Cilic Completes Epic Two-Set Comeback At 2:22 AM
Nobody will remember the score, but everybody will remember the moment.
Marin Cilic came back from two sets down to defeat #NextGenATP Australian Alex de Minaur 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 after three hours and 59 minutes, completing his victory at 2:22 am Sunday morning when he converted his eighth match point to advance to the fourth round of the US Open.
"[I'm] incredibly happy. It was just an insane atmosphere," Cilic said on court, before addressing the crowd. "Well done guys. Thank you. Thank you so much."
The 2014 champion is now 8-1 in five-setters in Flushing Meadows, moving into the second week at the year's final Grand Slam for the first time since 2015, when he reached the semi-finals. Cilic is 29-14 in all five-setters, and he has overcome a two-set deficit six times.
It appeared in the fifth set that the Croat would pull away and complete his comeback emphatically. But with a 5/2 0/40 lead on his 19-year-old opponent's serve, things got sticky. There's no other way to put it: De Minaur simply refused to lose. Cilic was unrelenting from the baseline with his powerful, flat groundstrokes. But this year's Sydney finalist played incredible defence point after point, scraping balls back that would be clean winners against many players, and somehow he ended up winning some of those points.
"Every time I step out on court, I tell myself that I'm going to play until the last point," said De Minaur. "He was going to have to beat me. Eventually that's what he did.
"But I did everything in my power to try and get back, every ounce of energy to try and push. I managed to come back, but then he was too good at the end."
And after saving the first six match points he faced, De Minaur broke to get back on serve at 4-5 in the decider. The match looked destined to break the US Open's record for latest finish (2:26 am, three-way tie), but Cilic broke for the seventh time in the match to clinch the victory and seal the tournament's fourth-latest finish.
"Incredible fighting spirit. He was fighting his heart out and it was just an insane match. What a comeback he made from 5-2," Cilic said. "He played some amazing tennis and really a couple points were taking him from the victory. I was just a little bit luckier today."
Most Five-Set Wins By Active Players
One year ago, De Minaur was No. 186 in the ATP Rankings, and he had won just two tour-level matches. Now, he is projected to crack the Top 40, and the Aussie is also currently in fourth place in the ATP Race To Milan as he attempts to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals.
"Right now I'm completely devastated, but it's a great learning experience for me," said De Minaur. "I played at a very high level, pushed a quality opponent. It just shows that experience at the end of the day.
"[I am] looking forward to playing more of these five-set matches and being able to hopefully have the opportunity to finish it off."
The No. 7 seed Cilic will now have to recover to face 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up David Goffin. The Belgian star impressively dismissed German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(4) in two hours, 14 minutes. Goffin leads Cilic 3-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but the former US Open champion has won their two most recent meetings.