Nishikori vs Cilic
NEW YORK (AP) – Instead of Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer for the U.S. Open title, first-time Grand Slam finalists Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic will vie for the championship after a pair of semi-final surprises today.
First, Japan’s Nishikori became the first man from Asia to reach a major singles championship match by staying fresher than Djokovic in stifling heat and winning 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Then, Croatia’s Cilic used every bit of his 6-foot-6” frame to deliver stinging serves and flat groundstrokes during a quick-as-can-be 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Federer.
“It’s fairly simple, I think: Marin played great and I maybe didn’t catch my best day,” Federer said after his one-hour, 45-minute loss. “That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.”
So much for No. 1-seeded Djokovic facing the No. 2-seeded Federer in a matchup between men who have combined to win 24 Grand Slam trophies. In what some will see as signalling a generational shift in tennis, Monday’s final will be No. 10 Nishikori against No. 14 Cilic.
“That’s going to be a sensational day for both of us,” said Cilic, who at 25 is a year older than Nishikori.
For the first time in nearly a decade – since Marat Safin beat Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open in January 2005 – a major final will be contested without at least one of Federer, Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, who didn’t attempt to defend his 2013 U.S. Open title because of a right wrist injury.
That trio won 34 of the past 38 Grand Slam trophies, including two months ago at Wimbledon, when Djokovic edged Federer in a five-set final.
“It’s exciting for the game to have different faces from time to time,” the 33-year-old Federer said. “It’s definitely refreshing to some extent. It’s big for Croatia; it’s big for Japan.”
Cilic, forced to sit out last year’s U.S. Open during a doping suspension, is the first man from Croatia to get this far at a major since his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, won Wimbledon in 2001.
That’s nothing compared to Japan’s wait.
As it is, Nishikori was the first man from his country to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since 1933.
“Very happy to make history,” said Nishikori, who moved to Florida at age 14.