Nadal happy to show touch of class in victory
Rafael Nadal came through his first stern examination at the US Open to move a step closer to a maiden Flushing Meadows meeting with Roger Federer.
The Spanish second seed dropped a set for the first time in the tournament but still saw off 2014 champion Marin Cilic 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-2.
Nadal was visibly irritated when given a time violation as he served midway through the second set, and was broken moments later.
But the three-time champion shrugged it off to march into the last-eight, with a stunning around-the-net winner bringing up match point to the delight of a crowd which included Nadal's friend Tiger Woods.
"It's an easy shot to describe, but difficult to make," said Nadal. "I followed the ball well because he had a good volley. I quickly ran to the ball and saw at the last moment there would be a space.
"It was the only way to win that point. I hit it well, but to hit that spot you need some luck."
It is a statistical quirk that Federer and Nadal, rivals across 15 years and 40 matches, have never met at the US Open.
But defending champion Novak Djokovic's exit has opened up the possibility of a box-office final between the pair.
Federer faces Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, who he has beaten seven times out of seven, in the last-eight.
Nadal will take on Diego Schwartzman after sixth seed Alexander Zverev ran out of steam in his bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
The 22-year-old had already played 14 sets in three matches before taking on Schwartzman in round four, where he lost 3-6 6-2 6-4 6-3.