Australian Open: Men’s Final Preview By: Peter Snyder

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Rogers Cup presented by National Bank - Day 10

The first grand slam of the 2018 calendar year is vastly coming to a close and only 2 men remain. Marin Čilić is a 29-year-old Croatian with a stealthy serve and one major win under his belt. His journey to get here was nothing but easy but as world number 6, Čilić has been favored in essentially every match heading into the final. That being said he is a huge underdog coming into this final as his opponent is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Roger Federer. Federer is coming into this final on Sunday morning looking to win his 20th grand slam title, a historic accomplishment. Although Federer is heading towards the end of his storied career and the fact that age is starting to catch up with Roger at 36, he is still playing tennis at an extremely high and elite level and some say the best he has ever played. Both these talented tennis players did not get to this point overnight and had to go through a grueling few weeks of highly competitive tennis in excruciating heat and we start with Čilićs’ first round draw where he faced a young Canadian qualifier who was hoping to shake up the field with a major first round upset.

Čilić first round draw paired him against Vasek Pospisil, a 27-year-old Canadian who was extremely athletic and could be a problem for Čilić if they got into deep sets. Čilić instead attacked him early and often, exposing his weaknesses and he advanced in 4 sets. He would then be welcomed to the second round by Joao Sousa from Portugal who had no chance the second they stepped out on the court. It was clear that Čilić was the superior tennis player and he went on to dominate the match in straight sets, advancing him to the third round of the tournament. Čilić would face American Ryan Harrison in the third round who would give him a test early, taking him to a tiebreaker in the first set. Čilić would win the tiebreaker and went on cruise control for the duration of the match. He had won in straight sets for the second straight match and was starting to find his groove. He had advanced to the fourth round without even getting touched but that would all change as in the 4th round he would face one of his toughest draws in the tournament. Pablo Carreno Busta came in to the tournament as the 10th overall seed and was very capable of defeating Čilić. He is a fast, athletic tennis players that can really attack you with his cross court play and that was clear in this 4th round matchup. Busta won the first set in a tiebreaker and in a blink of an eye, Čilić found himself playing from behind. However, he responded extremely well by winning the next three sets to advance to the quarterfinals. Great tennis players know how to play from behind and face adversity and Čilić did just that with this 4th round draw. All this aside many thought his tournament would end in the quarterfinals as he would face the current world number one and one of the all time greats, Rafael Nadal. Nadal was playing extremely well all tournament thus far and it looked like he was on a clear crash course to face Federer in the finals. That theory seemed no different early on, as Rafa came out firing on all cylinders, dominating the first set 6-3. Čilić quickly punched back winning the next set by the same score of 6-3 and it seemed like we could have a classic on our hands. The third set went to a tiebreaker and was eventually won by Nadal giving him a 2 sets to 1 lead and Čilić was now on the verge of being eliminated.  Čilić decided to do something he had done this entire tournament, fight like hell. He won the fourth set by a convincing margin and we were headed to the best two words in all of tennis, the “fifth set.” During the fourth set, Nadal was showing clear discomfort in his right hip and continuously had to be stretched out by the medical staff during the later stages of the match. In the fifth set with Nadal clearly wounded, Čilić went up 2-0 and the pain was too much for Rafa to endure. He had to retire the match and Čilić, although not done in the prettiest of ways, was through to the semi-final where he would face a huge underdog who had been having a cinderella run throughout this tournament. Kyle Edmund, from the United Kingdom came into this tournament unranked, but somehow found himself just one win away from a grand slam final. He had to go through the likes of world number 3 Grigor Dimitrov and world number 12 Kevin Anderson to get to this point. His Cinderella run would come to a quick halt as he was dominated by Čilić in straight sets. Čilić is now in the final and is one win away from his second ever grand slam title (2014 US Open.)

Roger Federer is coming into this season as 36-year-old man, but a man who is coming off of perhaps his biggest professional career, winning 2 of the four possible majors last year. The expectations coming into this tournament were high, given that he is ranked as the world number 2 and thus far he has exceeded those expectations. Federer’s first round draw paired him up with Aljaz Bedene from Slovenia who was clearly no match for Federer as Roger practically walked through the match, winning in straight sets. Federer was then paired with German, Jan-Lennard Struff who again failed to even take a set from Roger, and Federer had advanced to the third round without dropping a set. In the third round, Federer faced a very familiar face in Frenchman Richard Gasquet who has been on the scene for a while and has faced Roger a number of times. Federer saw him as an afterthought however and once again, won in straight sets, advancing to the fourth round like it was his part-time job. Federer met Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in the fourth round and like he had done all tournament and yes you guessed it, Federer won in straight sets. He had advanced to the quarterfinals and he was starting to make it look easy and it is anything but a breeze especially in a final and especially when you’re 36 years old. In the quarters, Federer faced Tomas Berdych, who is ranked 20 in the world. But to beat Federer in this tournament you might as well be Jesus because the man is unstoppable right now. Federer kept his streak alive winning in straight sets and advancing to the Semi-finals. He would there go on to face Hyeon Chung, a tennis player from South Korea who was making history for his country and was having a cinderella run for the ages. Unfortunately, Chung got blisters that were unbearable and had to retire from the match early in the second set. Federer now enters the final without dropping a set and really looks untouchable.

If you look at this matchup by the eye test, Federer wins and it’s not even a discussion. If you look at this matchup by the statistics of this tournament, it’s Federer without a discussion. So you would think that would mean that Fed is gonna cruise for his 20th grand slam title, right? You are absolutely correct. Although Čilić is playing some great tennis right now, Federer is on a next level and he will not be touched. I like Federer to win this one is straight sets and see it being somewhat of a cake walk for the legend. Overall, this tournament has kind of sucked due to all the early upsets and injuries, so I am definitely ready to move on to the French Open.

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