Roger Federer and Marin Cilic at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals, London 2017
Roger Federer and Marin Cilic at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals, London 2017 | (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Australian Open 2018 | Federer bids for Slam #20 but 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic stands in his way

By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Roger Federer [2] v Marin Cilic [6]
  • Federer leads head-to-head 8-1
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Roger Federer takes on Marin Cilic in a repeat of the Wimbledon 2017 final as he bids for a 20th Grand Slam title, and a record-equalling 6 Australian Open titles.




Roger Federer [2] v Marin Cilic [6] | H2H: Federer leads 8-1

Could the Australian Open field two dream finals in a row? As it turned out no. While Roger Federer sailed through the draw with hardly a hair out of place, Rafael Nadal came up against a determined Marin Cilic who had flown under the radar largely throughout the tournament, and in fairness the Croatian had an up and down experience coming back from 2-1 down before Nadal retired in the final set.

So is it a less intriguing final? Not necessarily. The only time Cilic has beaten Federer was in the semi-final of the US Open in 2014. That was on his way to lifting his first Grand Slam title – so will history repeat?


Marin Cilic – Path to the final

Marin Cilic in the quarter-final of the Australian Open, 2018
Marin Cilic in the quarter-final of the Australian Open, 2018 | (PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
  • R1: Vasek Pospisil [Q] 6-2 6-2 4-6 7-6(5)
  • R2: Joao Sousa 6-1 7-5 6-2
  • R3: Ryan Harrison 7-6(4) 6-3 7-6(4)
  • R4: Pablo Carreno Busta [10] 6-7(2) 6-2 7-6(0) 7-6(3)
  • QF: Rafael Nadal [1] 3-6 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2 2-0 RET.
  • SF: Kyle Edmund 6-2 7-6(4) 6-2

There is no doubt Cilic has been made to work harder for his place inthe final, with at least the ease of a three set victory over Kyle Edmund. But there is equally no doubt he showed his big match play-making in the quarter-final with Nadal.

Before injury struck Nadal he had the measure of Cilic, but the Croatian’s level improved in the fourth set to level the match, and the single break at the start of the fifth would have suggested Cilic was possibly in the ascendancy.

He was able to handle Edmund with no issues, and the fact that his game suits the quick courts here.


Roger Federer – Path to the final

Roger Federer in the second round of the Australian Open, 2018
Roger Federer in the second round of the Australian Open 2018 | (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
  • R1: Aljaz Bedene 6-3 6-4 6-3
  • R2: Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-4 7-6(4)
  • R3: Richard Gasquet [29] 6-2 7-5 6-4
  • R4: Marton Fucsovics 6-4 7-6(3) 6-2
  • QF: Tomas Berdych 7-6(1) 6-3 6-4
  • SF: Hyeon Chung 6-1 5-2 RET

By contrast to Cilic, Federer has spent a little short of 11 hours on the court (10 hours 50 minutes) while Cilic has been on court for 17 hours and 3 minutes. But freshness may not necessarily help.

The only time Federer was really tested was when Tomas Berdych stole a march in the first set only for Federer to rile himself up and suddenly kick his game into gear. Before the final, Federer told reporters he would happily take the shorter matches when they came, but if Cilic drags this out to four or five sets, it could be a real test for Federer.


The Match Up

The speed of the courts plays to both payers – Cilic with his big booming serve and able to come in behind that, and Federer with the variety he has in his repertoire.

Cilic at times looks ungainly but for such a big unit, he can move well. What he lacks in variety he has good clean hard hitting that could keep Federer pinned back and stop him from trying to dictate and move him around. He has a potent topspin second serve that will back up a lot of the free points he can expect from his first serve and if allowed to dominate with a one-two punch, Federer will find it hard to get into a rhythm.

The key for Federer will be to try and put aspects of Cilic’s game under pressure – certainly in the past they had a tendency to break down and while he is generally steady, he can look awkward and if he is being moved around a lot it is like his limbs cannot keep up with each other.

The longer the match, the better it is likely to be for Cilic. Federer might have to look to nip this from going the distance.

Prediction: Federer in four sets.

The Australian Open Men’s Final takes place on Sunday 28 January, at 7:30pm (8:30am GMT).