(July 16, 2016) BEAVERTON, Oregon – Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig spoiled team USA’s potential semifinal clinching party, when Croatia handed the Bryan brothers only their fifth loss in Davis Cup play 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 16 minutes on Saturday. The Croatians stay alive in the tie down 1-2 going into Sunday play.
The United States came into the day leading 2-0 after two singles victories on Friday hoping to seal a spot in the Davis Cup semifinals with the all-time doubles winners in Davis Cup and tennis history in the Bryan brothers. Team Croatia had other ideas.
Team Croatia substituted one Marin for another before the doubles rubber began. Cilic took Draganja’s place to play with Dodig. Croatia’s captain said they were thinking about the substitution on Friday night. Croatia came out firing, breaking serve at love tin the third game to go up 2-1, consoldating for 3-1. They broke again in the seventh game for 5-2 and closed out he set 6-2.
In the second set, the Bryans could not take advantage of a break point in the second game. Bryans break Dodig at 15 to tkae 4-2 lead, and get to Cilic to claim the set 6-2 to even up the match. The Bryans improved their play in the second set, whereas Cilic’s play fell off. The Bryans improved their first serve percentage, hit more winners and making only two unforced errors.
In set three, the Bryans squandered break points in Croatia’s opening service game but one felt the momentum was still on the Bryan’s side. That changed in the third game when Cilic hit a return of serve winner to break for 2-1. Croatia broke Bob Bryan’s serve for 4-1, but the Americans bounced back returning the favor for 2-4. Back to back to back breaks of serve gave Croatia a 5-2 lead which they served out 6-2 to go up two sets to one.
The Croatians hit 16 winners, while the US hit only five in the set. The visiting team broke serve three times in the third set.
The Bryans held on to a multi deuce game to open the fourth set, and fended off a break point in heir second service game.
Croatia broke serve at 15 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and made the break hold up and served out the match for the win 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.
For the Bryans, this was only their fifth loss in a Davis Cup tie, all coming on home soil. They have a 24-5 record in Davis Cup. They talked about the loss in their post match news conference:
“We just didn’t execute from — I think started off with the serve,” said Bob Bryan. “Weren’t making a lot of first serves. Weren’t getting them in trouble from the start. They started returning well and gaining confidence. They just kind of outplayed us in ever aspect of the game today.
“That’s really on us. Started turning the momentum around after the first set. Had some break points. I had a good look at a second serve forehand that I should have hit a little bit harder. I just kind of pushed it. That would’ve been a good opportunity to really keep the foot on the gas, so I wish I could have had that one back.
“But those guys are two good players. That’s the type of match that we have to play at the top of our game to take them out. We just didn’t do it. That has nothing to do with anything but ourselves. We take responsibility for that.”
“I mean, you know, you can serve well in practice,” said Mike Bryan. “When you get out there it’s a different monster when there is adrenaline and crowd and pressure.
“Obviously I think I was speeding up. When you speed up your motion you don’t get your toss up, and it’s a whole chain reaction.
“If I could have held that first game, got settled in the match, got some confidence in my serve, I think it could have been a little different.
“Credit to them. They made some good returns. Dodig hit a couple backhand winners. Once you get behind the eight ball you start thinking about it a little bit.”
Cilic made a major impact in the match. “Cilic is dangerous,” Bob Bryan added. “He brings great returns and some nasty groundies and his serve is pretty strong.”
“The difference was that Marin and Ivan played I would say really unbelievable tennis today,” said Croatian captain Zeljko Krajan. “Both just are on the top of their game, and Marin played the best doubles match of his life.
“Even though it’s against Bryans, just tough when he is serving the way he is and returning and everything is coming back and from the baseline there was no mistakes. I would say I don’t know who would beat them on a day like this when they play.
“Maybe just the Bryans didn’t play the best match of their life, but it was just too tough for them today to face these opponents.”
“Me and Ivan played few times also in Davis Cup; we played in Olympics in 2012,” Cilic said. “We played there really well. But we know that when we are on a good day we can play amazing tennis.
“That was today the case. We came up to the match with good tactics, good mindset, and we knew that if we play well that we are going to be able to beat them.
“Obviously the positive thing was that even I have beaten Bryans before and Ivan did also I guess few times, so that was a mindset that was giving us good strategy and we were able to prepare good for the match.”
Croatia was six for ten on break points, hitting 53 winners with 21 unforced errors.
Sunday’s play will consist of reverse singles. Leading off will be the battle between the No. 1 players on each team – John Isner versus Marin Cilic, followed by Jack Sock against Borna Coric (if necessary).
Cilic, who is 5-0 against Isner, says despite playing doubles, he’ll be ready on Sunday.
“I feel pretty much fine,” he said. “I had nine sets in two days, but the conditions here are not too difficult. The weather is favoring the players and the fans in the stands, so it’s not too humid and not too hot. Not too demanding.
“Obviously in Davis Cup it’s more bit tougher dealing with emotions as you are a little bit more pumped up and adrenaline kicks you in when you start the matches. That can take some energy. I feel pretty much fine.
“I played today great, and tomorrow I feel I’m going to be in good shape, too.”
Cilic talked about his tough five-set losses, to Sock on Friday and to Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
“I was thinking a little bit after yesterday’s loss that I was maybe a little bit mentally drained from my loss from Wimbledon,” he said. “It still left a small mark in me and I wasn’t as, you know, emotionally pumped as today, which is obviously giving me good sensation for playing and good feeling. I can lift my game when I’m playing like this.
“I usually enjoy to play in Davis Cup because the team atmosphere, the energy, lifts my game up. Hopefully tomorrow I can do the same.”
The winner of this tie will play the winner of the Czech Republic/France tie in September in the Davis Cup semifinals.
The last time the United States won the Davis Cup was in 2007 in Portland.