This should have been the year for Roger Federer to add to his Grand Slam collection. The stage was set for him to finally win the US Open for the first time in five years. Novak Djokovic lost to Kei Nishikori. All that was standing in his way of the final was Marin Cilic, a player he has never lost to. Turns out the Croatian had a few tricks up his sleeve.
For the second time in 2014, we’re going to have a first-time Grand Slam winner as Nishikori becomes the first male Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final after beating Djokovic in four sets in the early semifinal. Maybe it changed something for Cilic, who has never beaten Djokovic in his life as well. It felt like this might be his big chance to finally live up on his promise of becoming one of the world’s top players.
It’s also the first time since the Australian Open in 2005 that a Grand Slam Final will be without either one of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. At the beginning of the year we asked if this might be the season the traditional top 4 are broken up. Stanislas Wawrinka set the trend in Australia, and now it’ll either be Cilic or Nishikori that put another dent in the dominance we’ve been so used to seeing.
It wasn’t surprising to see Nishikori do so well against Djokovic, which was a combination of the hard working Tennis from the Japanese player and the mistakes Djokovic kept making, not all of them forced on him but a case of simply playing badly, a complete contrast to his impressive performance against Andy Murray in the quarterfinals. Nishikori seemed to grow stronger as things got hotter on the court, while Djokovic faded away.
Cilic? He wasn’t just about the serves, despite hitting 13 aces, including some surpassing 130 miles per hour. Federer had the support of the fans, who tried getting in the way of Cilic’s big day, making it into his first Grand Slam final, playing in only his second semifinal and for the first time since the 2010 Australian Open, a tournament which Federer won.
Nishikori has a 5-2 edge in the head to head against Cilic, including two wins this year. He has gone through the number one, number three and number five seeds in this tournament, not too long ago after having a cyst removed from his right foot, which made him less than favorable to do so well in this tournament.
But it seems things are becoming more even in the Tennis World, at least from time to time. Djokovic usually shines in New York but the way this year has gone for him was an indication of just how inconsistent he can be for reasons that sometimes have nothing to do with tennis.
Federer? Despite going into this tournament scorching from the Masters in Toronto and Cincinnati, no one seems to be surprised when the heat and the length of the matches get to him. Those fives sets against Monfils might have taken too much from him to make him good enough to compete against Cilic, and making it less likely that we’ll ever see him lifting a Grand Slam trophy again.