In Brief

Roger Federer: 20th grand slam for the ‘greatest ever’ sportsperson

Swiss star beats Marin Cilic in the Australian Open final and Caroline Wozniacki secures her first grand slam title

Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic yesterday in a thrilling five-set match in Melbourne to clinch his 20th grand slam crown and sixth Australian Open title.

It was a see-saw match in which the 36-year-old Swiss star had to dig deep to see off his Croat opponent and emerge victorious with a score of 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

In lifting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, Federer is only the fourth player after Margaret Court, Serena Williams and Steffi Graf to win 20 or more major singles titles.

It was a remarkable win, not only because of his age but on account of the searing heat inside the Rod Laver Arena.

Even with an evening start and the roof closed to allow the air conditioning to take the sting out of the heat, it was a temperature that drained both men in the three hours and two minutes of tennis.

But elation not exhaustion was writ large over Federer’s face when he accepted the trophy. “I’m so happy, it’s unbelievable,” said the Swiss player, who has won three of the last five majors. “It’s a dream come true and the fairytale continues.”

The next target for Federer is to become the oldest man to win a tennis major, a record currently held by Ken Rosewall, who won the 1972 Australian Open at the age of 37 and two months. Federer turns 37 in August so were he to win one of the four grand slam titles next year he would take the landmark from Rosewall.

Asked if he felt he could do it, Federer told the BBC: “I’ve just got to keep a good schedule, stay hungry, then maybe good things can happen. Then I don’t think age is an issue, per se. It’s just a number.”

What the press said about Federer’s victory

According to Sky Sports tennis pundit Mark Petchey, Federer’s achievement of winning a 20th grand slam makes him the “the greatest sportsperson of all time”. 

The former British tennis player added: “When you start taking into the account the amount of years he’s being doing it for now and the myriad skills you need to be a great tennis player, it’s not one thing, it’s athleticism, it’s the mental side of things, the flexibility, the coordination, it’s the strategy.”

It’s a contentious claim given the success and longevity achieved by the likes of Pele, Donald Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, Serena Williams and Sugar Ray Robinson, but in tennis terms it’s increasingly hard to dispute that the Federer is the greatest male star the sport’s ever seen.

The Times has no doubts about Federer’s standing in the history of the sport, saying that despite his age he has “inner powers that others simply don’t possess”. The paper says that Cilic gave his all and the 29-year-old deserves high praise for fighting his way back to two sets apiece, but then “Federer really began to weave his special magic and prove himself once again to be the greatest tennis player that ever lived”. 

“Outrageous genius” is how The Guardian described Federer’s victory, remarking that it’s 15 years since he appeared in the first of his 30 grand slam finals, beating Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon. His main rivals in the last decade and a half – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – look to have their best days behind them and yet Federer continues to float about mere mortals, “inhabiting a cloud that is eternally silver-lined”.

Finally, the Daily Telegraph chose an apt turn of phrase to describe Federer’s 20 grand slam titles and 96 titles in all, calling them “a mind-boggling tally”. Who could argue with that?!

Wozniacki beats Halep for first grand slam title

Caroline Wozniacki was also victorious in Melbourne this weekend after beating Simona Halep in the Australian Open women’s singles final.

Wozniacki secured a 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 win against Halep to secure her first grand slam title and also the world No.1 title.

“It feels really good, it’s great,” the 27-year-old told the Guardian. It’s really nice not to have to answer the ‘no grand slam’ question ever again and now finally I have the world No.1 and a grand slam title. It’s very special.

“[This] means a lot. I think I had everything else on my resume: No.1, year-end championship, big tournaments, 27 titles. I basically have beaten any player that’s been playing and is on tour right now. This was the only thing missing and I think it means something extra even that it took a little bit longer. But I made it here.”

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