Croatia: How Will They Fare In The Davis Cup Final?
November 22, 2016
In 2005, Croatia became the first unseeded nation to be crowned Davis Cup Champions.
Eleven years on they are back in the showpiece event which will take place indoors on the hard courts of the Arena Zagreb from the 25th to the 27th of November.
Goran Ivanisevic’s fairytale win at Wimbledon in 2001 catapulted his country into the tennis limelight as he became the only person in tennis history to lift the coveted men’s singles title at Wimbledon as a wildcard.
Since this memorable sporting chapter, this small country with just over four million people has nurtured another Grand Slam winner in Marin Čilic. The 6ft 6in powerhouse has been the driving force behind his team’s run to this year’s final which has seen them prevail 3-2 in all of their ties to reach the most electrifying stage in tennis
Croatia will take on an incandescent Argentina line-up who will take great encouragement from their nail-biting semi-final victory over holders Great Britain.
Here we take an in-depth look at the key players in the Croatian team, their route to the final as well as Croatia’s odds to emerge victorious in the Davis Cup for a second time.
One of two players taking part in the final to have tasted singles success in a major tournament following his triumph in New York two years ago. Has the natural power and ability to simply blow players off the court.
The 20-year-old counterpuncher has been ranked as high as 33 in the world and currently sits just inside the top 50. Reached his first career ATP final in Chennai back in January and was the hero in his country’s stunning quarter-final comeback against the USA.
Dodig captured the 2015 French Open doubles title with Brazilian Marcelo Melo and the 31-year-old has brought his doubles pedigree into the this year’s Davis Cup winning all three of his rubbers. The 31-year-old has formed a strong partnership alongside good friend Čilic, with the pair claiming the notable scalp of the Bryan brothers in the last eight.
Who They’ve Beaten To Get Here
Belgium 2 – 3 Croatia
Youngster Coric proved he had the mettle to cope with the big occasion by straight-setting Kimmer Coppejans in a deciding fifth rubber to take his country into the quarter-finals of the competition. Belgum’s leading light David Goffin had threatened to spoil the party by winning both of his singles, but the luckless Coppejans was unable to take a set off Coric or Čilic either side of a doubles romp for Dodig and Franko Škugor.
USA 2 – 3 Croatia
This remarkable fightback from 2-0 down was undoubtedly stirred by Čilic’s and Dodig’s four set win over Bob and Mike Bryan. Cilic then downed John Isner in the battle of the big servers which once again gave Coric the chance to be the saviour of his country. Producing a performance of great maturity, he ousted Jack Sock in four sets to send his homeland into the last four.
Croatia 3 – 2 France
This semi-final win at the Kresimir Cosic Hall in Zadar lacked the drama and tension of their previous two ties with Čilic’s dismantling of Richard Gasquet giving his country an unassailable 3-1 lead with one singles rubber remaining. The 28-year-old proved to be Croatia’s inspiration by winning both his singles and teaming up with Dodig to stun top-ranked doubles pair Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Two Grand Slam champions will go head to head in a real clash of the titans as Čilic takes on 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro. The Argentine has enjoyed a heartwarming return to form following an injury ravaged two years and his match-up with Čilic is likely to be pivotal in determining the destination of the 2016 Davis Cup.
If the final goes to a deciding rubber, then I am tipping Croatia to have the edge over the four-time finalists, especially given that Coric appears to thrive in the high-pressured situations and fervent atmosphere associated with a competition that evokes patriotism and national pride like no other.
Croatia Odds to win the Davis Cup: 11/20 with BWIN