2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic will continue his quest for a second Grand Slam title when he takes on Alex De Minaur of Australia, who has now made the third round at consecutive Grand Slams and reached the final in Washington last month (lost to Zverev). Cilic has been in fine form so far during the summer hard court swing, but will be aware of the dangers posed by the talented young De Minaur. Who will come out on top?
Unsurprisingly given De Minaur’s age, these two have never before played one another. Cilic made his US Open debut back in 2008, and in his nine previous trips to New York he has made two quarterfinals, a semifinal, and one final, which he won against Kei Nishikori. In contrast, De Minaur played here for the first time in his life last year, and was promptly knocked out in the first round. This is just his seventh appearance at a Grand Slam, and he has never been beyond the third round.
Path to the third round
Cilic was perhaps fortunate to advance from his first-round clash with Marius Copil of Romania unscathed. At one point in the first set he trailed 1-5 0-40, but he managed to turn that set around, winning six straight games as Copil ailed with a thigh injury. After losing the second set 1-6, Copil retired early in the third. Cilic then faced world #109 Herbert Hurkacz, who he crushed 6-2 6-0 6-0, reeling off 14 consecutive games to finish the match.
De Minaur began his US Open against world #64 Taro Daniel in what looked a close match on paper. The young Australian, however, took less than an hour and a half to dispose of his opponent in a comprehensive 6-0 6-1 6-2 win. In the next round, he faced home hope Frances Tiafoe, who is currently ranked one spot above De Minaur. But despite some resistance from the American in the third set, De Minaur won relatively comfortably 6-4 6-0 5-7 6-2.
How do they match up?
Cilic, who stands 6’6” tall, is most renowned for his powerful serve which improved markedly under the tutelage of former coach Goran Ivanisevic. He also has a powerful baseline game and excels at using the pace of the court to his own advantage. He will be hoping to overpower the relatively diminutive De Minaur, who has not yet developed the strength he will one day possess, and add to the 62 winners he has hit already.
But De Minaur does have an accurate, if not particularly powerful serve, and reliable groundstrokes. His forehand is his best shot, and the weapon he will rely on to beat Cilic. His backhand gives up few errors, but he may struggle to hurt Cilic with it, with the Croatian an impressive mover for a man of his size. Expect Cilic to target this wing as it will provide him an avenue of attack with a smaller risk of De Minaur counter-punching effectively.
De Minaur is an improving youngster who, despite not boasting any obvious weapons, is an intelligent player who seems destined to continue moving further up the rankings. But he will come up short against the experienced Cilic. He doesn't have the power to match the Croatian’s big serve and groundstrokes nor the variety to unsettle the seventh seed. Expect Cilic to reach the fourth round a straight sets winner.