2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic will be eyeing another deep run at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. But standing between him and a place in the quarterfinals is 10th seed David Goffin, who after a difficult season has found a rich vein of form. Cilic, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of his second round Wimbledon exit at the hands of Guido Pella, a match which he had led by two sets to love. But who will come out on top?
This will be the sixth meeting between Cilic and Goffin, and it is the Belgian that leads their head-to-head 3-2. He won their first match, which came two years ago in the Davis Cup World Group first round tie between Belgium and Croatia, 6-4 6-4 3-6 7-5. He scored a second win later that year in Indian Wells, 7-6 6-2, and a third in Tokyo in the semifinals, 7-5 6-4. But a month later at the Paris Masters, Cilic had his revenge, winning 6-3 7-6, before beating Goffin last year in Rome 6-3 6-4.
Path to the fourth round
Cilic opened his US Open campaign with a lucky escape against Marius Copil. The Romanian was 5-1 40-0 up, but injury struck and Cilic swiftly turned it around before Copil retired trailing 7-5 6-1 1-1. A comfortable 6-2 6-0 6-0 win over Hubert Hurkacz followed to set up a third-round clash with Alex De Minaur. And what a clash it was. Cilic rallied from two sets down, before winning a drama-filled decider in which the young Australian saved eight match points before falling to a 6-4 6-3 3-6 4-6 5-7 defeat.
Goffin’s first-round opponent was Italian qualifier Federico Gaio, who had played some fine tennis to reach the main draw but proved to be no match for Goffin, who won 6-2 6-4 7-6. He backed that victory up by defeating the in-form Robin Haase 6-2 6-7 6-2 6-3. That win earned him a place in the third round where he faced the big-hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff. Goffin delivered another fine performance to win 6-4 6-1 7-6 and reach the round of 16 in New York for the second-straight year.
How do they match up?
Though both men are players of sufficient quality to win matches in more than one way, there can be no question that Cilic is at his best when on the front foot and that Goffin is most comfortable and effective when counter-punching. Cilic’s big weapons are his serve and forehand, and he will need them against Goffin, but so far the former has not quite delivered. He has hit 40 aces so far, but after going the distance against De Minaur, a higher total may have been expected.
But his tally of 123 winners will be more to his liking, with 61 of them coming in his third-round win. But he will need to tighten up against Goffin. The 71 errors he made against De Minaur would certainly have been punished by the more-experienced Belgian. In his second and third round matches, Goffin has been playing something like his best tennis, spreading the court without giving up a costly number of errors and defending well enough to force his opponents into mistakes.
There looks to be little to separate these two men on paper. But Goffin was decidedly more convincing in the first week in New York than the Croatian. He has been moving well, hitting the ball very cleanly and looking focused. Cilic, in contrast, has been inconsistent. Though he played a great match against Hurkacz, he was far from his best against both Copil and De Minaur. Neither were able to punish him, but the Belgian will. Goffin in four.