Marin Čilić was the name on everybody's lips recently as he surprised tennis fans everywhere to take the US Open men's singles title.
The Croatian tennis prodigy, just days short of his 26th birthday, managed to take down fellow underdog Kei Nishikori in a nail-biting final.
Čilić, now ranked at world number 16, walked away victorious with a final score of 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. It was a crushing defeat for Nishikori, who had previously beat market favourite with Betsafe Novak Djokovic as well as world number four Stan Wawrinka.
However, he took his defeat gracefully and said after the match: “I was, I have to say, a little bit nervous. I was my first final.
“I didn't expect anything coming here. There are so many positive things that I can have from these two weeks, beating Wawrinka and Djokovic again.”
Nishikori can walk away with his head held high however – he's already made a $1 million sponsorship bonus with Fast Retailing, and he also achieved a record for his country. After beating Stan Wawrinka, Nishikori became the first Japanese player to have reached a semi-final in a Grand Slam tournament since Ichiya Kuamagae in 1918.
At just 24 years old, Nishikori has already got tennis experts talking as a potential to be one of the world greats in years to come. US Open winner Čilić, meanwhile, is just a year older and has proven he has what it takes to beat the likes of the current 'big four' – Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Čilić admitted however that his success at this year's tournament was partially down to the form of the dominant four. He said after the final: “I think the guys from the second line were a bit lucky because Andy Murray was also having trouble with his back; Stan Wawrinka was up and down with his tennis after Australia; few other players were not playing at the best all the time.
“And Rafa is not here, so that opened the gate a little bit for everybody else. I feel it's going to definitely be much bigger competition from next year.”
Nadal was notably absent from this year's competition after sustaining a wrist injury, paving the way for today's young stars to make their mark on the world of professional tennis.
The new talent, which also features 23-year-olds Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic, as well as 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios, has not eluded the attentions of esteemed former tennis stars.
Former world number four Greg Rusedski said: “It’s exciting because there’s a changing of the guard going on right now and it’s good to see these youngsters coming up and competing with the top four we’ve talked about for over a decade. There’s a little shift happening and that’s good for the game.”
October 1, 2014