2018 in review: Roger Federer earns glory in Melbourne


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2018 in review: Roger Federer earns glory in Melbourne

2018 season has provided to be a historic one for every player in the top-five, with all of them achieving some special feats and experiencing memorable moments on the court, especially in the title matches. With 67 ATP tournaments all around the world and the NextGen Masters that gathered some of the most impressive youngsters from the season behind us.

It was another stunning tennis year with three different number 1 players and new Masters 1000 champions, with TennisWorld USA presenting you the best moments from the entire season, starting with the action from January and the first six tournaments of the year.

* ATP 250 Brisbane: Nick Kyrgios (AUS) vs Ryan Harrison (USA) 6-4 6-2 Despite some knee issues that had been bothering him the entire week, Nick Kyrgios managed to win his fourth ATP title and the first on home soil, defeating the American Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-2 in just 73 minutes.

Nick blasted 26 service winners and he saved all five break points he faced to keep the pressure on Harrison, breaking him three times to end Ryan's solid run with a runner-up place in what was the third ATP final of his career.

Thanks to his booming serve and the first groundstroke, Nick made the biggest difference in the shortest points up to four strokes, taming his strokes nicely and prevailing in the most important moments to bring the match home easily.

Harrison had a great chance to take the lead in the opener but he couldn't convert any of five break points he created in games two and six, being punished in game seven when Nick scored a break that carried him towards the first set.

The Aussie stepped up his game in set number two, untouchable on his serve and dangerous on the return as well, scoring breaks in games three and five to finish the match in style and open the season in the best possible way.

Ryan was hitting well right from the start, keeping his backhand safe and drawing errors from Kyrgios who had to play against two break points already in the second game of the match. Nick saved both to avoid an early setback but he had to work even harder when he faced a new set of break points at 2-3.

He fired some good serves to get out of jail and that shifted the momentum to his side of the net in the rest of the set. Ryan was untouchable on serve in the opening three service games but Nick created a break point at 3-3 with a forehand winner, landing another one to seize the break and move in front.

He received a treatment on his left knee during the break but that couldn't disturb his rhythm, holding at love in games eight and 10 for a 6-4 after 37 minutes. The American didn't play bad but he missed too many opportunities on the return and that one loose service game cost him the set.

The Aussie dropped just two points on serve in the second set, blasting 12 winners in four games to keep Ryan away from even a glimpse of a chance on the return, scoring two breaks to cross the finish line without spending too much time on the court.

Harrison was in all kind of troubles when he double-faulted in game three to fall behind and he netted an easy forehand on Nick's fourth break chance at 1-3 that sealed the fate of the American player. Nick closed the match in game eight with three consecutive winners, earning a well-deserved victory in front of the delighted crowd at the Pat Rafter Arena and seeking good result in Melbourne in two weeks time as well.

* ATP 250 Doha: Gael Monfils (FRA) vs Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6-2 6-3 Gael Monfils was one of the players who had to end his 2017 season earlier, missing the last two months of the year due to a knee injury.

The Frenchman retired against David Goffin in the third round of the US Open and he was sidelined until the start of 2018, asking for a wildcard in Doha and using it with both hands to win his seventh ATP crown, the first since Washington 2016! In the title match, Gael took down the young Russian Andrey Rublev 6-2 6-3 in just 60 minutes, saving two break points and stealing Rublev's serve three times to control the scoreboard all the time.

Monfils had a day off as Dominic Thiem withdrew before their semi-final clash due to a fever, while Andrey stayed on the court against Guido Pella for almost two and a half hours. Regardless of that, Gael did just about everything right on the court, defending well and taming Rublev's forehands with ease to leave the less experienced player with no plan B.

The result is even bigger for Monfils when we know that he lost 20 out of the previous 26 ATP finals he played, including three in Doha back in 2006, 2012, and 2014. He had more winners than Rublev thanks to his serve (23-12 in unreturned serves) and also a fewer number of errors, outplaying his opponent big time in the shortest points up to four strokes where he had a 42-27 advantage, serving well and making a lot of damage with the first groundstroke.

It was a very strong start for the Frenchman who lost just six points in four service games in the opener, breaking Andrey in game four after a 25-stroke rally that set the tone for the rest of the match. The Frenchman settled some three meters behind the baseline and he was retrieving ball after ball until Rublev finally made a mistake, unable to penetrate his rival and hitting 17 unforced errors.

Also, Gael's backhand worked like a charm and he won the majority of the cross court rallies, breaking Rublev again in game eight to grab the opener 6-2 in just 22 minutes. There were some positive signs for Rublev at the start of the second set, reaching three deuces on the return in the opening game but not being able to make that extra step and create break points.

With the momentum on his side, Gael scored a break in game four after three forehand unforced errors in a row from a teenager. Andrey finally forged two break points in the following game but Monfils fends them off with a forehand winner and another good attack, repelling the last opportunities for the Russian on the return and losing just two points in the last two service games.

In fact, those were the last break opportunities for any player since they served well in the remaining games, with Monfils wrapping up the win with a service winner at 5-3 after exactly an hour of very fine tennis from a former top-10 player.

* ATP 250 Pune: Gilles Simon (FRA) vs Kevin Anderson (RSA) 7-6(4) 6-2 The 33-year-old Gilles Simon had played 25 ATP tournaments in 2017 but he struggled to find the rhythm or pace, winning back-to-back matches just four times and never reaching the semi-final.

He arrived in Pune determined to make a much better start of 2018 and he won all five matches to claim the title, his 13th on the Tour and the first since Marseille in 2015! The Frenchman had to beat all three top seeds en route to the trophy, including the 2nd seed Kevin Anderson in the title match, toppling the South African 7-6 6-2 in an hour and 36 minutes for his first win over Anderson in four matches.

Gilles served at mighty 82% and his first serve made more damage than Kevin's, which is never a good sign for the US Open finalist and world number 14 at that moment. Kevin did fire 15 aces but he lost 42% of the points in his games, having to play against eight break points and losing serve three times.

On the other hand, Simon defended both the first and second set with efficiency, saving four out of five break points to keep the pressure on his rival and outplaying him from the baseline with deep and precise groundstrokes that Anderson failed to neutralize.

Kevin was the first to make a damage on the return, creating four break chances in game four but wasting them all to miss the opportunity of moving in front. He had to pay the price three games later when Simon broke with an amazing forehand down the line winner, holding at love in the following game for a 5-3.

Serving for the opener in game 10, Gilles lost his serve and the result was levelled at 5-5, with a tie-break to determine the winner of the set. Trailing 3-1, Simon won 19-shot rally to get the mini-break back and he grabbed another one with a stunning crosscourt forehand winner that sent him 5-3 ahead, winning four points in a row and controlling the scoreboard again after losing the edge in the last 10 minutes or so.

The Frenchman clinched the set in the 11th point after a gigantic 39-stroke exchange and this gave him a huge boost for the rest of the match. Gilles lost just three points on serve in set number two and he had a great chance to create a set and a break lead in the early stages of the set, with three break points up for grabs in game two.

Anderson fired up his serve to save them all with service winners and they stayed neck and neck in the next three games as well. Simon kept the ball in play nicely and he broke his rival in game six after a backhand error from Anderson.

This was the turning point of the set and Kevin had nothing more left in the tank, spraying another error to drop serve at 2-5 and handing the win and the title to his rival. * ATP 250 Sydney: Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs Alex de Minaur (AUS) 1-6 6-4 7-5 In the youngest ATP final since Indian Wells 2007 and clash between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the Russian qualifier Daniil Medvedev toppled the new Aussie star Alex De Minaur 1-6 6-4 7-5 to claim his first ATP title in a career! Medvedev had started the previous season on a high note as well after reaching the final in Chennai but he finished the year with just 24 wins, having to deal with the mononucleosis and some injuries that plagued his development.

Things have already looked better for him and this title gave him a great boost before the upcoming challenges in Melbourne and in the rest of the year. Alex found a great form since December, winning the Australian Open wildcard Play Off and reaching the semi-final in Brisbane in the previous week, going a step further in his hometown of Sydney.

He had a chance to become the youngest ATP champion since Kei Nishikori in Delray Beach 2008 but despite a great effort he had to settle with the runner-up spot. The match lasted two hours and 13 minutes and it developed into an open war when Daniil lifted his game after a one-sided first set when he got broken three times.

In the end, he lost serve just twice in sets two and three to keep the pressure on Alex who had to play against 10 break chances after a convincing opener. Medvedev held everything under control until 4-0 in the decider but De Minaur found the way to climb back to the scoreboard, saving a match point in game nine and levelling the score with a break in the following game for a 5-5 and more drama.

Nonetheless, Daniil broke again in the 11th game and he completed the win with a hold at love a few minutes later, celebrating his first ATP title after a high-quality performance from both. It was all about De Minaur in the opening set, reading Medvedev's serve with no troubles and also having the upper hand from the baseline to sail through the set in 30 minutes.

The Russian made too many errors and he was pushed to the limits constantly in his games despite the fact he landed 71% of the first serve in. He wasted a game point and was broken in the third game, with another break for De Minaur coming in game five following a stunning defence from the young Aussie.

Another unforced error cost Daniil the opening set, suffering the third break in a row to drop it 6-1, having a lot of work to be done in the rest of the match if he wanted to get back on even terms and make the encounter more interesting.

Daniil shifted into a higher gear in set number two, thundering from his serve to drop just four points behind the initial shot and mount the pressure on the other side of the net, with de Minaur who couldn't continue where he left in the opening set.

The Russian broke at 3-3 when De Minaur sent a backhand beyond the baseline and the set was over after another good hold in game 10, firing a service winner for a 6-4 and keeping his chances of winning the first ATP title alive.

The third set lasted more than an hour but no one could have predicted that after the opening four games, as Medvedev raced into a 4-0 lead. With the momentum on his side, he broke Alex in the first game following a backhand error from the young Aussie and again in game three after a stunning backhand winner that stayed out of crowd favourite's reach.

The 21-year-old had everything on his side, winning 16 of 20 points at the start of the set and looking to march towards the finish line. Alex begged to differ, though, pulling one break back in game six when Medvedev hit a forehand long and serving to stay in the match at 3-5.

Facing a match point, De Minaur hurled a volley winner and he held after a forehand winner to reduce the deficit to 5-4, staying alive and giving the crowd something to cheer about. Nonetheless, Medvedev had a chance to close the match on own serve in the following game but he crumbled under the pressure, playing his worst service game since the start of the match to bring Alex on the scoreboard completely, with an ultimate drama coming in the last couple of games.

De Minaur passed a long journey from 4-0 down and he was now in the position to even move ahead and make a big step towards lifting the trophy with a possible hold in the 11th game. Instead of that, he netted a forehand to lose serve for the third time and this was the opportunity that Daniil refused to waste, holding at love in the next game to celebrate his biggest moment in a career and setting the tone for the rest of 2018.

* ATP 250 Auckland: Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 6-1 4-6 7-5 2016 Auckland champion Roberto Bautista Agut regained his crown after a 6-1 4-6 7-5 victory against the 2nd seed Juan Martin del Potro in two hours and seven minutes, claiming his seventh ATP title in a career.

The Spaniard won just eight points more than his opponent despite a one-sided opening set where he broke Delpo three times, earning the triumph with a late break in the 11th game of the deciding set. Juan Martin raised his game after a terrible start, facing just two break points in the rest of the match and even having a chance to send the encounter into a deciding tie-break, wasting a break point in the last game of the match that could have increased his odds of winning the first Auckland title in nine years.

Bautista Agut found the rhythm right from the start and he outplayed del Potro completely in the opening set, winning 66% of the return points and racing through the set with three breaks of serve. Juan Martin netted a backhand to get broken in game two but he fired up his mighty forehand to get back on the track in the following game, breaking back with a volley winner and reducing the deficit to 2-1.

Still, he failed to make an impact with his serve and Bautista Agut broke again in game four to open up a lead, controlling the points from the baseline and getting some errors from his opponent who still struggled to hit the zone.

It was all about the Spaniard in the rest of the set, holding at 15 in game five with some stunning forehands and cracking another winner from that wing to break Delpo once again, moving a game away from the opening set.

He delivered another nice hold in the seventh game to wrap up the set in an impressive way after just 30 minutes, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the clash. The Argentinian had to change something on the court and in a rather quick manner if he wanted to get back into contention and he started to serve better in set number two, reducing the number of errors and enduring the baseline encounters against the strong opponent.

Roberto did nothing wrong in the first eight games either, dropping just four points on serve in the opening four games and serving to stay in the set in game 10. Out of sudden, Juan Martin created the only break point of the set and he defended his backhand nicely in the following point to draw an error from Bautista Agut and clinch the set 6-4, sending the match into a decider.

There, both players held with ease in the first 10 games, hitting some powerful forehand winners like that one that kept Roberto in the match in the 10th game when he served to prolong the final. Del Potro served better and better as the match progressed and he dropped just three points in five service games, with another solid hold likely to come in game 11.

Instead of that, he double faulted and made a backhand mistake to offer his rival two break points, with Bautista Agut converting the second to gain a 6-5 lead and serve for the title in the next game. Juan Martin was there to fight until the last point, creating a break point that could have set up the deciding tie-break but he was denied by an ace from Roberto, one of his most important shots of the day.

An amazing forehand down the line winner moved Bautista Agut a point away from the crown and he sealed the deal when del Potro sent a forehand long, celebrating his second title in Auckland and the seventh overall on the Tour.

* Grand Slam Australian Open: Roger Federer (SUI) vs Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3 3-6 6-1 World number 2 and defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer arrived in Melbourne as one of the favourites for the title and he proved the expectations of his fans, thundering past seven rivals to lift his 20th Grand Slam crown and the sixth here at Melbourne Park.

The 36-year-old Swiss advanced to the title match without losing a set and he managed to win the crown despite a little bit shaky performance, ousting Marin Cilic 6-2 6-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 in three hours and three minutes to continue his perfect run so far in 2018 after winning the Hopman Cup together with Belinda Bencic.

This was their 10th meeting (all the encounters have come at Masters 1000 level or above) and the ninth win for Roger, with the only loss coming at the US Open 2014 when Marin won his lone Grand Slam crown. They had played in last year's Wimbledon final when Marin won just eight games in total and the start of today's match seemed to follow the same pattern, as Roger clinched it in 24 minutes! Cilic raised his level in set number two to win it 7-5 in the tie-break and turn the match into a more exciting affair, staying on the similar level with Roger throughout the rest of the match.

The Croat found the range of his shots and he was the dominant figure in the rallies, attacking Federer's backhand and going for all-or-nothing strokes that kept the points on his racquet. Still, Federer managed to halt rival's momentum, saving two break points at the start of the fifth set before he broke Marin to gain the crucial lead that he carried through the rest of the set to embrace the Grand Slam glory once again, cementing his win with another break in game six.

With this triumph, Roger defended 2000 points he won in Melbourne last year and he closed the gap to Rafael Nadal at the top of the ATP rankings to just 155 points. The Swiss star retained a Grand Slam crown for the first time since the US Open 2007-08 and he won the last three Grand Slam finals he played for the first time since Wimbledon 2006 - Australian Open 2007.

This was the eighth time Roger had to play a five-setter in a Grand Slam final and he won the crown for the fourth time (Wimbledon 2007, Wimbledon 2009, Australian Open 2017), becoming the joined-leader on the Australian Open winners list with Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic who also celebrated here six times in the past.

30s have been the new 20s in the men's tennis over the last couple of seasons and this was the sixth consecutive Grand Slam win for the players who turned 30, which never happened before (Rod Laver had won four consecutive Slams in 1969 after his 30th birthday).

Nadal and Federer have won the last five Majors starting from the Australian Open 2017, which is their third-longest streak of success at the biggest tennis stage, long after the first two. Roger is, of course, the only male player with 20 Grand Slam titles and at the age of 36 years and 173 days, he is the second oldest winner of a Major crown in the Open era behind Ken Rosewall (Australian Open 1972).

In addition, he joined Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall as only the third player in the Open era to collect four Grand Slams after turning 30, another evidence of his amazing longevity and timeless quality. Federer also became the only male player with six titles at two different Grand Slams, achieving that here in Melbourne and at Wimbledon.

Roger outplayed Marin in the ace department, hitting 24 against 16 from the Croat (65-49 in service winners) and he managed to pull better percentages on both the first and second serve, facing nine break points in total.

Cilic converted just two in the closing stages of the fourth set and he let his serve slip away six times from 13 opportunities Roger created. The Croat had more forehand winners and direct points overall but also more unforced errors, especially form his backhand side that usually couldn't stand the exchanges against Roger's groundstrokes.

Also, Federer's experience in the matches like this (the 30th Grand Slam final) was the key factor early on, winning 12 of the opening 16 points to race into a 4-0 lead in no time at all. Marin's shots were all over the place and he sprayed unforced errors before he found some rhythm in the second part of the set, a very important fact for him despite the fact he won just two points on the return.

He was ready to make the second set a more challenging affair and he stayed in touch with Roger, with three break points wasted on both sides before the tie-break. Marin had a chance to close the set earlier, earning a set point in game 10 after a double fault from Roger but his backhand landed long to keep Federer in contention.

Cilic grabbed the breaker 7-5, cementing the set with a forehand winner and overcoming the initial crisis to turn this final into a tight contest. Roger regained the supremacy in his games in set number three, serving at 81% and keeping the pressure on Marin who made a forehand error in game six to drop serve and find himself 4-2 down.

Federer needed no second invitation and he sealed the set with an ace in game nine, opening two sets to one lead and moving a set away from the triumph. Nonetheless, his first serve percentage dropped to 36% in set number four and he struggled in his last two service games to hand the set to his opponent, having to battle in another set in order to grab the title.

Cilic was now the dominant figure from the baseline, hitting more winners than Roger and taking risky shots to create an open space and move Federer from his comfort zone. It was the Swiss who had an early advantage, breaking in the opening game of the set when Marin sent a backhand long, and Roger had another break point in game three that could have wrapped up the title for him.

Cilic saved it with a forehand winner and he broke back at love in game six following the worst service game that Roger played in the entire match and maybe during the tournament. Another forehand winner gave Marin a breathing space in game seven, saving another break point and breaking Roger for the second time in succession a few minutes later with a similar shot, taking a 5-3 advantage and serving to send the match into a decider.

He held at love in that ninth game to grab the set 6-3 and take the momentum as they headed towards the deciding set. Federer didn't serve or moved well in the last half an hour and he found himself in even bigger trouble at the start of the fifth set, with two break points up for grabs for Marin.

The Croat made two forehand errors in the pivotal moments and this pretty much cost him the match, with Roger becoming the dominant figure on the court in the rest of the encounter. The Swiss broke in the second game following another unforced error from Cilic and he never looked back, winning 12 of the last 13 points to secure his 20th Major in style.

He broke Marin at 15 in game six to seal the Croat's fate and the trophy was in his hands after he held at love in the game that followed, celebrating another emotional moment on the Rod Laver Arena and writing history books all over again.