It Really *Was* Anybody’s Game! (Postscript to Part III of My U.S Open Preview)

Before the first tennis ball was struck at the U.S. Open, in a post entitled “It’s Anybody’s Game,” I profiled ten contenders for this year’s men’s singles title.

None of those ten men has managed to reach the tournament’s final, which will take place on Monday evening.  Instead, the final will feature two up-and-comers who today played, and won, the first Grand Slam semifinal matches of their careers.

The 2014 U.S. Open final will be the first since the 2005 Australian Open to feature none of tennis’ Big Four (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray).

This year’s two finalists are:

Kei Nishikori
KN_0906_Joy  Photo by Ella Ling.

Nationality: Japan
Age: 24
Height: 5’10”
Current Ranking: 11

Nishikori has been in spectacular form in New York.  In consecutive matches, he defeated the tournament’s 5 seed (Milos Raonic) in a five-setter that ended at 2:26 a.m., the 3 seed (Stan Wawrinka) in five sets, and the 1 seed (Novak Djokovic) in 4 sets.

Nishikori outfought Djokovic today in hot, humid conditions with terrific movement and powerful, accurate shots.

Nishikori is the first Japanese man to make the U.S. Open semifinals since 1918, and he is the first Japanese man ever to reach a Grand Slam final.

Marin Cilic
MC_0906_Yay

Nationality: Croatia
Age: 25
Height: 6’6″
Ranking: 16

Working with a new coach this year (2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic), Cilic has striven to improve his serve, his movement, and his decision-making.  All of his labors bore fruit today when, in what he described as, “the best performance of my career,” he blew Roger Federer off the court in straight sets.

Cilic demonstrated that he has nerves of steel when he stepped to the line to serve for the match, and for a spot in his first-ever Grand Slam final, and served thus: ace, ace, ace, three-shot winning rally.

Nishikori and Cilic have wildly contrasting styles. Nishikori pairs great movement with compact, efficient shots, while Cilic offers both a powerful serve and a strong backcourt game.

The final, which is schedule for 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, should be a fascinating and entertaining match.

Having watched both of today’s semifinals, I hesitate to pick a favorite for the final, though if pressed I’d be inclined to go with Cilic.

 

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