With Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and the likes of Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic having pulled out of the tournament, the final grand slam of the year represented an excellent opportunity for the 2014 champion to regain the title.
Sunday morning's (AEST) matches will see the completion of all third round matches in the top halves of both the men's and women's draws, with both world number ones, Rafael Nadal and Karolina Pliskova, as well as Roger Federer, all in action.
No former major finalists remain in the bottom half of the men's draw, thanks to world No. 33 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. Another blow was delivered to the decimated draw when American hope and 10th-seeded John Isner was knocked out by No 23 seed Mischa Zverev by the scoreline of 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5).
Cilic, the highest seed in a clear bottom half of the draw, eventually paid the price for his lack of match practice after skipping the U.S. Open warm-up tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati due to injury.
The win, Schwartzman's second win over a Top 10 player, moved him into the second week of a major tournament for the first time. Welcome to US (Wide) Open!
He was broken in the last set, but 2 games later the man from Buenos Aires had claimed the biggest achievement of his career.
Cilic won the 2014 title at Flushing Meadows. While he has yet to make it past the fourth round in NY, this is surely his best chance to do so.
Cilic, the only defending US Open champion in the bottom half of the bracket, lost a test of endurance as Schwartzman battled through set after the set for the win. He was also in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.More news: Protect Rohingyas, don't scare with deportation: Amnesty to Centre
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To Pouille, the bottom half of the draw remains loaded, citing the strong years that numerous players in his section have had.
Thirty is the new 20 in tennis, and in a season where Federer has been fantastic fans with his age-defying performances, Italy's Lorenzi is another player who is recording some of his best results at the age of 35.
Let's consider the current state of the U.S. Open men's draw.
Who do you think will make the final?
The Spaniard, who has not dropped a set, will become the first player to face four qualifiers at a Grand Slam in the Open Era (since 1967).
Two years ago, Anderson made his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Flushing Meadows with wins over Dominic Thiem and Murray. After reaching back to back quarterfinals on the clay courts in Bastaad and Hamburg, he started the United States hard court season with a quarterfinal run in Montreal. Whoever emerges from Cilic's quarter and Zverev's quarter will be players who typically don't reach the second week, much less the semifinals. "Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno-Busta" or "Grand Slam finalist Sam Querrey".
He will take on either Lucas Pouille or Mikhail Kukushkin in the fourth round.
Sharapova, the 2006 US Open victor, has already beaten Halep and Hungary's Timea Babos in her first Grand Slam since serving a 15-month doping ban after testing positive for the blood booster meldonium, at the 2016 Australian Open. Carreno Busta has steadily improved over the last 16 months, and will be aiming to do one better at Flushing Meadows.