Marin Cilic believes his shock US Open victory can be the catalyst for him to become a big player in future Grand Slams – and judging by the stylish way he saw off Kei Nishikori in the final it’s hard to disagree.
The effusive Croat has gone as far as describing his win at Flushing Meadows as “life-changing” as he suddenly and unexpectedly proved he can match the best in the world and win the very biggest tennis tournaments out there.
Cilic was seeded way down in 14th for the US Open before the competition began but he successfully overcame the odds to claim a memorable victory. The way he has reacted to the triumph suggests he is determined to build on it and go toe-to-toe with Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and co in future. Cilic’s chances in future tournaments should now be positively reflected in the betting markets .
Very few people gave the 25-year-old much chance of going deep into the tournament and, while he always had the ability to compete with anyone across a set or two, there were doubts he had the staying power to close out big wins when it really mattered in Grand Slams. However, after a tough five-set victory over Gilles Simon in New York, he then despatched the rest of his opponents in straight sets.
Tomas Berdych was expected to provide a big challenge but he was comfortably brushed aside in the last eight to set up a meeting with the old master Roger Federer. Again Cilic defied expectations and proved too strong on this occasion for the Swiss star.
And now he had momentum. Nishikori was seen off without too much fuss to give Croatia a new tennis hero to follow in the footsteps of legend Goran Ivanisevic.
He has credited fellow countryman and coach Ivanisevic for inspiring him as he landed the big prize and admitted he has been blown away by the achievement.
“It’s life-changing, completely like I was on a different planet so far,” he said, when asked how he felt after the final. “It just feels incredible.”
Cilic says Ivanisevic, who is remembered well for his 2001 Wimbledon success, worked with him to quickly improve his serve and now his target in tennis is to emulate the Croatian legend moving forward.
He added: “Every grand slam is worth the same, but Wimbledon is very special for all the Croatians and probably for most of the guys that are playing.
“It’s just something in the air.”
Something certainly seems to be in the air for Cilic after his US Open win and he has proved his critics and doubters wrong that he does indeed have what it takes to win the big tournaments but the next step could prove to be just as difficult.
Securing one Grand Slam title is tricky enough – especially with the competition around – but building on it and sustaining challenges in the big four tournaments in 2015 will be the acid test.
However, judging by the way he dismantled his opponents in New York, more success looks to be on the horizon.