He remembers his sole loss to Cilic all too well, a straight-sets defeat at the 2014 U.S. Open.
Only Marin Cilic stands between Federer and a 20th Grand Slam title as an injury-ravaged Australian Open staggers to its today's final.
The relief was visibly etched on Cilic's face when he finally got on the board in the fifth game.
At times it seemed he was taking on Federer and crowd but when he reeled off five consecutive games to extend the champion into a deciding set, the match hung in the balance. With Nadal not expected to compete until the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in late February, Federer would have the chance to add to his 302 weeks at the pinnacle of men's professional tennis.
"Before the tournament, I had a thought that I could do something big and I didn't know that day will come this fast", he said.
Against Edmund, Cilic dropped only five points on his first serve for the entire match and faced only two break points, which came in the first game of the contest.
If Cilic wants to draw on past experiences against Federer to prepare for Sunday's final, there are three recent matches he can pluck things from. Nadal was the top seed this year, but lost to Cilic, the sixth seed, in the semifinals.
Victory gave him a sixth Melbourne crown to put him alongside Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson in the all-time Australian Open leader list.
The 19-time major tournament victor has only lost to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro in Grand Slam finals.
It will be his seventh final at Melbourne.
"But on facing Federer, he added: "When it gets to the semifinals, finals, he gets better and better and is playing great tennis".
Age certainly has not wearied the Swiss master as he was the oldest man at 36 to play in the Australian Open final since Australians Ken Rosewall (37) and Mal Anderson (36) faced each in the 1972 final.
Federer joked that maybe it wasn't coincidence both of them were playing so well at the first major of the new year.
Cilic, the former US Open champion, began to look a much more hard proposition in the second set as his nerves settled.
"I think I have to go to the hospital tomorrow right away", he said.
He has now won as many titles as any other man in history at Melbourne Park, Wimbledon (8) and the US Open (5), while he became just the fourth player of either sex to lift 20 or more major titles.
The women's final was won by Caroline Wozniacki, who needed three sets to beat Simona Halep.
So it was a surprise when the match started with the roof shut, a decision tournament organizers defended by issuing a statement saying "wet bulb globe temperature" readings had triggered the "extreme heat policy".
"I've played a great tournament so far, I'm playing much more aggressive, hitting most of the shots really good". With a Croatian flag fluttering barely four metres from the support team of Federer, Cilic gained inspiration and in a dramatic turnaround from a 1-3 deficit, the Croatian broke twice and clinched the set courtesy of rediscovering his serve and winning the longer rallies.
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