NEW YORK -- Marin Cilic reached his first Grand Slam semifinal in more than four years, upsetting sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych in straight sets at the U.S. Open.
The 14th-seeded Croat won 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Thursday. Cilic missed last year’s U.S. Open because of a doping suspension after testing positive for a banned stimulant. He said he ingested it unintentionally from a glucose tablet bought at a pharmacy.
His ranking slipped to 47th last fall, but it has steadily climbed back under the coaching of countryman Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champ.
"It feels amazing," Cilic said in an on-court interview. "I had tough times the last couple of years. I’m really happy that things are working out with my team."
On a windy afternoon, Cilic’s serve was sharp while Berdych’s was shaky. He’ll face Roger Federer or Gael Monfils on Saturday in his second major semifinal and first since the 2010 Australian Open. Federer and Monfils play Thursday night.
Berdych, who wasn’t broken in the last two rounds, double-faulted on break point in the match’s very first game, and things didn’t get much better. He made 40 percent of his first serves in the opening two sets, and Cilic jumped all over his second serve.
"When you have a game built on a serve, then it’s really tough and difficult to do it a bit differently," Berdych said. "Today was definitely not the day I want to have. That’s tennis.
Cilic was having no such problems. In the second set, he lost only three points on his serve.
"We are both hitting big and it’s a matter (of) who was going to put pressure on the other guy," Cilic said. "I think I did a little bit better today. I was returning a bit better and I was putting a little bit more pressure on his second serve. Just overall, I felt that I used the wind a little bit better (to) my advantage."
In the third, Berdych finally started looking like the player who reached the 2010 Wimbledon final. He went up a break, but leading 30-15 in the set’s seventh game, his momentum slipped away.
Cilic hit a net cord, essentially creating a drop shot. Berdych ran the ball down and thought he’d won the point. But chair umpire Louise Azemar Engzell ruled the ball had bounced twice, a call that isn’t reviewable; replays showed she was right. Berdych was convinced he’d gotten there in time and argued that his return couldn’t have had the spin it did if he hit it on the second bounce, fuming, "Have you ever had a racket in your hand?"
Clearly unnerved, Berdych made errors on the next two points to get the set back on serve. Cilic closed the match after Berdych committed three unforced errors in the tiebreaker.
Cilic tested positive for the stimulant nikethamide after a match in Munich in May 2013. The Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced his ban from nine months to four in October. The International Tennis Federation had requested a two-year suspension.