NEW YORK (Reuters) - Marin Cilic hit all the right notes in a dominant 6-3 6-3 6-3 win over Kei Nishikori in the U.S. Open final on Monday but it remains to be seen if the big Croatian is another one slam wonder or perennial threat.
The final was a strange and unfamiliar one for tennis fans, the match marking the first time since the 2005 Australian Open that at least one of Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer were not playing for the title.
At Flushing Meadows, fans had also been used to seeing one of the ‘Big Four’ walking away at the end of the fortnight with the silver trophy, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Andy Murray lifting every U.S. Open title in the last decade except one.
Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009, who toppled Federer in five sets, was the only other man to clinch the title.
Since then Del Potro has not been back to a grand slam final and only once made it to the semi-finals.
Sitting in his post-match press conference with the trophy beside him, even Cilic found it hard to believe.
“I mean, seems completely unreal to be called grand slam champion,” said the 14th seed. “I was dreaming about this all my life and suddenly last four, five days everything started to change.
“I started to play absolutely unbelievable starting with the fifth set with (Gilles) Simon.
“After that I had unbelievable run of the matches against these top guys.
“And what it means to me, it means everything.
“It’s just a huge accomplishment and huge moment for me and for my team and for everybody around me who was with me all these years supporting me, believing in me and never giving up.
“So this is just the peak of the world.”
Over the last few years fans having been watching intently for any signs of a changing of the guard at the top of men’s game.
Until this year, Marat Safin - who clinched the 2005 Australian Open - and Del Potro were the only men outside the Big Four to have clinched a grand slam title in the last decade.
This year, however, two new names have been added to the honour roll as Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka created a shock by winning the Australian Open and Cilic claimed the U.S. Open.
A new crop of young, eager challengers are also knocking at the door with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, Canadian Milos Raonic along with Nishikori among those deemed as possible future grand slam winners.
Cilic, however, is not quite ready to proclaim the start of a new era in men’s tennis, instead praising his luck has much as his thundering serve.
“A lot of guys are saying people would like to watch top four guys much more to extend their streak at the top and to extend their run at the grand slams because, they attract the most the fans and the TV,” said Cilic.
“But one day definitely they are going to go out and there’s going to be a need for somebody else.
“I feel this time, this year, I think the guys from second line were a bit lucky because Andy Murray was also having trouble with his back; Wawrinka was up and down with his tennis after Australia and a few other players were not playing at the best all the time.
“And Rafa is not here. So that opened a little bit the gate for everybody else.
“I feel it’s going to definitely be much bigger competition next year.
“I think the game of tennis is definitely going to evolve much more.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury