Federer is no underdog at this late stage of his tennis career. Though seeded No. 2 behind Rafael Nadal, he was the clear favorite coming into the event, even if he resisted that label.
“I don’t think a 36-year-old should be a favorite of a tournament,” Federer said before the tournament began. “It should not be the case.”
But he proved the pundits correct, defending the title he won much more unexpectedly last year, when he was returning from a six-month break to heal a lingering knee problem.
That surprise victory, secured after a series of marathon matches, meant so much to him. But Sunday night’s five-set victory over the sixth-seeded Cilic clearly resonated deeply with him, too. Federer broke down in tears — not for the first time — during the trophy ceremony in Rod Laver Arena as Laver himself was taking pictures with his phone from the front row.
“The fairy tale continues, for us, for me,” Federer said, looking toward his team and his family in the players box and fighting to keep his composure. “After the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.”