Ar­gentina beat Croa­tia to win first Davis Cup ti­tle

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Ar­gentina won its first Davis Cup ti­tle on Sun­day when Fed­erico Del­bo­nis swept past Ivo Karlovic in straight sets to com­plete a stun­ning 3-2 come­back win over Croa­tia. Del­bo­nis dropped to the ground af­ter his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 vic­tory. His team­mates fell into each other’s arms and cel­e­brated in front of thou­sands of Ar­gen­tine fans in the packed Arena Zagreb.

Play­ers danced around the huge Davis Cup tro­phy and fans, in­clud­ing soc­cer great Diego Maradona, chanted and waved Ar­gen­tinian flags. This was the first Davis Cup ti­tle for Ar­gentina in the fifth fi­nal it has played since 1981. Croa­tia won in 2005.

Go­ing into the re­verse sin­gles Sun­day, the Croats were lead­ing 2-1 in the best-of-fiveseries af­ter win­ning the dou­bles on Satur­day.

Juan Martin Del Potro then ral­lied from two sets down to beat Marin Cilic 6-7 (4), 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6 3 as Ar­gentina drew level at 2-2. “Delpo showed his huge heart af­ter turn­ing around the match that looked lost,” said Ar­gentina team cap­tain Daniel Or­sanic. “Fed­erico played a per­fect match un­der huge pres­sure. I’m re­ally proud to be part of this fan­tas­tic team.”

With the vic­tory, Ar­gentina be­came only the third team to come back from 2-1 down in the fi­nal since the World Group Davis Cup for­mat was in­tro­duced in 1981. Del­bo­nis went up a break in the first two sets and added two more in the third when Karlovic sent a fore­hand wide for the vic­tory.

The 41st-ranked Ar­gen­tine passed the bigserv­ing Croat vet­eran at ease through­out the 2:09 hour match. “This is fabulous,” Del­bo­nis said. “We some­what felt we could do it de­spite trail­ing af­ter the dou­bles.”

Karlovic, who re­turned to the Croa­t­ian team af­ter a four-year ab­sence, said he was “hugely dis­ap­pointed.”

“Maybe I’ll feel bet­ter to­mor­row, but tonight it is aw­ful,” he said. The come­back started with Del Potro’s hero­ics that in­cluded a fin­ger in­jury in the fifth set against Cilic.

“I was calm, I hoped all the time that I could win and I did it,” said Del Potro, dis­play­ing a ban­dage on his lit­tle fin­ger on his non­racket left hand.

He said the in­jury hap­pened in the fifth set while he was try­ing to catch a ball. “I’m very happy to hand my team a chance of a vic­tory,” Del Potro said. The match at Arena Zagreb that lasted nearly five hours saw plenty of drama cre­ated by two play­ers with sim­i­lar styles.

“It is very dif­fi­cult to lose such an im­por­tant match,” Cilic said. “I feel a lot of dis­ap­point­ment.” Cilic had a fu­ri­ous start to race to a 3-0 lead in­clud­ing a break in Del Potro’s first ser­vice game. The Croat cap­i­tal­ized on the first of three break points with a crack­ing fore­hand win­ner.

Del Potro fought back in the sev­enth game with Cilic un­der pres­sure at deuce. Two ground strokes, first a fore­hand long then a loop­ing back­hand, saw Del Potro break at the sixth at­tempt.

In the tiebreaker, Cilic raced to a 5-0 lead to seal the game with a slice back­hand down the line that Del Potro could not con­trol. Un­der pres­sure af­ter los­ing his fourth straight tiebreaker dur­ing the fi­nals, Del Potro started the sec­ond set slowly and dropped his serve in the fifth game with a dou­ble fault and an­other in the sev­enth at love.

At that point, Cilic seemed to be cruis­ing to­ward vic­tory with some spec­tac­u­lar ground strokes that the tired-look­ing Ar­gen­tine watched in dis­be­lief. But then Del Potro, who has re­cov­ered af­ter two in­jury-hit years, showed the form he dis­played in beat­ing now top-ranked Andy Mur­ray as Ar­gentina knocked out holder Bri­tain in the semi­fi­nals.

He broke Cilic in the 12th and 10th games in the third and fourth sets re­spec­tively to send the match into the de­cider. “Af­ter los­ing the third set, I was still con­fi­dent I could win as he looked tired,” Cilic said. “I started push­ing a bit too hard, hand­ing him a chance for a come­back.” Trail­ing 15-40 in the eighth game of the fi­nal set, Cilic sent a fore­hand be­yond the base­line to give Del Potro the de­ci­sive break. He served out the match to keep Ar­gentina alive. — AP

PHILADEL­PHIA: Cleve­land Cava­liers’ Kyrie Irv­ing (2) goes up to shoot be­tween Philadel­phia 76ers’ Nik Stauskas (11) and Ser­gio Ro­driguez (14) dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NBA bas­ket­ball game, Sun­day, in Philadel­phia. — AP

ZAGREB: Ar­gentina’s play­ers lift the tro­phy af­ter win­ning the Davis Cup fi­nal in Zagreb, Croa­tia, Sun­day. Ar­gentina de­feated Croa­tia 3-2 in the Davis — AP

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