2018, Australian Open

Australian Open, Melbourne
January 15-28, 2018; 128 draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard

Summaries taken from ATP articles with my blue notes…

Final: (2)Roger Federer d. (6)Marin Cilic    6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1

Federer led by a set on two occasions but was forced into a deciding set by Cilic who was looking to win his second Grand Slam title after his triumph at the US Open in 2014. The 50th Open Era Australian Open final and 200th Open Era Grand Slam final produced a classic with Federer eventually retaining his title and joining Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson at six Australian Open titles, an all-time record. Federer has become just the third man, after Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver, in the Open Era to win all four Grand Slam titles after his 30th birthday and now moves just 155 points behind World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the ATP Rankings. First Set: Federer got off to a flying start under the roof on Rod Laver Arena, racing out to a 4:0 lead against Cilic, in what is a repeat of federer_ao18last year’s final from The Championships at Wimbledon. Cilic netted a smash in the opening game to hand Federer the initiative and was broken again in the third game of the match after firing a backhand into the tramline. Cilic only managed to win four points in the first four games, and until winning the fifth game of the match was totally outrallied and outplayed by Federer. Sublime serving from Federer saw the 19-time Grand Slam champion lose just two points on serve all set as he cruised to a one-set advantage, sealed by another backhand error from his opponent. Second Set: Looking to respond quickly to the disappointment of losing the first set, Cilic held serve in the opening game and manufactured two break points on Federer’s serve. At 15/40, Federer fired down an ace out wide to save the first before unleashing on a run-around forehand down the line to level at deuce before holding for 1-all. Time and time again throughout the set, Cilic served his way out of tricky situations. The 6’6” Croat staved off single break points at 1-all, 2-all and 4-all to maintain his lead with two aces and an unreturned serve to keep Federer at bay. After comfortable holds through most of the set, Federer double faulted at 4:5 30/30 to hand Cilic set point but the soon-to-be World No.3 could not capitalise as he dumped a cross-court backhand into the net. After Federer escaped for 5-all, two service holds would force the set to a crucial second-set tie-break. Federer made the first move with a rifled backhand, opening up the court for an easy winner to go ahead 3:2, but was immediately pegged back by Cilic who hammered a forehand return for a winner to reach the change of ends back on serve. The decisive move came at 4:5 with Cilic hitting a backhand return at Federer’s laces before hammering a looped ball into the corner off the forehand to set up two set points. On the second, the 2014 US Open champion banished the memory of his error in the opening game of the match to smash his way to a second set success. Third Set: Set three was decided by one federer_cilic_ao18game. The sixth game was to be the only game of the set featuring break points, and it was Federer who grasped control of the final here. Cilic netted two groundstrokes and failed to control a Federer passing shot on the volley, to hand his opponent three break opportunities and Federer happily obliged at the second time of asking. The five-time champion stepped in on his backhand return, taking time away from his opponent to force another error and move ahead 4:2. Three games later, Federer closed out the set to love, with his 19th ace, to move to within a set of an incredible milestone victory. Fourth Set: After leading 30/0 in the first game, Cilic hit three errors to hand Federer and opportunity to seize immediate control. Federer sliced a short return to Cilic’s backhand wing and forced his opponent into a fourth consecutive error to inch even closer to his 20th Grand Slam title. Federer had a chance for a double break in the third game, but could do nothing to stop Cilic’s aggressive play on the forehand wing. The sixth seed pummelled a forehand winner down the line to stay in contact. Cilic threw caution to the wind in the sixth game, stepping up with more aggressive play to force Federer into errors, which led to getting back on serve. Two games later, Cilic threatened Federer’s serve again and crucially found another breakthrough. The 29-year-old attacked the Federer forehand and stepped into the court to dispatch a short reply for a winner before serving out the set to love for his fifth consecutive game, sending the year’s first major to a final set. Fifth Set: Cilic’s big chance came in the first game with two break points on Federer’s serve, but the Croat failed to get either of his returns into play after strong Federer serving before the Swiss held for a 1:0 lead. After the relief of surviving his opening service game, Federer went on the offensive to break Cilic for a 2:0 lead with a deep cross court backhand return which Cilic ran around but could only push into the net. From there, Federer surged to victory. A single Cilic love service hold in the fourth game was the only interlude to the charge of Federer who won 12 of the last 13 points and sealed the title, for the second successive year on a Hawk Eye challenge, with an unreturned serve out wide. Stats of the final

Second semifinal: (2)Roger Federer d. Hyeon Chung    6-1, 5-2 ret.

chung_foot_ao18Federer is one match away from capturing a sixth Australian Open title, which would represent his 20th Grand Slam championship crown. The Swiss superstar, the defending champion at Melbourne Park, booked his place in a 30th major final when leading 6-1, 5:2* (30-all) in 2nd set after 63 minutes against South Korea’s Chung, the Next Gen ATP Finals winner, who retired due to a left foot complaint on Rod Laver Arena. “I thought the first set was normal,” Federer told Jim Courier, in an on-court interview. “I couldn’t tell what was going on with my opponent. In the second set I felt he was getting slower. He’s had a problem with the blister. It hurts – a lot. At some point it’s too much and you make things worse. Clearly I’m happy to be in the final but not like this. He’s had such a wonderful tournament. Fighting was a problem today. I could tell something was wrong, but he has a great composure. I think he’s going to achieve next level excellence – Top 10 for sure. I can see why he beat Novak (Djokovic) and Sascha (Zverev). He’s going to be a great, great player.” Two retirements in the last seven matches of Australian Open ’18 – the last time at majors it happened at Roland Garros ’06, Nadal & Federer were involved in those matches then too (Djokovic retired vs Nadal in QF, Nalbandian retired vs Fed in SF).

First semifinal: (6)Marin Cilic d. Kyle Edmund    6-2, 7-6(4), 6-2

Cilic was superb on serve and played with great focus on Thursday night to become the first Croatian to reach the Australian Open final, which represents his third Grand Slam championship title match (also 2014 US Open, 2017 Wimbledon). The 29-year-old, competing in a semi-final at Melbourne Park for the second time (also 2010 when he faced other Brit, Murray), used his big-match experience at key moments to defeat Kyle Edmund of Great Britain in 2 hours and 18 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. “I think in the second set I was a bit up and down with my game and not getting enough returns back,” Cilic told Jim Courier, in an on-court interview. “He started to serve quite good. I stayed mentally very focused and tried to cilic_ao18play every single point. It was crucial in the tie-break to keep that pressure. I noticed in the third game in the third set, [that] he let a couple of balls go. I was seeing that his movement was restricted, so I was trying to move the ball around.” Sixth seed Cilic has reached the Australian Open final on his 10th appearance, equalling the Open Era record (since April 1968) of Kim Warwick. He awaits the winner of five-time champion Roger Federer, the second seed from Switzerland, and South Korea’s Hyeon Chung, who will play their semi-final on Friday night. “I think overall, consistently, I’m playing better,” said Cilic. “I think I am performing better when you look at match after match. I think [at the 2014] US Open, I played just amazing tennis. But it was more difficult for me to keep it for a long period of time. Now I feel that with this kind of tennis, I can keep it throughout the season. That’s my goal, at the end of the year, that I can look back and that I am happy about my performances at a consistent level.” World No. 49 Edmund had been attempting to become the fourth British man to reach a Grand Slam championship final in the Open Era – after Andy Murray (11 finals), John Lloyd (1977 Australian Open) and Greg Rusedski (1997 US Open). “Obviously, I’m just disappointed I lost, but it’s been a really good couple of weeks for me,” said Edmund. “I just got the experience of going deep in a [Grand] Slam for the first time and all the stuff that comes with it… I played a lot of tough matches, won some tough matches [and] beat good players. This type of tournament just gives you the bug to want more. I definitely go away from the whole week feeling positive.”

Fourth quarterfinal: (2)Roger Federer d. (19)Tomas Berdych    7-6(1), 6-3, 6-4

Federer continued his pursuit of a 20th Grand Slam championship crown on Wednesday night when he booked his place in the Australian Open semi-finals. The Swiss superstar, bidding to retain his crown and lift a sixth trophy at Melbourne Park, fought back from Berdych’s berdych_federer_uo19promising start to record a victory on Rod Laver Arena. Berdych, the No. 19 seed, took a 3:0 lead and missed out on two set point opportunities at 5:3 and 6:5 in the first set, only for Federer to apply the pressure and regain control of the pair’s 26th meeting (Federer now leads 20-6). “I hung around, got a bit lucky, a bit angry, a frustrated, maybe at the umpire, but I actually thought the call was good anyway,” Federer told Jim Courier, during an on-court interview. “I was just frustrated and a bit antsy. I’m happy I got out of that first set. It ended up being key to the match. Tomas was great.” The 36-year-old Federer, who is through to his 14th Australian Open semi-final, is the oldest player to reach that stage since Australian all-time great Ken Rosewall (42 years, 68 days) in January 1977. “It was a good start,” said Berdych. “I had good chances, a couple set points. Then I think he just got more confident after he saved the first set. Then it was very difficult with him again. After having been basically a whole set down, it gives you a [big] boost. Especially with him, I think it was just the deciding thing. I mean, everything is ‘if’. But winning a first set would be completely different story.” “I’ve never played Chung or [Kyle] Edmund so it’s great to see new names on the scene,” said Federer, during his on-court interview. “The way both of them made it to the semis is highly impressive. The Chung-Djokovic match was the match I watched the most. Chung is very talented. He’s clearly got nothing to lose. I will tell myself the same, and we’ll see what happens.”

Third quarterfinal: Hyeon Chung d. Tennys Sandgren    6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3

Two months after winning the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, Chung secured yet another career breakthrough on Wednesday at the Australian Open. The unseeded 21-year-old dismissed Sandgren of the U.S. to extend his greatest run at a Grand Slam, becoming the lowest-ranked man to make the Australian Open semi-finals since No. 86 Marat Safin in 2004. Chung is also the first South Korean, man or woman, to play in a Grand Slam semi-final, and he had his country on his mind during the match’s final moments. “[In the] last game many things come together. If I win one more point, I make history in Korea… I had to stay calm because the finish – the match is not finished yet, so I’m just trying to stay calm until [I] finish the match,” Chung said of his thoughts. “I think all the people [in Korea are] watching Australian Open now because we make sandgren_chung_ao18history in Korea.” Chung’s maiden quarter-final was the first time he had been the higher-ranked player all tournament. Chung had to upset 32nd seed Mischa Zverev, No. 53 Daniil Medvedev, fourth seed Alexander Zverev and 14th seed Novak Djokovic to make the last eight. “I’m really surprised because I really don’t know. I make semis, I beat like Sascha, Novak, the other good players. I [have] never played in the second week in Grand Slam, so I’m really surprised,” Chung said. But the South Korean fared just as well in his new role as he had as an underdog. Chung was consistent on serve all match against No. 97 Sandgren, who was also playing in his first Grand Slam quarter-final. South Korea’s No. 1 landed 76 per cent of his first serves for the match – in addition to placing it well – and the shot carried him to a one-set lead as he erased both break points in the opener. Sandgren settled down in the second, matching Chung’s powerful groundstrokes from side to side. At 5:3, the American served to even the match, but Chung kept Sandgren on the move with his sliding defence and deep groundstrokes and broke back before the best tennis of the match was played in the tie-break. But yet again, as it was when Chung faced Djokovic and they battled in two set tie-breaks, the South Korean looked as if he wasn’t phased by the moment. Sandgren cracked first, framing a forehand at 5-all before Chung gained a two-set lead. He clinched his spot in the semi-finals on his sixth match point. “He’s a fantastic player. This is the second time I played him now in two weeks. It’s fun. It’s such a fun challenge because he does so many cool things with how he moves and how he returns and how he plays with his forehand,” said Sandgren, who also lost to Chung at the ASB Classic in Auckland 3-6, 7-5, 3-6. “It was kind of like an extremely difficult puzzle to try to figure out. I wasn’t able to figure it out, but I enjoyed trying.”

Second quarterfinal: (6)Marin Cilic d. (1)Rafael Nadal    3-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2, 2-0 ret.

Cilic competed with absolute focus on Tuesday night to overcome World No. 1 and 2009 champion Nadal for a place in the Australian Open semi-finals. The sixth-seeded Croatian booked his place in a fifth Grand Slam championship semi-final (2-2 record), where he will meet Great Britain’s Edmund, after Nadal retired due to an injury in the fifth set. Cilic was leading 2:0 in the 5th set after 3 hours and 47 minutes of play. Nadal, who had been bidding to reach the Australian Open semi-finals for the second successive year, received on-court treatment for a right leg injury at 1:4 in the fourth set. “[It’s] really unfortunate for Rafa,” Cilic told Jim Courier, in nadal_cilic_ao18an on-court interview. “He is an unbelievable competitor. Always gives his best and it’s very unfortunate for him to finish this way.” The 29-year-old Cilic hit 83 winners in total, including 20 aces and converted 5 of his 19 break point opportunities to record the 275th hard-court match win of his career. “[I’m] extremely pleased with my own game,” said Cilic. “Even in the other matches before this one, I played great tennis [at a] very, very high level. I had a tough match against Carreno in the last round. Then today, the beginning of the match was not the best. I only realised [about the injury] when [Nadal] took a medical time-out. It was at 4-1 in the fourth [set]. In the end, [it was] very unfortunate, because Rafa is always fighting really hard, always giving his best on the court. I guess in the pre-season he had some troubles with the injuries, but he came here [and] prepared really, really well. He played a very good tournament. Obviously, [it’s] very sad for him to finish the way he did.” With his five matches at Melbourne Park over the past nine days, Nadal will remain at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings when the new standings are published on Monday. While Cilic stays at No. 6 with his first victory over Nadal since the 2009 China Open in Beijing, should the powerful Croatian beat Edmund and then go on to capture his second major title (2014 US Open) he would rise to No. 3. “I’m going to prepare for that match like for any other one,” said Cilic. “Kyle had amazing run here. A lot of tough matches [and] played great tennis. He’s also very entertaining to watch: [a] big hitter, great serve, great forehand. He plays great on the hard courts. For me, a big focus is to continue with my own game. I cannot influence him, much, across the net, but I’m going to try to take care of my things on my side of the court. Hopefully I’m going to have another great match.”

First quarterfinal: Kyle Edmund d. (3)Grigor Dimitrov    6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4

Is there any stopping of Edmund this Australian Open? The 23-year-old unseeded Brit won his fifth match in a row in Melbourne on Tuesday, upsetting third seed and 2017 semi-finalist Dimitrov to reach the Australian Open semi-finals. Edmund, who before this fortnight had only reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam championship (2016 US Open), will now face Cilic for a spot in the Australian Open final. Edmund became only the sixth British man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final in the Open Era (since April 1968) – Roger Taylor, John Lloyd, Greg Rusedski, Tim Henman and Andy Murray. “Amazing feeling, very happy… it was my first match on this court and it was very special,” Edmund said on Rod Laver Arena after the match. “It’s totally normal to feel nervous. As an emotion, as a human being, it’s normal. I just accepted that and just had things in edmund_ao18place to basically deal with it. It’s not like I walked on court being nervous first time in my life. You still go on there and play your game. Today, I just really did well at that. I’m aware of the occasion, but I really just tried to focus on my tennis, enjoy it as much as possible. It was a great feeling out there. I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing. I’m 23 years old, [in] my first Grand Slam semi-final. [It was the] first time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world… I just try to enjoy it as much as possible, like I said. I knew I was in a good place. There’s no reason why my tennis wasn’t good enough to win. It’s obviously about going out there and doing it.” Dimitrov entered the quarter-final as the favourite, but Edmund knocked out the two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist by playing more consistently and more powerfully. The gameplan was clear from the start: bludgeon his best shot – his forehand – against Dimitrov’s one-handed backhand. In the first set, they traded breaks but Edmund broke once more in the ninth game, tomahawking a forehand winner off a weak second serve and later served out the opener. The Brit won nearly 50 per cent of Dimitrov’s second-serve points and hit 46 winners. Dimitrov, who fell in the semi-final last year to Rafael Nadal, responded in the second set, riding an early break to even the match. But the serving troubles that had hampered him earlier in the tournament crept back into his game in the third. Dimitrov had 15 double faults during his third-round match in Melbourne, and at 3:4 in the third set, he tossed in another double fault to give Edmund the break. Dimitrov finished with seven double faults, equalling his number of aces. Edmund found his way to his maiden semi-final eight games later, breaking Dimitrov for the second time in the set after the Bulgarian started to look out of sorts, shanking forehands well off the court. Dimitrov beat Edmund three weeks ago at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, with Edmund twisting his ankle at 4-all in the deciding set. The pair also met in July 2017 at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. “Kyle deserves all the respect,” said Dimitrov. “He deserved to win, simple as that. He’s been working so hard the past months. I’ve seen that. I take full responsibility of my match today. There’s no point for me to say what I did wrong, because I can sit here and talk about it, but it’s all about him right now. He’s the winner.”