New York: Rafa Nadal faced his stiffest challenge yet at the US Open tennis tournament here Monday, but raised his game to beat Marin Cilic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and continue his quest for a fourth Flushing Meadows title.
Second-seeded Rafa Nadal was in cruise control as he took the first set behind some superb serving and stout defence but the big-hitting Croatian Marin Cilic battled back to snatch the second.
That was as good as it would get for Cilic, however, the momentum shifting decisively in Nadal’s favour when he jumped in the air to hit a spectacular overhead smash that electrified the crowd.
Cilic would double fault later in the game to give Rafa Nadal a 3-1 lead in the third set and he would never threaten again on a hot and humid night here, with Tiger Woods among the star-studded crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium cheering on the Spaniard.
Nadal fired a forehand winner on match point to seal the victory and make his 40th quarterfinal at a Grand Slam event.
“For some moments in the second set I felt there were too many points in his (Cilic) hands,” said Nadal after the match. “He was pushing me back… after (the) second set I thought something needed to change.”
The 33-year-old Spaniard has had a relatively stress-free time at the tournament so far, dropping just one set and getting a walkover in the second round.
Next up for the 18-time Grand Slam champion is a meeting with Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who toppled sixth seed Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in their round of 16 clash earlier in the day.
Nadal is on a collision course with third seed Roger Federer and could meet his old rival in Sunday’s final if both players advance. Roger Federer faces Grigor Dimitrov in the quarters, Tuesday.