Del­bo­nis seals Ar­gentina’s maiden Davis Cup ti­tle

Arab News - - SPORTS -

big-serv­ing Karlovic as Ar­gentina, run­ners-up on four pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions, be­came just the 15th coun­try to lift the tro­phy in 116 years.

“This is one of those dreams that has come true,” said Del­bo­nis.

“I tried to keep fo­cused to do what I had to do, that’s all I could think be­cause if I thought about any­thing else it would be a dis­as­ter.”

Ar­gentina coach Daniel Or­sanic added: “The guys were amaz­ing to­day. Juan Martin won an in­cred­i­ble match and Fed­erico played the match of his life.”

Del­bo­nis was beaten by Cilic in five sets in Fri­day’s first sin­gles match but blew away the 37-year-old Karlovic, an op­po­nent ranked 21 places above him, in just over two hours.

The world num­ber 41 broke Karlovic — the old­est player to fea­ture in a Davis Cup sin­gles match since 43-year-old Aus­tralian Nor­man Brookes in 1920 — four times to help Ar­gentina ban­ish the mem­o­ries of los­ing fi­nals ap­pear­ances in 1981, 2006, 2008 and 2011.

But much of the credit will go to Del Potro af­ter the Olympic silver medal­list, who missed the ma­jor­ity of 2014 and 2015 through in­jury, out­lasted Cilic in an epic five-hour bat­tle of for­mer US Open cham­pi­ons.

“I was pos­i­tive all the time and did not let my head drop af­ter go­ing two sets down,” said Del Potro.

“This was an emo­tion­ally ex­haust­ing match and one of the big­gest wins of my ca­reer.”

Del Potro had de­feated Cilic in eight of 10 pre­vi­ous meet­ings, but Sun­day’s clash was the first since 2013 and the Croat was in­vig­o­rated by an an­i­mated Zagreb Arena crowd.

Sixth-ranked Cilic dom­i­nated a first set tie-break, win­ning the first five points to seize con­trol, and then broke Del Potro’s serve twice in suc­ces­sion in the sec­ond set to move Croa­tia within sight of a sec­ond ti­tle.

But Del Potro, who ral­lied from be­hind to over­come Andy Mur­ray in a five-set epic in the semi­fi­nal, dis­played more re­mark­able re­silience and pro­duced an out­ra­geous ‘tweener’ to be­gin the third set.

Cilic fought off two early break points but then suc­cumbed to nerves as the fin­ish line ap­proached, falling 0-40 be­hind on serve at 5-6, and Del Potro pounced at the third op­por­tu­nity to reignite his coun­try’s hopes.

Del Potro’s blis­ter­ing fore­hand piled the pres­sure on Cilic, and the Ar­gen­tine sent the match to a fifth set by con­vert­ing his third set point af­ter his op­po­nent again fal­tered on serve at 5-4.

Del Potro com­mit­ted a costly dou­ble fault to gift Cilic the ad­van­tage at the start of the de­cid­ing set, but the world num­ber 38 hit straight back in the fol­low­ing game to level.

The Ar­gen­tine then con­jured up a pair of break points at 4-3 with a mis­cued fore­hand from Cilic paving the way for Del Potro to com­plete a stun­ning fight­back — his first ever from two sets down — in four hours and 53 min­utes.

“It’s a very hard de­feat to take,” said Cilic.

“I am very dis­ap­pointed but I have no re­grets be­cause I gave all I had and it was just one of those days when it didn’t come off.”

From left: Ar­gentina’s Leonardo Mayer, Fed­erico Del­bo­nis, Guido Pella, Juan Martin Del Potro and coach Daniel Or­sanic cel­e­brate with the tro­phy af­ter win­ning the Davis Cup World Group fi­nal against Croa­tia at the Arena hall in Zagreb. (AFP)

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