Melbourne: Former US Open champion Marin Cilic became the first man into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open when he ground down Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(2), 6-3 7-6(0), 7-6(3) on Sunday.
In an entertaining baseline duel at the Margaret Court Arena, sixth seed Cilic blew away Carreno Busta in the tie-breaks to celebrate his 100th Grand Slam win.
A former semi-finalist at Melbourne Park, Cilic also equalled Goran Ivanisevic’s Croatian record of 11 grand slam quarter-final appearances.
Carreno Busta showed heart to rally from a break down in the fourth set and push the match into a third tie-break but was quickly overwhelmed by Cilic’s firepower as the Croatian brought up four match points in a hurry.
Cilic blew one of them by spraying a crosscourt shot wide but made no mistake on the second, hammering a huge first serve down the ‘T’ and picking off the return with a straightforward forehand winner, bringing raucous cheers from the large Croatian contingent in the terraces.
The 2014 US Open champion Cilic will meet either last year’s finalist Rafael Nadal or Argentine Diego Schwartzman for a place in the semi-finals.
“It was an unbelievable match, a lot of ups and downs,” Cilic said in his on-court interview.
“Pablo came back and really gave me a lot of trouble ... We had a lot of tough rallies so I was really glad how I stayed in there mentally.”
Cilic served 20 aces, broke serve six times and made a total of 73 winners as well as winning the majority of the long rallies.
"That's my style of play. Pablo is extremely solid from the back of the court and has great shots both on the forehand and backhand and he was serving really good today," Cilic said.
"It was a big battle and I am really relieved that I played such a great tiebreaker at the end."
Cilic said he faced a big challenge against either Nadal or Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.
"I have played great tennis from the first round against tough opponents and now I am really looking to the next match, it will be definitely be a big challenge," he said.
Carreno Busta reached the semi-finals of last year's US Open where he lost to Kevin Anderson and also made the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in the same year.
He was bidding to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the first time.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 21, 2018 12:28:25 IST