We’re down to our final two players in the US Open men’s singles draw, and it’s very unlikely that anybody predicted who that would be. Courtesy of two huge shocks on Saturday, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic will contest their first ever Grand Slam final, after both saw off a member of the ‘Big Four’, with neither requiring a 5th set.
At the age of just 23, Nishikori has become the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam final, and believe me, it’s not been straightforward. After beating Raonic and Wawrinka in back-to-back 5 setters, the Japanese man stunned the world number 1 Novak Djokovic, by defeating him in 4 sets. Before the tournament he suffered from various injury setbacks and many were debating whether he would make an appearance at Flushing Meadows this year. Now after 6 consecutive wins, it seems his decision to enter has proved successful.
Big-Serving Croat Marin Cilic, had a very similar draw to Nishikori, with Berdych and Federer being dismissed in convincing style. Coached by former Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic, Cilic has had a strong year and this could be the icing on the cake if he was to win his first slam title. Whilst Nishikori has battled past the top players, Marin has destroyed them, with a perfect mixture of huge serves and huge ground strokes.
Their head-to-head is an interesting one, with Nishikori edging it 5-2, thanks to him winning the last 3 meetings. They’ve met twice this year, in Brisbane and Barcelona, with the meeting in Australia going three sets. This is surprisingly their third meeting at the US Open, and those meetings are level at 1 win each, with Cilic winning the most recent back in 2012, after Nishikori had won a 5 set thriller in 2010. All 7 of their matches have taken place before the semi-finals, with this final being completely different to what each player has ever faced.
This match could literally go either way it’s that close. Obviously Grand Slam finals are often hard to predict but this one is even tougher due to how much it means to each player. With any result so hard to predict, I’ve decided to throw some stats into it, to make it a bit more clearer. Throughout the whole tournament, Cilic has smashed down the 3rd highest amount of aces, 81 in total, but on the other hand he’s also 2nd in the list of double-faults. 29 to be exact. This shows that as well as many aces, the Croatian will donate a few double-faults to Kei, who must take advantage if the serving level does dip. A couple of stats that point exactly to the answer in that regard, is the amount of break points won by the Japanese man, as well as return points on 2nd serves. In breaking an opponent’s serve 28 times so far, Nishikori is ranked 3rd within the draw and 1st on 2nd serve return points won. This means that he’ll surely put alot of pressure on Cilic, potentially forcing more double-faults and creating break opportunities, which is shown that Kei can take full advantage of. Before it seems I’m completely backing Nishikori to win, I’m going to add a further stat into the mix. On 1st serve return points won, Cilic is 4th overall with 111, compared to Nishikori in 6th with 96. With Nishikori not having the biggest of serves, Cilic will try to continue his strong return games and it’s hard to rule it out with what he’s shown up to now.
Cilic was in scintillating form against Berdych and Federer, and didn’t allow either play to take control of the rallies, with strong groundstrokes taking control of those problems. There has been many a time when he’s suffered mentally but he didn’t buckle at all when the finish line loomed in the last two rounds so that may not be a problem in the final. Their head-to-head record suggests that Nishikori has the tools to control the Cilic game, but even Marin admitted that he has never played better than he did in the semi-final against Federer. Many didn’t give Nishikori a chance against either Raonic, Wawrinka or Djokovic, so his belief in himself must be as strong as ever, and must give him a huge boost in confidence. Ultimately, I’m going to stick my neck on the line and back Nishikori to come through in 4 or 5 sets, as he’s already neutralised both Raonic’s and Wawrinka’s big games, and I feel he’ll do the same here to become the first Asian player ever, to win a Grand Slam title.
Nishikori’s route to the final:
R1 – Odesnik 6-2 6-4 6-2
R2 – Andujar 6-4 6-1 0-0 RET
R3 – L.Mayer (23) 6-4 6-2 6-3
R4 – Raonic (5) 4-6 7-6 (4) 6-7 (6) 7-5 6-4
QF – Wawrinka (3) 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7) 6-7 (5) 6-4
SF – Djokovic (1) 6-4 1-6 7-6 (4) 6-3
Cilic’s route to the final:
R1 – Baghdatis 6-3 3-1 RET
R2 – Marchenko 7-6 (2) 6-2 6-4
R3 – Anderson (18) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4
R4 – Simon (26) 5-7 7-6 (3) 6-4 3-6 6-3
QF – Berdych (6) 6-2 6-4 7-6 (4)
SF – Federer (2) 6-3 6-4 6-4
Thanks for taking the time to read my preview of the US Open’s Men’s singles final, I hoped you enjoyed it. For any questions or queries on this blog, or other blogs, either contact me on my twitter handle – @Tennis17MAD or via email at – email@example.com