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(10) Kei Nishikori vs. (14) Marin Cilic

 

First Set – Cilic 6-3 in 33 minutes.  Cilic saved a break point in the opening game of the match and the two stayed on serve until Cilic broke Nishikori on his third break chance to take a 4-2 lead.  One break was all Cilic needed to take the set.  Cilic dropped just 4 points in his 5 service games (3 in his opening service game), even though he hit just 44% of his first serves in play.  Cilic dominated with his power and depth, hitting 11 total winners to just 2 for Nishikori.  In terms of total aggression, Cilic won 21 points with aggressive play – Nishikori won 9.

Second Set – Cilic 6-3 in 37 minutes.  Cilic broke Nishikori on his fourth break point of the game, after Nishikori came back from 0-40 down, to take a 2-1 lead in the set.  Nishikori fought back and had Cilic down 15-40 in his next service game.  Cilic ran off four straight points to consolidate his break and extend his lead to 3-1.  Nishikori held serve at love and then just to raise the level, Cilic held at love by firing 4 straight aces to lead 4-2.  Cilic then broke Nishikori for a second time in the set to lead 5-2.  Nishikori finally managed to break Cilic (on his 6th break chance of the match) to extend the set. Cilic broke Nishikori for the third time in the set to close it out 6-3.

Cilic continued to overpower Nishikori, with 12 winners while making just 9 unforced errors.  Nishikori did get more aggressive in the second set, hitting 8 winners, but in doing so he made 12 unforced errors.  Cilic raised his serving percentage to 64% in the 2nd set (up from 44% in the first set).

Third Set – Cilic 6-3 in 44 minutes.  Cilic opened the third set with 3 straight aces and held after being forced to deuce twice.  Cilic broke Nishikori for the fifth time in the match to take a 3-1 lead in the set.  Cilic fought off 3 break points to hold for a 5-2 lead.  Cilic served it out 6-3.

Match Summary – Cilic 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in 1 hour 54 minutes.  Cilic dominated with his serve and his power off the ground.  17 aces, 38 total winners, just 27 unforced errors, Cilic held 13 of 14 service games saving 8 of the 9 break points he faced.  Cilic served 52% first serves in play for the match, but he dominated on both 1st and 2nd serve – 80% 1st serves won – 61% 2nd serves won.

Nishikori just couldn’t match Cilic’s pace.  He tried, hitting 19 total winners, but made 30 unforced errors in the process.  Nishikori was broken 5 times in 13 service games and won just 55% of his own first serve points.

 

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Nishikori vs. Cilic

Nishikori Highlights:

  • Solid serving – 74% 1st serve points won – 59% 2nd serve points won – saved 39 of 51 break points faced
  • Strong return of 2nd serve – 55% won – 28 breaks in 6 matches
  • Very solid baseline game – 93 forehand winners – 64 backhand winners – 56% baseline points won

Cilic Highlights:

  • Dominating first serve – 81 aces – 83% 1st serve points won – 41% of his serves have not been returned
  • Big forehand – 78 forehand winners, but also 112 forehand unforced errors
  • 23 break of serve in 6 matches

Matchup:

Nishikori leads their head to head 5-2 having won the last three meetings.  This will be their third meeting at the US Open – Nishikori won in 5 sets in 2010 – Cilic won in 4 sets in 2012.

Cilic is the more powerful and explosive player, Nishikori is the better mover and more consistent player.  Cilic played his best match of the tournament in the semifinals against Federer with almost twice as many winners as unforced errors (43 to 23).  Coming into the semis, Cilic had more total unforced errors than winners.  Nishikori has used his quickness to take the ball early and take time away from his opponents.  If Cilic isn’t making errors, it will be difficult for Nishikori to handle all that pace and maintain that type of court positioning.

Nishikori has outplayed huge servers like Raonic and power players like Wawrinka here, so he’s shown he can deal with guys that play that style.  Cilic’s play against Federer was reminiscent of Juan Martin Del Potro – just powering his opponent off the court.  Both guys are playing in their first ever Grand Slam final, so nerves could be a factor.  If they both are ready to play and ready for the occasion, it should be a good contest.

The Data:

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 10.56.25 PM

For more US Open 2014 commentary by the numbers, go to ibm.com/sports or use #GameChangersIBM on Twitter.

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Serena Williams vs. Caroline Wozniaki

First Set – Williams 6-3 in 40 minutes.  Both players came out a bit tight, missing first serves.  Williams held her opening service game after saving a break point (she put just 3 of 8 first serves in).  She broke Wozniaki in the next game as Wozniaki put just 3 of 8 first serves in play.  Williams missed 5 of 6 first serves in the next game and donated 3 unforced errors to give the break right back.  Serena hit 29% of her first serves in play in her first two service games.  Williams broke Wozniaki for the second straight time to take a 3-1 lead.  Serena gave the break right back again – this time with 4 unforced errors (including 2 double faults).  Williams broke Wozniaki for the third straight time to take a 4-2 lead.  Serena finally had a service game in which she did not face a break point as she held for 5-2.  Wozniaki held serve for the first time, saving a set point, and Williams served it out.

Wozniaki held serve just once in the first set – broken 3 times – as Williams dominated with power.  Williams had 15 winners to just 1 for Wozniaki, but Serena also made 16 unforced errors.  Wozniaki won only 4 of 15 (27%) of her 2nd serve points in the set.

Second Set – Williams 6-3 in 35 minutes.  Williams broke Wozniaki to open the set and end the set.  Serena settled down on serve, did not face a break point, and lost just 4 service points in the set.   Williams hit 14 winners in the set and cleaned up her act making just 7 unforced errors.

Match Summary – Williams won her 18th Grand Slam singles title with relative ease, dominating and overpowering Wozniaki.  Williams hit 29 total winners to just 4 from Wozniaki.  She held 7 of 9 service games, lost only 4 points on serve in the 2nd set and broke Wozniaki 5 times.  Serena’s winners came from all over – 7 aces, 1 service winner, 11 forehands, 6 backhands, 3 volleys and 1 overhead smash.  Wozniaki just didn’t have the weapons to stay with Serena, especially once Serena got her serve going.  After hitting just 41% of her first serves in play in the first set, Serena put 70% in play in the second set and that made her unbeatable.

For more US Open 2014 commentary by the numbers, go to ibm.com/sports or use #GameChangersIBM on Twitter.

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(10) Kei Nishikori def. (1) Novak Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6, 6-3 in 2 hours 52 minutes

First Set – Nishikori 6-4 in 39 minutes.  Djokovic was effective but inconsistent on 1st serve and he paid the price.  Djokovic hit just 54% of his first serves in play, winning 86%.  But he missed 12 first serves and won only 3 of those points when he had to hit a second serve.  Credit Nishikori for keeping the pressure on Djokovic and converting 2 of 3 break points.  For the set, Nishikori was the aggressor, hugging the baseline and giving Djokovic little time to react (23 points won with aggressive play by Nishikori compared to 19 by Djokovic).  Total points 29-27 Nishikori, and a one set lead.

Second Set – Djokovic 6-1 in 30 minutes.  Djokovic got mad and got even.  He took charge in the 2nd set, stepping up and overpowering Nishikori in the second set.  Djokovic won 22 points with aggressive play to just 10 for Nishikori.  Novak did not improve his 1st serve percentage (it actually dropped to 48%), but he really improved his performance on 2nd serves winning 8 of 11 (73%).  For the set, Djokovic lost just 5 points on serve and did not face a break point. Nishikori was broken twice in three service games.

Third Set – Nishikori 7-6 in 66 minutes.  Nishikori got the first break of the set to go up 5-3 and have a chance to serve it out.  Djokovic broke right back and the set moved on to a tiebreak.  Similar to the first set, it was Djokovic’s 2nd serve that let him down (he won just 5 of 14 2nd serve points), especially in the tiebreak.  How bad did Djokovic play in the tiebreak?  He won just 1 of 6 serving points, losing all three on his 2nd serve and losing 2 of 3 on his first serve, and made 5 unforced errors.  Again like the opening set, Nishikori was able to establish control from the baseline more often than Djokovic and he became the aggressor (33 points won with aggressive play to 27 for Djokovic).

Fourth Set – Nishikori 6-3 in 37 minutes.  Djokovic started the fourth set by dropping his serve.  He put 2 of 5 first serves in play and made 3 unforced errors including a double fault.  He then jumped out to a 0-40 lead in Nishikori’s next service game but failed to break as Nishikori ran off 5 straight points to secure a 2-0 lead in the set.  Djokovic did not get another chance for a break as Nishikori stayed solid and strong.  Nishikori made just 4 unforced errors in the set and hit 67% 1st serves in play.  As he did in each set he won, Nishikori dominated when Djokovic had to hit a 2nd serve.  Djokovic won just 1 of 9 second serve points in the set.

Match Summary – Djokovic won 3 more points than Nishikori (120 to 117), but in the biggest situations it was Nishikori who came through.  There were 20 break points in the match (13 against Nishikori, 7 against Djokovic) and Nishikori won 14 of those 20 points.  Nishikori converted 5 of his 7 break chances – Djokovic was 4 of 13.  The third set tiebreak was a real turning point of the match and again it was Nishikori playing solid and Djokovic struggling.  For the match, Djokovic won 80% when he got his first serve in and just 37% when he missed it.   Nishikori won 67% of his first serve points and 50% when he had to hit a second serve.

 

(2) Roger Federer versus (14) Marin Cilic

First Set – Cilic 6-3 in 28 minutes.  Cilic dropped just 6 points on serve, saved the only break point he faced and converted his one break chance to take the first set 6-3.  Cilic showed his explosive power game, 17 winners, and unusual consistency, with just 7 unforced errors.  He held all 5 of his service games.

Second Set – Cilic 6-4 in 38 minutes.  Cilic opened the second set just like he started the match – with big swings and exploding groundstrokes and broke Federer to take a 1-0 lead.  That’s all he needed to take a 2 set lead in the match.  Cilic lost just 7 points on serve in the second set.  Through 2 sets he’s won 26 of 28 points when he’s hit his first serve in play (93%).  Cilic did not face a break point in the set.  Federer came into this match having won 40% against his opponents’ first serve – he’s won 7% through 2 sets.

Third Set – Cilic 6-4 in 39 minutes.  This time Federer held his opening service game at love.  Federer finally broke Cilic to take a 2-0 lead.  But Cilic broke right back.  Cilic broke Federer for a second time in the set to take a 4-3 lead and served out the match.  Federer serve just 48% first serves in play in the set but it was really just Cilic’s ability to win a couple of key points that made the difference.  He converted in both games where he had break point chances and that was the match.

Match Summary – Cilic held 14 of 15 service games, won 87% of his first serve points, converted 4 of 8 break point chances and just overpowered Federer (43 total winners to 28 for Federer).  44% of Cilic’s serves did not come back.  Cilic also played a very clean match – giving few points away (23 total unforced errors).  The match was played at Cilic’s tempo – lots of quick points – and he took advantage of that.  126 of the 165 points lasted 4 shots or less, and Cilic won 70 of those 126.  Cilic held his own in the longer rallies and actually won 9 of the 14 points that lasted more than 8 shots.

For more US Open 2014 commentary by the numbers, go to ibm.com/sports or use #GameChangersIBM on Twitter.

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Williams Highlights:

  • Big first serve – 28 aces – 80% 1st serve points won – 38% of her serves have not been returned
  • Dominating return of serve – 29 breaks in 49 return games (59%)
  • Balanced and dangerous ground strokes – 43 forehand winners – 39 backhand winners – leads the tournament winning 60% of her baseline points

Wozniaki Highlights:

  • Solid and consistent first serve – 67% in play  – 71% 1st serve points won – 2nd serve can be a bit shaky (20 double faults – 48% points won)
  • Very solid return game – 89% returns hit back in play – winning 48% returning 1st serves – 25 breaks in 56 return games (45%)
  • Much better balance of aggression and consistency – 103 total winners – 87 total unforced errors

Matchup:

Williams leads their head to head 8-1, but their last two matches, played on hard courts this summer, have gone three sets with Serena having to come back after Wozniaki won the first set in each match.  Williams has a very good serve, Wozniaki has a very good return of serve.  Wozniaki has a good consistent serve, Williams has a great explosive return.  That’s where the trouble lies for Wozniaki.  She must serve extremely well against the world number one to have a chance for her first Grand Slam title.  Wozniaki will also have to try to pressure Serena’s serve.  That’s possible if Serena is missing her first serves, but if Serena is serving well she’s almost impossible to beat.

The Data:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 7.24.14 PM

 

For more US Open 2014 commentary by the numbers, go to ibm.com/sports or use #GameChangersIBM on Twitter.

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