Del Potro leads Ar­gentina’s chase of first ti­tle

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Led by Juan Martin del Potro, Ar­gentina is bid­ding to end its long pur­suit of the Davis Cup ti­tle when it faces Croa­tia in the fi­nal this week­end.

Del Potro, the 2009 US Open cham­pion who re­turned to the tour suc­cess­fully af­ter two in­jury-hit years, be­lieves Ar­gentina is in a strong po­si­tion af­ter los­ing in four Davis Cup fi­nals since 1981.

“I've had a great year,” Del Potro, who won the sil­ver medal in sin­gles at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, said Tues­day. “I have ev­ery­thing to do a good week­end. We are con­fi­dent. It's a very spe­cial mo­ment for us and we are very, very pos­i­tive.”

Ar­gentina is the only na­tion in the Davis Cup's 116-year his­tory which has reached four fi­nals with­out win­ning the ti­tle. The lat­est chal­lenge comes in the best-of-five se­ries start­ing Fri­day on an in­door hard court at the sold-out Arena Za­greb.

Croa­tia, tar­get­ing its sec­ond Davis Cup ti­tle af­ter beat­ing Slo­vakia in the fi­nal in 1995, will be led by Marin Cilic, who has reached a ca­reer-best year-end rank­ing of No. 6.

“Mo­ti­va­tion is great play­ing in front of the home crowd. Small de­tails will de­cide the win­ner,” Cilic said, re­fer­ring to how fast the court will play for big servers like him­self, Croa­t­ian No. 2 Ivo Karlovic and Del Potro.

“It is slower than ex­pected, but I think it will pick up speed as in­door tem­per­a­tures rise in the Arena,” Cilic said. “It will be good for ev­ery­one.”

Karlovic, 37, is re­turn­ing for the fi­nal four years af­ter he an­nounced he would no longer par­tic­i­pate in Davis Cup. He is a likely choice for team cap­tain Zeljko Kra­jan be­cause Borna Coric is still not fully re­cov­ered from knee surgery.

Karlovic, a serve-and-volley spe­cial­ist, would be­come the old­est man to play sin­gles in a Davis Cup fi­nal in nearly a cen­tury. He said he feels “great for such an im­por­tant match.”

Ar­gen­tine cap­tain Daniel Or­sanic is likely to choose Guido Pella, a stal­wart of the semi­fi­nal vic­tory over last year's win­ner, Bri­tain, as his sec­ond sin­gles player.

Del Potro said he is look­ing for­ward to fac­ing Cilic on Sun­day in what could be the de­ci­sive match.

“He's a very good friend of mine,” Del Potro said. “He's a great player and he has a chance to win this tro­phy this week­end, but we will try and win as well.”

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