Australian Open Federer keeps his cool as heat of battle is fierce around him Kevin Mitchell
This turbulent Australian Open has been about longevity, endurance and iced towels, three of the defining features of the modern game.
The wonder of Roger Federer's victory against the 29-year-old Marin Cilic on Sunday was not just that it gave him his 20th major in a record 30th final but that the 36?year?old Swiss fashioned a fortnight of such sweet perfection to get there, spending less than 11 hours on court while his younger rivals laboured in the killing heat for much longer. Cilic clocked up 17hr 3min en-route. At the end it showed.
When the heatwave rolled through Melbourne midway through the first week (and returned like an uninvited guest at the finish), the complaints of the suffering players became the coda to the tournament. Notable was the second-round battle between Novak Djokovic and Ga l Monfils. It lasted only 2hr 45min but the Frenchman said he felt as if he had survived a small heat stroke for 40 minutes. Djokovic said he was right at the limit of his stamina.
His conqueror in the fourth round, the Korean bull Hyeon Chung, would also fall, retiring with a nasty foot blister after two games of the second set in his semi-final against Federer. Nobody, it seemed, was immune young or old, male or female except one man: the champion.
In the women's draw the three?set formula saved most players from enduring too much pain indeed, a dozen matches did not last an hour and most finished in less than two but there were exceptions and they hit those players who would feature in the finish.
The 3hr 44min of the third-round match between Simona Halep and the young American Lauren Davis might have been as hard to watch as it must have been to play and the Romanian winner would pay a price for her courage. By the time she reached Saturday's final against the Danish grinder Caroline Wozniacki, she was red?lining. That night she spent four hours in hospital, recovering from dehydration.....
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