Maradona sees Ar­gentina level Davis Cup fi­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Ar­gentina foot­ball leg­end Diego Maradona was courtside as Juan Martin del Potro beat vet­eran Ivo Karlovic to draw his coun­try back level at 1-1 against Croa­tia in the Davis Cup fi­nal on Fri­day.

Maradona, 56, who in­spired Ar­gentina to glory at the 1986 World Cup, watched on with his girl­friend as Croa­tia went 1-0 up when Marin Cilic bat­tled back from a mid-match col­lapse to beat Fed­erico Del­bo­nis 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 16, 6-2 at the Za­greb Arena.

But in the sec­ond rub­ber Del Potro left the fi­nal all square when he despatched big-serv­ing 37-year-old gi­ant Karlovic 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 7-5. It was a fine per­for­mance from the Olympic sil­ver medal­list, who had se­cured Ar­gentina’s ap­pear­ance in their fifth fi­nal when see­ing off Andy Mur­ray-his Rio con­queror-in an epic five-set­ter against the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Great Bri­tain in the semi-fi­nal in Glas­gow.

Del Potro, 28, is a vet­eran of two los­ing fi­nals-both against Spain in 2008 and 2011 — while Karlovic is the old­est player to fea­ture in a Davis Cup sin­gles match since 43-year-old Aus­tralian Nor­man Brookes in 1920.

Del Potro was rock solid, al­low­ing the Croat not one break point in the en­tire match which kept the 15,000-ca­pac­ity crowd en­thalled for three hours and 19 min­utes.

He clinched the rub­ber on his sec­ond match point. “I was ner­vous af­ter I lost the sec­ond set but in the end I had to take the longer road to vic­tory,” said Del Potro. Ear­lier, for­mer US Open cham­pion Cilic ap­peared to be cruis­ing to­wards a rou­tine vic­tory only to lose his way af­ter storm­ing into a two-set lead over the world num­ber 41.

Sixth-ranked Cilic, who made his sec­ond ap­pear­ance at the ATP Tour Fi­nals last week, se­cured the first two sets with a sin­gle break in each, but Del­bo­nis claimed the third be­fore racing through the fourth to force a de­cider.

Backed by an im­pas­sioned crowd, Cilic re­gained his nerve in the fi­nal set, break­ing his op­po­nent in the first game and build­ing on that mo­men­tum to even­tu­ally close out vic­tory in three hours and 30 min­utes.

“The crowd helped me to stay in there, it was not easy,” said Cilic. “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.” Four­time run­ners-up Ar­gentina are chas­ing a first ti­tle, while Croa­tia are look­ing to em­u­late their 2005 tri­umph over Slo­vakia. —AFP

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