The U.S. Open Final Could Signal the End of Tennis's 'Big Four'

Marin Cilic
Marin Cilic of Croatia celebrates after defeating Kei Nishikori of Japan in their men's singles final match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 8, 2014. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

It was the match that no one could have predicted - the first grand slam final in almost a decade that didn't feature one of the 'Big Four' of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. As 12th seed Marin Cilic defeated Kei Nishikori of Japan in straight sets to win the U.S. Open, could a new era of men's tennis be upon us?

A string of monumental upsets facilitated the unlikely final, only the second this century to feature two seeds ranked No.10 or below. Nishikori, himself the first Japanese player in the Open era to progress to a major tournament final, defeated seven-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the semis, while Cilic beat Federer in straight sets. World no.2 Rafael Nadal was unable to participate due to injury and British no.1 Murray lost to Djokovic in the quarter final.

Capitalising on his imposing stature (at 6'6", he is one of the tallest players on the men's tour), Cilic overpowered Nishikori in less than two hours, hitting seventeen aces to Nishikori's two. He becomes the first Croatian to take a major title since his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, won Wimbledon in 2001. Like Cilic, Nishikori is coached by a former Grand Slam winner - American Michael Chang, who won the French Open in 1989.

This result, coupled with Swiss player Stan Wawrinka's unexpected victory over Nadal in the Australian Open earlier this year, has triggered speculation that the total domination of the Big Four has come to an end. Former British no.1 Greg Rusedski, who reached the US Open final in 1999, branded Cilic's victory a "changing of the guard".

"It's good to see these youngsters coming up and competing with the top four we've talked about for over a decade," he told Sky Sports.

Roger Federer also tacitly acknowledged the power shift in the press conference after his semi-final defeat. After congratulating Cilic's play, Federer branded it "definitely refreshing" to have new names in a Grand Slam final, and added, "I hope they can play a good final."

In a post-match interview, Cilic said that he believed his Grand Slam win would inspire other players to break into the game's elite. "I feel it's very inspirational for all the other players out there that are working hard and sometimes losing motivation," said Cilic. "I would definitely feel much stronger if I would see somebody like me accomplish things like this."

The U.S. Open Final Could Signal the End of Tennis's 'Big Four' | Sports