NEW YORK -- No. 16 Marin Cilic defeated No. 11 Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 on Monday to win his first U.S. Open title.
Cilic carried over the form that saw him upend No. 2 seed Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals to advance to his first Grand Slam final. The 25-year-old became the first Croatian to win a major since Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon in 2001 and the first man ranked outside the top 10 to win the U.S. Open since Pete Sampras in 2002.
The discussion before the final was dominated by what the match wasn't rather than what it was. For the first time since Marat Safin beat Lleyton Hewitt to win the 2005 Australian Open, none of the ATP's Big Four -- Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray -- were in a Slam final. The four had accounted for 36 of the last 38 major titles. But 2014 has seen a gradual change in the landscape of men's tennis.
The Slam season began with Stan Wawrinka beating Djokovic and Nadal to win the Australian Open. It ended with a match between Nishikori, who made his first Slam final by beating fifth-seeded Milos Raonic, third-seeded Wawrinka and top-seeded Djokovic in succession, and Cilic, who a year ago was in Croatia serving a four-month suspension after testing positive for a banned substance he says he accidentally ingested in over-the-counter glucose tablets.
Cilic has won three titles in a year for the first time. He will move up to No. 9, equaling his career high and putting him back in the top 10 for the first time since 2010. Nishikori, who was trying to become the first Asian-born man to win a Slam title, will move up to a career-high No. 8.
In just an hour and 54 minutes, Cilic dismantled Nishikori with clutch serving and consistency and power from the baseline. He fired 38 winners, 17 of which were aces, to 27 unforced errors. Nishikori was broken five times and converted only one of nine break points. He finished with 19 winners and 30 unforced errors.