Del Potro fires Argentina to Davis Cup

After taking Argentina to a maiden Davis Cup triumph, team-mates (from left) Leonardo Mayer, Guido Pella, Federico Delbonis, Juan Martin del Potro and coach Daniel Orsanic celebrate the victory against Croatia in Zagreb on Sunday. Argentina trailed 1
After taking Argentina to a maiden Davis Cup triumph, team-mates (from left) Leonardo Mayer, Guido Pella, Federico Delbonis, Juan Martin del Potro and coach Daniel Orsanic celebrate the victory against Croatia in Zagreb on Sunday. Argentina trailed 1-2 before del Potro turned the tie around.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ZAGREB • Argentina won the Davis Cup for the first time on Sunday, after Juan Martin del Potro, playing with a broken finger on his left hand, inspired a stirring comeback against the hosts, Croatia, in the final.

Heading into the final day in Zagreb 2-1 ahead, Croatia were on the verge of victory as Marin Cilic surged to a two-set lead against del Potro, but the 2009 US Open champion battled back to level the tie at 2-2 with a 6-7 (4-7), 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 win.

That set the stage for a deciding rubber and Federico Delbonis beat Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to seal victory for Argentina, who had lost their four previous finals.

It was the seventh time in Davis Cup history that a country had come from 1-2 down in the final to win the trophy.

Out of the game for nearly two years and forced to undergo three wrist operations, del Potro's comeback has been the feel-good story for tennis this year.

Having won silver for Argentina at the Rio Olympics, his five-set upset win over Britain's Andy Murray in September went a long way to sending his country into the Davis Cup final, where he won both singles rubbers, having beaten Karlovic 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 7-5 on Friday.

He revealed his broken finger after his singles victory. "It happened when I tried to catch a ball in the fifth set," the right-hander said.

"This was an emotionally exhausting match and one of the biggest wins of my career. Thanks to all those who prevented me from retiring, I was very close to never playing again and, well, here I am."

Cilic had earlier beaten Delbonis 6-3,7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 6-2.

Victory in Saturday's doubles had put Croatia within one victory of a second title, having landed their first honour in 2005.

The Argentinian fans, including Diego Maradona in the VIP box, gave their team a standing ovation.

The Argentina coach, Daniel Orsanic said: "What del Potro did was amazing. He represents his country with so much pride and he also showed how good a player he is.

"His achievement today borders on the impossible while Federico played a perfect match and was on top of every ball throughout the contest."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline 'Del Potro fires Argentina to Davis Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe