By Piers Newbery-BBC Sport at Melbourne Park
Roger Federer must overcome the powerful game of an in-form Marin Cilic if he is to win a 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open on Sunday.
The pair meet in the final at 08:30 GMT, with live coverage on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website.
Federer, 36, is through to a record seventh Australian Open final and trying to win it for the sixth time.
Cilic, 29, is bidding to win his second major title and become the first Croatian to win the Australian Open.
“It’s a big motivation for me to play the final and obviously to win,” said Cilic, who beat top seed Rafael Nadal in the quarter-final and Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the semi-final.
“I’m feeling really good with my game, so hopefully I can have a great match and also great energy on the court.”
Federer is the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam final since the 39-year-old Ken Rosewall at the 1974 US Open.
Another victory would see him join Margaret Court, Serena Williams and Steffi Graf as the only players to have 20 or more major singles titles.
“It would be amazing,” said the Swiss.
“It ain’t just an easy trip to the finals. There’s always a lot of work that goes into it during the tournament, focus, and also preparation beforehand.”
The final will be played in the Melbourne evening session, but conditions are still expected to be testing on a day when the temperature is forecast to peak at 39C.
‘Aggressive’ Cilic ready to test Federer
On the face of it, Federer is an overwhelming favourite against a man he has beaten eight of nine times.
Their last Grand Slam meeting was in the Wimbledon final six months ago, a match which saw blisters effectively end Cilic’s hopes of making it a contest.
However, the past two weeks have suggested that the Croat is the man most likely to man to test the five-time champion, and he heads into the final on the back of two days’ rest.
“I’m feeling really, really good physically,” said Cilic.
“I’m not looking at it as a revenge. I mean, it was on me that I couldn’t give my best in Wimbledon. And that happens.”
Nadal retired in the fifth set of their quarter-final in Melbourne, but Cilic had done enough to suggest he could have come through anyway.
Asked afterwards to describe Cilic’s performance, the Spaniard said: “Serving well, hitting very strong from the baseline, returning so well. He was playing very aggressive.”
Cilic arrives in the final second in the aces standings on 107, second for forehand winners with 125 and second for backhand winners on 42.
“I’m playing much, much more aggressive,” he said.
“I’m feeling that I am, for most of the shots, hitting them really, really good. From the return, moving, forehand, backhand, serving, I think everything is in good, solid spot.
“I’m feeling really excited about the final.”
Federer looking to ‘mix up’ tactics
When asked to imagine how he would have reacted a year ago if told he would be on the verge of a third Grand Slam title within 12 months, Federer replied: “Nice joke.”
It has been a remarkable return to the top of the game for the Swiss, who went nearly five years without adding to his then record haul of 17 major titles.
A record seventh Australian Open final, a record 30th Grand Slam final and within sight of matching Djokovic and Roy Emerson on a men’s record six Melbourne titles, the Federer honour roll continues to astonish.
“You go through different stages throughout your career,” said Federer.
“I’m happy I’m still around, still healthy, still playing good, give myself chances, playing the best.”
As Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka all struggle with injuries, Federer once again appears to be well clear of the rest of the field, at the age of 36.
His progress through the draw at his 20th Australian Open has been smooth, without a single set dropped and moving as athletically as ever.
Federer has spent just 10 hours and 50 minutes on court in getting through six matches – more than six hours quicker than Cilic.
“I think I’ve done everything pretty well,” said Federer.
“I just hope I’m going to have a good start to the match. I hope I can mix up my game. I hope I can start serving well from the get-go, not get into too much trouble early.
“I hope I can read his serve and all these things. I’m just pleased that actually my game has been good from the very beginning of the tournament.”
Boris Becker, six-time Grand Slam champion, told Radio 5 live:
I don’t think Roger believed 18 months ago that he would be back in the winner’s circle on a regular basis in Grand Slams.
But he persevered, improved, changed tactics a little bit and played more offensive. Roger, with the technique he has and the very soft footwork, I wonder how he keeps his body in shape at the 36.
Cilic certainly has the game to beat Federer – the powerful baseline game, the serve, he has a Grand Slam win under his belt, beating Federer along the way.
Everything that you want going into a Grand Slam final against Federer, he has, the question always with Cilic is mentally.
How strong is he? How stable is he? He looked very strong against Nadal, I thought that was the best Cilic I’ve seen in a long, long time, so the cards are looking good.
Goran Ivanisevic, former Wimbledon champion and ex-coach of Cilic, told 5 live:
This is going to be a different final than Wimbledon, for sure.
This court is better for Marin. He needs to serve well and he needs to press Roger from the beginning of the match, then he has a chance, otherwise he doesn’t have any chance.
You need to maintain your tennis from the first to the last point, very high. When you’re on top of him, you need to stay on top of him.
If for one second you stop – you’re gone. You have 15,000 people against you, you have Roger waiting for you to slip.
This court is very good for Marin, it’s very quick. But the guy across the net is also in amazing form and wants to win his 20th Grand Slam. I think Roger is the little favourite, but let’s say Roger in five sets.