If you had put your money on Marin Cilic before the start of US open tournament, you would have reaped riches on Monday because, with the ruling odds of 66/1; $1000 could have fetched you $66000. Since the advent of the tennis’ modern era in 1968; no tennis player was more unlikely to win US open than Cilic. In a tournament that featured Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray, emerging victorious was a huge credit and Marin Cilic deserves it completely. It is another matter that even Cilic would not have seen it coming, let alone those addicted gamblers, who might still have put their money on the Croatian by a force their own habits. On Monday, Marin Cilic displayed dominating form and did not allow Kei Nishikori any chance to settle down. Nishikori and Cilic both had come to the final after tremendous hard work in New-York’s murderous and utterly unbearable hot weather. Nishikori, especially had to fight fatigue after his last three matches against Milos Raonic, Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic. Cilic also had to counter Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer before he came face to face with Nishikori at the Arthur Ashe. In winning the US open against Nishikori in straight sets, Cilic reached another landmark to become one of the four players in US open history, who recorded straight sets victories in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final.
In Monday’s final, it was difficult to predict the winner, when the match began. In Wimbledon this year, when Roger Federer took on Novak Djokovic in the final, many critics likened the game as a proxy between Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker. On those lines, the US open final was another proxy match between Michael Chang, who coaches Nishikori and Goran Ivanisovic, who is Cilic’s coach. In the beginning, both players held their serves until the fifth game of the first set but in the sixth, Cilic broke Nishikori to go ahead 4-2 and enhanced his lead to finish the seventh game with a 130 mph ace. It was easy afterwards with Cilic taking the first set 6-3. In the second set, it was even easier for Cilic as Nishikori presented him with three break points in the third game itself and though the Japanese saved all three, he lost on another break point on deuce. Cilic broke again in the seventh game to take a 5-2 lead in the second set. But Nishikori drew on his reserves and broke right back. As fate would have it, Cilic too broke Nishikori’s next service game and raced to 2-0 lead on sets. In the first game of the third set, with Cilic serving at 128mph, he made it 15-0 and produced two consecutive aces to go to up 40-0. But Nishikori fought back to bring the score to deuce, helped by Cilic’s double-fault at 30-40. Though the Japanese fought, Cilic managed to hold his serve. After the two players held their serves in the next two games, Nishikori was broken in the fourth game. With this, the Japanese effectively went out of the reckoning because all that Cilic needed to do was to hold his serve, which he did and finished the match 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
Apparently, a combination of fatigue, nerves and Cilic’s booming service, took a heavy toll of Nishikori’s game and he was never allowed to be comfortable in the match. He had nine break point opportunities and he could only convert one. Cilic, on the other hand, broke Nishikori 5 times. The Japanese had one consolation that even Federer and Tomas Berdych before him couldn’t do much against the Croat. The single most important feature of Cilic’s final three rounds was the percentage of points he won on his first serve. 84% was the average for Cilic as taken together; he won 123 of 147 first-serve points against Berdych, Federer and Nishikori. Despite his setback in the final, Nishikori has made a remarkable comeback in the 2014 from his injuries, which affected his game after the Australian open. The Japanese has also proved that he is capable of playing back-to-back five-set matches and still win them. If Kei Nishikori had won, he would have certainly enjoyed a substantial boost to his bottom line. After his win over Djokovic, Nishikori already had signed deals with Uniqlo, Wilson, Adidas, Delta Airlines, Weider and Tag Heuer, among others.
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