Cilic edges Quer­rey in 2 tiebreak­ers to reach the Citi Open quar­ter­fi­nals


Sam Quer­rey gave U.S. Open cham­pion Marin Cilic all he could han­dle in the first set — un­til the tiebreaker. In the sec­ond set, too — un­til the tiebreaker.

Get­ting his hard-court game in gear a few weeks be­fore de­fend­ing his first Grand Slam ti­tle, Cilic edged the 13th-seeded Quer­rey 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) on Thurs­day to reach the Citi Open quar­ter­fi­nals.

“Pretty com­fort­able tiebreak­ers,” the third-seeded Cilic said, “but if one or two things would be a bit dif­fer­ent, it could have been very, very tight.”

How close was it? Take away the tiebreak­ers, and Quer­rey won more to­tal points, 74- 67. The Amer­i­can also com­piled more win­ners, 32- 25. And he even served for the sec­ond set while up a break at 5-3, but got bro­ken there.

“A lit­tle bummed right now. I felt like I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily out­play him, but I was right there,” Quer­rey said. “In that first set, I felt like I had all the chances. But the tiebreaker got away from me a lit­tle bit. The sec­ond set was sim­i­lar. I needed to tighten things up a lit­tle bit when I was serv­ing for the set.”

Down 1-0 in the first tiebreaker, Quer­rey put two first serves in, but lost both points by miss­ing fore- hands, one into the net, the other wide.

“Right away, I was down 3-0 ... and against a guy like Marin, who’s got a great serve him­self and is so solid, you feel like you’re a long way from the first set at that point,” Quer­rey said. “So it kind of sucks the wind out of you.”

With Cilic up 2-1 in the sec­ond tiebreaker, he smacked a run­ning, down-the-line fore­hand win­ner and raised his left fist.

“That pretty much de­cided the match,” Cilic said.

The Croa­t­ian is the first reign­ing U.S. Open cham­pion to en­ter Washington’s hard-court tour­na­ment since An­dre Agassi in 2000.

Next for Cilic is matchup with 18-year-old Alexan­der Zverev of Ger­many, the youngest quar­ter­fi­nal­ist in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal since Andy Rod­dick was 17 in 2000. Zverev got past 2012 Citi Open cham­pion Alexandr Dol­go­polov 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

The man Cilic de­feated for the ti­tle at Flush­ing Mead­ows last year, Kei Nishikori, played nearly mis­take-free ten­nis to move into his 11th ATP quar­ter­fi­nal of the sea­son by beat­ing 16th-seeded Leonardo Mayer of Ar­gentina 6-4, 6-4.

The sec­ond-seeded Nishikori made only seven un­forced er­rors, half as many win­ners as he pro­duced in the 1 1/2-hour vic­tory.

Nishikori meets Sam Groth for a berth in the semi­fi­nals. Groth de­liv­ered 20 aces in a 6-3, 6-4 vic­tory over sev­enth-seeded Feli­ciano Lopez.

“I’m go­ing to have to play my game style. Noth­ing changes too much for me,” Groth said, look­ing ahead to fac­ing Nishikori. “I’ve got to hold serve and I’ve got to build pres­sure around that and I’ve got to make him feel un­com­fort­able. I’m go­ing to at­tack the net. I’m go­ing to be ag­gres­sive and I’m go­ing to do what I do.”

Jack Sock and Steve John­son set up an all-Amer­i­can quar­ter­fi­nal by elim­i­nat­ing seeded op­po­nents. Sock came back to beat No. 4 Richard Gas­quet of France 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-4, while John­son got past No. 6 Grigor Dim­itrov of Bulgaria 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

In Thurs­day’s fi­nal match — which ac­tu­ally fin­ished at 1:30 a.m. Fri­day, thanks in part to a rain de­lay of nearly an hour af­ter the third game — John Is­ner de­feated 2014 run­ner-up Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 7-6 (6). The eighth­seeded Is­ner’s quar­ter­fi­nal op­po­nent will be 86th-ranked Ri­car­das Ber­ankis, a 7-5, 6-4 win­ner against Tey­mu­raz Gabashvili, who knocked off top-seeded Andy Mur­ray on Wed­nes­day.

Women’s win­ners in­cluded top-seeded Eka­te­rina Makarova, Anas­ta­sia Pav­lyuchenkova and Christina McHale.

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