MELBOURNE, Australia — Back where his career resurgence began with a drought breaking triumph last year, Roger Federer cried as he lifted and kissed the Australian Open trophy for a sixth time and celebrated his 20th Grand Slam title.
Federer started Sunday’s final with an intensity that stunned sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, then held his nerve in a tense, momentum-shifting match before winning 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
After going more than four years without winning a major title leading up to last year’s Australian Open, Federer has now won three of the past five. “I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable,” Federer said, taking deep breaths and choking back tears.
“Of course, winning is an absolute dream come true — the fairytale continues for us, for me, after the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.” The great Rod Laver, who lends his name to the centre court at Melbourne Park, was in the crowd taking photos to mark the occasion of Federer becoming the first man to win 20 majors.
Federer started to tear up at the end of the trophy ceremony as he thanked his team in the stands. “I love you guys. Thank you,” he said. He then received a standing ovation as tears streamed down his face.
At the age of 36 years, 173 days, Federer became the second-oldest man to win a Grand Slam title in the Open era after Ken Rosewall, who won the 1972 Australian Open at 37. “Big congratulations to Roger and his team — it’s amazing what you guys do,” Cilic said. “It was an amazing journey for me to come here to the final. I had a slight chance at the beginning of the fifth, but Roger played a great fifth set.” It was clear early on that the crowd would be heavily pro-Federer.
The arena was filled with the red and white colours of the Swiss flag, with Federer supporters wearing Swiss flags on their shirts, hats, signs and faces. Looking ahead to a possible Federer victory, one fan held a sign reading, “The Big Two-Oh. Go Roger!”