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CROATIA 1, ARGENTINA 1
Croatia, the 2005 champion, is level with four-time former finalist Argentina at 1-1 on Friday in the Davis Cup final at the Arena Zagreb. Argentina has previously defeated Croatia in quarter-final ties in 2002, 2006 and 2013.
Marin Cilic handed Croatia the early lead when he used his big-match experience to beat Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 6-2 in three hours and 30 minutes. Cilic, who improved to a 49-23 record on the season, won 77 per cent of his first service points and struck 17 aces. World No. 41 Delbonis, who had recovered from 0-2 sets deficit against Serbia’s Viktor Troicki in last year’s quarter-finals, hit 25 winners and is now 4-3 lifetime in singles rubbers.
"The crowd helped me to stay in there, it was not easy," said Cilic, who is now 22-9 in singles rubbers. "Federico played a great tennis from the middle of the third set to the end of the fourth. Just at the beginning of the fifth, I tried mentally to stay in there and get that break, and it was a huge difference." Cilic completed 2016 at a career-high year-end No. 6 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro levelled the scoreline when he defeated 37-year-old Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5 over three hours and 18 minutes in the second rubber. World No. 20 Karlovic, the oldest player to feature in a singles rubber in a final tie for 96 years (43-year-old Australian Norman Brookes in 1920), won four straight points from a 4/6 deficit in the second set tie-break. He hit 35 aces, but also 12 double faults.
Del Potro, the Comeback Player of the Year in the ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon, lost just eight of his first service points (68/76) and converted three of his seven break point opportunities. The World No. 38, now 31-12 on the season, will meet Cilic in the first reverse singles rubber on Sunday.
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CROATIA vs. ARGENTINA
Croatia attempts to clinch its second Davis Cup trophy this week on home soil against Argentina, finalists on four previous occasions. Argentina has secured wins in 2002, 2006 and 2013 quarter-final ties.
Marin Cilic, who competed at last week’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and finished at a career-high year-end No. 6 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, leads the Croatian team. Ivo Karlovic, at 37 years of age, is set to become the oldest player to feature in a singles rubber in a final tie for 96 years (43-year-old Australian Norman Brookes in 1920).
Cilic takes on Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in Friday’s opening singles rubber, while Karlovic returns to the Croatian squad after a four-year absence to play Juan Martin del Potro. The draw ceremony, which was held on Thursday at the Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall, saw Croatia's Franko Skugor and Ivan Dodig against Leonardo Mayer and Guido Pella in Saturday's doubles rubber.
Del Potro, the Comeback Player of the Year in the ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon, admitted on Thursday, "I think Croatia are the favourites to win the tie. They are at home and have a very strong team, but we are looking forward to a great weekend and we are also very proud to be in another final.
Del Potro, who has a 4-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head lead against Karlovic, added, "I’ll have to be focused against Karlovic because one break of serve could cost me the match. It is great to be in the final at this point of my career after so many injuries."
Cilic and del Potro, both former US Open champions, are set to meet each other in the first reverse singles rubber on Sunday at Arena Zagreb. "Del Potro and I have known each other for a very long time. He is a great player and a very nice person. We always get along very well on the ATP World Tour and he is a very positive character for world tennis.” Del Potro leads Cilic 8-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
"It will be nice to have [footballer Diego] Maradona here, but it makes no difference to us that he will be cheering on his compatriots," added Cilic. "There is little or nothing between the two teams and hence our passionate fans can make all the difference."
Davis Cup Final Schedule
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