It is the final that no one saw coming.
While the Billie Jean King Tennis Center was preparing itself for a 2014 men’s singles final between five-time champion Roger Federer and 2011 champion Novak Djokovic, a remarkable twist of fate on ‘Super Saturday’ saw the event’s top seeds ousted by unexpected tennis sensations Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic. Check out the Cilic vs Nishikori Head to Head.
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For Nishikori, he earns his place in the sport’s history as the first Asian male to reach the final of a Grand Slam tournament, while Cilic is the first Croatian male in the final since his coach Goran Ivanisevic won the Wimbledon title as an unseeded wildcard.
Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori officially became the first Asian man to reach the final of a Grand Slam tournament following his staggering upset over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. While both players were greatly affected by the weather conditions, Nishikori managed to withstand 13 aces from Djokovic to hit 37 winners and convert 7 of 12 break point opportunities, eventually setting up an encounter with fellow top seed vanquisher Marin Cilic.
“I was ready to play, you know, these kind of players always,” Nishikori revealed at the post-match press conference. “Especially this year I have been playing really well. I went to final in Masters once and, you know, I have been beating those top guys already. But I knew I was a little bit nervous, getting nervous, you know, first time semis here.
“But I think the confidence helped for today’s match. I was playing really well and really aggressive, and, you know, didn’t wait for the ball. Even the opponent is, you know, Novak, I was playing my tennis. Everything worked well today.”
Following up on Nishikori’s staggering upset, Marin Cilic struck the final blow to the Federer’s chances at an 18th Grand Slam title this season with a straight sets victory over the No. 2 seed in the semi-final round. With Wimbledon Champion Goran Ivanisevic in his box, the big-serving Croatian defeated Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first ever Grand Slam final.
“Just for the performance today from, I mean, first point to the last I was absolutely playing the best tennis of my life,” Cilic proclaimed at the post-match press conference. “Considering the huge occasion I was playing in, I mean, for the second time in a semifinals of a Grand Slam, it just can’t be more special.”
Cilic hit 13 aces and a total of 43 winners in the process. Federer, however, hit just 28 winners to his 17 unforced errors and maintained a low 48% accuracy rate on his second service points won.
“Considering also that, you know, even I was a set up and break up, you know, the crowd was rooting for Roger to come back. You know, it wasn’t easy to deal with that, but I felt that my serve helped me a lot today, you know, to get some free points to breathe a little bit easier. It was, I mean, working perfectly.”
Of their seven previous encounters on the tour, Nishikori leads the head-to-head series 5-2, including their last three consecutive meetings dating back to the 2013 Memphis Open. Cilic’s last win over the Japanese star took place at the US Open in 2012, when he defeated him in four sets to reach the fourth round of the tournament.
Speaking with regards to the historic final between himself and Kei Nishikori, Cilic admit that he is happy to see a change in the men’s game. He trails the Japanese player in the h2h series but is currently swelling with a confidence that will likely erase the memory of those previous losses.
No matter the result on Monday evening, both competitors are aware that they have permanently changed the tennis landscape.
“It’s a bit of a changeup year considering all the past years that these top four guys were making to the final. Wawrinka opened the doors for us from the “second” line, and I think most of the guys have now bigger belief that they can do it on the Grand Slams. Just over here as well, Kei beat Wawrinka, beat Novak, and Milos, so played amazing, amazing tournament.
“I think it’s gonna be extremely interesting for the next several, for sure, Grand Slams.”
Prediction: Kei Nishikori in Five Sets