On an extraordinary day that will go down as one of the most surprising in grand slam history, 10th seeded Nishikori denied Djokovic a fifth straight trip to the U.S. Open final when he toppled the world number one 6-4 1-6 7-6(4) 6-3 on a sweltering Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
Then, before a disbelieving crowd had fully absorbed what they had just witnessed, 14th seeded Cilic sent a new round of tremors across the U.S. National Tennis Center by sweeping past 17-time grand slam champion Federer in snappy one hour, 45 minutes.
When the dust had settled the year’s last grand slam was left with a final no one would have predicted between Cilic, who missed last year’s tournament sitting out a doping ban and Nishikori, the first Asian man to ever reach a slam final.
Adding to the magnitude of Saturday’s events, Monday’s final will be the first grand slam title decider without Rafa Nadal, Federer or Djokovic since the 2005 Australian Open when Marat Safin defeated Lleyton Hewitt.
“I think it’s exciting for the game to have different faces from time-to-time,” said Federer when asked about his thoughts on a Nishikori-Cilic final. “At the same time, I think people still enjoy seeing the guys they have seen for a while or often in the big matches.
“But I think it’s definitely refreshing to some extent. It’s big for Croatia and big for Japan I guess on some level, especially on sporting terms and tennis terms.
“Everybody who gets to this stage of this kind of a competition deserves to be there because they have put in the work and they hoped for the break and this is it for both of them. I hope they can play a good final.”
Certainly it will not be the marquee final fans and television executives had hoped for.
Between them, Federer and Djokovic have won 24 grand slam titles, including six U.S. Opens. Nishikori and Cilic have won none and had never before been beyond the semi-finals of a grand slam. (Reuters)