Flushing Meadows, NY (SportsNetwork.com) – Croat Marin Cilic whipped Japan’s Kei Nishikori in Monday’s lopsided men’s final at the U.S. Open.
The 14th-seeded big-serving Cilic handled the 10th-seeded Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to capture his first Grand Slam title in his first major final.
The 25-year-old Cilic, who missed last year’s U.S. Open while serving a doping ban, is the first Croatian Grand Slam champion since his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, won the Wimbledon title in 2001.
Cilic smothered Nishikori in 1 hour, 51 minutes at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The Japanese player simply had no answers for the overpowering slugger on Day 15 in New York, as Cilic popped 16 more winners (35-19), including 17 aces, and won 22 more points (89-67).
Cilic converted on his second match point with an easy cross-court backhand winner on a windy, overcast day.
“This is all hard work over the last couple of years,” Cilic said. “I played the best tennis of my life here.”
“If you work hard things are going to pay off,” he added.
The 24-year-old Nishikori became the first Asian-born man to perform in a Grand Slam final. His outstanding New York fortnight included wins over world No. 1 Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, third-seeded Aussie Open champ Stan Wawrinka and fifth-ranked Canadian slugger Milos Raonic.
“He [Cilic] played really well today, I couldn’t play my tennis,” Nishikori said.
The 6-foot-6 Cilic is now 3-5 lifetime against Nishikori, including 1-2 this year. The Croat is 2-1 in their U.S. Open matches, including a victory in New York two years ago.
Monday marked the first time in 9 1/2 years that a men’s Grand Slam final did not feature Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
Cilic, who stunned the five-time U.S. Open champion Federer in straight sets in Saturday’s semifinals, now owns 12 career titles, including three this season.
There were eight different Grand Slam singles champions this year, both men and women, for the first time in 16 years. That has only happened twice before since the start of the Open era in 1968.
Cilic’s first-place check is worth a whopping $3 million, while Nishikori took home $1.45 million.
Monday also marked the final television broadcast of the U.S. Open on CBS, which will now give way to ESPN. CBS covered the storied event for 47 years, or since the inception of the Open era in ’68.