Against Roger Federer, it doesn’t matter if you have all the shots in the game. You may have a big serve, better groundstrokes and may even move better on court but you still won’t beat him because you can’t beat Federer with shots alone. You need to have the mental strength; the mental ingenuity to keep matching his changing plans through the match to even stand a chance.

That’s what Rafael Nadal had. That’s what Novak Djokovic had and that’s what Marin Cilic fell short of in the 2018 Australian Open final. The final score read 6-2, 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 as Federer won his 20th Grand Slam title in his 30th Major final.

If you don’t start well against Federer, you are going to be in big trouble. Given his 1-8 record against Federer coming into the Australian Open final, Cilic knew that but he just couldn’t conquer the nerves, early doors. The first set lasted just 24 minutes with the Croatian barely able to do anything right.

Lots of unforced errors and a first serve percentage of just 52% meant that Cilic never had a chance. Federer, meanwhile, cruised. It was a free pass and you never give the Swiss master a free pass. He is good enough even without it.

To his credit, Cilic came back into the game in the second set. Earlier in the tournament, against Nadal, the Croatian had approached the match with a lightness of mind that is rarely seen in his play against the big players. He went for the big shots without fear and when they started coming off, he fed off them.

But against Federer, he was rarely allowed to do do. Cilic was forced to hit the ball in all the different zones of the court and as a result, he never built up the rhythm that he needed.

Still, in the second set, he hung in there. He hung in there like a guy who knew his time would come. A 10-minute game early in the second set was vital and from a psychological point of view, it kept Cilic in the game.

But perhaps the point of the set was a kick serve ace down when he was a break point down in the ninth game. It was a gutsy serve and it seemed to turn things around for Cilic.

Federer was still fighting and he came back from a set point down to even things at 5-5 but both held on to take it into the tie-break.

It was a tough tie-break. Federer got a mini-break to go up 3-2 but a big Cilic forehand immediately got the break back. Then, another shot gave Cilic two set points, he converted on the second one. It was one set-all and everything to play for.

But Federer turned his game back on in the third to take it in just 29 minutes. Tactically, upto this point, Federer was superb. Against Nadal in the 2017 final, Federer almost had no sliced returns from the backhand side but against Cilic — he sliced, he chipped, he gave the Croat little pace to work with and that patience paid of. He knew that he could stay with Cilic in a rally, with Rafa he didn’t want to risk that. Smart tennis, showing that the manner in which he adapts his game to his opponent is simply outstanding.

Cilic served just 50% in the third set. Federer served at 81%. But one can’t give so many looks to Federer — he is too good, he will punish you and that’s exactly what he did.

The fourth set was an aberration by Federer standards — a first serve percentage of just 36% is never good enough against a top player. Cilic broke the Swiss star twice to take the match into the deciding set. By now, Cilic was being aggressive on the ball — his serve was starting to fire, the backhand down the line was looking potent again and the forehand was back to its usual deadly self.

Federer was unusually vocal in the fifth set. He was clearly trying to get himself fired up, talking to himself in German, exhorting himself to raise his game. And then it happened.

The first serve percentage went up to 61%, the winning percentages of the first serve and the second serve went back up to 71% and 73% respectively and he converted 100% (2 out of 2) breakpoints.

Cilic was there, and he gave it a shot but the fifth set was all Federer. The match lasted just over 3 hours and it won’t go down as a classic in anyone’s book but to see the Swiss master clinch his 20th Grand Slam title and his sixth Australian Open crown was, ultimately, not a surprise at all.

As the tennis season began this year, there were many who wondered whether he could give us a repeat of 2017 this year; whether that is even possible. But on evidence of what we saw in Melbourne, he can clearly, give us much more.

‘The fairy tale continues for my team. It started last year in Perth. And it’s still going on. It’s unbelievable,’ said Federer after the game.

Unbelievable for him maybe. Not for us.