Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic in five sets in the Australian Open final Sunday to become the first man to win 20 grand slam titles.
Federer also collected his sixth crown in Australia — tying Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic for the men’s lead — by defeating the sixth-ranked Croatian 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 3-6 6-1 in just over three hours in steamy Melbourne.
“The fairy tale continues for us, for me, after the great year I had last year,” Federer, who won the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017, told the crowd. “It’s incredible.”
An emotional Federer then thanked the crowd, who chanted, ‘Let’s go, Roger’ to get the 36-year-old over the finish line in the fifth set.
“I’d like to thank you for everything,” he said, his voice cracking. “You guys make me nervous, you make me practice.”
With temperatures hovering around 37 degrees Celsius when the match began, organizers opted to use the roof at Rod Laver Arena, a relief to both players and the fans.
When Federer cruised in the first set, it did nothing to foreshadow the drama to come.
Cilic — in a rematch of the Wimbledon final easily won by Federer — rallied from a break deficit in the fourth and the 2014 US Open winner held a pair of break points to start the fifth. The Swiss hung on, then broke immediately and didn’t look back.
He sealed proceedings with a second serve on the line that was challenged by Cilic.
Federer raised his arms in celebration and then shared a nice exchange with Cilic, who he practiced with while on holiday in the Maldives in the off-season.
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Caroline Wozniacki won the women’s final Saturday to open her grand slam account, beating Simona Halep in another gripping contest.