Perhaps being so familiar with seeing the Big Four in command at the majors is making it difficult for us to have full faith in Marin Cilic’s abilities. The 25-year-old protégé of Goran Ivanisevic surprised us all by making it to the finals in Flushing Meadows by defeating Roger Federer - a five-time champion - who was also regarded a hot favourite to win the title in the absence of Nadal.
For the first time since 2005, we witnessed two fresh faces other than the Big Four, aiming to win their first ever Grand Slam title. But not everyone likes surprises. While we are generous with words when it comes to Cilic’s booming serves or impeccable lobs, it is equally hard to shake off that shroud of doubt while looking at the big picture.
The lurking question is -- Will Cilic win another Grand Slam? The absence of previous year’s champion Rafael Nadal had a significant impact on the tournament. Inadvertently, it made the journey a little less excruciating for everyone, including Federer and Djokovic.
In the case of Federer, who has been displaying astounding tennis of late, it was also his best shot at winning a record sixth title. But to the shock of everyone, Djokovic and Federer fell prey to Nishikori and Cilic respectively in the semi-finals.
After more than a decade and half, Flushing Meadows featured two zero Grand Slam players vying for their maiden major; obviously, not an appealing situation for the fans who were expecting a Djokovic-Federer duel. Had it been Djokovic instead of Nishikori, Cilic’s maiden Grand Slam win would have been more fascinating.
Another factor is his age; Cilic, who is 25, is not much younger to Nadal or Djokovic, but his career graph lies pretty low when compared to what the other two have achieved by his age. A 25-year-old champion is not capable of evoking the same magnitude of excitement like that of a teenager.
Cilic is a fresh face, a promising player, but he is a bit old to be regarded as a herald of the future. Doping charges and suspension Cilic has a dark past. Last year, he was tested positive for nikethamide - a stimulant, at the BMW Open in Munich.
The International Tennis Federation didn’t go too harsh on him as they accepted his plea that he didn’t take the tablets deliberately, but was issued to him by a member of his team. Still, he was issued a ban till February this year, and he had to forfeit the prize money and points he garnered during the period he was accused of using the stimulant.
Cilic indeed made amends to his past mistake by working hard and improving his game.
He will now be remembered as the US Open champion; the same time, he cannot erase his iniquitous past that easily. It will always haunt his career. Cilic’s future After his big win, Cilic was equated to Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion.
Del Potro, who won his maiden title at the age of 20, has been struggling to find a foothold ever since. Injuries have prevented him from giving his full potential on the court. The Argentine’s best performance after that didn’t go beyond the semi-finals (Wimbledon, 2013).
Besides, a comeback is not so easy with Nadal, Djokovic and Federer still dominating the circuit. In Cilic’s case, he lies somewhere between Del Potro and Stanislas Wawrinka -- who won his first and only Slam at the Australian Open -- at the age of 28, this year.
Luckily for Cilic, he didn’t had to wait that long. Wawrinka, who is currently ranked fourth, is one of the few players who can topple the Big Four. If Cilic stays focused, like Wawrinka, he too can emerge as a major threat to the Big Four in the coming months, whether or not he wins another Slam.
Marin Cilic could either end up like a Gaston Gaudio (2004 French Open champion) or he can be like his coach Goran Ivanisevic, who despite winning only a single Grand Slam (2001 Wimbledon), had had an impressive career, posing great threat to top players.
Goran was also a runner-up at Wimbledon three other times. Same is the case of Andy Roddick, who unfortunately couldn’t live up to his potential, but is still remembered for his amazing serves. Like Wawrinka, Cilic is an iconoclast.
He is an annihilator of the Big Four, but he is not an inheritor; at least not yet. .