WE managed to find ourselves a handy success on Saturday when the women’s final went to a third set in Melbourne at odds of 27-20.
It’s set to be another very hot day in Melbourne on Sunday, with day temperatures hitting 37C in the shade by 16:00 local time and even at 19:30 local time (08:30 UK) when the final is due to start it’ll still be 34C according to the forecast.
Marin Cilic vs Roger Federer
So, it’s the ninth career clash between the Swiss maestro and the former US Open champion and the first on an outdoor hard court since Cilic stunned Federer in straight sets in that 2014 US Open title run of the Croatian’s.
The pair have met three times since then, with Federer victorious each time on grass and indoor hard, but Cilic should have prevailed in four sets at Wimbledon 2016 and was in no condition to compete at the same tournament a year later.
Indeed, it was Cilic that took the opening set of their most recent meeting indoors at the O2 in London last November too, so the Croat has been very competitive against Federer in their last five clashes (as he was also close in Toronto a month prior to that US Open win).
So, he has the game to take it to Federer, but does he really have the consistency, the variety or the mentality to defeat this current version of Federer in a major final?
I just don’t think he has and the main issue he’s had against Federer generally – even in their most recent encounters – is that he’s barely been able to break the Federer serve.
Only in that stunning performance at the US Open has Cilic broken Federer more than once in their last five meetings and that goes all the way back to Shanghai 2012 when Cilic broke Federer twice (but was broken five times himself and lost 6-3, 6-4.)
At the O2 and at Wimbledon 2017 Federer was unbroken and Cilic had just one break point opportunity in each match (OK, he wasn’t fully fit at Wimbledon that day) and even in the Wimbledon 2016 match that Cilic should have won he only broke Federer once.
All of which leads to a career service hold percentage of 92.6% for Federer in matches against Cilic, who has only held his own serve 79.9% of the time.
So, we’re looking at that clash in New York as the exception in their career series, and it should be noted that Federer wasn’t playing as well then as he has been in the past 12 months, which seems an odd thing to say about a 36-year-old.
Fed had lost to Ernests Gulbis at the French, to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Canada, Kei Nishikori in Miami, Jeremy Chardy in Rome and Lleyton Hewitt in Brisbane (among others) that year and he also should have lost to Gael Monfils the round before Cilic did beat him in New York.
Things are very different now and although, again, it’s a bizarre concept to grasp, Fed’s game has evolved since 2014 and this late career version of Federer plays far fewer tournaments and his ultra-attacking style is too much for pretty much anyone on a fast hard court if he’s fit.
He hasn’t had too tough a time of it in Melbourne this fortnight either, with only 13 completed sets played compared to 21 for Cilic.
Unless Cilic gets off to a really fast start I don’t see real belief in him against the elite and from his side of things a tepid opening like he showed against Rafa Nadal here earlier this week could see this match disappear from him very quickly.
He was able to make a fast start against Federer by winning the opener in three of their last four clashes, so if you are betting on Cilic the set one win to him at 3.05 holds some appeal.
Tie breaks are likely if Cilic serves well, as we’ve seen how hard he finds it to break Federer and the Croat has won three of the five breakers they’ve contested, so 7-6 to Cilic in set one is a big priced option at around 8.0.
In conditions that are perfect for Federer on Rod Laver Arena where it’s fast and the balls zip through (it’s set to be really hot on Sunday in Melbourne too) he has so many ways to beat opponents that others (most) simply don’t have in their arsenal.
If things aren’t working for Cilic from the back on the day it’s hard to see him switching up and playing a bit of serve and volley for a while, although it may well be a good idea for him to throw that in as a tactic anyway to keep Fed honest.
In short Cilic is going to have to bring his absolute best first strike tennis to the court and keep it up for long enough to win three sets against a Federer that’s been superb the last 12 months and in conditions ideal for the Swiss and arguably a shade too quick for Cilic.
I’d expect Cilic to be good enough to make this a contest though and either the over games or over sets look the best wagers on Sunday, along with the 3.60 on Federer winning it by three sets to one.
Since my old favourite Fernando Gonzalez lost to Federer in the 2007 final only Andy Murray has lost in the final in straight sets (twice to Djokovic and once to Federer) and all the rest have gone to four or five sets.
This will be the sixth time that Federer has made a major final without dropping a set in the process – and only in that 2017 Wimbledon final against an injured Cilic and the 2007 Australian Open final against Gonzalez has Fed gone on to win the tournament in perfect straight sets.
- 1 point win Federer to beat Cilic 3-1 (13-5, Unibet)