(Reuters) – The moment organizers decided to shut the roof on Rod Laver Arena, Roger Federer already had one hand on the Australian Open title.
On Sunday in withering Melbourne heat, Federer survived an onslaught from first-time finalist Marin Cilic to win his 20th grand slam title 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3 3-6 6-1 but former players Pat Cash and Greg Rusedski argued the circumstances had favored the 36-year-old.
Temperatures in Melbourne had hovered in the high 30s Celsius for majority of the tournament and it was a surprise when the match started with the roof shut.
The roofs of the main showcourts at Melbourne Park are usually kept open but the organizers defended their decision in a statement saying “wet bulb globe temperature” readings had triggered the “extreme heat policy”.
The conditions favored Federer, who has a staggering 272-65 win-loss record on indoor courts and has lifted 23 career titles, only behind the American trio of Jimmy Connors (53), John McEnroe (52), Ivan Lendl (42) in the all-time rankings.
Former world number one Andy Murray comes closest among the current players on tour with 14 indoor titles, while the 29-year-old Cilic has eight to his name, the most recent win coming in Basel in 2016.
The Croatian fell short of saying the roof cost him a grand slam title but admitted the decision from the organizers did influence the match.
“I have to say that decision, you know, could it have been different? I guess so,” he said.
“I think that it was just little bit difficult to adjust, especially the beginning of the match. With the roof closed, it was way, way cooler than I expected.
“That was very, very difficult, especially for the final to, you know, be in that kind of a situation.”
Having also lost the Wimbledon final to Federer six months ago when he was hobbled by blisters, Cilic must be wondering if he will ever get a fair crack against the Swiss maestro.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)