NEW YORK -- No. 16 Marin Cilic stunned No. 3 Roger Federer, putting forth the best single performance of his career to beat the 17-time Slam champion 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to his first U.S. Open final. Behind his big serve and powerful ground game, the 25-year-old Croat blasted 43 winners past Federer and broke the Swiss' serve four times en route to a comprehensive victory. With Kei Nishikori's upset win over No. 1 Novak Djokovic earlier in the day, Monday's final will be the first time since Marat Safin beat Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 Australian Open final that a member of the ATP's "Big Four" will not feature in a major final. It will also be the first time since 2003 that the Big Four did not account for at least three of the four majors in a single season.
"[Stan] Wawrinka opened the doors for us from the "second" line, and I think most of the guys have now bigger belief that they can do it on the Grand Slams," Cilic said, referring to Wawrinka's win at the Australian Open. "Just over here as well, Kei beat Wawrinka, beat Novak, and Milos [Raonic], so played amazing, amazing tournament. I think it's gonna be extremely interesting for the next several Grand Slams."
The win was Cilic's first in six tries against Federer, who came into the match having saved match points to beat Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals. Federer was aiming to advance to his first U.S. Open final since 2009. With Croatia's last Slam champion Goran Ivanisevic cheering from his box, Cilic outplayed Federer in every facet of the game. He set the tone early with his consistent hitting off the ground and a fired a number of clean passing shots when Federer tried to mix it up at the net. The net game has been key for Federer throughout the tournament, but he was just 11 of 23 on Saturday, as Cilic's depth kept him on defense for much of the day.
"Just for the performance today from, I mean, first point to the last I was absolutely playing the best tennis of my life," Cilic said. "Considering the huge occasion I was playing in, for the second time in a semifinals of a Grand Slam, it just can't be more special. Considering also that even I was a set up and break up, the crowd was rooting for Roger to come back. It wasn't easy to deal with that, but I felt that my serve helped me a lot today to get some free points to breathe a little bit easier. It was working perfectly."
Federer could do nothing bit tip his cap after the match. "I just think if I could have stayed longer with him in the first set, I felt like there was a proper match going on," Federer said. "But I think him playing with the lead he played with no fear and just full-out confidence, which clearly everybody at this point sort of has in the semis of a slam. I think he served great when he had to."
It will be the first Slam final for both Nishikori and Cilic on Monday. Nishikori comes into the match having beaten three consecutive top ten players, including two reigning Slam champions in Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka. Cilic's win over Federer was his second straight top ten win after beating Tomas Berdych in straight sets in the quarterfinals. Nishikori holds a 5-2 edge in their head-to-head.