Williams, Cilic survive scares but no escape for Nadal

Sat Sep 5, 2015 2:39am EDT
 
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By Steve Keating

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Serena Williams and Marin Cilic both survived third round scares on Friday to keep their U.S. Open title defenses on track but there was no escape for Rafa Nadal with the twice-winner going down in a late night thriller.

A day of riveting high drama began in the early afternoon heat with the ninth seeded Cilic needing over four hours to put away Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7(5) 7-6(1) 6-3 6-7(3) 6-1 and ended in the early morning hours with Italian Fabio Fognini winning a pulsating third round slugfest over Nadal 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4.

In between the two epic battles there was even more suspense as Williams came back to score a 3-6 7-5 6-0 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands to keep alive her quest to for a calendar grand slam.

Williams, who dropped just nine sets, including seven first-set losses, in her charge to the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles, was tested at Flushing Meadows by her fellow American, but roared back to victory to reach the fourth round.

"I'm not trying to live on the edge," the 33-year-old Williams said. "I'm playing players that come out really strong. I just think Bethanie played really well."

The 21-times grand slam singles winner, who is aiming to join Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988) as the only women to sweep the four grand slams in a single season, next faces another American Madison Keys.

The real fireworks, however, came in the evening as Nadal and Fognini lit up the New York night with spectacular rallies and winners that had the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd on their feet well after 1:00 AM.

"If you want to play against him you want to do something different, you have to risk," said Fognini. "That's the only thing.   Continued...

 
Serena Williams of the U.S. returns a shot to Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the U.S. during their match at the U.S. Open Championships tennis tournament in New York, September 4, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz