Croatia’s Marin Cilic defeated No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the U.S. Open last night in a battle of two first-time Grand Slam finalists. Cilic, the 14th seed, became just the third player outside the ‘Big Four’ to win in the last 39 majors, joining Juan Martin del Potro (U.S. Open, 2009) and Stanislas Wawrinka (Australian Open, 2014). It also marked the first time since the 2005 Australian Open that Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray did not participate in a Grand Slam final. The unlikely championship match Monday night came about after Nishikori knocked off top-seeded Djokovic and Cilic ousted second-seeded Federer in Saturday’s semifinals. “Everything I was working for and dreaming came today,” Cilic said. “And I feel for all those other players who are working hard, this is a big sign and big hope that if you are working hard things are going to pay off.” Cilic added a new dimension to his team late last year, bringing on charismatic former Croatian star, big-serving Goran Ivanisevic, as his coach. It’s obviously paid huge dividends. “The most important of all the things he brought to me was enjoying tennis and always having fun,” Cilic said. “I think I enjoyed my best tennis over here and I played the best ever in my life.” Cilic double-faulted on the first of his three championship points, but sealed victory on the second with a crosscourt backhand winner ending the contest in one hour and 54 minutes. He fell to the court, let out a primal scream upon rising, and proceeded to hug Nishikori at the net. The 6-foot-6 Cilic served 17 aces and won 80 percent of the points on his first serves. Nishikori, at 5-10 and known more for his quickness and court coverage, had two aces and won 55 percent of his first delivery points. Cilic hit 38 winners to 19 for Nishikori. The 25-year-old Croatian won five of 11 break points, Nishikori just one of nine. Nishikori never showed the spark and energy he displayed against Djokovic on Saturday. He appeared nervous and heavy legged. Perhaps it was the residual effect of the 24-year old’s five-set marathons against Milos Raonic and Wawrinka in the fourth round and quarterfinals, respectively. “I was a little bit tight and nervous,” Nishikori said. “So many things to think about. I was trying to concentrate, but it wasn’t enough, I guess. Couldn’t fight one more match.” The title was the 12th of Cilic’s career and improved his record to 3-5 against Nishikori.