NEW YORK (AFP) - Croatia's Marin Cilic overwhelmed 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday, Sept 6, 2014, to book an unlikely US Open final against Japan's Kei Nishikori.
His comprehensive triumph over the Swiss great came hours after Nishikori stunned world number one Novak Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 as the two set up the first men's Grand Slam final in more than nine years in which Federer, Djokovic or Rafael Nadal failed to figure.
The 14th-seeded Cilic, who missed last year's US Open as he served a doping ban, reached his first Grand Slam final, denying the 33-year-old Federer's dream of a sixth title in Flushing Meadows.
The Swiss second seed, bidding to become the oldest winner of a Grand Slam title in more than 40 years, won five straight titles from 2004-2008. He was vying to reach a seventh final in New York but his first since 2009.
Instead, he was out-played by the 25-year-old Cilic, ranked 16th in the world, whose only prior appearance in a major semi-final was at the 2010 Australian Open.
Cilic seized the first two sets in just 66 minutes, breaking Federer once in each.
Federer had come from two sets to love down and saved two match points in his quarter-final win over Gael Monfils, but there would be no astounding escape this time.
He broke Cilic for a 2-0 lead in the third set - to the furious approval of the partisan Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.
But Cilic immediately regained the break, firing yet another booming forehand to the baseline that Federer could only bat into the net.
Federer was fighting for his life in the seventh game, after another forehand into the alley gave Cilic a break chance.
An unreturnable serve from the Swiss great staved off the danger only momentarily, and Cilic delivered a stinging service return to gain another chance that he converted for a 4-3 lead.
Cilic held with authority, closing the next game with three unreturnable serves to lead 5-3.
Federer responded with a love game of his own, but Cilic wouldn't be denied.
With three aces he gave himself triple match point, and a backhand winner sealed the triumph after just an hour and 45 minutes.
"To be able to play like this, I never dreamed of," said Cilic. "I think today was just the best performance ever in my career."
He's the first Croatian to reach a Grand Slam final since Goran Ivanisevic, now Cilic's coach, won Wimbledon in 2001.
The last Grand Slam final from which Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were all excluded was the 2005 Australian Open title match between Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt.