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Federer survives in five sets to beat Cilic and go back-to-back at Australian Open

Ricky Dimon in ATP Tour 28 Jan 2018
  • Roger Federer outlasts Marin Cilic in five sets in the Australian Open final on Sunday night
  • It is Federer's sixth Australian Open title and 20th Grand Slam title in 30 final appearances
  • Bet on tennis and watch live streaming at Unibet > sports > live streaming
Roger Federer of Switzerland poses with the trophy after winning the 2018 Australian Open following a five-set victory over Marin Cilic on Sunday at Melbourne Park. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Even at 36 years old, Roger Federer is looking like the fittest player on tour. He's certainly the best.

With the rest of the ATP Tour spending more time in the infirmary than on the tennis court in recent months, Federer flew into the 2018 Australian Open as a clear title favorite. And for good reason. Federer lived up to that hype, capturing his second consecutive Australian Open title and 20th Grand Slam winner's trophy of his illustrious career by holding off Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on Sunday night. The Swiss successfully defended his title after three hours and three minutes, requiring five sets for a second straight final after having outlasted arch rival Rafael Nadal in the 2017 title tilt.

For much of the way it looked like five sets would be not at all necessary. This was a rematch of the 2017 Wimbledon final--in which Federer annihilated Cilic in straight sets--and this one began in similar fashion. A confident Federer stole the first four games of the match from an out-of-sorts Cilic and dominated the opening frame of play in just 24 minutes.

The world No. 6 settled down and picked up the pace in set two, during which both players had plenty of chances. Federer thwarted two break points in the second game with an ace followed by a forehand winner before Cilic survived a three-deuce game for 2-1. The underdog fought off an additional break point at 2-2 and another with a second-serve ace at 4-4. After failing to capitalize on a set point of his own, Cilic recovered in the ensuing tiebreaker. He erased a brief mini-break deficit, seized a 6-4 advantage with a big forehand, and wrapped things up on his own serve at 6-5.

Quick to restore order to the proceedings, Federer made easy work of the third. The world No. 2 converted a break point at 3-2 on a forehand error by his opponent and from there the set was all but over. Federer put four straight first serves in play--none of which were returned--for a convincing hold at 5-3.

Speaking of "all but over," that's what the match looked like early in the fourth. Cilic committed four consecutive unforced errors in the opening game to get broken and fall behind 1-0. Federer found himself nearing the finish line at 3-1 before things suddenly began to fall apart. In fact, Cilic reeled off five games in succession to force a deciding fifth set from completely out of nowhere.

As he always seems to do, however, Federer found another gear at just the right time. Whereas his game would dip at times of complacency, it was at its very best in the pressure moments. The No. 2 seed, who won three five-setters on his way to the 2017 Aussie Open title, saved two break points in the opening game of the fifth against Cilic. And that proved to be the last gasp for the soon-to-be world No. 3. With momentum just barely back in hand, Federer broke for 2-0 and was finally off to the races.

It eventually ended the same way last year's final concluded--on a challenge. In 2017, Federer was correct on a review. This time around, his opponent was incorrect. When Hawkeye confirmed one last Federer serve to have clipped the line, it was over.

For Federer, it is his 20th major title in his 30th final, and sixth Australian Open title in his seventh final. Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open winner, is now 1-2 in slam finals.

"It's amazing what you guys do year after year," Cilic told Federer and his team. "It was an amazing journey for me to come here to the final. It could have been the best two weeks of my life. I had a slight chance at  the beginning of the fifth set, but Roger played a great fifth set."

"I'm so happy," an extremely emotional Federer said during the trophy ceremony. "It's unbelievable. Of course, winning is just an absolute dream come true. The fairytale continues. After the great year i had last year, it's incredible."

Yes, yes it is.

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Federer survives in five sets to beat Cilic and go back-to-back at Australian Open

Roger Federer beats Marin Cilic in five sets in the Australian Open final on Sunday at Melbourne Park. It is Federer's second straight title Down Under and 20th major title of his career.

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