Slam title and his sixth Australian Open crown.
This one meant everything to Federer and as he wrapped up his champion’s speech, he gave into the tidal wave of emotions that had threatened to wash away his chances of success.
“It’s a long day waiting for the final,” Federer said. “It’s easier when it’s in the afternoon-time.
You sleep, you go out there, you do your best and that’s it. But when it’s at night, you think about the match all day. It’s tough.
“That’s why I was so bloody emotional at the end. In the third, fourth and fifth sets, I kept thinking, ‘What would I feel like if I won? What would it feel like if I lost?’ It wouldn’t go away.
“I was so close and my mind was all over the place. ‘I’m so close, don’t mess this up!’ And that’s exactly when you mess it up! That’s why it got to me at the end.”
For a set, it had been a walk in the park as Cilic froze in his third Major final. For a while, he was on complete lockdown as he dominated the third set. But for the second and the fourth sets, Federer was on the ropes.
He got tight in the second and was taking a battering in the fourth. And then in the fifth, he clung on by his fingernails as Cilic tried to keep up the pressure.
When he staved off two break points, protected his serve and got his name on the fifth set scoreboard, Federer yelled: “Chum jetze!” It means ‘come on now’, and it is a roar reserved for the crunch moments in Federer’s matches.
He had repelled the physical assault as Cilic had tried to blast him off the court – as the Croat had done in the fourth set – and now the champion knew what to do. He had been here before and he knew how to win. It was not easy, but he had done it 19 times before.
Cilic took his defeat like a gentleman and a sportsman. But he did have his issues with the tournament organizers when they opted to close the roof to protect the fans and the players from the 37°C heat.
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