Tennis: Cilic in firing line as Federer eyes another title

Switzerland's Roger Federer takes part in a training session, ahead of his men's singles final match, on day 13 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 27, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Defending champion Roger Federer aims yet again to rewrite the history books Sunday (Jan 28)as he lines up for a 30th Grand Slam final, with only Marin Cilic standing in the way of another title.

The Swiss master continues to defy the years as his long-time rivals fall by the wayside.

Victory would give him a sixth Melbourne crown to put him alongside Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson in the all-time Australian Open leader list.

It would also see him become the first man to win 20 Grand Slam titles. Only three women - Steffi Graf (22), Serena Williams (23), and Margaret Court (24) - have won more.

By making a seventh final, he has already taken sole ownership of most Melbourne final appearances in history.

Croat Cilic, the sixth seed, overcame Federer on the way to winning the 2014 US Open final, but that was his only victory in nine encounters and Federer has ominously yet to drop a set in Melbourne this year.

The ice-cool 36-year-old - the oldest man in the final since Ken Rosewall in 1972 - is happy with where he is at.

"I mean, I've won all my matches without dropping a set. Things must be all right if I haven't dropped a set and in the final," he said ahead of the evening match on Rod Laver Arena.

"I'm pleased that my game has been good from the very beginning of the tournament so far." In Cilic, he has a seasoned opponent who has tasted Grand Slam success before, at the 2014 US Open, beating Kei Nishikori in the final.

He also made the Wimbledon final last year, losing to Federer as he struggled with painful blisters.

In Melbourne, the 29-year-old has had a trailblazing tournament to become the first Croatian man or woman to appear in an Australian Open decider.

"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." But he knows beating Federer is a very high hurdle.

"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," he admitted.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.