NEW YORK: For a former champion Marin Cilic has flown under the U.S. Open radar but the Croatian with the booming serve was again making noise on Thursday, advancing to the third round with a 6-3 1-6 7-6(2) 7-5 win over Norbert Gombos.
With Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal not at Flushing Meadows, former winners Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have grabbed the spotlight but Cilic, the 2014 champion, is back in the third round for the seventh straight year.
As ever, Cilic, seeded 31, has taken the long road, needing five sets to see off American Denis Kudla in the opening round and nearly three hours to get past the 104th-ranked Gombos.
The win over Kudla was the 33rd time Cilic has needed five sets to advance at a Grand Slam tournament, the most of any active player, and the 31-year-old Croatian was nearly forced to go the distance again.
Cilic looked set for a quick day as he powered through the opening set, only to drop the second 6-1.
Play tightened in the third, Gombos getting a look at set point with Cilic serving at 4-5 but in the end the Croatian took control to dominate the tiebreak 7-2.
Cilic took the momentum into the third, grabbing the only break and closing out the contest on his first match point to set up a showdown with second seed Dominic Thiem who was a 6-3 6-3 6-2 winner over India's Sumit Nagal.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)