Cilic and Coric Give Croatia 2-0 Lead over US in Davis Cup World Group Semifinal
(September 14, 2018) The Croatian Davis Cup team took a 2-0 lead over the Unites States on Friday in Zadar, Croatia on a clay court. World No. 6 Marin Cilic and No. 18 Borna Coric had straight set wins over Frances Tiafoe and Steve Johnson, respectively.
Two years ago, in Beaverton, Oregon, Croatia came back from an 0-2 deficit to beat the US in the quarterfinalsls. The US has only come back from an 0-2 deficit in their history.
Coric led off day one with a 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3 win over No. 31 Steve Johnson.
“Look, I played a very good match,” said the world No. 18. “I had one drop in the match, in the second set, when I lost four points in a row on my serve, and that was the only part of the match which I’m not happy about, but also I just thought he played too good. I made one sloppy mistake, and everything else he played very good. … I was serving very well. I was returning, on moments, good, on moments, no, but that’s OK, because I made in the first set, I think four returns a game and I broke him, and that’s the most important.”
“He’s a phenomenal tennis player, and he’s very comfortable on the clay,” said Johnson, who is playing No. 1 singles for the US this weekend. “It’s hard to take a lot of stock from a match from a year ago. For both of us, we try and grow as tennis players every day, so I thought he played well today. I think if I could replay the second-set tiebreak, I’d like to have a couple of those forehands back. Other than that, I thought he played great. I left it out there, just came up a little short.”
Johnson is stepping up for John Isner, who is not playing Davis Cup, awaiting the birth of his first child. Jack Sock is also out of the line-up due to a hip injury. “No, no pressure,” he said. “You come here to get wins. John’s going through a life-changing event right now, so we’re very happy for him. Jack’s a little hurt, but other than that, it’s been like that all year. You have the next man up.”
Coric, hit a between-the-legs shot which was the hot shot of the day.
? STOP SCROLLING ?
You are not going to want to miss this tweener lob from @borna_coric!
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) September 14, 2018
“No, I normally don’t do it,” Coric said. “I normally go somehow around my back, but this one I just felt that I can do it. I know it was such an important point, so I just did. I never do it in practices, so I don’t know how it was that good, to be honest. It was very luck, to be honest with you.”
“The crowd seemed to bow down to him (after the tweener),” Johnson said. “Just another point for me. It is what it is. He came up with some good stuff today, but for me, I just focus on the next point. I don’t care how I win or lose the point, I just gotta forge onto the next one.”
Even US Captain Courier was impressed. “It was special. It was a great shot. That one will be on a highlight reel for a while. Of course he lost the next point, and it counted the same, so I always remind myself that while they look good, they count the same as the next point coming.”
In the second match of the day, the 2014 US Open champion Cilic defeated Maryland’s Frances Tiafoe, 6-1, 6-3, 7-6(5), in the 20-year old’s Davis Cup debut.
“Yeah, it was an unbelievable experience,” said Tiafoe. “Obviously it’s what I wanted to do my whole career, get a chance to play for America. I felt extremely comfortable out there. I played a quality player today. Regardless of playing at home or away, it was going to be tough. But I put myself in the position to extend the match and didn’t, but I’m definitely going to remember this one.”
“He came out very hot, very loose,” Tiafoe said. “I thought I had my chances to push it to a fourth, but he came up clutch.”
“The first point of the match was fantastic,” said US Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier. “We’re thinking, “All right, we’re right in this.” And then Marin just lifted a gear. Frances I thought played a quality match, and Marin obviously was up to it today, but Frances made some nice adjustments and certainly made it a real contest from a set and a break down, and it got pretty complicated, I would imagine, from Marin’s perspective. We had the mini-break in the tiebreaker and couldn’t quite hold it, but good learning experience for Frances that hopefully will serve us well. We’ve got to obviously work hard to get to a fifth match, but we’re hoping that we get another chance.”
“He was starting to play much better,” Cilic said. “I felt he started to return a bit better towards the second set. I missed a couple balls, gave him a chance to get back to it and it was a tough game. Seventh game of the second set, it was a big mental battle, also for me to stay composed and to continue with my game, and I served well. I was definitely happy that I served out that game good. I won the second set and the third set. He showed that he’s capable of playing great tennis. He was serving really good, hitting also from the back very, very good. The third set was complete opposite from the first set and a half. I was definitely a little bit luckier towards the end of that tiebreak. He was 4-2 up, and that exchange at the net, it was crucial for that tiebreak.”
“It’s definitely what we were hoping for, to have 2-0 on a first day,” Cilic said in regard to a 2-0 lead. “Especially playing against U.S., both me and Borna played great matches today. Very solid, both of us started matches really good in the beginning, and luckily we won both in three sets, didn’t use too much energy, but still. We have to keep our head down, work for the third point. I feel that even before the tie has started, even when Jack was in the combinations, I feel that the U.S. had very strong positions in doubles and definitely they still do. We have to just keep going and hopefully, even tomorrow, or if it happens on Sunday, to get a third point.”
Saturday will be the doubles rubber. It pairs first-time partners – No.1 Mike Bryan and No. 54 Ryan Harrison for the US versus Ivan Dodig and world doubles No. 4 Mate Pavic.
“Doubles is always critical in Davis Cup,” said Courier. “It’s always a key match, and sometimes … the last time we were playing Croatia, we were trying to put them away, and it turned the tide for them. We’re hoping we’re going to generate that kind of momentum for the American squad tomorrow. Obviously it is do-or-die. Every match will be do-or-die from here on in for us, so we know what the stakes are, but that’s what we came here for. We came here to battle. We came here to fight for every point, and we look forward to tomorrow..
Tennis Channel will air Saturday’s doubles match live at 2 p.m. local/8 a.m. ET.
ORDER OF PLAY / RESULTS
Borna Coric (CRO) d. Steve Johnson (USA), 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3
Marin Cilic (CRO)d. Frances Tiafoe (USA), 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(5)
Saturday, 2 p.m./8 a.m. ET
Mike Bryan/Ryan Harrison (USA) v. Ivan Dodig/Mate Pavic (CRO)
Sunday, 11 a.m./5 a.m. ET
Steve Johnson (USA) v. Marin Cilic (CRO)
Frances Tiafoe (USA) v. Borna Coric (CRO)