Cilic Overcomes Nerves, 40 Isner Aces To Advance
You don't have to play better than your opponent all the time in tennis, just when it matters most.
Marin Cilic saved 13 of 14 break points and erased set points in the first and third sets to beat John Isner on Saturday at the US Open. The 2014 champion Cilic, despite battling his own demons and 40 aces from Isner, escaped past the American 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 to set up a fourth-round meeting with second seed Rafael Nadal.
“You can't do much when he's serving like that. You have to just be positive and wait for your chance when it comes. Luckily it came at critical moment. I took it. That definitely influenced the match a lot,” Cilic said.
Nadal, a three-time US Open champion, leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 6-2, although Cilic won the last time they played at a Grand Slam, at the 2018 Australian Open when the Spaniard retired in the fifth set. Nadal beat South Korea's Hyeon Chung 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 earlier Saturday.
“I'm going to have to create chances with Rafa. He's definitely having a great season and playing really well,” Cilic said. “It's going to be on me, on my own side of the court to try to serve well, be a little bit aggressive and try to impose my game as much as I can.”
With a raucous Labour Day weekend crowd cheering on Isner in New York, the American had three set points on Cilic's serve at 5-4 in the opening set, but the Croatian erased them all and broke Isner before serving out the set.
The Croatian led their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 8-3 before Saturday, but has had his struggles in 2019, going only 17-13 and making one quarter-final.
Isner rolled through the second and had two more set points in the third-set tie-break, at 6/4 and on his serve at 6/5. But Cilic won the final four points, including two points on Isner's serve, to grab momentum.
In the fourth, however, Cilic was stumbling close to the finish. He double faulted 17 times for the match, including six times in the fourth set, but Isner went 0-for-4 on break points in the final set.
Spain's Pablo Andujar, 33, reached his first fourth round at a Grand Slam, beating Kazkahstan's Alexander Bublik 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. The Spanish veteran converted five of his 10 break points and struck 39 winners to make the second week.