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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Marin Cilic crushes Nishikori - becomes new US Open Champ

Croatia is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean. Its capital city is Zagreb. Croatia has a very high Human Development Index rank. As an active participant in the UN peacekeeping forces, Croatia has contributed troops to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and took a non-permanent seat on theUN Security Council for the 2008–2009 term. It was war torn too.... the Croatian War of Independence fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croat forces loyal to the government of Croatia and Yugoslavia had its toll.  In Croatia, the war is primarily referred to as the Homeland War (Domovinski rat) and also as the Greater-Serbian aggression (Velikosrpska agresija).

Sport in Croatia has significant role in Croatian culture; besides football, handball, basketball and water polo too enjoy patronage.  Goran Ivanišević, Iva Majoli, Ivo Karlović, Lovro Zovko, Jelena Kostanić Tošić, are some of the names well known in Tennis circuit.

The 2014 US Open today culminated with a men’s final that had a pair of surprise finalists, each of whom had reached an incredibly high level of play across  last two weeks. On the tournament’s final day, No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori faced Marin Cilic, seeded No. 14. Before the start, Kei Nishikori led Marin Cilic 5-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, having won the last three meetings. IBM data suggested that Cilic is the more powerful and explosive player and Nishikori is the better mover and more consistent player. Cilic played his best match of the tournament in the semi-finals against Roger Federer  while Nishikori outplayed huge servers like Raonic and power players like Wawrinka.  

In the end, Tennis had a new young champion. The 6-foot-6 Marin Cilic long known for his big serve crushed his opponent in straight sets.  He is the first player from his country to reach a slam final since his coach, Goran Ivanisovic, won Wimbledon in 2001 – he  left Nishikori rooted to the baseline after an hour and 54 minutes for a clinical 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win.The Croatian had the bigger weapons, held his nerve better on the big points and fully deserved the victory. He travelled without the support of a single journalist from his homeland but the supporters who dotted the stadium wearing the distinctive red-and-white checked colours of Croatia certainly made their presence felt in a cavernous setting designed for raucous passion. His 300th career win on his sixth visit to New York earned him not only $3m but 2,000 ranking points to lift him seven places to No 9 in the world.

He got to the final with 81 aces – 13 of them outfoxing Federer on Saturday – and put another 17 past Nishikori, three of them in a row to hold to love in the sixth game of the second set, a body blow which pretty much bled the remnants of resistance from him. The championship has its third new champion in six years, after Juan Martin del Potro in 2009 and Murray two years ago.  The final was the first between debutants in a decider since Pat Rafter beat Greg Rusedski 17 years ago.

Just last month, Nishikori underwent foot surgery, which sidelined him for the better part of the summer hard-court circuit. He didn’t even pick up a racquet and start hitting balls again until days before the start of this event, stating publicly that he’d be surprised if he advanced beyond the first round here. He must be stupefied now. The 24-year-old has displayed an incredible combination of talent and toughness in becoming the first Japanese player—man or woman—ever to reach a Grand Slam singles final. So a major final without the game’s Big Three—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic is over; heralding a new champion. 

It is great for Cilic, who a year ago, was forced to sit out for the year-end Grand Slam while serving a four-month doping ban from the ITF after mistakenly taking a prohibited supplement.  It remains to be seen whether this would be a springboard for more major titles in his career?

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

9th Sept. 2014.

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