Cilic and Williams cruise home
By Roger Childs
One was expected, the other not. Top seed Serena Williams won in straight sets in the women’s US Open tennis final, having too much power for Caroline Wozniacki. Pundits predicted that the great Roger Federer would easily dispose of 10th seed Marin Cilic in the semi finals, but in fact the big serving Croat blasted the number two seed off the court in straight sets. The other semi was also an upset, with Kei Nishikori defeating world number one Novak Djokovic in four. So the men’s final would see the crowning of a new grand slam champion.
The women’s finalists
It hasn’t been a great year for Serena Williams as far as grand slams go.
- Australian Open: beaten in the 4th round
- French Open: beaten in the 2nd round
- Wimbledon: beaten in the 2nd round.
However she retained her overall number one world ranking throughout and after Wimbledon won 19 out of 20 matches. This included her first victoryin the prestigious Southern and Western in Cincinnati: the biggest tournament before the final grand slam of 2014. So she was in top form coming into the US Open. An 18th grand slam victory beckoned.
Her opponent in the final, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki was also in good form. Back in 2010 – 2011 she was ranked one in the world, but couldn’t win a grand slam. After 2011 her ranking dropped away and most of the headlines for her were linked to her relationship with Northern Ireland golfer, Rory McIlroy.
They were engaged earlier this year, but McIlroy broke off the relationship in May. They are both now focused on winning tournaments and the Northern Irishman duly won two golf majors in a row. Meanwhile Wozniacki showed great form in the early rounds of the US Open and easily qualified for the final.
Serena too good on home turf
It was a dominant performance to cap a dominant two weeks in Flushing Meadows. Not only did Williams, ranked and seeded No. 1, win all 14 sets she played in the tournament, she never even dropped more than three games in any of them. Associated Press
The American was just too powerful for the Dane. Williams’s strong serve and ability to run her opponent from side to side allowed her to dictate the match. She is a big woman, but has amazing court speed and the ability to hit powerful cross-court winners on the run. Her years of experience playing doubles with sister Venus had also made her a very good net player.
She broke Wozniacki’s serve in the first game of both sets and cruised to a 6-3 6-3 victory. This 18th grand slam win now ranks her with the all time greats in women’s tennis alongside Margaret Court, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Helen Wills Moody and Chris Evert.
The men’s finalists
The surprise finalists last met at the beginning of the year in Brisbane with Kei Nishikori coming out the winner. Marin Cilic had a difficult year in 2013 especially when he was suspended for failing a drug test. Incautious use of glucose was the verdict. The nine month suspension was later reduced when a tribunal ruled that the taking of some glucose tablets was not a deliberate attempt to improve performance!
The tall Croatian is a powerful player with a very fast serve – frequently over 200 kph, excellent placement and strong ground strokes. In the fourth round of the tournament he had a close five setter against Giles Simon, but beat the talented Tomas Berdych in the quarters in straight sets. His unexpectedly easy win over Federer in the semis launched him into his first grand slam final.
Kei Nishikori has had some impressive results in 2014 under new coach Michael Chang, including
- winning the Barcelona clay tournament
- losing the Madrid Open final to Rafael Nadal after having to retire with a back injury.
In getting to the final of the US Open, Nishikori had to beat three men ranked above him: Wawrinka, Raonic and Djokovic. He created history in being the first Asian male to reach a grand slam final and many picked him to easily dispose of Cilic.
Cilic much too good on the day
Nishikori did not come out with enough aggression. Commentator John McEnroe
It was Marin Cilic who had the aggression and had Nishikori on the defensive for much of the game. Like Serena Williams, Cilic was able to break his opponent’s serve early in each set and dropped his own service only once.
He was able to overcome the Japanese player with a combination of
- powerful serves: 17 aces to Nishikori’s 2
- superb winners cross-court and down the line, especially with his strong backhand
- wonderful placement and deft touches at the net.
Cilic ran out the winner 6-3 6-3 6-3. These set scores were the same as in the women’s final and this will no doubt be a regular question in future pub sports quizzes.
In speaking after the match, the new men’s champion gave a lot of credit to his new coachGoran Ivanišević. He has kept telling me to enjoy the tennis. Marin Cilic certainly did just that in the final at Flushing Meadow on the way to winning his first grand slam.
Changing of the guard?
Cilic’s victory means that each of the four 2014 slams was won by a different player. The same was the case for the women. This has to be good for the game. In the men’s finals you have to go back to Roland Garros 2004 to find the last final which did not include one or two of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. The era of dominance by the three greats may be coming to an end, however they still comfortably hold the top three overall rankings.