After Slow Start, Cilic Reaches Second Round In New York
Cilic, eager to advance beyond the third round for the first time in three years, was leading 7-5, 6-1, 1-1 when Copil was forced to retire after struggling with his movement. Cilic saved five set points in the opening set, winning 11 consecutive games from 1-5 (0-40) down to take control of the match.
Cilic improves to 30-8 matches at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and will next face #NextGenATP Hubert Hurkacz of Poland in the second round. Hurkacz, currently ninth in the ATP Race to Milan, was leading Stefano Travaglia 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(6), 3-0 when the Italian retired due to cramps.
"Hopefully I'm going to get better and better match by match. I always enjoy playing here. It's one of my favourite Grand Slams, the one where I had the best results even before I won it," said Cilic. "So I'm hoping that I can play great tennis and we'll see how long I can go."
Hurkacz earned his second match win in a Grand Slam, after emerging victorious on debut at Roland Garros earlier this year. There, he also met Cilic in the second round, falling in four tight sets.
Sofia finalist Copil started quickly, breaking Cilic's serve on two occasions before manufacturing three set points in the seventh game. But Cilic responded emphatically, recovering from 1-5 (0/40) down to win six straight games, saving a total of five set points, to snatch a one-set lead.
"Obviously [I made] a slow start. Definitely the beginning, I lost two of my service games. I was just missing some easy balls, making some unforced errors that are not that usual for me," said Cilic.
"Conditions, definitely, were extremely tough and very humid, very hot. The ball was flying a bit more than usual, so I was having just more trouble to control it, especially in the beginning."
Following the disappointment of failing to convert five set points from such a dominant position, Copil was unable to halt the momentum early in the second set. Cilic broke at the first opportunity and soon raced to a two-set lead, hitting 11 winners in the second set to edge closer to victory. Cilic won 11 straight games from 1-5 (0/40) to 7-5, 5-0.
After early service holds in the third set, Copil, who required treatment on his upper left leg in the previous set, could no longer continue. The Romanian shook hands with Cilic after dropping his opening two service points.
Copil was bidding to record his first US Open victory on his second main-draw appearance, but falls to 1-9 in Grand Slam encounters. Last month, the 27-year-old pushed Andy Murray to a final-set tie-break in the Round of 16 at the Citi Open.
Tenth seed David Goffin, who recently reached the Western & Southern Open semi-finals, safely progressed to the second round. The tenth seed beat Federico Gaio of Italy 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(5), breaking serve on five occasions to advance after two hours and 20 minutes.
Goffin will next face Rogers Cup quarter-finalist Robin Haase. The Dutchman recovered from two sets down to overcome American Mackenzie McDonald 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in three hours and two minutes. It was just his second comeback from two sets down in his Grand Slam career, having previously rallied to defeat Dustin Brown in New York in 2015.
Meanwhile, Julien Benneteau staved off retirement with a 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4 upset of 22nd seed Marco Cecchinato. The French veteran has stormed back from a set down in three of the four Grand Slams this year. Benneteau added a 273rd tour-level match win with the victory, setting a second-round clash against Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff. Struff ousted wild card Tim Smyczek 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-3.
Did You Know?
Marin Cilic has won at least one ATP World Tour title in each of the past 11 seasons. The 29-year-old extended his title streak earlier this year at the Fever-Tree Championships, saving a championship point en route to a three-set win over Novak Djokovic in the final.