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By Julien Pretot
NEW YORK, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Former champion Marin Cilic had a golden chance to reach the U.S. Open final three years after lifting the trophy at Flushing Meadows, but the Croatian fifth seed blew it when he lost 4-6 7-5 7-5 6-4 against Argentine counter-puncher Diego Schwartzman in the third round on Friday.
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.
He hit 80 unforced errors in an untidy display on Grandstand, where he also served nine double faults.
“In the second round I played really well but today I was not coming up with the great shots,” Cilic told reporters.
“It was a tough match... I didn’t have many free points on my serve, there were a lot of rallies.”
Schwartzman was overwhelmed in the opening set before the 29th seed found his range to frustrate Cilic, who bowed out after wasting three chances to level for 5-5 in the fourth set.
In a bottom half of a draw without a grand slam finalist and where American John Isner is now the highest seed at number 10, Schwartzman will take on either France’s Lucas Pouille or Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin for a quarter-final spot.
“Sometimes if you have luck with the draw and you can take your chances, it’s always good for the new guys or for the guys who are out of the top 10,” said Schwartzman.
“I think many players are doing well this week and are taking the opportunities because (others) are injured.”
The tournament is without the injured Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka as well as Novak Djokovic, who has ended his season.
Top seed Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the pre-tournament favourites, are in the top half of the draw. (Reporting by Julien Pretot,; Editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)