ROGER Federer is a grand slam champion for the 20th time in his career, overcoming adversity to defeat Marin Cilic in five sets.

The 36-year-old became the oldest Australian Open winner since a 37-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1972.

Federer is the first man in history to break the teen barrier and win 20 majors, doing so in his 30th grand slam final. He also equalled the record for most Australian Open crowns with six, sitting alongside Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson.

He choked up as he reflected on what's been a magical ride since returning from injury at this same tournament one year ago.

"It is unbelievable," Federer said. "Winning is just an absolute dream come true.

"The fairytale continues for us, for me. After the great year I had last year, it's incredible."

"Of course, I would like to thank Marin on another great tournament, congratulations on World No. 3. That's a hell of an achievement and I wish you all the best. Keep doing what you are doing and you will achieve more."

He tried but he couldn't hold back the tears forever, the damn wall bursting as he broke down after telling his team he loved them.

Speaking to channel Seven's Jim Courier and Hamish McLachlan after the match, a sheepish Federer was almost embarrassed by letting his emotions get the better of him.

"I was just so relieved when everything was said and done - I think I felt the same way tonight. That is why I couldn't speak, it was terrible," Federer said.

A disappointed Cilic praised Federer for his class then thanked his own team for an incredible tournament that will see him shoot up to a career-high ranking of third in the world.

"Well, first of all, a big congratulations to Roger and his team," Cilic said. "It's amazing what you guys do year after year.

"It was an amazing journey for me to come here to the final. It could have been the best two weeks of my life, but today was a tough match.

"I had a slight chance at the beginning of the fifth but really Roger played a great set. I want to thank my team, you guys are unbelievable during these two weeks."

The intensity was electric as the decider got underway. Down a break point, Federer bounced back and let out a visceral cry to pump himself up after saving it. It worked as he held serve to take a 1-0 lead.

The pressure was taking its toll. On the first point of Cilic's next service game the linesperson called his serve out before it was overruled. Federer challenged, but Hawkeye showed the ball was well and truly in, catching plenty of the line.

Angry at losing a challenge, he turned on the linesperson.

"Nice call, buddy. Why'd you call it out?" Federer said.

Todd Woodbridge called it a "sledge" in commentary and Lleyton Hewitt said it was born out of "pure frustration".

Cilic couldn't take advantage of his opponent's sour mood, double faulting twice to gift Federer a break and a 2-0 advantage.

The 36-year-old consolidated, letting his emotions loose as he surged to a position of dominance at 4-1.

He maintained the rage to win the set, the match and the championship.

News Corp Australia


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