US Open Men’s Finals: The matchup no one was expecting

By Samihan Dani

Marin Cilic dominated Kei Nishikori in the 134th US Open final, winning in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Before the finals, Nishikori lead Cilic head to head 5-2. Cilic triumphed over two players in the top ten, Roger Federer and Thomas Berdych, in the quarters and semis. This is the first time since 2005 that one of the big four (Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, Roger Federer,  Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray) have not played in the US Open finals. This was the first grand slam finals for both Nishikori and Cilic.

Cilic had missed the 2013 US Open. He was suspended for ingesting a banned stimulant. During his time away he went to the 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic for training to prepare for the tournament. “I felt the first part that helped me was the mental toughness, being much stronger and I was much tougher with myself on the tennis court when I was practicing and also when I was playing matches,” said Cilic of his time with Ivanisevic. “The other part was enjoying much more on the court before in these last several years since I had really good success in 2010. Then I started to slip a little bit and I was not enjoying so much on the court. I was always looking for the result, hoping it’s going to come back. It was not working. So things changed around and flipped it over with trying to enjoy on the court and enjoy every moment, which helped me to be much more relaxed. I feel that was the most important part for my game.”

Early on in the game, Cilic was down 30-40 in the first service game, but prevailed due to his monstrous forehand.  Cilic would win the first set in a short span of just 33 minutes.  Cilic started of the second set strong winning a break point in in the third game.  Later on he won a break point in the seventh game.  Cilic closed up the second set with the help of Nishikori’s 12 unforced errors.  Cilic outlasted Nishikori on long baseline rallies.  After clinching the match with a backhand down the line, Cilic roared in glee.

In the match Cilic totaled a whopping 17 aces.  Cilic won 80% of first serve points compared to Nishikori’s mere 55%.  Cilic pushed ahead of Nishikori with his booming serve having an average of 124 mph.

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