Champion Cilic advances at US Open

Defending US Open champion Marin Cilic and seventh seed David Ferrer moved closer to a fourth-round meeting with comfortable victories at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday.

Croatian ninth seed Cilic, who’s aiming to to become the first repeat men’s champion since Roger Federer ran off five in a row from 2004-2008, fired 19 aces and advanced to the third round by defeating 139th-ranked Russian qualifier Evgeny Donskoy 6-2 6-3 7-5 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“This court is very special to me. It brings such positive memories,” Cilic said.

“It’s sort of unreal. I was working all my life to win a Grand Slam and now I’m working to defend one.

“I’m taking every day as a positive on the court and hoping I can go forward. I was serving pretty good today. I was pretty solid when it counted.”

Spain’s Ferrer, the 2013 French Open runner-up who missed the past two-and-a-half months with an elbow injury, downed 102nd-ranked Serb Filip Krajinovic 7-5 7-5 7-6 (7-4).

“I’m very happy I’m in the third round,” said Ferrer. “It’s a nice comeback playing on these courts. It’s not easy. Conditions are very difficult with this humidity.”

Ferrer next meets France’s Jeremy Chardy next while Cilic plays either Grigor Dimitrov or Mikhail Kukushkin.

American Mardy Fish was sent into retirement by 18th-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who rallied to win 2-6 6-3 1-6 7-5 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes. Fish was nagged by cramps at the end.

“He was a better player,” Lopez said. “I think he really deserved the win today.”

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