In what will be a rematch of the Wimbledon final, the defending champion Roger Federer of Switzerland will take on Marin Cilic of Croatia in the final of the Australian Open 2018 in Melbourne on Sunday. The sixth seeded Croat who won the U.S. Open 2014 title had few problems in beating the unseeded Briton Kyle Edmund 6-2,7-6,(4),6-2 in two hours and eighteen minutes on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday, while Federer came through after the Korean Hyeon Chung retired trailing 1-6,2-5 on Australia Day.
Cilic has reached the Australian Open final on his 10th appearance, equalling the Open Era record of Kim Warwick. He is assured of rising to a career high no. 3 in the rankings in the newly published rankings on Monday. Federer, the five time champion in Melbourne, having previously claimed the title in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2017, will be competing in his 30th Grand Slam final and is bidding to extend his record tally of nineteen Grand Slam titles in the final on Sunday.
In the first set lasting 35 minutes, Cilic saved two break points before breaking the 49th ranked Edmund’s serve in the sixth and eighth games. There were no breaks of serve in a highly competitive second set which Cilic claimed after striking a forehand winner for a two set advantage. Despite an injury concern Edmund fought valliantly and was broken twice in the second set. Cilic improves to 2-0 in career matches between the two, having won earlier in Shanghai 6-3,7-6(5) in October 2017.
Edmund was bidding to become only the fourth British player to reach the final of a Grand Slam in Open Era. Only Andy Murray (11 times), John Lloyd (1977 Australian Open) and Greg Rusedski (1997 U.S. Open) have reached the final of a Grand Slam. The Croat, who will be playing his third Grand Slam title, having won the 2014 U.S. Open title beating Federer in the last four, and then losing to the Swiss in the 2017 Wimbledon final. He hit 32 winners and eleven aces.
Chung, who was the winner of the inaugural ATP final in Milan last year, retired due to blisters. The 21 year old Korean had a beaten the fourth seeded Alexander Zverev and the six time former champion Novak Djokovic in the previous rounds lost his serve three times in the first set. The match was played under the roof on Friday due to rains. Federer broke in the fourth game of the second set and at 2-5 down in the second set Chung decided it was time to retire. Federer hit 9 aces, 24 winners and converted on four out of eleven break point opportunities.
Prediction :- Federer is playing his seventh final in Melbourne having lost only once to Nadal in 2009. He has a 8-1 career head to head, Cilic beating him in straight sets in the 2014 U.S. Open final. Cilic had match points against Federer in the 2016 Wimbledon quarter-final which he lost in five sets after taking a two set lead. Federer has not dropped a set in six matches so far, but Cilic is fired up and will be least affected by previous history between the two.
The 29 year old Croat looked very focussed in his win over Rafael Nadal and if he plays just as well has the capacity to beat the Swiss. However I expect the Swiss to win in either four or five sets on Sunday for his sixth title in Melbourne and 20th overall. Federer is 6-0 and Cilic 8-1 in 2018 having lost to the eventual champion Giles Simon in the Semi-finals of the Maharashtra Open in Pune, India.
In the women’s final, the top two seeds, Simona Halep of Romania and Caroline Wozniacki will try to win their maiden grand slam title on Saturday. Former world number one Wozniacki, a two time U.S. Open finalist, beat the Belgian Elise Mertens 6-3,7-6(2).
Halep, the top seed, got off to a flying start against the 2016 champion Angelique Kerber of Germany and let 6-3,3-1 before the German fought back. Kerber had won 14 matches in 2018, going into the semi-final match. Kerber was within a point of going down 3-5 in the second set but Halep’s level declined as the 2016 Australian and U.S. Open champion took full advantage to break twice, losing the set 4-6.
In the decider Halep led 5-3 and was within two points of holding serve. Kerber was not finished and saved two match points at 3-5 in the decider to embark on a three game run to lead 6-5. Halep returned the favour as she too saved two match points at 5-6. She then broke in the fifteenth game before serving out the match, 6-3,4-6,9-7
Prediction :- Halep was a losing finalist at the French Open in 2015 but despite her no. 1 ranking never won a Grand Slam before. Wozniacki too is a former world number one with two appearances in the U.S.Open final. Wozniacki leads 4-2 in their career meetings. This is a tough call but I pick Wozniacki to win in three sets including one tie-breaker.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]