Davis Cup: Battling Coric fires Croatia into final

Davis Cup: Battling Coric fires Croatia into final

TOP GUN: Croatia’s Borna Coric celebrates after beating Frances Tiafoe of the US in the tie decider on Sunday. REUTERS

Borna Coric kept his cool to prevail in a thrilling winner-takes-all duel with fellow young gun Frances Tiafoe on Sunday and steer Croatia into the final of the Davis Cup for the second time in three years with a monumental 3-2 victory over the US.

The 21-year-old Coric came from two sets to one down to defeat the 20-year-old debutant Tiafoe 6-7 (0), 6-1, 6-7(11), 6-1, 6-3 and finally subdue a remarkable fightback from the Americans, who had earlier levelled the tie 2-2 from two down.

Late understudy Sam Querrey had rewarded captain Jim Courier’s gamble by taking the tie into a decider in the fourth rubber, battling back from the brink of two sets down to beat home talisman Marin Cilic 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-4.

Yet with everything resting on the first duel between two of tennis’ brightest young ‘Next Gen’ men, Coric overcame the loss of two very contrasting tiebreaks to book Croatia’s final date against champions France.

The French, who defeated Spain 3-2 in the other semifinal in Lille, will have home advantage in the November showdown and hope to avenge their 3-2 loss to the Croatians in the 2016 semifinal.

For a moment, though, after Coric had capitulated 7-0 in the first-set breaker and 13-11 in the third set decider, the shocked fans in the Dalmatian resort feared Croatia could be on the wrong end of one of the competition’s unlikeliest comebacks.

Coric, though, demonstrated why he is seen as one of the sport’s best prospects, holding his nerve against the brilliant young American and proving to be too solid over the final two sets as he finally prevailed after four hours six minutes. At 2-0 down after Friday’s singles, there had not seemed the remotest chance of a US team without their top two players John Isner and Jack Sock recovering to reach a first final in 11 years.

Only when 40-year-old Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison fought courageously to claw out a five-set doubles win on Saturday, were the Americans given even faint hope.

But Courier was rewarded for a bold, if slightly desperate-looking risk when he rested his No 1 Steve Johnson and instead threw Querrey into the must-win fourth rubber even though the 30-year-old had never previously beaten Cilic in six attempts.

Cilic had also become the most successful Croatian Davis Cup player in history on Friday when winning his 37th rubber against Tiafoe but the world number six was found wanting when, after winning the opening set on a tiebreak, he stood on the verge of a commanding lead.

India lose

Turning out to play the dead fourth rubber, N Sriram Balaji lost to Pedja Krstin in straight sets as India ended the Davis World Group Play-off tie against Serbia without a single win, losing 0-4 in Kraljevo, Serbia on Sunday.

Since the tie was already decided in favour of the hosts, who had taken an unassailable 3-0 lead, India fielded Balaji in place of Ramkumar Ramanathan.

Serbia also changed the nomination, playing Krstin in place of Dusan Lajovic.

Balaji, who is more focused on the doubles, lost 3-6 1-6 in 66 minutes on indoor clay courts at the Kraljevo Sports Venue.

The two sides agreed not to play the fifth rubber.

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