It normally takes a great of deal time and effort to defeat No. 26 Gilles Simon, largely due to his counterpunching style of play and impressive foot speed. No. 14 seed Marin Cilic needed that and more on Tuesday in Louis Armstrong Stadium, going a marathon five sets to prevail in their fourth-round match, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
At four hours and 13 minutes, it’s the second-longest match so far of the 2014 US Open. Cilic won 175 points in total, compared to 162 for Simon. However, the length of the match shouldn’t be surprising given that all four of their previous matches went the distance, including a five-set victory for Simon over Cilic in the second round of this year’s Australian Open.
"It was really important to get this win," said Cilic after the match. "I knew that Gilles was not going to go away easy, but today I was really trying to stay mentally in the game the whole time."
Cilic’s play fluctuated at times; he hit 70 winners to 76 unforced errors. He also struggled mightily on converting break-point chances, at one point squandering 11 break opportunities in a row. But while his errors prolonged the match, his more aggressive style of play led to him being in control of most of the rallies. He also credited his improved mental fortitude with helping him survive the numerous twists and turns throughout the match.
"I've improved my game on the physical," said Cilic, "but the mental improvements have been the most important for me. There were matches where I just went away in the fifth set and that doesn't happen for me anymore."
Simon kept his unforced error count down to a tidy 31 after more than four hours of play, but he too frequently left himself be run side-to-side in the long rallies against Cilic. But when the clock hit the four-hour mark, the Croatian began to attack the net more frequently than he had all match in an effort to shorten the points. The effort paid off as he grabbed the lone break of serve in the fifth set to lead 5-3 and comfortably served out the match in the next game.
"We both played our best tennis in the fifth set, even after four hours on the court," said Cilic. "It wasn’t easy to deal with the heat and humidity, but I knew Gilles would get better as the match went on. I just tried to shorten the points and luckily it paid off in the end."