The problem with the 2014 US Open final in the broader sense? Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori aren’t household names – not players who are known for people who are only slightly interested in Tennis, usually awaken when a Grand Slam Final pops up. The Croatian beat the Japanese player in a final that showed this is no longer a top 4 tour, yet it’s going to take some time getting used to it.
Cilic claimed the win in straight sets (6-3, 6-3, 6-3) as he beat Nishikori as the two of them made their debuts in a Grand Slam final. Cilic himself has only been past the quarterfinals in a major once in his career. Nishikori’s biggest achievement to date was reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
The other problem for this game, as some hope it won’t be a repeat of the 1996 Wimbledon final, featuring one-hit wonders like Richard Krajicek and MaliVai Washington, both quite unremarkable players as history judges them only to have one shiny moment that will go down in the history pages as the final that interrupted Pete Sampras from winning Wimbledon eight times in a row.
Cilic dominated throughout the US Open, although things were difficult in the early rounds. He dropped a set in the third round when beating Kevin Anderson from South Africa, and needed five sets and his incredible serves to overcome Gilles Simon in the fourth round, in what might have been the best match of the tournament. Things were much easier for him in the final 8, beating Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer in straight sets to reach his first Grand Slam Final.
Roger Federer is still the most popular Tennis player in the world, despite not winning a Grand Slam title since 2012. The crowd in the semifinal against Cilic certainly showed that. With people growing so accustomed to the titles splitting between Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer over the last few years and usually seeing these four in the semifinals, it’s almost hard to compute two complete different names making it this far and playing for the trophy.
Maybe this year is a change. Nadal can’t last more than two-three months without getting injured, Andy Murray might have peaked in 2012-2013, and Novak Djokovic isn’t the rock solid player, physically and mentally, he was not too long ago. Roger Federer can still produce some brilliant tennis, but a best-of-five match takes too much out of him, as the five-setter against Monfils clearly showed.
This was only the second time since 2003 that no player won more than one grand slam. It’s also the first time since 2003 that two players not named Federer-Nadal-Djokovic won a Grand Slam title each. The Masters and end-of-year tournament will give us a better indication if this trend will carry on into 2015, or are we going to see the same old faces after one year of shaking things up.