tennis

Cilic takes Croatia into Davis Cup final

Victory over Gasquet ensures unassailable 3-1 lead as marathon man Murray hauls Britain level against Argentina

AFP
19:50 September 18, 2016

Zadar, Croatia: Croatia sealed their ticket to the Davis Cup final after Marin Cilic’s three sets victory over Richard Gasquet gave them an unassailable 3-1 lead over nine-time champions France in Zadar.

Croatia, titleholders only once in 2005, will face the winner of the other semi-final between holders Great Britain and Argentina in the November final.

Cilic bagged the all important point in the first of Sunday’s reverse singles, seeing off Gasquet 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

“When you look at the atmosphere, it’s an incredible feeling. It’s been a dream weekend for us,” said 2014 US Open winner Cilic.

“I played incredible tennis. I produced a great performance for all the crowd.”

Gasquet, 17th in the world, was drafted in after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils pulled out with knee injuries.

The 30-year-old Gasquet, initially overlooked by captain Yannick Noah after struggling with back and chest injuries, claimed the opening singles 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 against Borna Coric.

But world number 11 Cilic hit back against Lucas Pouille 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-2 to put the Croats level.

Croatia had taken command of the tie in Saturday’s doubles when Cilic and Ivan Dodig downed top-ranked French pair Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3.

Croatia’s previous Davis Cup success came 11 years ago at the expense of Slovakia

Meanwhile in Glasgow, Andy Murray hauled Great Britain level in their Davis Cup semi-final with Argentina following his comprehensive defeat of Guido Pella.

The world number two, who had played over eight hours of tennis over the previous two days, had to leave the court for a medical timeout in the third set.

But he returned to wrap up a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Pella in the first reverse singles rubber to make it 2-2 in the best-of-five tie.

It gives defending champions Great Britain hope of pulling off a repeat of their win over Russia in Coventry in April 2013 when they also came back from 2-0 down to win the tie 3-2.

Dan Evans was to face Leonardo Mayer, a late replacement for Juan Martin del Potro, in the deciding rubber.

The winners will face Croatia in November’s final.

The South Americans had led 2-1 going into Sunday’s reverse singles following wins for del Potro and Pella in Friday’s singles.

However, Murray, who partnered his big brother Jamie to doubles success on Saturday, made light work of Pella to claim his 30th win from 33 Davis Cup singles matches in just over two hours.

“It is great to level the tie. We were in lot of trouble a couple of days ago but this is the best we could have hoped for. Now Dan has got a chance to go out and get the job done,” Murray said.

“I have a lot of sharp pain in my right quad. I have to go and see what’s up and get some treatment. I need a break. I have played so much tennis, my body needs some rest.”

It leaves Britain in with a chance of retaining the title they won against Belgium last year.

Del Potro, still feeling his way back after a series of wrist injuries pushed him to the brink of retirement, had hinted on Saturday night that he may not play Sunday after featuring in the doubles due to concerns for his health following a punishing summer schedule.

Needing just one point to claim a place in their fourth final in 10 years, Argentina captain Daniel Orsanic kept faith with Pella, who saw off the challenge of Kyle Edmund in four sets on Friday, for the showdown with the world number two.

Murray, appearing for the third successive day, got off to a perfect start as he broke the Pella serve in the fourth game and never looked back as cantered to a 6-3 win in the first set.

The three-time Grand Slam winner at times appeared unplayable in the second set and Pella, ranked 49th in the world, struggled to compete.

There was to be another break of the Argentine’s serve in the first game as Murray set the tone for the set.

The Great Britain talisman missed six break points in the third as Pella survived a titanic tussle but the Scot seized his chance at the next opportunity to break again in the fifth before serving out the set 6-2.

Murray had to leave the court for a medical timeout in the third game of the third set as Pella broke his serve for the first time.

But with the finishing line in sight, the Olympic champion found some extra reserves to return and break Pella twice to seal the decisive set 6-3.