Croatia has won this year’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. The team, composed of Marin Cilic, Borna Coric, Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic, was too strong for defending champions France. Despite a ray of hope after Saturday’s doubles win and with the support of a stadium of over 22,000 cheering fans, the host nation was not able to defy the Croats a second Davis Cup title.
Coming in to the final day, Croatia was up 2-1, having taken both singles matches on Day 1. Coric put the visitors 1-0 up, with a 6-2 7-5 6-4 win over Jeremy Chardy. Cilic then kept a clean sheet, taking out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga by a very similar scoreline; 6-3 7-5 6-4.
Saturday’s doubles match saw a more active and vocal crowd get behind their players. Upon taking the first and then second sets, the home fans saw a glimmer of light, however far in the distance it may have been. The Croatian pair of Dodig & Pavic fought back to claim the third set, but Nicolas Mahut & Pierre-Hugues Herbert ensured that the final would continue to a third day with a 6-4 6-4 3-6 7-6(3) win which kept the French team’s faint hopes of an 11th title alive.
Sunday’s opening match saw Marin Cilic clinch the tie and the title for the Croats. Up against Lucas Pouille, the 4th ranked Frenchman at #32 on the ATP singles rankings, Cilic was the favourite going in. Composed from the outset, the world #7 seemed to be a step ahead and a gear above Pouille, especially after taking a tight first set. Serving to stay in the match in set three, Pouille was met with a barrage of heavy returns and groundstrokes and managed to save two match points, one with an ace, but Cilic played a cool and calm lob winner to seal the deal for Croatia with a 7-6(3) 6-3 6-3.
In his post-match interview, Cilic was beaming, “It’s just an incredible feeling to play like this in the final. The first set was tough… (I’m) extremely proud of the win.” Speaking of his nation, Cilic said “It’s a dream come true for us, for this nation, we are so passionate… I feel that in Croatia it’s going to be incredible too.”
The second title has been over a decade in the making for the burgeoning Croatian team. Borna Coric has shot up the ATP rankings this year, finishing at #12 with some impressive wins along the way. Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, is now a top ten staple. Mate Pavic, the #4 ranked doubles player in the world and part of the #1 ranked doubles team, is also a force to be reckoned with, despite being upset in Saturday’s doubles match. Croatia now has two titles from the three finals it has contested.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019
2019 will be a year of great changes for the sport’s flagship men’s team competition. Known as the ‘World Cup of Tennis’, the Davis Cup finals will be held at the Caja Magica in Madrid and will see not 2 but 18 teams in contention for the title.
- The previous year’s champion (Croatia), runner-up (France) and two semi-finalists automatically qualify (USA and Spain)
- 2 wild-cards are given for automatic qualification (Argentina and Great Britain)
- 24 other teams will play a qualifying round in February (12 will play at home, 12 away)
- The 12 losing teams will be relegated to Group I (to be played later in the year)
- 12 winning teams will advance to the Davis Cup finals joining the top 4 from the previous year as well as the 2 wild-card recipients in an 18-team competition.
- The 18 teams will play at the Davis Cup finals in Madrid
- They will be divided into 6 group of 3 and play a three-match (2 singles and 1 doubles) best-of-three round robin.
- The winner of each group (6 in total), plus the two best-performing second-placed teams will advance to the quarterfinals, then semi-finals then final, maintaining the same match formats.