Asian hopes for a Grand Slam singles crown at the US Open ended Saturday as Croatian 12th seed Marin Cilic ousted Japanese 17th seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 to reach the last 16.
Cilic, whose eight career titles include crowns this year at Queen's and Umag, advanced to a fourth-round match against the winner of a later match between French 32nd seed Jeremy Chardy and Slovakia's Martin Klizan.
"I served well. I think that was the key," Cilic said. "He played really well in the tie-breaker. We both had a lot of chances in the match."
Nishikori failed to match his best US Open run into fourth round from 2008, when he was beaten by Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro, who also beat him in last month's Olympic quarter-finals.
Nishikori's best Grand Slam run was into the quarter-finals at this year's Australian Open, where he lost to Andy Murray, who also ended Cilic's best Slam run in the 2010 Australian Open semi-finals.
Cilic pulled even in their career rivalry, having won their first meeting in the first round at Indian Wells in 2008 but lost in a gruelling five-setter in the second round of the 2010 US Open and again last year in Chennai.
Nishikori, the highest-ranked man in Japanese tennis history, won his only ATP title in 2008 at Delray Beach in only his sixth tour start.
Cilic, 23, won the first seven points of the match. Nishikori hit a forehand wide to surrender a break in the second game, missed a break chance in the third and two more in the seventh before dropping the first set in 43 minutes.
"It was really crucial to start the match like that," Cilic said. "Kei played really well. We both had a lot of chances."
Nishikori, who retired in the first round at last year's US Open with a back injury, was broken at love in the ninth game of the second set and Cilic then held at love to seize command of the match.
But Nishikori, 22, battled into a third-set tie-breaker and dominated it, winning six of the last seven points to claim the 82-minute set when Cilic sent a backhand wide.
Nishikori denied Cilic on a break chance in the second game of the fourth set but Cilic broke with a forehand winner for a 3-1 lead and held serve to the finish for the victory after three hours and 33 minutes.