Marin Cilic saw off Kei Nishikori in straight sets last night to win the US Open, in doing so becoming only the second player outside of the “big four” of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray to win a grand slam this decade.
Cilic’s first career grand slam title comes after Stan Wawrinka interrupted the “big four” hegemony by winning the Australian Open at the beginning of the year.
And as a healthy bonus to writing himself into the history books, Cilic also won $3m for his US Open triumph, more than doubling his 2014 prize money to $5.8m.
That total means only the powerhouse forces of Djokovic and Nadal, who won Wimbledon and the French Open respectively, have earned more than the Croat this tennis season.
The US Open is the most profitable competition for players. In contrast, Djokovic won $2.84m for winning Wimbledon, Nadal picked up $2.14m from Roland Garros, while Wawrinka pocketed $2.85m for his victory in Melbourne.
Nishikori also gave his annual salary a nice bump yesterday despite his loss, earning $1.45m for his runners up position, making him the fourth-biggest earner on the court this year after Roger Federer.
Cilic has now earned $12.2m in prize money throughout his career. Not bad for a 25-year-old, it makes him the 15th biggest earner on the ATP tour, yet it’s still a long way off the fortunes accumulated by Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray. Nishikori has the smaller career prize money earnings of $8.3m but the Japanese player races ahead of Cilic when it comes to sponsorships.
Forbes has named Nishikori as the highest-paid tennis player in the world behind the big four. The 24-year-old’s endorsements, which include Uniqlo, Adidas, Delta Airlines and Tag Heuer, are reportedly worth $9m.
On top of the winner’s chunky paycheck, Cilic will receive 2,000 ranking points for what was his 300th career win, points that will send him into the top 10 for the first time since April 2010.
But despite his elevated profile, Cilic will likely struggle to command the same kind of sponsorship revenue enjoyed by Nishikori after hitting the headlines for not so admirable reasons last year.
Cilic was suspended from the sport for nine months (reduced to four upon appeal) after testing positive for banned substance nikethamide last April. His period out of the game saw him plummet down the rankings table to 47th position as recently as last November.