An emotional Roger Federer choked up in the closing stages of the trophy presentation on Sunday after creating more tennis history by winning an unprecedented 20th grand slam title with victory at the Australian Open.
The Swiss set a new standard by beating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to win a sixth Melbourne trophy from his seventh final at the venue.
Federer, 36, and now even more of an icon, felt his voice cracking and brushed away tears of happiness while paying his respects to the crowd during the presentation after a three-hour victory over his the Croation who will rise to third in the world.
“I’m so happy, it’s unbelievable,” Federer said. “It’s a long day to wait for a night final, you think about the match all day. It’s easier to play in the afternoon
“I’m happy it’s over now – either way.
“The win is a dream come true, the fairytale continues. After a great 2017 this is incredible.”
Federer also paid tribute to his opponent: “Marin had a great event, congratulations on becoming number three, that’s a hell of an achievement. Keep doing what you are doing.”
Federer, already the men’s record holder for grand slam victories, is now the first man to win 20 majors. Only Margaret Court, Serena Williams and Steffi Graf have won more majors.
The five-set match featured several plot twists, with Federer sweeping the opener with two breaks to wrap up the set in 24 minutes.
Cilic, who lost a Wimbledon final in straight sets to Federer last July, owns just one win from 10 meetings with Federer, a US Open semi-final in 2014.
The Croatian got out of trouble by winning the second set in a tiebreaker only to see Federer strike back by taking the third.
The pair alternated as Cilic pulled level at two sets each.
But Federer accelerated away to start the fifth with a break and piled on another before clinching the record-setting win on the first of three match points on Cilic’s return error.
“Big congrats to Roger, it’s amazing what his team do year after year,” the finalist said. “It’s been an amaxing journey for me here.
“This could have been the best two weeks of my life,” said the 2014 US Open champion. “I had a slight chance at the start of the fifth set, but Roger just played great.
“I’ve started the year well. I hope to reach many more grand slam finals and be lifting these trophies for many years to come.”