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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Marin Cilic can take the game to reigning champion

Federer may find it difficult to nail 20th Grand Slam title

Marin Cilic was very business-like in dismantling Kyle Edmund in straight sets
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Men's singles final: Cilic v Federer
Eurosport 1, 8.30am Sunday

With a huge personal series lead and a virtually faultless record in this year's Australian Open, Roger Federer is expected to sweep aside Marin Cilic in the final – but things are not always as obvious as they seem.

Reigning Melbourne champion Federer thrashed Cilic in the Wimbledon final last July and is a warm order to improve on his 8-1 head-to-head record against the Croat on Rod Laver Arena early on Sunday morning as the Swiss legend bids to nail an incredible 20th Grand Slam singles crown.

Cilic, whose only victory over Federer came on the way to winning the 2014 US Open, is seeded sixth down under.

In the Aussie Open semi-finals Federer, who is through to a Grand Slam final without dropping a set for the sixth time in his career, was ruthless in posting a 6-1 5-2 victory over South Korean youngster Hyeon Chung, who retired early having sustained a number of foot blisters in the days leading up to the final.

But the 6ft 6in Cilic, who has the benefit of an extra day's rest for the title decider, was equally dominant in the course of despatching British number two Kyle Edmund, who had earlier seen off Grigor Dimitrov and Kevin Anderson, 6-2 7-6 6-2.

Some of Federer's best stats came against Chung. But while the great man may be saving his best for last, he has yet to face an opponent of Cilic's power and ability.

Cilic, his country's first Austra­lian Open finalist, appears to be performing somewhere near the level he was at when he was crowned the king of New York and punters can consider backing the outsider to post an upset triumph at 7-2.

However, there’s a chance to acquire decent prices on Cilic with cushions against Federer – probably due to the fact that the Swiss legend has posted six quick wins on the bounce – and support­ing Cilic to win at least a set and to win at least two sets looks worth doing.

Kyle Edmund 80-1 for Wimbledon glory in 2018

Cilic, who was himself suffering from blisters when tamely capitulating in the Wimbledon final last summer, found time for an impromptu practice session with Federer when the pair found themselves holiday­ing in the Maldives at the same time recently.

Big-server Cilic, who won 90 per cent of his first-serve points against Edmund, said of his game: "I'm playing more aggressively now and everything is good, solid. I'm hitting my shots well and feel excited about the final."

Federer expects Cilic to be tougher to beat this time. He said: "Marin is fresher and having two days off will help him."

M Cilic +2.5 sets
3pts 8-13 Betfair, Boylesports, Paddy Power
M Cilic +1.5 sets
1pt 48-25 188Bet

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Big-server Cilic won 90 per cent of his first-serve points against semi-final opponent Edmund
E.W. Terms
Sky bet