Thiem Topples Cilic Under The Lights
The second seed is through to the second week in New York for the fifth time in seven appearances. Although Thiem's form has been patchy at times, his game has improved considerably from his opening-round defeat last week at the Western & Southern Open and he remains a top contender to take the title.
"I think the quick start was more because of him. He had two very tough rounds and was a little bit slow in the beginning. I took all of my chances," Thiem said on court after the match. "Today was a good win against a great champion, so that should give me a boost.
"I'm not 100 per cent yet. I still have to raise my level if I want to go deeper. I'm normally capable of doing this in the Slams [and] hopefully here as well."
Next up for the Austrian is No. 15 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is into the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time. This will be their first ATP Head2Head meeting.
"The whole package is great. He's a great player, great person outside of the court. I think he has huge star potential. Unbelievable athlete, good looking. He has everything basically," Thiem said. "The only thing to my advantage is experience. This is his first fourth round at a Slam, so hopefully I can play that out a bit. It's going to be a nice one and I'm looking forward to it."
Thiem gave Cilic little to work with at the start of the match, camping well behind the baseline and forcing the Croatian to hit through him. Although Cilic was happy to play first-strike tennis, he became rattled by Thiem’s relentless retrieving and leaked errors from his normally reliable forehand wing. Both players hit six winners in the first set, but Thiem only struck two unforced errors while Cilic hit 13.
Cilic continued to struggle with his timing and Thiem’s consistency in the second set, enabling the 27-year-old to sprint to a 4-0 lead. Although he found his range after going down a double break, the deficit was too much to overcome. Thiem held comfortably at 5-2 and took a commanding advantage, hitting 18 winners across the first two sets to just four errors.
The Croatian was finally rewarded for his high-velocity play in the third set, earning his first break of the night after a brief dip in form from Thiem at 3-2. Cilic’s nerves were evident as he served for the set at 5-3 and the number of times he bounced the ball before serving nearly doubled. Although he struggled to find first serves, his groundstrokes never wavered. Cilic cracked a forehand winner on set point and closed the gap.
The added pressure from Cilic’s improved form began to affect Thiem’s baseline play. He hit nearly as many errors in the first five games of the fourth set (12) as he did in the first three sets combined. But the Austrian willed his way to tight service holds and took advantage of four baseline errors from Cilic to break serve at 3-2.
Cilic had opportunities to bring the match to a fifth set, but was left to rue missing all five break point opportunities. A big first serve from the second seed wrapped up play after two hours and 27 mjnutes. Thiem finished the night with 38 winners.