Marin Cilic continued the ruthless form that knocked out Roger Federer in the semifinals to clinch his first ever Grand Slam title with an authoritative victory over Kei Nishikori in the US Open final on Monday night at Flushing Meadows.
Cilic had impressed one and all in the manner in which he dispatched Federer in the previous round, and those booming serves and powerful play were on show again, against Nishikori, whose counter-punching, which helped him to victories over the likes of Milos Raonic, Stanislas Wawrinka and the crowning glory Novak Djokovic, falling short on the most important of days.
The 25-year-old Cilic, who missed the US Open last year due to a doping suspension, pulled off a dominating 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory in the final to become the first Croatian to lift a Grand Slam since Goran Ivanisevic – his current coach -- in 2001.
"I mean, it seems completely unreal to be called Grand Slam champion," said an elated Cilic. "I was dreaming about this all my life, and suddenly last four, five days everything started to change. I started to play absolutely unbelievable starting with the fifth set with [Gilles] Simon.
"After that I had an unbelievable run of the matches against these top guys. And what it means to me, it means everything. It's just a huge accomplishment and huge moment for myself and for my team and for everybody around me who was with me all these years supporting me, believing in me and never giving up. So this is just the peak of the world."
A final between the No.14 seed Cilic and No.10 seed Nishikori, the first time men's tennis has witnessed a final without the big four in nine years, was nowhere near the one that most had predicted, and if everyone expected the match to be a close one, they were to be disappointed as Cilic just stepped up a gear right from serve one to jump into a 4-2 lead in the first set.
There was no letting up from there, as Cilic, who showed his closing out abilities in spades against Federer, firing three aces and a winner to finish the Swiss master off in the semifinal, brought those skills to the fore again, as every time Nishikori had even the slightest of sniffs of a comeback, it was snuffed out in emphatic style – most often with that potent serve.
There will be plenty of positives for Nishikori to take from this US Open, but, the bottom line was, on the biggest match of them all, unfortunately, the Japanese just failed to find that unbelievable level which helped him ease past Djokovic in the semis.
"There are a lot of things, positive things, that I learned from these two weeks," he said. "Yeah, it was one of worst match I played today, but also he was very aggressive and very fast. I was, I have to say, a little bit nervous. A little bit.
"First final. I mean, even semis. But very excited these two weeks. You know, I didn't expect nothing coming here. Before I was injured and had little practice. There are so many positive things for sure that I can have from these two weeks beating Stan and Novak again. Disappointed of course, but very good two weeks."