Sunday, 7 September 2014

Serena the constant as we welcome surprise finalists

Well after a fortnight of upsets, it appeared that things were back on track with Serena Williams cruising through to yet another Flushing Meadows final, and Djokovic and Federer with seemingly straightforward tasks to be completed on men's semi final day.

Nothing could prepare us for what was to occur.

Yes Serena had provided Ekaterina Makarova with confirmation of her dominance by taking only an hour of her time to dismiss the Russian 6-1 6-3.  Makarova should be rapt with her performance over the whole tournament, and the final match is not indicative of her rise in the game this past year or so.

Earlier, Caroline Wozniacki prevailed in circumstances no one wanted, when Peng Shuai, after courageously battling the punishing heat, collapsed on the court and eventually had to retire.  The tenth seed Wozniacki had fought back from a break down to win the first set tie breaker and was serving at 3-4 when the match finished prematurely.

The two highest remaining seeds in the women's draw would now be battling each other for the title.

Not so with the men.

Firstly, Kei Nishikori, with his damaging forehand causing the top seed all sorts of trouble, broke twice in the opening set to win it 6-4.  Shock waves reverberated around Queens and Japanese fans wondered if the impossible could happen.  Novak retaliated immediately, dominating from the baseline and hardly making a mistake as he raced through set 2 for the loss of only a single game.
At a set each, bookies were feeling much more comfortable.
However, the form that saw him dispatch Raonic and Wawrinka came back to Nishikori in the third set, and he outgunned the Serbian star at his own game, eventually breaking in the eighth game, earning the right to serve for the set.

Djokovic proved again that he is best at extracting himself from desperate situations, and broke back.  A tiebreak was required, and once more the Japanese hotshot put the pressure on, opening up a 4-0 lead.  He had two serves at 5-2 to win the set, but Novak won both to give his fans hope as points were back on serve.
There was no stopping the irresistible surge from Nishikori, though, and he won the remaining points to  establish a two sets to one lead 6-4 1-6 7-6.

Djokovic appeared tired, and Kei Nishikori, running on adrenalin and the knowledge that his tennis was the better this match, pushed for and achieved an immediate break to lead 2-0 at the start of what would be the final set.  Serving at 5-4 for the match, Nishikori found his opponent had little more to give, and an appearance in the US Open final, his first major final, was reward for his sensational upset of the best hard court player in the world. 

With Nadal out injured, and Ferrer, Dimitrov, Berdych and Djokovic all beaten, it looked like the dream run for Roger Federer would result in him winning a sixth US Open.  Marin Cilic was not informed of this plan and proceeded to serve the Swiss ace off the court for two scintillating sets of tennis 6-3 6-4. Cilic was winning almost 100% of points on his first serve and more than half on his second delivery.  He hit twice as many winners as Federer in sets 1 and 2, and despite Roger not playing badly, the Croatian game just overwhelmed the former number one.  

When Federer broke serve in the third, murmurs of a comeback like that against Monfils did the rounds, in hope more than anything.  Once Marin broke back, the sense of inevitability of result returned.  Federer pushed hard, but at 3-3 he stumbled again, and was broken for the final time to trail 4-3.  
Serving for glory at 5-4, Cilic began with two aces to effectively put beyond doubt the result.
Cilic won 6-3 6-4 6-4 and the US Open final for 2014 will be contested between players not including Federer, Nadal or Djokovic - the first such Grand Slam tournament final since the 2005 Australian Open.

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