Federer on cusp of 20th Grand Slam title at Australian Open

The ageless Roger Federer is once again poised to show why he’s the best men’s tennis player ever. Federer advanced to Sunday’s final match against Marin Cilic at the Australian Open, which he won last year as a 35-year-old. A victory on Sunday would improve Federer’s record totals to six Australian Open titles and 20 Grand Slam titles - totals that seem unlikely to ever be topped simply due to his longevity in a sport that increasingly favours youth.

Federer’s first Grand Slam title came almost 15 years ago at Wimbledon. The following January, he captured his first Australian Open title. The Australian Open has historically been Federer’s trickiest non-clay Grand Slam event. He is 7-7 in Australian Open semifinal matches, which is far lower than his winning percentages at either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, and he’s even fared better in the semifinals at the French Open. Federer is far more efficient once he reaches the Australian Open final, where he is 5-1, which is bad news for Cilic.

Federer won his semifinal match on Friday in the second set when Hyeon Chung was forced to retire due to blisters, while Cilic defeated Kyle Edmund in straight sets after beating an injured Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal. Chung, a 21-year-old who entered the tournament ranked outside the top 50 in the world, went on a stunning run to the semifinal with upset victories over Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic, but the strain of playing lengthy five-set matches caught up with his feet - a problem the experienced Federer knows how to avoid.

Cilic suffered through blisters as well when he faced Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final, but that doesn’t appear to be a problem heading into Sunday. Cilic has one previous Grand Slam title on a hard court: the 2014 U.S. Open, so he has proven himself capable of winning a major tournament. That experience would mean something against most opponents, but against Federer, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament despite his advanced age, it seems like a drop in the bucket.