Roger Federer will bid to claim his 20th Grand Slam title and successfully defend his Melbourne crown when he meets Marin Cilic in the Australian Open men’s final on Sunday (8.30am GMT).
The 36-year-old, through to his 30th major final, is yet to drop a set from his six matches over the fortnight while Grand Slam champion Cilic has impressed once again.
Despite the emergence of Britain’s Kyle Edmund and South Korea’s Hyeon Chung, the tournament’s denouement will be played out by two of the sport’s most experienced players.
Federer, bidding for a sixth Melbourne title, is into his seventh Australian Open final while US Open winner Cilic is the first Croatian male or female player to reach the showpiece encounter.
“We saw it against Rafa, we saw it again against Edmund. He [Cilic] brings power, he brings everything,” said Federer, who defeated Cilic in the Wimbledon final – a match that left the Croatian reduced to tears with a blister problem.
“Not having a brutal semi-final, he’ll have rest and we’ll see a different Marin Cilic this time. I’m excited to play him.”
The pair’s last meeting was in the group stage of the ATP Finals in London last season – a match Federer won in three competitive sets – but on the Grand Slam stage it is a repeat of the Wimbledon final which the world No 2 won in straight sets.
“I am not looking at it as revenge,” said Cilic, whose only victory over Federer came in the US Open semi-finals at Flushing Meadows where the 29-year-old Croatian won his only Grand Slam to date.
“It was on me that I couldn’t give my best in Wimbledon and that happens even with Rafa towards the end of the match and with Kyle – he had a small injury or fatigue towards the end of the match – those things happen.
“For me, it’s great to again be in the final, I give myself another opportunity to win a Grand Slam, I am playing really good tennis.
“I think overall consistently, I am playing better, I am performing better when you look at match after match. At the US Open, it was amazing tennis that I played but it was more difficult for me to keep it [up] for [a] long period of time. Now I feel this level of tennis I can sustain it.”
Roger Federer is the oldest man to reach an Australian Open final in the Open Era since Ken Rosewall in 1972.
Federer, who failed to win a major between Wimbledon 2012 and the start of 2017, revealed in his on-court interview after his semi-final victory over Chung that he had almost given up hope of reaching the 20 Grand Slam titles milestone.
“Seriously, no. I wouldn’t be thinking this way,” Federer said. “I know how hard it is to win on the clay, I know how hard it is to win any major for that matter. It just doesn’t come around very easily.
“Plus I was fighting for so many years with Novak and Rafa and other great players – that blocked it for me for a while.
“I don’t want to say I gave up hope – I was going to be happy if I won one more major before I retired, but here we are. Two more, maybe a third. One match away, let’s see what happens.”