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Verdasco double-faults away match point; Cilic wins 5-setter

WJ Wire

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Fernando Verdasco’s jaw dropped and he grabbed at a tuft of his hair, struggling to understand how he could have just double-faulted to fritter away a match point against Marin Cilic at the Australian Open.

That was part of quite a collapse by Verdasco, who also wasted an earlier match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker and let 2018 runner-up Cilic construct a 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8), 6-3 comeback in a third-round match that began Friday night and ended more than 4 hours later at nearly 1 a.m. on Saturday.

“I was just slightly luckier in those crucial moments,” the sixth-seeded Cilic said.

The 2014 U.S. Open champion erased Verdasco’s initial match point at 7-6 in the fourth-set tiebreaker with a service winner of his own. Then he only had to watch as Verdasco gave away another chance to win at 8-7 by failing to put either serve in play.

The 35-year-old Verdasco actually served rather well for most of the match, finishing with more aces than Cilic, 27-8, and a higher first-serve percentage, 68-58.

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But given that reprieve by Verdasco’s third of five double-faults, Cilic produced a down-the-line backhand winner to cap a 20-stroke exchange and earn a set point. He followed that with a forehand winner to grab that set and send the match to a fifth.

Cilic quickly took a 3-0 lead in the concluding set, then got past one last test while serving at 4-2 — Verdasco held three break points at love-40 — to advance.

“Unbelievable. Emotions were up and down,” Cilic said. “When I was down two sets to none, it was a big hill to climb.”

It’s the seventh time in Cilic’s career that he has emerged to win a match after dropping the opening two sets.

He also did it in the third round of the previous Grand Slam tournament — against Alex de Minaur at the U.S. Open in September.

“I am just putting myself in a hole,” Cilic said, “and then let’s see what I’m going to do.”

He now faces No. 22 Roberto Bautista-Agut, who eliminated No. 10 Karen Khachanov 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

Verdasco, a lefty from Spain seeded 26th, was trying to get to the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time since 2011. His best showing at a major came at Melbourne Park in 2009, when he reached the semifinals.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.




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