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Sports

Davis Cup: Croatia captain hails iron men singles pair

media Croatia Davis Cup captain Zeljko Krajan (right) was among the first to congratulate Marin Cilic after he won Croatia's third point in the 2018 Davis Cup final.n Croati REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Croatia captain Zeljko Krajan hailed the performance of his two singles players Marin Cilic and Borna Coric after they claimed the three points to take Croatia to their second Davis Cup title.

Coric, 22, won the first point of the 2018 Davis Cup final on Friday by beating Jeremy Chardy in straight sets. Cilic later strengthened his country’s position with a win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

After Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert gave France hope on Saturday with a four set success over Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig, Cilic returned on Sunday to sweep past Lucas Pouille to claim the winning point.

“They not only did not lose a set in the three singles matches, they did not lose a serve, said Krajan. "It’s an unbelievable achievement. This shows the quality that we had. This is one of the best teams that we ever had. It’s an honour to be here leading them.”

Yannick Noah, Krajan's France counterpart, conceded that his men had come up against stronger players. “The bar was too high,” said Noah. “Sometimes you just play against a better team.”

France had been attempting to become only the second nation in the 118 year history of the competition to return from a 2-0 deficit in a final. Australia in 1939 were the last team to pull off the feat.

And a return from the brink looked unlikely once Cilic edged the first set against Pouille in Sunday’s fourth match. His superior firepower eventually wore down the Frenchman’s defences.

“I’m happy that I played well this weekend,” said Cilic. “The statistics from the singles matches of me and Borna show that we didn’t lose a serve. So that just shows how well we played and on what kind of a level we were playing. We were both in good form at the right time."

Cilic added:“After the first set against Lucas, I felt I served a little bit better and played a little bit better. I am proud of everyone's performances. This team has been together for many years and we have been through some tough times. But we always believed that we could win.

“It’s incredible that we’ve achieved this and that we are world champions after playing so well.”

The Davis Cup will undergo a radical change for the 2019 competition. It will be called the Davis Cup Finals. It will be played over seven days in a neutral venue. Eighteen teams will be divided into six pools. The group winners and the two best second-placed teams will advance to the quarter finals. From there it will be a straight knockout.

In the current configuration five matches are played over three days. The four singles and the doubles matches are the best of five sets.  In the new format, there will be three matches - two singles and a doubles – and they will be the best of three sets.

Noah launched a scathing attack on the executives who sanctioned the revamp. “Playing the best of three sets is not the Davis Cup," he said. "Playing on a neutral venue is not Davis Cup. So when people tell us this is the Davis Cup, they are lying. So if I have a voice I am going to tell them you are liars.”

Cilic, 30, said he was honoured to have won the last title under the old rules. “I’ve been with the Davis Cup team since 2006. I’ve been through a few generation of players. I’ve seen a lot of losses and a lot of wins.

"It’s incredible finishing a chapter of Davis Cup history with a win and especially the way we played and the atmosphere in the team.”

 

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