After playing only two matches in 2023, the former Major finalist Marin Cilic is back in action in Hong Kong. Marin underwent knee surgery a year ago, enduring rehab and hoping for an injury-free run in 2024. Cilic recalled his 2018 Australian Open final against Roger Federer, wasting break chances at the beginning of the decider and falling in five sets.
Federer defended his Australian Open trophy after a 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory in three hours and three minutes, breaking the rival's resistance after an early scare in the decider. Roger beat Marin for the ninth time in ten duels, experiencing the only loss at the 2014 US Open.
Cilic did not play well against Federer in the 2017 Wimbledon final, and he also made a slow start in this one. However, Cilic raised his level and threw everything at Federer, attacking the rival's backhand and earning those opportunities at the start of the decider.
Roger used his experience and stormed over the rival to emerge at the top and lift his last Major trophy at 36. Federer outplayed Cilic in the serving department, building a 65-49 lead in service winners. The Swiss played better behind the first and second serve, facing nine break points and defending seven to keep the pressure on the other side.
The Croat played against 13 break points and gave serve away six times, losing ground in the decider. Cilic fired more winners and unforced errors, with his backhand letting him down in the decisive moments. The more experienced player made a flying start, taking 12 of the opening 16 points and forging a 4-0 advantage in no time.
Roger grabbed a break in the encounter's first game and cemented it with a forehand winner in the second. Struggling to impose his strokes, Cilic sprayed a backhand error in the third game, losing serve for the second straight time and finding himself 3-0 behind.
Marin forced Roger's mistake in the fifth game, getting his name on the scoreboard and reducing the deficit. Federer held at love for 5-1, and Cilic prolonged the set with a hold at love a few minutes later.
Marin Cilic battled against Roger Federer in the 2018 Australian Open final.
The defending champion landed four service winners in the eighth game, wrapping up the opener 6-2 in 24 minutes!
The Swiss denied two break points at the beginning of the second set and created a break chance in the next one. The Croat survived it and held after deuces, remaining on the positive side. Marin denied a break point in games five and nine and created a set point at 5-4 after Roger's double fault.
Cilic sprayed a backhand error and missed his chance. The set went into a tie break, and Marin grabbed it 7-5 after a smash winner, leveling the overall score at 1-1. Federer made a fresh start in the third set, firing four service winners in the first game.
Cilic stayed in touch until the sixth game, playing a loose service game and getting broken after a forehand error. Roger served for the set at 5-3 and landed three service winners for 6-3, moving a set away from the title defense.
However, the Swiss served at only 36% in the fourth set, losing ground in the second part and allowing the Croat to force a decider. Roger created an early lead after Marin's backhand error and earned another break point at 2-0.
Cilic denied it with a forehand winner and held to remain within one break deficit. Federer produced a fine hold in game four, moving 3-1 in front and controlling everything. Suddenly, Cilic pulled the break back at love in game six, leveling the score at 3-3 and gaining a boost.
The Croat denied a break point in game seven with a smash winner and fired two powerful serves for a 4-3 advantage. With a boost by his side, Marin seized the third break point in game eight with a forehand winner, extending his streak and serving for the set at 5-3.
Marin landed a service winner for a hold at love, introducing a decider and keeping his title chances alive. Not moving well, Federer struggled again at the beginning of the final set.
Roger denied two break points after Marin's forehand errors and held with a backhand winner that gave him a massive boost.
Federer became a dominant figure in the rest of the set, starting with a break in game two after Cilic's unforced error. Roger held after deuce in the third game, opening a 3-0 lead and moving closer to the finish line. Cilic produced a quick hold in game four before Federer responded with an equally good hold that moved him 4-1 up.
Marin sprayed another forehand error in game six, dropping serve and allowing Roger to serve for the title at 5-1. Federer kicked off the game with a powerful serve and fired another on the first match point, celebrating his 20th and last Major trophy.
"I had some chances against Roger. I had break opportunities at the beginning of the decider, but it went away. That period was probably the best of my career," Marin Cilic said.