Nadal won the match 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 Monday in Queens. The 18-time Grand Slam champion is looking to win his fourth U.S. Open title. Nadal battles Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals Wednesday at Flushing Meadows. The winner of that matchup plays Matteo Berrettini or Gael Monfils in the semifinals.
"I need to play my best in the next round to have a chance to be in the semifinals, but the match [Monday] I think helps," Nadal told reporters.
Nadal had 38 winners in Monday's win. The Spaniard also fired 11 aces and had 26 unforced errors. Cilic had 40 unforced errors in the loss.
Cilic fought back in the 2:49 match after a close first set. He exchanged points with Nadal in the second set before winning three consecutive games to take a 4-1 lead in the set. He eventually won two of the final three game points in order to win the second set.
Nadal then turned in a dominant third set. He won the first game of the set before Cilic won the second game. Nadal responded by winning the final five games of the third set.
Nadal got off to a hot start in the fourth set, winning the first four games before Cilic won game five. The players exchanged points before Nadal won the match with a forehand winner in the eighth game of the fourth set.