September 7, 2014
Roger Federer ran out of steam against a brilliant Marin Cilic, who joined Kei Nishikori in what will be a first Grand Slam final for both men. The Cilic serve was so powerful, his returns so deep, that even a tactical master such as Federer simply ran out of ideas.
The crowd was in shock as a colossal Cilic defeated Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in less than two hours. In doing so he destroyed the legend’s dream of an 18th Grand Slam title – at least for now.
Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic has turned his fellow Croatian into a world-beater – and Federer just didn’t see it coming. Then again, neither did his conqueror. Cilic admitted later: ‘Just an amazing day for me. I never dreamed of being able to play like this, it was the best performance of my entire career. The final is going to be sensational. I’m just going to enjoy it and try to win.’
The great Federer will be kicking himself, with none of his biggest rivals left in the tournament. Indeed it was way back in 2005, at the Australian Open, when all the big names last fell before the final hurdle. In truth Roger had little left in the tank after his five-set comeback thriller against Gael Monfils in the quarter–final. And that is Federer’s long-term problem. Due to his advancing years, he has to avoid marathons at any stage of a Slam if he is to be fresh enough to triumph at the sharp end.
No one could have predicted just how immaculate Cilic was going to be, though. There was no sign of weakness, except for a momentary lapse of concentration at the start of the third set, when Cilic fell 0-2 behind. He soon went back to work to deny the 33-year-old Federer any hope of a comeback this time around. In fact Roger won fewer games overall in this semi-final than he had won in a US Open match since he was a relative novice back in 2001.
For all that Cilic brilliance, some of Federer’s unforced errors were inexplicable. He will have to ask himself just why it went so badly wrong with that elusive 18th major almost within his grasp.
But days like this remind us why the glorious game of tennis remains so special, so wonderfullly unpredictable. Instead of Federer v Djokovic, we have a Nishikori v Cilic final.
Who could possibly predict a winner? Time to sit back, enjoy the drama and savour the sure knowledge that we will have a new champion when all is said and done.
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