US Open Men’s singles review

That’s it for Grand Slams in 2o14. With the US Open completed, the attention turns to the Davis Cup and the final indoor events of the year, including tournaments in Shanghai and Paris, and of course the ATP Tour Finals. The final slam of the year was a cracker and brought down the curtain of brilliant Grand Slams. Here is the review of the US Open men’s singles, with Marin Cilic surprisingly winning the event.

Before the tournament started, last year’s winner Rafael Nadal announced that he was pulling out of his defence, citing a wrist injury as the problem. With the Spaniard unable to defend his title, Novak Djokovic was the favourite with many, despite Roger Federer’s strong recent form in Cincinnati and Toronto.

 

1st Quarter

Djokovic kicked-off his campaign by comfortably beating young Argentine Diego Schwartzman in straight sets to set-up a meeting with Paul-Henri Mathieu, who defeated Gilles Muller in a five set thriller. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray both saw off tough competitors to join the Serb in the second round, with Julien Benneteau the only seed failing to make it past the first hurdle, losing to French compatriot Benoit Paire. Michael Llodra was playing in his last Grand Slam event and ensured he would record another win at the top-level by seeing off Daniel Gimeno-Traver. That was to be the Frenchman’s last win at a Slam after he retired after falling a set down to Phillipe Kohlschreiber.

In the second round, 2 seeds feel in the top quarter with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Fernando Verdasco being upended by Sam Querrey and Andrey Kuznetsov respectively. American Querrey was comfortably seen off by Djokovic, who reached round 4 where he was to play Kohlschreiber, after the German saw off the number 1 American John Isner in a tight 4 set victory. The draw threw up the possibility of Murray and Tsonga facing-off in a fourth round clash, and both players advance to that stage with 3 wins under their belts. It was a tough match to call on paper but Murray upped his level throughout and took the victory in straight sets, to set up another mouth-watering tie against Djokovic, in a repeat of the 2012 final.

The first set was a topsy-turvy event with he pair constantly trading breaks before the Serb took a surprisingly one-sided tie-break to claim first blood. He looked likely to extend his lead after breaking early in the second, but the Brit broke back and took the set to another tie-break. Again it was one-sided but this time Murray took it to level the match up at 1-set all. With a late finish seemingly coming, Djokovic upped his level and took the final two sets to complete victory, with Murray struggling to keep up. The Brit did have chances to take the match to a fifth set but just couldn’t keep up with the Serb’s strong fitness.

Semi-Finalist – Novak Djokovic (1)

 

2nd Quarter

Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka was scheduled to be Djokovic’s semi-final opponent but he was surely going to be tested with players such as Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori contained within this quarter. All 3 progressed through the first round with Lukas Rosol and Mikhail Youzhny being the first two seeds out in the second quarter. Rosol exited after losing to qualifier Borna Coric, whilst Youzhny was dispatched by the talented youngster Nick Kyrgios. The Australian defeated Andreas Seppi in the next round, but the same can’t be said for Coric, who lost to 34 year-old Victor Estrella-Burgos, who was becoming the highlight of the tournament. Dominican Estrella-Burgos’s fine run came to an end in the third round with Raonic having just too much in three tie-break featured sets. Nishikori was to be Raonic’s 4th round opponent, with Wawrinka taking on Tommy Robredo in the other 4th round tie in the quarter.

Raonic and Nishikori played out one of the best matches in the 2014 event, with the Japanese man stunning the big-serving Canadian by taking the match in a 5-set thriller, equalling the latest finish in US Open history. Nishikori’s quarter-final foe was to be Wawrinka, after the Swiss number 2 beat Robredo in 4 sets. Fatigue was thought to be a major factor in the result of the match with many unaware whether Nishikori was over his late night finish against Raonic. The young Japanese man silenced the doubters emphatically, by beating Wawrinka 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7) 6-7 (5) 6-4 after just over 4 hours of playing. There were doubts coming into the tournament about Kei’s fitness levels, but all the questions asked were answered, but could he beat Djokovic and advance to his first-ever Grand Slam final?

Semi-Finalist – Kei Nishikori (10)

 

3rd Quarter

The 3rd quarter was arguably the toughest to call section with David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Ernests Gulbis and Marin Cilic amongst the names within the quarter. The match between Berdych and Lleyton Hewitt was the highlight of the first round, but failed to live up to the hype with Berdych going through in straight sets. The Czech progressed to the third round, where he was joined by Ferrer, Cilic, Feliciano Lopez, Kevin Anderson and Gilles Simon. One of the big names not joining them was Gulbis, who exited at the second stage due to rising youngster Dominic Thiem coming back from 2 sets down. Thiem produced another upset in the next round by defeating Lopez in surprisingly comfortable fashion, to set up a fourth round clash with Berdych. The other fourth round clash within the section was Cilic and Simon, with the Croat defeating big-serving Anderson and Simon producing a strong display to defeat the fourth seed Ferrer.

Thiem’s superb run came to an end against Berdych with the sixth seed just too much after knocking out two seeds back-to-back. The other match was a thriller with Simon pushing Cilic all the way to a 5th set before the man coached by Goran Ivanisevic, came through to meet Berdych in the quarters. It had the potential to be an epic with both players producing some quality tennis in the round before, and with no-standout favourite, was very unpredictable. It was Cilic who carried on his tremendous form into the match and stunned Berdych in straight sets, winning 6-2 6-4 7-6 (4). The Croat was in the form of his life, could he use it to win his first ever slam title?

Semi-Finalist – Marin Cilic (14)

 

4th Quarter

The 4th quarter featured 5-time champion Roger Federer, and he was expected to progress through the section with many of his rivals being placed in other parts of the draw. Players such as Grigor Dimitrov, Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils were the projected main threats to the Swiss, and each progressed into the third round after two wins apiece. Dimitrov had never won a match in the main draw at Flushing Meadows, but started well here and defeated the in-form David Goffin to progress to the fourth round. His opponent would be the erratic Frenchman Monfils, who beat his compatriot Gasquet in straight sets to set up the meeting. Federer had continued his American hard court swing form, by progressing nicely through the draw, including a 4 set win over Marcel Granollers after trailing by a set in a rain-interrupted match. He was to beMonfils’ quarter-final opponent after dispatching RobertoBautista-Agut in comfortable style.

In the quarter-final, Monfils raced into a two-set lead and looked on course for the semi-final with Federer struggling to contain the Frenchman. Federer gained some momentum to take the third set but in the fourth set Monfils recovered from a break down to found himself with two match points at 15-40 on the Federer serve. After a strong first serve, the Swiss star came to the net trying to finish the point off but Monfils second guessed him and looped a backhand pass just long. The second was saved with a powerful Federer forehand before he took control of the match to level at 2-sets all. He motored through the final set 6-2 to set up a meeting with Cilic in the semis. Was this to be the Swiss star’s 18th Grand Slam title, and sixth US Open triumph?

Semi-Finalist – Roger Federer (2)

 

Semi-Finals

Djokovic (1) V Nishikori (10)

The first semi-final had alot to offer with the tournament favourite up against one of the rising stars of the game. Nishikori had already proved that he could match it with the best, and even beat Djokovic in 2011 at Basel. He was expected to pose a strong threat to the Serb, but fall just short. Early on in the match, the Japanese youngster broke serve, only to give the break straight back at the first time of asking. With a strong return of serve, Nishikori broke again and this time held serve to take the first set 6-4. The second set was very one-sided with Djokovic taking it 6-1, after breaking Nishikori’s serve twice. It was hard not to back Djokovic to go on and take control of the match but Nishikori saved break points early in the third before breaking, to set up the scenario of him serving the set out. Unlike the first set Djokovic broke at the vital stage and both players held serve to take it to a key tie-break. Nishikori quickly ran into a 4-0 lead but Novak pegged it back but was unable to prevent the 24 year-old eventually winning the tie-break 7-4. He was only one set away from his first ever Grand Slam final, but could Nishikori hold his nerve?

The answer to that question, was a huge yes. After breaking in the first game of the set, Nishikori found himself 0-40 down after a typically spirited Djokovic attempted to immediately reply, but Kei remained composed and held to lead 2-0. From there on he was hardly threatened on his own serve, with Djokovic only managing to get to 30 on each of his return games. After failing to mount any pressure on the return, Novak suddenly found himself match point down on his own serve, and after a long rally he sent a forehand long to send Nishikori through to his first major final. Kei was the first Asian man to ever appear in a Slam final, but could he become the first one to win one?

 

Cilic (14) V Federer (2)

Many pundits and fans alike were surprised about how composed Cilic was in his quarter-final win over Berdych, and wondered whether he could do the same against Federer. The Swiss had struggled in the past round against Monfils, but he gained some important momentum after coming from 2 sets down. It was the big-serving Croatian who got the first break of the match after Federer had led 40-0 in his second serving game of the match. Federer then created a break point opportunity but some strong groundstrokes from Cilic prevented any momentum given straight back. The rest of the set was surprisingly trouble-free for Cilic, who served his way to win the first set 6-3.

The second set carried on in the same manner with Cilic breaking the Federer serve early and then cruising on serve to establish a two-set lead. The tennis from Cilic was unplayable at times with huge groundstrokes complimenting his strong serve. The Federer comeback appeared to be on when he broke for only the second time in the match but Marin returned strongly and broke straight away. Both players held serve again before Cilic grabbed the decisive break to lead 4-3 and didn’t look back as he closed out the 6-3 6-4 6-4 win. So the final was set, it wasn’t what was expected but who would win their first Slam title?

 

FINAL

Nishikori (10) V Cilic (14)

It was Nishikori who started the stronger of the pair, and forced Cilic to have to save a break point before eventually holding to 1-1. After another hold each,Cilic earned the first break of the final and served it out 6-3. His mental side was questioned in the past but Marin’s superb composure had been carried throughout the tournament but suddenly he was a set away from a first major title. He broke serve twice in the second set, before breaking yet again to win the set 6-3, after the Japanese man had earned his first break of the match when the Croatian first served for the set.

Cilic’s high level simply wouldn’t drop, and Nishikori couldn’t contain it with his serve being broken early in the third set, as the match slipped away. It was an unplayable performance yet again from Cilic, who clinched his first slam title with a 6-3 6-3 6-3 victory after another superb backhand winner. It was disappointment for Kei in the end, but he performed well during the fortnight to become the first Asian man in a Grand Slam final. For Cilic, the only question has to be whether he can take these performances from this tournament, and do it week in-week out on the tour, if he does, he’ll win plenty more majors.

 

So that was that for Grand Slam tennis in 2014. We have had 4 different winners of the Men’s singles events with 2 of those winning their first ever major. Below is a summary of the four slams and the final result:

 

Australian Open – Stan Wawrinka d. Rafael Nadal

French Open – Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic

Wimbledon – Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer

US Open – Marin Cilic d. Kei Nishikori

 

What was your favourite moment of the fortnight at Flushing Meadows? Why not comment below and share your views!

 

Thanks for taking the time to read my review of  the US Open Men’s singles event, 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 – jamesfroud0608@hotmail.co.uk

 

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