By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Defending champion Marin Cilic powered into the third round of the U.S. Open with a routine win over Russia's Evgeny Donskoy on Wednesday while the curtain came down on American Mardy Fish's career.
After playing his opening match on an outside court, Cilic returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium, scene of last year's triumph, and it once again looked to be a perfect fit as the big-hitting Croatian rolled to 6-2 6-3 7-5 win over the Russian qualifier.
During last year's magical run Cilic was invincible on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court as he swept by Tomas Berdych in the quarters, took out Roger Federer in the semis and Kei Nishikori in a one-sided final.
"This court is very special for me, brings back special memories," the ninth-seeded Cilic said in an on-court interview. "It's sort of unreal. I was working all my life to win a grand slam and now I'm in position to defend one."
After a first round littered with upsets, the start of second round action went according to script as Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer beat Serb Filip Krajinovic 7-5 7-5 7-6(4) and Canadian 10th seed Milos Raonic fought off back pain and several visits from the trainer to beat Spain's Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(1).
It was a great start to another steamy day for the Americans with 19th seed Madison Keys needing just 54 minutes on center court to race past Czech Tereza Smitkova 6-1 6-2 and reach the third round for the first time four tries.
The victory marked another milestone in what has been Keys's best grand slam season having reached the Australian Open semi-finals, Wimbledon quarters and third round of the French Open.
"So far this year it's probably been the best year I have had," said Keys. "It hasn't been perfect. There have been some ups and downs but I think that's the nature of tennis.
"I still haven't quite figured everything out."
Flushing Meadows said goodbye to Fish, the 33-year-old American who announced earlier this year that he would retire after playing in his 13th U.S. Open.
After an 18 month layoff, Fish, who suffers from an anxiety disorder, returned to the ATP Tour in March and only played four events but went down swinging in his final grand slam.
Fish stretched it out as long as he could and appeared to be on the brink of an impressive upset but ultimately fell 2-6 6-3 1-6 7-5 6-3 to 18th seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
"I have got a lot of great memories; I've got a lot of good wins out here. I have made a lot of really good friendships with almost everyone out here," said Fish.
"I probably would have chosen this one as my last one regardless if I didn't have any issues with my health in the past couple of years just because this is the biggest one and the most fun and the one that you want to go out on."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)