NEW YORK – Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, needed eight match points to recover from a two-set deficit and eventually took a 19-year lead from Alex de Minaur 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6- 4, 7-5 at 2:22 pm on Sunday, four minutes shy of the last finish in the history of the tournament.
"This is a moment never to be forgotten, absolutely," Cilic said.
As for the mood of the Minaur after that?
"Do not lie: pretty destroyed," he said.
The No. 7-seed Cilic and the 45th ranked De Minaur even started their third round at the Louis Armstrong Stadium only after 10.00 o'clock because of long session sessions that lasted long saturday.
Less than 1 1/2 hours in, Cilic double-faulted to be broken for the fifth time in 10 service games and to fall into that big hole. This was the sixth time in his career that the 29-year-old Croatian won a game after dropping the first two sets.
The Minaur played brilliantly, showing how speed can overcome the power by racing this way along the baseline, with great instincts and reflexes.
But Cilic worked his way back into the game, served better while wearing and using the experience that brought him to second place at Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australian Open in January, alongside his Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows.
The Minaur now only played for the second time in a third round in a big one and has now lost both.
"A great learning experience for me," the Australian said.
The game seemed to finally defeat Cilic's way when he finished four games in a row to continue 5-2.
He held five match points in the next game because the Minaur served, but could not convert.
With a 5-3 victory, Cilic had a sixth match point, but it was also wasted. The Minaur broke there to take service again and was then held for 5-all.
After Cilic had held 6-5, he got love -40 – but the Minor would still not remain calm. The seventh match point ended with a backhand in the net. Finally, Cilic came through at number 8 and smashed a forehand winner.
The late-finish record of U.S. Open from 02.26 hours was set by the victory of Mats Wilander on Mikael Pernfors in 1993, when matched when Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated John Isner in 2012, and again when Kei Nishikori passed Milos Raonic in 2014.
"It did not work to finish it," said the Minaur, "but I left it out there."