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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Tuesday / May 22.
  • Federer downs Cilic for 20th career Grand Slam title and sixth Australian Open crown

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    Even at 36, the Swiss Maestro keeps on rolling.

    With the roof in Rod Laver Arena closed, Roger Federer won his 20th career Grand Slam title, his second straight Australian Open crown and his sixth Australian championship by prevailing over Marin Cilic, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

    Federer improved to 6-1 in Australian Open final (2009, Rafael Nadal) and to 94-13 overall Down Under. He tied Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic for most Australian Open titles. Federer has now won three major titles after turning 35.

    “I’m so happy, it’s unbelievable,” Federer said before eventually breaking up in tears and kissing the trophy. “Of course winning is just an absolute dream come true. The fairytale continues for us, for me. After the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.”

    A year ago, Federer beat Nadal after trailing 1-3 in the fifth set to win his 17th career major and first since Wimbledon in 2012. Now a year later, he has won three of the last five Grand Slam events to get to 20, four ahead of second-place Nadal (16), who also won two majors in 2017 but was ousted in the quarterfinals here by Cilic after he retired with a hip injury.

    For the second straight year, Federer had to wait to celebrate on match point for a challenge. This year, Cilic challenged Federer’s serve on match point and the replay showed it hit the line, causing Federer to raise his hands in celebration.

    Federer improved to 9-1 all-time against Cilic, whom he also beat in last year’s Wimbledon final when the Croat was bothered by blisters on his feet. Cilic’s lone win came in the 2014 US Open semifinals, where he crushed Federer using his massive serve and groundstrokes.

    But in this match, Cilic’s level ebbed and flowed as he pushed Federer to the distance. Federer earned a break in the second game of the fifth set when the Croat smacked a forehand into the net, giving Federer a 2-0 lead. Federer then got the double-break for a five one lead and closed it out on his serve, winning his third major in his last five after not winning one before that since 2012.

    “Today was a tough day for me,” Cilic said. “I had a slight chance in the beginning of that fifth set but Roger played unbelievable.”

    Cilic added that the closed roof impacted his play.

    “You know, throughout the tournament, I played all my matches outdoors, also (I was) preparing for a hot day, 38 degrees celsius,” the Croatian said.

    “Then first match, for the final, to play with the roof closed, it’s difficult. I have to say that decision, could it have been different? I guess so. I think that it was just a little bit difficult to adjust, especially (at) the beginning of the match.

    “With the roof closed, it was way, way cooler than I expected. That was very, very difficult, especially for the final to be in that kind of a situation.”

    Federer got off to a quick 3-0 start with a double-break and cruised through the first set in 24 minutes. He had his chances in the second for a commanding two-sets-to-love lead but Cilic prevailed in the tiebreak.

    Federer got a break in the sixth game of the third set for a 4-2 lead and that was the difference for a two-sets-to-one lead.

    The Swiss then broke Cilic in the first game of the four set and moved to a quick 2-0 lead. But Cilic then upped his game from the baseline by hitting into deep corners and putting Federer on the run, and on his return of serve by stepping in and cracking deep returns. He broke Federer in the sixth game of the fourth and then again in the eighth before closing out the set on his serve.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.