Marin Cilic is the 2014 US Open men’s singles champion, the Croatian defeating a visibly fatigued Kei Nishikori in straight sets on Day 15 to claim his first Grand Slam title.
Day 15 Recap
Both players were competing in their first Grand Slam final in what is the biggest tennis stadium in the world and, not surprisingly, there were signs of nerves on both sides of the net in the first set. Cilic struck first blood however, breaking for a 4-2 lead in the opening set when Nishikori, down 0-40, saved 2 break points but was unable to save the third. Continuing his excellent serving form, which saw him drop just one point on his first serve in the opening set, Cilic maintained the advantage to take the set, 6-3.
Putting constant pressure on the Nishikori serve, Cilic again lined up a trio of break points in the second set. This time, the tenth seed was able to get back to deuce, only to then throw away the game when he netted a backhand. After his epic duels against Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic, Nishikori was finally showing signs of lethargy, and a second break to Cilic in the seventh game of the set put the Croatian in the driver’s seat to secure the set. The Japanese star managed to claim back one of the breaks, only for Cilic to claim the set on Nishikori’s serve in the very next game.
With his pupil up 2 sets to love and within sight of the finishing line, coach Goran Ivanisevic was looking decidedly twitchy, but Cilic remained composed. The Croatian broke the Nishikori serve in the fourth game of the set and kept his nose in front from there, eventually claiming the championship with a 6-3 6-3 6-3 win in 114 minutes.
For Cilic, it was a fairytale finish after he was forced to miss last year’s tournament due to his suspension for taking a banned substance. The Croat used his time away from the ATP Tour wisely, vastly improving his serve and returning to tournament play with a reinvigorated attitude to boot. Judging by his last 3 matches at Flushing Meadows, which saw him beat each of Berdych, Federer and Nishikori in straight sets, Cilic will be a prime contender in the majors in 2015 and is clearly an emerging force in the men’s game.
For Nishikori, it was a disappointing end to his collection of heroic performances during the tournament. The Japanese star wasn’t at his best on Monday, and he was simply unable to match Cilic in raw firepower, serving just 2 aces to Cilic’s 17 and hitting only 19 winners to 38 from Cilic. Still, the past fortnight has shown Nishikori that he belongs in the upper echelon of the men’s game and, at age 24, I have no doubt that his best tennis is still yet to come.
That’s it for this year’s US Open. I hope you have enjoyed the coverage. Enjoy the tennis as the tours move towards the indoor season, and I’ll be back with another serve soon. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.