NEW YORK (AP) — Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, needed eight match points to recover from a two-set deficit and eventually edge 19-year-old Alex de Minaur 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 at 2:22 a.m. on Sunday, four minutes shy of the latest finish in the tournament’s history.
“This is a moment to remember, absolutely,” Cilic said.
As for de Minaur’s state of mind afterward?
“Not going to lie: Pretty devastated,” he said.
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The No. 7 seed Cilic and 45th-ranked de Minaur didn’t even start their third-round match at Louis Armstrong Stadium until after 10 p.m., because of day-session matches that ran long Saturday.
Less than 1 1/2 hours in, Cilic double-faulted to get broken for the fifth time in 10 service games and fall into that big hole. This was the sixth time in his career that the 29-year-old Croat won a match after dropping the opening two sets.
De Minaur was playing brilliantly, showing how speed can overcome power by racing this way and that along the baseline, showing off terrific instincts and reflexes.
But Cilic worked his way back into the match, serving better as it wore on and using the experience that has carried him to runner-up finishes at Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australian Open this January, in addition to his Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows.
De Minaur, meanwhile, was playing in a third-round match at a major for only the second time and has now lost both.
“A great learning experience for me,” the Australian called it.
The match had appeared to definitively swing Cilic’s way when he ran off four games in a row to go ahead 5-2.
He held five match points in the next game as de Minaur served, but couldn’t convert any.
Serving for the victory at 5-3, Cilic held a sixth match point, but that one was wasted, too. De Minaur broke there to get back on serve, then held for 5-all.
After Cilic held for 6-5, he got to love-40 — but de Minaur still would not go quietly. The seventh match point ended with a backhand into the net. Finally, Cilic came through on No. 8, smacking a forehand winner.
The U.S. Open’s late-finish record of 2:26 a.m. was set by Mats Wilander’s victory over Mikael Pernfors in 1993, then equaled when Philipp Kohlschreiber beat John Isner in 2012, and again when Kei Nishikori got past Milos Raonic in 2014.
“Didn’t manage to finish it off,” de Minaur said, “but I left it all out there.”
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