Cilic goes from sidelines to U.S. Open final in 12 months

Sat Sep 6, 2014 9:48pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Last year Marin Cilic watched the U.S. Open from home, serving a four-month doping ban for using a banned stimulant he said he had unknowingly taken.

On Saturday, the big Croat played the best tennis of his life to upset 17-times grand slam singles winner Roger Federer and reach the finals of the U.S. Open.

"From first point to the last I was absolutely playing the best tennis of my life," the bearded, 14th-seeded Cilic said after his one hour 45 minute rout of the second-seeded Swiss.

"Considering the huge occasion I was playing in, for the second time in a semi-finals of a grand slam, it just can't be more special."

Cilic used his time banished from the court to dedicate himself more deeply to the game. He worked to improve his strength and conditioning and hired his idol Goran Ivanisevic to help him harness the power of his serve.

"I was at home and was working, preparing as much as I could and was using every day to train," said the 6-foot-6 (1.98 m) Cilic.

Hard work paid off, and Cilic and fellow giant-killer Kei Nishikori of Japan, who eliminated world number one Novak Djokovic in the other semi-final, will meet in a most unlikely men's final on Monday.

Cilic said he took inspiration from Swiss Stan Wawrinka, who broke through for his first grand slam title by beating Rafa Nadal this year in the Australian Open final.   Continued...

Marin Cilic of Croatia celebrates after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland in their semi-final match at the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 6, 2014.           REUTERS/Mike Segar