Cilic and Nishikori face first Grand Slam final at US Open
Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori are probably still pinching themselves after seeing off all-time greats of the game Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic respectively with relative ease to reach their first ever Grand Slam final.
This US Open last two showdown is very much a battle of little and large, with Croatian Cilic a gangly 6ft 6in, and Nishikori of Japan 5ft 10in – which is small for the tennis circuit. It is the latter, though, that goes into this final as the slight favourite, odds-on at 4/5.
Nishikori, who is also the first Asian male in history to reach a Grand Slam final, has won five out of seven meetings with Cilic, including the last three and both this year.
They have faced each other twice at Flushing Meadows (in 2010 and 2012), meanwhile, with both getting a victory apiece. Cilic won the last encounter here, and is priced at evens to lift the US Open.
Those two matches went beyond three sets, so take odds of 10/3 for Nishikori to win 3-1, or 5/1 for a 3-2 epic victory. Cilic is 4/1 and 11/2 respectively in those markets. Coral are also offering a special price of 11/4 for the final to go to five sets (maximum stake £20).
Following Nishikori’s stunning 6-4 1-6 7-6 6-3 defeat of world number one and top seed Djokovic, he said: “It’s just an amazing feeling, beating the number one player.
“I hope it’s big news in Japan. I feel the support from Japan. It’s 4 o’clock in the morning but I hope a lot of people are watching. It was really tough conditions today, it felt a little bit heavy and humid. I guess I like long matches.”
The feat is all the more remarkable for Nishikori as, before this tournament, no Japanese man had ever even reached the semis of a Grand Slam since Jiro Satoh at Wimbledon in 1933.
Cilic, after his own incredible achievement of knocking out five-time US Open champion Federer in straight sets, said: “It’s just an amazing day for me. To be able to play like this I never dreamed of and I think today was my best performance ever in my career.
“Considering also that even when I was a set up and break up, the crowd was rooting for Roger to come back.
“It wasn’t easy to deal with that, but I felt that my serve helped me a lot today, to get some free points to breathe a little bit easier. It was working perfectly.”
While neither Nishikori nor Cilic have Grand Slam final experience, they are both being coached by former champions, Michael Chang (1989 French Open) and Goran Ivanisevic (2001 Wimbledon) receptively.
For one of the current playing duo, it will be the chance to join a list of just six men to have won a Grand Slam over the last 38 tournaments. Just Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin Del Potro have claimed a coveted prize, along with the ‘big four’ of Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.