Where he was swimming in his own panic in a second set whitewash in that Wimbledon final, Cilic flicked a switch to steal the second set of their Australian Open final in a tiebreak.
This one would not be the walk in the park Federer enjoyed at SW19 last year.
“We know he has the level,” Cilic said. “With his game style, it's very all-round.
“In those moments, obviously physical abilities come into play with his age, but also mentally he's able to challenge himself and continue with his progress.”
Such is the good nature between the pair, when it was realised both were holidaying in the Maldives in their off-season, Cilic sent Federer a text message asking if he wanted to catch up – no formalities, no coaches, agents or tournament media opportunities, just a hit between the men now ranked second and third in the world.
It was a chance for them to hang out together, with Cilic’s fiancée and Federer’s family.
“It was just nice and laid back,” Federer said. “To get to know the man behind the tennis player, I guess.”
No.3 in the world does look amazing and with a Grand Slam trophy to his name, Cilic is already in elite company.
Gracious in defeat, the man behind the tennis player has ample cause to hold his head high as he departs Melbourne Park.