Set-by-set breakdown of the Australian Open men’s final after Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on Sunday:
Set 1 – Federer 6-2, 24 minutes
Federer drew first blood immediately. With the Rod Laver Arena roof closed due to extreme heat, he lobbed the ball high on break point in the opening game and Cilic volleyed into the net. The Swiss star served to love and he was off to a flyer. Another break and it was 3-0 in just nine minutes, with eight unforced errors from the Croat who only managed to win three points to Federer’s 12. Cilic finally stopped the rot when Federer put a service return into the net to get on the board at 4-1. But it was only delaying the inevitable with the 36-year-old firing down two aces as he served for the set in just 24 minutes. Federer dropped just two points on his serve in the set.
Set 2 – Cilic 7-6 (7/5), 60 minutes
With Federer looking ominous, Cilic needed to do something, and fast. He managed to hold serve to make a solid start and was growing in confidence, working two break points in the next game with some sparkling groundstrokes. But the masterful Swiss saved them both and held for 1-1. It took Cilic 10 minutes to come away with a hold in his next service game as he gamely hung on. It then took Federer just 90 seconds to hold his. The Swiss star then had a break point to go 5-4 ahead but a courageous Cilic threw down a second service ace to save it and hold on. He earned a set point in the next but a nervous backhand gave Federer a life and he gladly took it for 5-5 as the set headed for a tiebreak, which a gutsy Cilic won on a smash and it was game on.
Set 3 – Federer 6-3, 29 minutes
After losing his first set in the tournament, Federer wasted no time rattling through his opening serve to steady the ship, with Cilic doing the same as the set got off to a fuss-free start. Another confident hold for the defending champion followed as the battle lines were once again drawn. There was little between them as they continued to trade serves until Federer worked three break points in the sixth game as he moved up a gear. Cilic whacked a forehand wide to hand him a 4-2 lead which quickly became 5-2. Federer calmly served it out with an ace to reassert control and move within one set of a 20th Grand Slam title.
Set 4 – Cilic 6-3, 37 minutes
Fired up, the Swiss maestro came out in a dominant mood and immediately broke the despairing Croat in the first game, forcing him wide on a service return with Cilic netting his attempted chip shot. A steady hold put Federer in firm control with Cilic fighting to stay in touch with the pressure building. The world number two could sense victory and was weaving his magic, planting a delicate drop shot to go 3-1 in front. But against the odds, a double fault handed Cilic an opportunity and he stepped up and took it. He aggressively returned serve and when Federer netted a forehand it was back to 3-3. Cilic broke again with a scintillating crosscourt forehand for 5-3 and served it to take the match to a decider, winning five games in a row.
Set 5 – Federer 6-1, 33 minutes
Cilic had the bit between his teeth and quickly pressured the Federer serve, forcing two break points which the Swiss star saved to huge cheers from the crowd. Then on the Cilic serve Federer made a successful challenge to a ball called in to gain his own break point, and when the Croat netted a forehand he had the crucial break for 2-0. Some big-serving on pressure points put the Swiss star 3-0 up and Cilic under the pump. Federer found a new lease of life and Cilic was struggling to deal with his serve, with few opportunities to get back in the set. When Federer broke the tiring Croat again in the sixth game to go 5-1 up it was all over. — AFP