Marin Cilic clinched his first Grand Slam title Monday, shattering Kei Nishikori`s bid to become the first Asian man to win a major with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 , carrying the momentum from his stunning semi-final victory over Roger Federer and turning it into major silverware and a cheque for three million US dollars.
The Croat said: “It seems completely unreal to be called a grand slam champion. I was dreaming about this all my life and suddenly the last four or five days everything started to change.
“And with my tennis especially. I started to play absolutely unbelievable, starting with the fifth set with [Gilles] Simon. After that I had an unbelievable run of matches against these top guys.
“It means everything. It’s just a huge accomplishment and a 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 year ago Cilic was not even in New York, instead serving a provisional suspension prior to a doping bam, which was initially nine months but reduced to four on appeal.
The time away from the tour allowed him to work on his game and also gave him a tougher edge that was on display at Flushing Meadows.
The other significant change was Cilic’s appointment of his long-time mentor, Goran Ivanisevic, as his coach, with the former Wimbledon champion finally persuading his charge to use his natural attacking gifts.
“The help he brought to me, I feel that the fun is the best spice of everything, that I think collects all the other pieces together. Every day with him is extremely fun.”
Goran famously joked there were three of him during his Wimbledon run, but Cilic added: “With personalities, I think he has only one and that’s with a very big heart.”
It was tough to believe the stadium would not have been fuller had the final been between Novak Djokovic and Federer rather than the men that beat them, even at 5pm on a Monday.
After all the talk of the end of the big four, this was the first really conclusive evidence that things are changing in men’s tennis.
It was the first slam final in almost 10 years not to feature Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray and the first between two first-time finalists ranked outside the top 10 since Pat Rafter beat Greg Rusedski here in 1997.
Nishikori admitted nerves had got to him, saying: “It was one of the worst matches I played, but also he was very aggressive and very fast.
“I was, I have to say, a little bit nervous – first final. But I’ve been very excited these two weeks. I didn’t expect anything coming here. Before I was injured and had little practice.
“There are so many positive things for sure that I can take from these two weeks, beating Stan and Novak again. I’m disappointed of course today, but it’s been a very good two weeks
Cilic’s victory means Andy Murray will drop out of the top 10 for the first time in six years, with Cilic climbing to ninth, one place behind Nishikori.
“I think I showed my potential. I can beat anybody now. So if I can keep training hard and also practice hard, I think I have more chances coming up.”