Cilic Plays Peak Tennis, Wins Maiden Grand Slam Over 1st Time Finalist Nishikori
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
It was a very eventful second week at the 2014 US Open on the men’s side and in the end, a brand new Grand Slam champion was crowned on Monday. Marin Cilic played some of the best tennis of his life in New York and pulled off a 6-3 6-3 6-3 victory over first time Grand Slam finalist Kei Nishikori.
Cilic played spectacular in the final while Nishikori appeared exhausted. He held serve comfortably, thumping aces, and the inside-out forehand was an effective weapon. He also dominated long and medium length rallies and absorbed Nishikori’s easily generated power. His movement was graceful as well as he blasted his way to a well-deserved victory.
It was a tremendous week for Cilic, who out of nowhere played lights out. His second week wins came against Gilles Simon in 5 sets, Tomas Berdych in straights, and a big upset of Roger Federer also in straight sets in the semifinals. Simon tested him in a grueling five setter but lacked the weapons to damage the Croat. Berdych was a big disappointment in the quarterfinals as he played very poor tennis, and Federer simply got overmatch as Cilic was overpowering him the entire match, and not missing either. The formula used to beat Federer was the same for Cilic as the one to beat Nishikori and he won the back to back matches handily.
Nishikori, meanwhile, considerably improved his net worth by reaching his maiden slam final. He’s still a hero back home in Japan, as he beat Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka in 5 sets in week 2, then Novak Djokovic in a massive semifinal upset in 4 sets to reach the final. Nishikori outlasted an assault of aces from Raonic and overcame his own struggles to close out sets to top the Canadian, who has to be wondering what might have been if he had pulled through that match. Wawrinka played quality tennis but Nishikori’s easy power and superior consistency won the day. Lastly, Djokovic played listlessly from the second set onwards. That match could have swung either way and it was Nishikori who won the day. In the fourth set, he pulled away from Novak and the world number 1 has to be disappointed with his performance in the semifinal.
For the first time since 2005, a grand slam final did not feature one of Federer, Djokovic, Nadal or Murray and it’s great to see some fresh faces excelling at the top of the men’s game. Cilic is one of the nicest guys on tour and he’s a hard worker. He’s had to battle back from a suspension that forced him to miss half of the 2013 season, and he’s been a man on a mission all year, at his best he appeared to be a top 5 player. This tournament was big for tennis in both Croatia and Japan, and also big for Cilic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic and Nishikori’s coach Michael Chang, both former Grand Slam champions. They have led their younger pupils to similar heights of success this season.
The season will begin to wind down now, but both Cilic and Nishikori with their fine seasons have cemented themselves as top 10 players and stars in the men’s game. As the ATP tour winds into the fall now that the final slam has concluded, stick with Tennis East Coast for all the coverage.
The juggernaut Bryans won tournament number 100 over Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the doubles final.