So, a Wimbledon rematch in the Australian Open final is set, and it’s 5-time champion Roger Federer facing first-time Melbourne finalist Marin Cilic.
Federer rolls into the final without losing a single set all week – quite the contrast from a year ago. And that after a 1-hour or so lesson he gave to 21-year-old Hyeon Chung who has apparently taken this Novak Djokovic idol thing too far already by retiring in a Slam semi – you can’t do that Hyeon!
Anyway, Federer looks great, though let’s admit it, he hasn’t played anyone of note. Tomas Berdych had two first set points in their quarterfinal before he remembered who he was. Otherwise, Federer’s coasted into the 30th Grand Slam final barely breaking a sweat, which might be a bad thing if the final goes long on what is expected to be a very warm night.
Meanwhile, Cilic was the beneficiary of retirement himself, that by Rafael Nadal who pulled up lame with an upper leg injury which thankfully we’ve now learned isn’t that bad. Cilic also had no issues in his semifinal knocking out youngster Kyle Edmund in straights – both Kyle and Hyeon got a rude welcome to big time tennis. Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round pushed him a little bit. Still, after a post-Wimbledon slump, the 29-year-old Croat is back to winning again and playing with confidence, so that’s good.
As for the final…
Roger Federer v Marin Cilic
This will be their 10th career meeting and it’s Federer who leads 8-1. Most recently Federer got over on the blistering Cilic at Wimbledon then came from a set down to win at the ATP Finals to win a tight one.
Of course Cilic’s only win was back in the 2014 US Open semifinals when he blew out Federer, among other people that week. And that’s the kind of performance Cilic will need on Sunday to collect a second Slam.
Going deeper, granted he hasn’t played anyone that tough, but Federer’s been so solid on serve, and he’ll have to be that good to win his 20th. And I expect Roger tp again mix up his shots, especially using the slice against the taller foe.
As for Cilic, crack that serve and hopefully get hot like New York. And go for broke. He’s got a second chance at atoning for Wimbledon, so take advantage. Federer’s the favorite and Cilic should go after the Swiss. And I think the hard court’s give Marin a better chance against Roger than the grass.
And early on, Cilic absolutely cannot let Federer get an early break. To me, once Federer gets on top, that will be it. He’s such a good frontrunner.
That said, Federer is 36 and, as I keep saying, at some point the magic is going to run out. We saw him lose to Juan Martin Del Potro at the US Open and to David Goffin in London, the latter still a shocker to me. And Cilic does have a Slam and he did beat Federer en route to that title, and he’s won a set in four of their last five meetings.
So unlike a Richard Gasquet or a Berdych, Cilic has got to have some belief. But will it be enough?
Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if Cilic won because he’s capable of taking the racquet out of your hand. And the longer the match goes, the more I would favor Marin. However, I just have to go with Roger here. Thirteen straight wins in Melbourne, he hasn’t dropped a set, 5-1 in finals in Melbourne and 8-1 against Cilic. Marin puts up a good fight…
The Pick: Federer in Four
ESPN will have the coverage starting at 3:30am for you early birds. Or just tape it and don’t look at social media like me (if I don’t wake up!).
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