LILLE: Marin Cilic beat France’s Lucas Pouille in straight sets on Sunday to give Croatia an unassailable lead in the Davis Cup final.
Cilic won 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-3, to dethrone defending champions France and secure Croatia’s second Davis Cup, 13 years after their first.
Pouille took Cilic to a tie-break in the first set but could not mount a challenge in the next two, losing in two hours, 19 minutes.
Croatia won all three singles matches in straight sets.
“It’s just a dream weekend, we all dreamed of playing as well all weekend,” said Cilic. “We did not even concede a service [in singles].”
It was the last final in the traditional format before a radical reorganisation of the venerable competition.
“Yes, that makes it special,” said Cilic.
The victory gives Croatia some revenge for their football team’s defeat by France in the World Cup final in July.
“We can’t wait to be in Zagreb, like the footballers when they came back from the World Cup,” said Zeljko Krajan, the Croatia captain.
Hosts and defending champions France had begun the day holding out hope of becoming the first team to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the final since Australia beat the US in 1939.
But there was to be no fairytale ending for French captain Yannick Noah in his last match in charge of Les Bleus.
Noah had surprisingly left Pouille, the highest-ranked player in his team, out of Friday’s opening singles matches and the gamble backfired as Jeremy Chardy was hammered by Borna Coric and Cilic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
After Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert won Saturday’s doubles to keep the tie alive, Noah restored Pouille in a bid to take down Croatian talisman Cilic. But their hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2018