Mens final: Coin Toss Episode 14
Australian Open 2018 analysts explain Coin Toss episode 14, Roger Federer v Marin Čilić .
Well readers, not only has Roger Federer outlasted the entire field, he has outlasted us. As the champion’s media tour continues - 60 minutes and counting - we’re going to bring the curtain down on the 2018 Australian Open Live Blog. It seems only right.
He’s the last man standing at a Grand Slam for the 20th time. And at 36 years young, there’s no signs of him slowing.
Until next year, tennis fans. Thank you to each and every one of you for reading along. The pleasure is all ours.
Federer explains those tears on Channel 7:
“This win reminded me more of 2006 when I beat Baghdatis. Had a great run to the final, I was the huge favourite. I was just saw relieved when everything was said and done. It was the same tonight. That’s why I couldn’t speak… I was terrible.
“My thoughts were all over the place all day. Every minute of the day. When the match is late, you have so much time to think about it. I got off to a flier, but that got me thinking about winning. I froze in the tie-break, got really nervous. I couldn’t take control of the match. I got a little bit lucky tonight.”
"I couldn't see [Rod Laver taking a picture] because I was crying too much. I couldn't see through the tears. I didn’t lift my head. I was too embarrassed!”
Federer’s walking through Garden Square with fans lining the walkways as he goes. He has already taken a call from the President of Switzerland (no big deal) and is now making his way into the Channel 7 studio, high-fiving Alex Corretja as he goes. This will be his fourth of many interviews, and it is loud out there!
Federer is out on MCA addressing the fans that have gathered there. This is a tradition that began last year, and has continued into 2018. Interesting side note though, and maybe I’m reading too much in this but who doesn’t live a sign: as Federer meandered down the walk of champions as he exited Rod Laver Arena, he gave a little tap to the pillar which Steffi Graf hangs from. Maybe a little suggestion of... “I’m coming for your 22?”
Okay, I did read too much into that, didn’t I?
- Clinches a 20th Grand Slam title. Only three players have more: Margaret Court (24), Serena Williams (23) and Steffi Graf (22)
- Joins Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson on six Australian Open crowns
- Makes it five straight majors wins of Fedal (Federer and Nadal), their third-longest streak
A stirring moment on Rod Laver Arena as Federer, cradling Norman, lets the tears flow and the crowd respond in kind. They love him in this part of the world. Scratch that, they love him in every part of the world. He's one-of-a-kind, and how lucky we are to have him in this sport.
We haven’t seen this much emotion from him in a long time.
“From Switzerland, but loved all over the world, it’s Roger Federer!!”
Presenter Basil Zempilas with the perfect introduction as the champion steps up to receive his trophy. And it’s an emotional Federer. He may have done this 20 times before, but each one is as sweet as the last. At time, he struggles to get his words out, but here's what he had to say:
“It was a long day waiting for the finals. When it’s at night, you think about the match all day. It’s tough!”
“Winning is an absolute dream come true. The fairytale continues. After the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.”
“Of course I would like to thank Marin. Another great tournament. Congrats on world No.3, that’s a hell of an achievement.”
“We had a wonderful time here in Australia. We arrived last year, we’re still here! It’s been a long journey, but very much worth while. You guys are unbelievable as a country and people. You make me nervous, go out and practice. I just want to thank you for everything.”
Let's hear from the lovely Marin Cilic, who has produced some excellent tennis over the past two weeks:
"It could’ve been the best two weeks for me. I had a slight chance at the start of the fifth, but Roger played too good. My team have been unbelievable. We worked hard for it, and hopefully we are going to reach many more Grand Slam finals and lifting these trophies in the future."
"Thank you to my fans at home. I hope this 2018 is going to be an amazing year."
The trophy presentation is under way on Rod Laver Arena. For the sixth time, Federer will step onto the podium, wave to the crowd, and embrace the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. We have seen this movie before, but it never gets old.
This, the 2018 Australian Open, was the 200th Grand Slam in the Open Era. Federer is a major champion for the 20th time. That means he has won 10 per cent of the men’s singles titles since the dawn of the professional era. That, my friends, is remarkable.
He is a champion like no other.
Roger Federer is the Australian Open champion for a record-equalling sixth time! He overcomes Marin Cilic 6-2 6-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 to capture his 20th Grand Slam overall.
In scenes very familiar to those of 12 months ago, his hands are in the air but he has to wait for a Hawk-Eye challenge to confirm his triumph.
36 years young and showing no signs of slowing. What a player. What a champion.
A bad, bad miss from Cilic - signs of fatigue, at last, maybe? - at 0-15. He wallops a short backhand into the Kia sign, and that shot wasn’t even close to going over. Concern stretches across his face but a thunderbolt of a first serve cuts the deficit to 15-30. As he attempts to drag Federer off the court on the next point, he overcooks the backhand - Hawk-Eye confirms it’s wide and Federer has two break points (essentially Championship points?). He teases Cilic with another short ball into the backhand and he crashes into the net again.
Federer will serve for a 20th Grand Slam title.
Two quickfire games. Cilic holds in one minute and 12 seconds, and Federer follows with a love hold of his own.
The crowd are fully partisan now, with more and more Federer fans emerging each game. I have a feeling there are a few twists and turns left in this one.
Did I just suggest Cilic could get tired? I take it back. He strides up the court to a Federer drop shot, flicking a sensational forehand winner around the Swiss for 30-30. He’s knocking on the door, but a sloppy backhand error puts Federer back in command and he eventually holds.
The world No.2 is muttering away to himself at the sitdown. We don't often see this from him.
After Federer survived break points in the first game, he breaks in the very next. Amazing. Cilic had the momentum and was playing some big tennis, but maybe a little too big? Combined with the adrenaline, a few shots go astray, and the Swiss takes full advantage, piercing through with another early backhand return, which takes away all of Cilic’s time.
Federer spent nearly seven hours less on court than Cilic coming into this game - will that make a difference down the stretch.
Federer's made to work for his opening hold.
The five-time champion faces an early break point, and he just cannot land his first serve in these pressure situations which is so unlike him. His second serve is there for the taking but Cilic crashes the return into the net. That point was on the Croat’s racquet, but Federer takes back control on the next break point, actually landing the first serve this time to bring it back to deuce. He let's out a roar, in relief more than anything.
He finally closes the game, coming out on top of a gruelling rally with a dipping backhand angle which just clips the line.
What a turnaround from Cilic. On the brink of finishing runner-up to Federer in a Grand Slam final for the second time in six months, he claws his decorated opponent back in, winning five games on the trot to seal the fourth set.
From 3-1 down, Cilic is now 5-3 up with the break and will serve for the fourth set. My word.
Cilic piles the pressure on with a sizzling crosscourt forehand to go 0-30 up and suddenly he has double break point at 15-40 when the defending champion sprays a wild forehand wide - what has happened here!? Federer rescues one when the Croat goes long, and then he opts for a slow, spin-heavy second serve out wide to Cilic’s backhand and the Croat mistimes the response.
Federer brings up a game point, and a Playstation-style 18-shot rally breaks out, with both players taking blows at each other. It’s Cilic that pulls the trigger first, hitting a stunning midcourt forehand winner and he pulls out the big guns again moments later to fend off another game point, connecting with a backhand return angle.
Federer sends a shot wide to give Cilic another break point and he takes it, punishing a short forehand.
You think Fed is annoyed with himself? You betcha. He gets a look at break point in the very next game, and he’s looking fired up. But Cilic isn’t about to watch all his hard-work undone. He summons the one-two punch, stabbing home a forehand winner, before dominating behind his serve to hold.
On we go.
That's a very un-Federer game. He plays a loose (tight?) game, which I didn’t see coming, and he's broken to love. A double fault set the tone and then a limp forehand into the net seals the deal.
Cilic is right back in it.
Stop that, Federer. He is playing some smoooooooth tennis. He holds to love, putting an exclamation point on the game with an exquisite drop shot. He disguises it wonderfully and there’s nothing the Croat can do.
You never want to play a relaxed Federer, and with this cushion, he is opening up those shoulders. Another return winner, diagonally across the court from Federer’s forehand into Cilic’s deuce side, gives the Swiss 15-30. He makes Cilic win the next point, with the Croat pounding a forehand winner, but a double fault gives Federer a point for the double break.
The first serve is crucial here. Cilic misses it, but he backs the second serve up well, going toe-to-toe with Federer from the baseline before firing off a forehand winner. He really needs to work for these points now, and it takes some more aggressive play to hold, and crucially so.
Wow. Federer sprinted across the third-set finish line and he’s out of the blocks like an Olympics sprinter in the fourth, breaking at the first attempt, and he makes it known. Letting out a roar, which travels all the way down the other end of the court. What must Cilic be thinking now?
The Croat has yet to break serve this match. He’ll need to do so if he’s to stand a chance.
Serving for the set, Federer opens in style with his first forehand winner of the set - it's not often he goes that long without a winner off that wing. Seconds later, he has three set points, and he pings down an ace to close it out.
That was a ridiculously routine hold in the circumstances. Pressure? Pffft, he says.
He's one set from a 20th Grand Slam crown.
Federer with the type of wizardry that mere muggles can’t perform. Cilic smacks a ball down the centre of the court, right onto the baseline, and Federer, leaning back, picks up the shot, steering an unbelievable forehand in-behind Cilic, kissing the inside tramline with it. Jaw-dropping.
That’s the highlight in another straightforward hold for the five-time Australian Open champion.
That’s the thing: you can’t let up against Roger Federer. At 0-15, Cilic does just that, opting not to go after a short ball and he’s made to pay. At 0-30, Federer gives Cilic lots of balls to play, drawing the error from the Croat. He seems to be almost toying with him here, inviting him to force the issue.
Federer with three break points; he converts on the second, again sitting back and waiting for Cilic to implode. So, so smart from Federer in that game.
Just when it looked like Federer was about to notch up another comfortable service game, up steps Cilic and his monstrous forehand. He whacks a return winner crosscourt - while it was the Swiss crawling all over returns at the start of the match, the Croat is now starting to do similar. With the weighty conditions today, the ball is moving that bit slower through the air, which gives the returner that fraction longer to set up.
Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. Federer holds to 30.
Cilic really is like a different player now. He is seeing the ball so much better, and starting to play the type of first-strike tennis he would have wanted from the start. Remember, while Federer has played under the roof already - in the semifinal against Chung - this is Cilic's first time competing with it overhead these two weeks so maybe it took a while longer to adapt?
Sidebar: Federer hasn't missed a first serve this set. He's ready to rumble again.
Federer responds to dropping his first set of the tournament by opening the third with a routine hold.
Cilic, with the bit between his teeth now, responds with a fuss-free hold of his own.
Let's get back to it.
Pure guts from Cilic. There were times at the start of the second set when he was hanging on for dear life. But he stayed in it, giving himself every opportunity, and he grew into the match.
He brings up two set points in the breaker with a bruising forehand winner. His box are on their feet. Federer bats away the first with a big serve, but once Cilic has the ball, he takes control, pinging down a first serve before finishing the point at the net with an overhead.
A high-quality opening four points are split. Cilic is made to work harder for his two, drawing an error from Federer and finishing a point at the net, while Federer pings down two aces.
At 2-2, the Swiss pounces, attacking the short ball to go 3-2 up. He has the mini-break but it vanquishes when Cilic rockets a forehand return winner past Federer, giving the Swiss a taste of his own medicine there. Brilliant 3-3 as they switch ends.
Back-to-back love holds and we’re heading into an inevitable tie-break. Career records in breakers, for the number nerds among us (guilty!):
That's the beauty of the tennis scoring system - momentum can shift in the blink of an eye, and Cilic very nearly swings things in his favour. He gets a look at set point at 30-40 when Federer double faults TWICE, but a poor error, a sloppy backhand into the net, lets the defending champion off the hook, and he holds from there before letting out a roar of “COME ON!”
Big chance for Cilic. Big let off for Federer.
A big Hawk-Eye call goes Cilic’s way at 0-15 down. He dinks a delicate drop shot over the net, but Federer chases it down, guiding a backhand onto the line. The linesperson signals in, but Cilic challenges and Federer’s shaking his head as he walks back to the baseline. He thinks it’s out, and it is, just. He didn’t need to cut it that tight.
The Swiss won’t let a chance like that go begging again, and at 30-30 he spots the channel open and steers a stunning backhand passing shot into it for break point. How will Cilic respond? With a second serve ace, of course. Yikes, that’s brave.
From there, he holds, arrowing an off-forehand winner past Federer.
At 30-30, Cilic senses a chance to break. He’s bouncing up and down before crouching to return, but he barely has time to set himself before a Federer ace zips past him. A lengthy rally ensues on the next point, but it’s the Swiss dictating. He pins Cilic with a deep backhand and takes control from there, eventually teasing the error from the Croat.
Brutal from Federer. Another love hold, and despite this set still being on serve, you sort of feel he's got Cilic on the ropes a bit, teasing the Croat to swing at him. His serving numbers so far:
Points won behind the first serve: 20 of 22
Points won behind the second serve: 9 of 13
As I type those out, Cilic responds with a comfortable hold of his own, closing with an ace. A big few games coming up.
It’s not often you see Federer scurrying from side-to-side retrieving overheads, but the crowd are in full voice as Cilic smashes down three in a row, trying to kill off the defending champion. He eventually succeeds, levelling at 15-15, but a shanked groundstroke puts the Croat in a bit of a pickle at 15-30. His serve comes to the rescue, but then it’s the 19-time Grand Slam champion’s turn to shine, eating up another return by steering a forehand winner up the channel.
That gives Federer break point again, but Cilic serves his way out of trouble before firing himself up. He’ll need to watch that first-serve conversion rate: it’s currently lingering at 56 per cent, which is too low.
It isn’t just the ripped return Federer is perfecting tonight. At 40-30 on the Cilic serve, the Croat bashes in a massive first serve out wide and Federer clips a delightful backhand right onto the postage stamp in the corner of the court, and Cilic nets the forehand. Then a loose backhand from Cilic gives Federer an early break point chance. That vanishes with a speedy ace from Cilic, and a handful of game points come and go for the No.6 seed, one when Federer threads yet another stunning backhand return up the line.
Cilic stays strong to hold, eventually closing on his fifth game point. It may just have been curtains if he was broken there.
A quick look at how much pressure Federer is putting Cilic's serve under: he's connecting with 91 per cent(!!!) of his returns inside the baseline.
Cilic, fired up, steps into the court and starts smacking a few groundstrokes. He couldn’t buy a point on return in the opening set and suddenly he has double break point, sending a backhand in-behind the Swiss.
But Federer, as he likes to do, pings down an ace to save the first and then a bold second serve - he went big on that! - gets him out of trouble on the second. From there, he holds.
That’s exactly what Cilic needed: a comfortable hold to open the second set. He gets to 40-0 and that marks 10 straight points for the Croat on his own serve, which is a tidy, confidence-boosting run. He eventually holds to 15, and the signs suggest he is settling in here. He’s started bouncing the ball less, for starters.
That was just breathtaking from Federer. A masterclass in serving. He drops just TWO points with the ball in hand during a 24-minute set.
Cilic must be scratching his head here. With Federer’s serve near-untouchable, he needs to start protecting his own. A high first-serve percentage is key, because the Swiss is licking his lips when returning the second serve.
Cilic holds to love and that will do him the world of good. The Croat thrives when he gets into a rhythm, but Federer just hasn’t allowed him to do so, mixing the play up expertly like only he can.
The Croat has won just one point on return this set. He'll need four more than that if he's to stay in this set. Federer to serve for it.
That’s better from Cilic. Under pressure once more at 30-30 on his own serve, he goes into Federer’s forehand with the second serve - smart to keep the Swiss guessing - and takes control of the point, finishing with a volley. He lands his big first serve on game point, which Federer can only net.
He’s on the board.
Federer blasts his way to 40-0 and he’s really hitting a wonderfully clean ball right now. Cilic steps up on the next point, ripping a forehand crosscourt winner - that’s his first point on return of the match. Federer eases to the hold and as he does, here’s a stat - courtesy of Channel 7 - that explains just how good he is at reading Cilic’s serve:
More than half of the Croat's first serves didn’t come back into play throughout the tournament. Federer has returned 9 of 11 tonight.
Oh dear. Cilic digs his way into a 0-30 hole, half-shanking a short forehand long. He goes to his bag, summons a new racquet - he’s clearly after a different string tension here - and he miscues a forehand on the next point. That’s 10 points in a row now for the Swiss, and while Cilic stops the rot with a point of his own, he overcooks another backhand - his eighth unforced error of the match - to drop serve once more.
Federer in full flight and Cilic in full fright early doors. The Swiss holds to love, pinging off a few winners in a game that barely lasts a minute. It's a pressure cooker under that roof.
Federer breaks to start!
Cilic finds himself 30-15 up, landing his first serve on the opening three points. But when he misses his first serve on the fourth, Federer steps in to crack the return and that’s a statement move. The Swiss is here to attack behind the second and he does so again moments later, brining up a break point after teeing off on a backhand return winner. Brutal. Cilic delivers a first serve on the next point, and has Federer scrambling but he pops up a Hail Mary lob and Cilic shanks the overhead into the bottom of the net.
Beast mode. They’re the two words most often associated with Marin Cilic’s sprint through the 2014 US Open draw when he clinched his first and only Grand Slam crown. He closed that tournament with straight-set wins over Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and Ken Nishikori. It was a super-human effort and one he has struggled to replicate since.
The Croat swung big those two weeks in New York, and he’ll need to do the same again tonight. He’s sometimes guilty of playing too passively. In order to avoid that, the first serve and net approach stats will be key.
A 30th Grand Slam final. Let’s say that again: a THIRTIETH Grand Slam final. And, even more impressively, he has yet to drop a set. If Federer wins tonight in straight sets, it will mark just the third time in his career he’s gone the distance undented. In fact, he has spent less time on court than both the women's finalists, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki. Those 36-year-old legs are feeling fresh.
As far as men’s tennis is concerned, he has already re-written the record books. Now it’s all about decorating the pages.
The players are currently standing at the end of the walk of champions, ready to meander their way down to court. They'll pass pictures of former winners as they go before taking a sharp turn left when they'll glance up at the words of the great Rod Laver: “The time your game is most vulnerable is when you're ahead; never let up."
Tonight’s clash marks the tenth meeting between Federer and Cilic, and, rather surprisingly, their fifth at Grand Slam level. The Swiss leads their head-to-head 8-1, with the Croat’s lone victory coming in the 2014 US Open semifinal, when he won in straight sets before going on to clinch his maiden major.
They last faced off at the 2017 ATP Finals, with Federer battling back from a set down to win.
There were question marks over whether the roof would be closed for tonight’s final, and there’s the confirmation we were waiting for. It is incredibly humid today in Melbourne, even more so than yesterday, and the referee has decided that this is the best course of action. With the match starting under the roof, that means it will finish under it also.
Who does this favour? You'd have to argue Federer, giving all his successes indoors. With no wind and no sun to bother him, he can find the sweetspot that touch easier. But Cilic is very comfortable in these conditions also - eight of his titles have come indoors, nearly half his total (17). Much of a muchness really.
Time moves rather fast in professional sport and - with four major trophies to vie for each year - even more so in tennis it feels.
Federer is testament to that. On January 1 2017, his career outlook was, well, fuzzy. Fresh from a six-month injury layoff and without a major crown in five years, there were uncertainties about his future: would he ever return to his best? He did, and we were all left to wonder in wide-eyed amazement how we ever doubted. Two Grand Slam titles followed in 2017 - here in Melbourne and at Wimbledon - and now he’s one match from an historic 20th major crown and a sixth at the Australian Open.
For one-time major winer Cilic, he’s hoping just six months can make all the difference after a Wimbledon final to forget against Federer last July. Plagued with blisters, he hobbled around the famous stage, overcome with emotion that his injuries prevented him from giving his best. Today, we will see a different Cilic. One who boasts a win over world No.1 Rafael Nadal this week. One eager to right those Centre Court wrongs.
Welcome, tennis fans. Day 14, the last of the 2018 Australian Open, and what a ride it has been. The 200th Grand Slam of the Open Era has lived up to its landmark status, giving us magical moments that will live long in the memory. From Simona Halep’s enthralling win over Angelique Kerber and Grigor Dimitrov’s electric defeat of Nick Kyrgios to the endless storylines: Hyeon Chung’s flag flying feats for Korea, Caroline Wozniacki’s long-awaited major win, Hsieh Su-Wei’s fearless, unorthodox tennis, match points saved, I could go on. And on.
There have been enough twists and turns to rock us from start to finish and now, here we are, sitting still at the top, hands in the air, ready for one final downhill run.
Hold on, folks.
Picture the scene. A tropical practice court in the Maldives. No coaches. No fuss. Resting on a court-side cooler, coconuts chopped down the centre with frozen fruity goodness packed inside. Between the white lines, two Grand Slam champions working up a sweat during the off-season, batting tennis balls back and forth for fun.
Roger Federer and Marin Cilic’s 2018 journey began, together, on the island nation in the Indian Ocean in November. Tonight, nearly 9,000km away, they share the same court once more: Rod Laver Arena. At stake: the Australian Open men’s singles title.