MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Switzerland's Roger Federer claimed a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title with a 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Croatian Marin Cilic on Sunday (Jan 28).
With the Rod Laver Arena roof closed to spare the players on a witheringly hot day in Melbourne, the 36-year-old Swiss was gliding towards a 20th Grand Slam title when he took the opening set against a nervy opponent in 24 minutes.
For a while, it looked horribly reminiscent of Cilic's heavy defeat by Federer in last year's Wimbledon final when the 29-year-old was hampered by blisters and broke down in tears.
But the sixth seed, playing in his first Australian Open final after knocking out injured world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the quarters, showed great resolve.
He saved break points at 1-1, 2-2 and 4-4 in the second set before crunching some huge forehands in the tiebreaker to level the match against all the odds.
Federer won the third set with a single break of serve, but from a position of strength in the fourth, he began to fade and lost five games on the spin as an increasingly dangerous Cilic dragged a slow-burning final into a decider.
Defending champion Federer regrouped though and after fighting off a break point at the start of the fifth, Cilic's resistance crumbled as the crowd roared Federer on to victory.
"I'm so happy , it's unbelievable, it's been a long day," Federer said. "I'm happy it's over now. The fairy tale continues for us, for me, it's incredible," said an emotional
Federer as he cradled the Norman Brookes trophy.