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Last Updated Friday February 23 2018 06:20 AM IST

Australian Open: It's Grand Slam No. 20 for Federer

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Australian Open: It's Grand Slam No. 20 for Federer Roger Federer exults after winning his 20th Grand Slam title. Reuters

Melbourne: Roger Federer survived a second set 'freeze' and an onslaught from Croatia's Marin Cilic to claim a record-equaling sixth Australian Open title on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

The Swiss maestro wobbled at times in the face of some fierce resistance before winning 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

  • No. 20 FedEx

    Roger Federer poses with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the Australian Open for the sixth time. Photo: Twitter

    No. 20 FedEx
  • No. 20 FedEx

    Switzerland's Roger Federer in action during the final against Croatia's Marin Cilic. Reuters

    No. 20 FedEx
  • No. 20 FedEx

    Marin Cilic of Croatia serves against Roger Federer of Switzerland. Reuters

    No. 20 FedEx
  • No. 20 FedEx

    Marin Clilic, left, congratulates Roger Federer after winning the Australian Open title. Photo: Twitter

    No. 20 FedEx
  • No. 20 FedEx

    Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates winning the Australian Open final against Croatia's Marin Cilic. Reuters

    No. 20 FedEx
  • No. 20 FedEx

    Roger Federer thank fans after successfully defending the Australian Open title. Photo: Twitter

    No. 20 FedEx
  • No. 20 FedEx

    Roger Federer celebrates after winning his 20th Grand Slam. Photo: Twitter

    No. 20 FedEx
  • No. 20 FedEx

    A collage of 20 Grand Slam titles won by Roger Federer. Photo: Twitter

    No. 20 FedEx

With the stadium roof closed to keep out the withering Melbourne heat, the 36-year-old grabbed the first set in 24 minutes as a 20th Grand Slam title looked a formality.

But Cilic, who suffered a nightmare in last year's Wimbledon final against Federer when blisters wrecked his chances, was not going to let his first Australian Open final slide by in a flash.

Despite fighting a lone battle against Federer and most of the crowd, he reeled off five consecutive games to extend the champion into a deciding set.

The outcome hung in the balance but Federer recovered his mojo after saving two break points at the start of the fifth and was roared home to victory by an adoring crowd.

Despite all his titles and accolades Federer was overcome with emotion during his victory speech.

"The fairytale continues for us, for me, it's incredible," Federer, who has equaled Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson's Australian Open haul, said on court as wife Mirka and Australian great Rod Laver recorded to the moment with their mobile phones.

"I got off to a flyer but I froze in the tiebreak and lost that second set and lost control of the match.

"I got a bit lucky tonight I think."

Federer's renaissance has earned him three Grand Slams in the past 12 months after a five-year drought, emulating the feat of Ken Rosewall who also claimed three after his 35th birthday.

Cilic, who will rise to a career-high three in the rankings, managed only four points in the first four games, but despite precious little support among the shamelessly pro-Federer crowd, made sure the tournament ended with a proper contest.

"It was an amazing journey for me. It could have been the best two weeks of my life," Cilic said.

"I had the chance at the beginning of the fifth but he played a great match."

Temperatures in Melbourne had hovered in the high 30s Celsius all day but the humidity felt less suffocating than during Saturday's humdinger of a women's final.

Roof closed

So it was a surprise when the match started with the roof shut, a decision tournament organizers defended by issuing a statement saying "Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT)" readings had triggered the "extreme heat policy".

While Melbourne Park cooked, Federer was as cool as a cucumber in the relatively benign conditions on court.

He broke in the first game when he hoisted a lob towards the roof and Cilic framed a smash into the net.

The 29-year-old Cilic dropped serve again two games later and gained sympathetic cheers when he finally registered on the scoreboard in the fifth game.

Cilic began to settle but still had to fend off break points in the second set at 1-1, 2-2 and 4-4.

He had a glorious chance to level the match against the run of play when Federer served a double fault at 30-30 in the 10th game, but he buried a routine backhand into the net.

Federer began the tiebreak with a couple of aces and broke with a forehand but Cilic ratcheted up the power to move 6-4 ahead with thundering forehand and leveled the match with another winner from his favorite wing.

It was Federer's first dropped set in the fortnight and at last there was a real contest.

Order was quickly restored as Federer took the third set and when he had a point for a double break in the fourth the title beckoned. Cilic blasted his way out of trouble though and when he broke to love for 3-3 he looked menacing.

Missed chances

Cilic will rue the two break points he squandered in the first game of the decider -- the first with a dreadful forehand and second with a shanked return.

Federer hung tough to take the game with a streaky backhand winner and steamed on to his 20th Grand Slam title -- 10 percent of the 200 staged since tennis turned professional in 1968.

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The opinions expressed here do not reflect those of Malayala Manorama. Legal action under the IT Act will be taken against those making derogatory and obscene statements.

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