Day 8 Preview: Nadal & Cilic Face Off In Battle Of Former US Open Champions
Second seed Rafael Nadal and No. 22 seed Marin Cilic have enjoyed career-defining moments at the US Open. Nadal is a three-time champion at this event, while Cilic captured his maiden Grand Slam title here in 2014. They’ll both look to create more New York magic when they headline Monday’s night session in fourth-round action.
“I am happy to be where I am. I'm in the fourth round and that's the main thing,” Nadal said. “Now is the moment to push, to make a step forward if I want to give me a chance to fight for the important things. That's what I’m going to try [to do].”
Nadal has been in blistering form this fortnight, powering into the second week without dropping a set or his serve. Most importantly, the Spaniard is healthy. Nadal has sported tape or bandages in other US Open appearances, but the Spaniard is tape-free and pain-free this year, ensuring he has no worries about leaning into his shots to control the baseline rallies.
Cilic arrived in New York with a 15-13 record this year and admitted his season has not met his expectations. However, he’s been rounding into top form. The Croatian scored his first Top 15 win of the year on Friday by surviving 40 aces to defeat No. 14 seed John Isner. When his serve and forehand are firing, Cilic is still capable of beating anyone on Tour.
“I’m going to have to create chances with Rafa. He's definitely having a great season and playing really well,” Cilic said. “We played quite a few times already. We know each other really well. I’m going to have to be ready for a tough battle.”
Sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev headlines the day session against No. 20 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina as they each look to take the lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry (1-1). Both men took radically different paths in reaching Week 2. While Zverev has played 14 sets and spent just under 10 hours on court so far this fortnight, Schwartzman dropped a mere 23 games in his three rounds. But after enduring a challenging season by his lofty standards, playing without extra attention has been beneficial for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion and he's already achieved his best result at this event.
“It's about going match by match for me. It's about doing the best I can for now,” Zverev said before the tournament started. “It's the first time in probably a few years where I'm not a favorite in any way at a Grand Slam and it takes some pressure off, as well. It's a different mindset for me now.”
Gael Monfils, the No. 13 seed, takes on Spaniard Pablo Andujar in a battle of veterans on Tour. The Frenchman leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 3-0, but they haven’t faced off in six years. Andujar is through to the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time at age 33, but this is familiar territory for Monfils, who looks for his fourth quarter-final in New York. He outlasted Denis Shapovalov in a five-set thriller on Friday that saw the crowd give him a long standing ovation after match point.
“I think people love me because I play with my heart. I fight. It’s always something special with me,” Monfils said. “You never know how and what I can do on the court. I think that's why the people like that, a little bit [of] mystery part of me."
Italian Matteo Berrettini, the No. 24 seed, meets Russian Andrey Rublev in a battle of rising stars. Berrettini has won ATP Tour titles this season in Budapest (d. Krajinovic) and Stuttgart (d. Auger-Aliassime), while Rublev beat Roger Federer en route to his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Cincinnati, then took out Stefanos Tsitsipas in his opening round last week. The Italian seeks his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final, while Rublev aims for his first since the 2017 US Open.
ORDER OF PLAY – MONDAY, 2 September 2019