Defending Champion Marin Cilic is one step away from making his second Grand Slam quarterfinal of the year. 19th seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is bidding for the same thing and his first ever U.S. Open quarterfinal.
(9) Marin Cilic vs. (19) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Cilic rebounded from a bit of an uneven match in round three against Mikhail Kukushkin to score his best match of the tournament so far in the fourth round. Cilic was solid on serve against 27th seed Jeremy Chardy in a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-1 victory. The Croat’s first serve was splendid, winning 84 percent of the points. He saved seven of nine break opportunities after being broken four times in the five set match against Kukushkin. The first serve has been a big weapon the last two rounds after being a bit of a struggle earlier in the tournament.
Tsonga has quietly moved through four rounds this week without dropping a set to little fanfare. The Frenchman has also been a rock on first serve, winning over 80 percent of the points on his first serve in every match. That culminated with Tsonga winning 39 of his 44 first serve points against Benoit Paire in a fourth round win 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. Tsonga has been consistent at the U.S. Open the last five years with fourth round showings in four of those five years. Only in 2011 did he move on to the quarterfinals where he lost to Roger Federer in straight sets.
Cilic leads the all-time series between these two 4-3 with the most recent clash coming in Monte Carlo on clay earlier this season. The 9th seed beat Tsonga 6-3, 7-6. Interestingly, both were playing in just their second tournaments of the season due to injury. It was a close match with just one break point being the difference maker. They have split two career outdoor hard court meetings with Cilic winning in straights in Miami in 2013. Tsonga beat him in straights in Cincinnati back in 2011.
Both players are well versed in playing at this stage in Grand Slams, but Tsonga does hold a slight experience edge. This is Tsonga’s 12th Slam quarterfinal. He has advanced past this stage six times. Cilic is playing in his seventh Slam quarterfinal. He has made it past this stage just twice. Both players feature huge forehands and big first serves. CIlic has been more aggressive with his ground strokes with 107 winners in the last two rounds. His unforced error count was low with just 23 against Chardy, but he struggled mightily with 53 against Kukushkin. Tsonga is still aggressive in his ground game and also has just 36 unforced errors over the last two rounds.
The styles will be similar for both players. They need to get their first serve in consistently and they want to keep the points short and aggressive. Cilic has shown a few more chinks in the armor this week in both his serve and ground strokes. Tsonga has still not been broken this tournament in 12 sets. More impressively, he has only had to save two break points all tournament. Tie breaks could certainly play a part in this one. Cilic is 4-1 in tie breaks at the U.S. Open this year and is an outstanding 21-5 on the year. Tsonga has not been great this year at just 7-10 in tie breaks, so Cilic would have the edge there.
This has the makings of possibly the best quarterfinal match of the Open. Tsonga seems to be playing loose and free with no pressure. Cilic has less pressure than most defending champions might simply because he still is not a favorite to repeat here. This match however there will be some additional pressure as he is the favorite. Unless Tsonga struggles on serve all of a sudden, look for him to play the big points better and take home a very close win in the end.
Prediction: Tsonga wins in four sets