Croatian Cilic champion of season’s final Grand Slam

Marin Cilic has joined the list of being only one of three players, besides the ‘big four’ of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, to win a Grand Slam in the last 39 tournaments. The others are Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin Del Potro.

Croatian Cilic also becomes the first person from his country to win a Slam since his current coach Goran Ivanisevic was a wildcard winner at Wimbledon in 2001. Few could have predicted such a feat, after he had to watch last year’s tournament at Flushing Meadows at home, as he was serving a drugs ban.

The final of the US Open this year was surprisingly contested between two outsiders Cilic and Kei Nishikori, who himself became the first Japanese Grand Slam finalist. They knocked out top two seeds Federer and Djokovic respectively.

Cilic, 25, has won his first Slam at exactly the same age that Andy Murray achieved his maiden major title (also the US Open, in 2012), and the Croatian is a 4/1 chance to gain another of the four prestigious prizes in 2015. Nishikori, meanwhile, is also priced the same.

Speaking after his 6-3 6-3 6-3 dominant display in just under two hours against the Japanese 24-year-old, Cilic said: “I don’t know how I did it. It was hard work over the last few years and especially this last year.”

“My team has brought something to me, especially Goran. We’re all working really hard but the most important thing he brought to me was enjoying tennis, and always having fun. I think I played the best tennis of my life.”

Nishikori added: “He was playing really well today, I couldn’t play my tennis. It’s a really tough loss but I’m really happy for first coming to the final.”

Cilic’s victory will also surely inspire a new wave of up-and-coming players in the game to have the confidence to win a Grand Slam. Tennis has been dominated for almost the last 10 years by just four men in particular, but the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic (both 23) and Nick Kyrgios (19) can all impress next season.

Former world number four and US Open finalist Greg Rusedski said: “[The younger players] will have been watching, for sure.”

“If you think about it, Raonic losing in five sets to Nishikori and thinking ‘he’s gone all the way to the final and that could have been me out there’.

“And Grigor, he lost to an inspired Gael Monfils who pushed Federer all the way and had two match points. So these guys are knocking on the door.

“It’s exciting because there’s a changing of the guard going on right now and it’s good to see these youngsters coming up and competing with the top four we’ve talked about for over a decade. There’s a little shift happening and that’s good for the game.”

On top of Cilic breaking more obvious records, he also becomes the lowest ATP ranked player (at 16) to win the US Open men’s competition since Pete Sampras (17) in 2002.