Tennis is a sport of sweat, solitude, and uncertainty, they say. Then you see Roger Federer’s ease, backing, and surety. Two of the three extraordinary gentlemen from Federer’s league battle and collapse (the one from Britain can’t even make it) at Melbourne Park, whereas Federer takes a leisurely stroll to the final. Many tennis players in mid-30s are already coaches or commentators.
Federer, at 36, thinks “Hmm, maybe one more Slam.”
The South Korean sensation, Hyeon Chung, had crossed a few tall hurdles, demolished the great wall of Djokovic en route to the semi-final against Federer. The 21-year-old now had a Swiss peak to scale. But the dream run to the semis gave him blisters on feet. With it, the Swiss mountain was insurmountable. It was all gone in 62 minutes for young Chung.
The semi-final ended because Chung couldn’t run, Federer’s others matches also ended soon because he didn’t want to. Five of Federer’s six matches have finished on or under two hours and he has been on court for a total of 10 hours and 50 minutes.
Even if you add the free-wheeling post-match interviews with Jim Courier, the time he spent on court would still be about some six hours lesser than his opponent on Sunday.
Standing between the Swiss and his friend ‘Norman’ will be Marin Cilic, who, like many others, has fallen to Federer many times (1 win, 8 losses). But, like few others, he knows how it feels to defeat the great man in a Grand Slam set-up.
Cilic had torn Federer apart en route to win the 2014 US Open. This, the Swiss remembers. This, the Croat should remember. On their first few times against Federer on a big occasion, many a player has let their aggression slip and allowed him to dictate terms. The belief in Cilic shouldn’t bog off.
“I mean, I definitely think him winning the US Open, like Stan winning here a few years ago, it gave them great belief they can do it,” Federer said, “If the big moments come about, that they can attain this level.”
And, this will be the second time the two will contest a Slam final. In their first meeting, on Federer’s beloved Wimbledon grass, Cilic lost the final badly with a blistered foot.
For Federer, the winner of most Slams in men’s singles, there’s no pressure of a record – of course, he can join the company of Djokovic and Australian Roy Emerson with the most Australian titles. But the Swiss doesn’t face the problem of firsts as the Croat, who’s the first from his country to reach this far here.
Cilic, the owner of killer serves and thunderous forehands, with a two-day break before the final, will be well-rested too.
“I’m feeling really good physically, even though I had a few matches that went more than three hours,” Cilic said.
“I’ve played a great tournament so far, I’m playing much more aggressive, hitting most of the shots really good. From the return, moving, forehand, backhand, serving, I think everything is in a good, solid spot.”
Yes, all this is good. But will it be good enough against Federer? Because, as Cilic says, “When it gets to the semi-finals, finals, he gets better and better and is playing great tennis. So with him it’s always a big challenge.”
And, are there any improvements to be made against Cilic?
“No, I just have to play a good match.”
And once again, Federer, at 36, thinks ‘Hmm, maybe one more Slam.’