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Last year's champion Marin Cilic escapes scare

New York: Defending champion Marin Cilic escaped a scare on Friday to reach the fourth round of the US Open, outlasting 56th-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/1), 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-1.

Croatia's Marin Cilic is ecstatic after his win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan on Friday. Pic/AFP
Croatia's Marin Cilic is ecstatic after his win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan on Friday. Pic/AFP 

The Croatian ninth seed was threatened with the earliest exit by a defending champion since Andre Agassi lost to Arnaud Clement in the 1999 second round.

Instead, he fought back after losing the first set and having to save two set points in the 12th game of the second set.

Kukushkin had not reached a third round for 16 events until this week, but he snapped Cilic's US Open run of 16 straight sets and won five of the last six points in the fourth-set tie-breaker to push the champion to the limit.

"It wasn't easy but I stayed together and got it done," Cilic said.

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