Zagreb: Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig gave hosts Croatia a vital 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup tennis final with a 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 doubles victory over Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro and Leonardo Mayer.
The two teams put their best players — Cilic and Del Potro — into action after the tie was level at 1-1 following Friday’s opening singles matches at the Zagreb Arena.
Although the Croatians won in straight sets here on Saturday, the match was decided by just a handful of big points.
The Argentines failed to convert a break point early as the first set came down to a tiebreaker, which Croatia won due in large part to critical errors by Mayer.
Argentina then fell behind a break in the second set before breaking Dodig’s serve in the eighth game to draw level and then force another tiebreaker, which was tied 4-4 before the Croatians pulled away.
In the third set, the Croatians got the critical break in the sixth game and wrapped up the match in two hours and 42 minutes.
The first reverse singles contest late on Sunday will be a heavyweight battle between a pair of 28-year-olds, former US Open champions – the sixth-ranked Cilic and Del Potro.
Both acknowledged the match would be extremely tough.
“Del Potro is an incredibly good player, but I am confident I have enough left in the tank to finish the job,” Cilic said.
Del Potro, who has got a new lease in his career in recent months after struggling with wrist injuries for several years, acknowledged the Croatian’s formidability.
“Tomorrow will be super difficult,” he said, adding that his opponent has the slight advantage because of having the lead in the tie and the home crowd behind him.
The match is far from over, however, because Del Potro has an 8-2 advantage in his head-to-head record against Cilic.
If the match comes down to a decisive fifth rubber, Argentina’s Federico Delbonis is slated to play big-serving Ivo Karlovic.
The 37-year-old Croatian Karlovic has a 3-1 career head-to-head lead, but Delbonis won their most recent match-up last month in Tokyo.
Croatia won their lone Davis Cup title in 2005, while Argentina — a four-time finalist — is seeking their first championship in tennis’ premier international team event.
First Published | 27 November 2016 4:33 PM