By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Defending champion Marin Cilic was the first man through to the U.S. quarter-finals on Sunday, taking down determined Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 2-6 7-6(2) 6-1 to extend his Flushing Meadows win streak to 11 matches.
Coming off a punishing five-setter with Mikhail Kukushkin in a third-round match that lasted four hours, Cilic took a while to find his power game but was unstoppable once he did, the ninth seeded Croat blasting 23 aces past 27th seed Chardy, who had no answer.
"Key today was finding my rhythm on the serve, especially toward the end of the third set," said Cilic. "I was having trouble a little with my movement after I twisted my ankle in the second set. That was causing me a little trouble, but in the end it’s pretty good.
"I played really good in the fourth set, really great tennis, so I’m happy about it."
Cilic has found the defense of his title much tougher than winning, at least so far.
In last year's march to the title, Cilic recorded straight set wins over Tomas Berdych in the quarters, Roger Federer in the semi-finals and Kei Nishikori in the final.
This year, with the exception of a straight sets decision over Russian qualifier Evgeny Donskoy, all of Cilic's matches have gone four sets or more.
After splitting the opening two sets, Cilic's power began to show through particularly in the third set tiebreak when he used his big serve to full advantage firing four aces and going up 6-1 before closing out 7-2.
Cilic kept the pressure up, breaking the Frenchman in the fourth set, surging in front 5-0 and then serving out for the match.
"The fourth set was incredible serving, it can’t get be better I guess," said Cilic. "I didn’t lose too much
energy today, so it’s good news for me.
"Going to try and keep my streak going for a couple more matches."
(Editing by Andrew Both)