In 2014, Nick Kyrgios, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic kept themselves in the news all-round the year and they were recognized as the face of tennis force to reckon with in the nearest future. These four, and a few others of their genre, surprised many with their superlative performances in different tournaments. In the US Open, Nishikori and Cilic met each other in the final after defeating Djokovic and Federer and ensured their berths in the year-end ATP Barclays Finals at London’s O2 arena. Their feats were not one-off incidents and cannot be brushed aside easily. On the contrary, they should be counted as leaders of a pack of a new emerging breed of tennis stars in the immediately foreseeable future.
Though Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios was only a wild card entry at Australian Open, he still reached the second round, before losing to the 27th seed Benoit Paire. Kyrgios received another wild card in the French Open but lost in the first round to Milos Raonic. Kyrgios’s wild card entry continued at 2014 Wimbledon, where he produced a marvelous show. He defeated Rafael Nadal in the fourth round before losing to Raonic. But the Australian became the first male debutant to reach Wimbledon quarterfinals after Florian Mayer had done that in 2004. Ranked 144th in the world before Wimbledon, Kyrgios jumped to no. 66 just after Wimbledon. At US open, Kyrgios won against Mikhail Youzhny and Andreas Seppi before losing to Tommy Robredo. An elbow injury curtailed his appearances but the promise of a great future did not die down.
Japanese sensation Kei Nishikori began 2014 with fourth-round entry at Australian Open before losing to Rafael Nadal. At Miami Masters, Nishikori defeated David Ferrer and Roger Federer but yielded his semifinal match to Djokovic due to a groin injury. In May, Nishikori entered Madrid Open final but injury forced him to retire against Nadal. Not being 100% fit, Nishikori lost in the first round of French open but bounced back to reach the semifinal of the Gerry Weber Open before losing to Federer. The Japanese also made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon, before being stopped by Raonic. His best show came in the US open, where he reached the final after defeating Leonardo Mayer, Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic. In the final, however, Nishikori crashed to Marin Cilic in straight sets. By this time he had acquired the no.8 spot in ATP rankings. Later, he won the Japan Open by beating Raonic. In BNP Paribas Masters, Nishikori reached the semifinal by beating Tommy Robredo, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer before being ousted by Djokovic. Nishikori. He ended the year with a maiden debut at the Barclays ATP World Tour Masters in London.
Canada’s Milos Raonic’s consistency took him to no. 6 in the world in 2014. Though he began with the third round loss at Australian Open, he reached the quarterfinals of BNP Paribas Open by defeating Andy Murray but lost to Alexandr Dolgopolov. He reached another quarterfinal at Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters but lost to Wawrinka thereafter. In Italy’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Raonic beat Jeremy Chardy in quarterfinals but lost to Djokovic in the semis. In the next two Grand Slams, Raonic had to suffer quarterfinal losses against world no.1 and world no.2. At Roland Garros, he lost to Djokovic and at Wimbledon his conqueror was Roger Federer. Raonic’s crowning glory came in the Citi Open, where he won the title by beating compatriot Vasek Pospisil. In US Open, Raonic lost to Nishikori in an epic fourth-round battle that could have gone either way. His super performance earned him a berth in Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
For Croatia’s Marin Cilic too, 2014 was highly rewarding. He was back in the circuit in January after serving a doping ban. With Goran Ivanisevic as his coach, Cilic kept up with a fine show in different tournaments. He began with Brisbane International, where he lost to Nishikori in the quarterfinals. Later in Australian Open, he lost a tough 5-set second round battle against Gilles Simon. After winning at Zagreb, Cilic reached the final of Rotterdam Open but lost to Tomas Berdych in the final. However, he claimed the title at Delray Beach by beating Kevin Anderson. At Indian Wells Masters, Cilic lost in fourth round to Djokovic. He didn’t have a good Clay performance; losing in the quarters at Barcelona and early rounds at Madrid and Rome. In the French Open third round, he suffered a four set loss to Djokovic. At Wimbledon, Cilic produced a much better performance by reaching quarterfinals by beating the likes of Paul-Henri Mathieu; Andreas Haider-Maurer, Tomas Berdych and Jeremy Chardy. However, his campaign was derailed by the eventual champion Novak Djokovic, after a 5-set epic.
In Rogers Cup, Marin Cilic lost in the third round to Roger Federer and at Cincinnati too, he could not progress beyond the third round; losing to Stan Wawrinka. His best show came in US Open, where he fought his way to the final by beating many established stars. In fourth round, he fought doggedly against Gilles Simon before coming through in five sets. In the QF, he defeated Tomas Berdych in straight sets. Next in line was the great Roger Federer, whom he beat in straight sets. In the final, Cilic easily defeated Nishikori to win his first ever Grand slam tournament. Cilic qualified for the year-end ATP world Tour Finals at London and though he lost all his matches at O2, he ended the year on a high note.