Tennis: Croatia reach Davis Cup semi-finals after defeating Spain

Croatia's Marin Cilic returns the ball during the Davis Cup men's singles quarter-final on Nov 23, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Marin Cilic led Croatia into the Davis Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, knocking out six-time champions Spain who were missing Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal, the world’s two top-ranked players.

World No. 17 Cilic, a former US Open champion, fought back to defeat 13th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) as Croatia booked a semi-final against Australia.

Earlier on Wednesday, Borna Coric had set the 2005 and 2018 champions on their way, defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

Cilic, 34, who made his Davis Cup debut back in 2006, dropped the first set, gave up a break in the decider and was 1/4 down in the tiebreak before triumphing after three hours and 13 minutes on court.

His 20 aces helped alleviate the damage caused by 15 double faults as the 10,000-strong home crowd were stunned into silence by Croatia who were runners-up to Russia in the 2021 final.

Coric, the world No. 26, fired 14 aces past his 21st-ranked rival whom he had already defeated on his way to the Cincinnati Masters title in the summer.

Bautista Agut had been on a seven-match winning streak in the Davis Cup, a run stretching back to 2019.

Play was briefly halted when two environmental protesters dashed onto the court and attempted to tie themselves to the net before being wrestled to the floor and ejected from the arena by security staff.

“I just think in general I was playing very smart. When I needed to attack, I did attack. When I needed to make a defence, I was defensive,” said Coric.

“I also mixed up the rhythm, as well, which is very important against him. I was just very pleased with my game, to be honest.”

On Thursday, 32-time Davis Cup champions United States face Italy in the quarter-finals while Germany take on Canada. AFP

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