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Croatia vs USA Davis Cup SF Preview, Matches and Live Streaming: Borna Coric beats Frances Tiafoe in deciding fifth rubber as Croatia reach third Davis Cup final

Leye Aduloju in News 17 Sep 2018
  • Croatia vs USA Davis Cup tennis is live from Zadar from 14-16 September.
  • Borna Coric beats Frances Tiafoe in deciding fifth rubber as Croatia reach third Davis Cup final
Borna Coric . (Photo by /AFP/Getty Images)

Borna Coric beats fellow young gun, Frances Tiafoe in deciding fifth rubber as Croatia reach third Davis Cup final.

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The Croatians are unbeaten in all four previous matches against the Americans, and Zeljko Krajan's side will like their chances of advancing to a third final, and a second in three years. Croatia won the title in 2005 and were runners-up in 2016.

Croatia needed a world group playoff victory over Colombia in 2017 to stay in the elite group, but they have beaten Canada and Kazakhstan this year to stand on the brink of another final.

32-time champions, the United States are the most successful nation in Davis Cup history, but they are currently on a lean spell in the competition, having failed to reach the final since their most recent triumph in 2007.

While Croatia boast their full repertoire of top-20 players, the Americans do not have that luxury, with John Isner and Jack Sock missing from this semi-final. In their absence, Steve Johnson, at No. 30 is the highest-ranked player in their side.

Can the weakened visitors upset their hosts on the clay of Zadar?

Croatia vs USA Davis Cup Match Schedule

Croatia are through to the 20189 Davis Cup final after a 3-2 victory over the USA.

Croatia vs USA Results

RUBBER 1: Borna Coric (CRO) def. Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4 7-6 6-3

Borna Coric gave Croatia the perfect start in their Davis Cup semifinal against the USA as he scored a 6-4 7-6 6-3 victory over Steve Johnson in the opening rubber on Friday.

Coric had lost to Johnson in their only previous meeting at Roland Garros in 2017, while he also fell surprisingly to Mikhail Kukushkin in April in his most recent Davis Cup appearance for his country, but the 21-year-old got back to winning ways with a competent victory over Johnson on Friday.

The world number 18, who is having his best ever season, improves to 8-7 in Davis Cup matches.

“I played a very good match,” said Coric afterwards. “I didn’t give away one break in the match aside from in the second set. But also, I just thought he played too good. I made one sloppy mistake and everything else I played so good so I can’t say anything about myself.”

"I like the pressure. I like the feeling it gives you in the stomach. Most of the times, I play better than when I play on some courts and no one was watching.”

For Johnson, two forehand errors in the tiebreak proved a crucial point in the match but he asserted 

One of the major areas of improvement in Coric's game this season has been his serve, and it stood up brilliantly again on Friday, with the Croatian serving seven aces, and winning 81% and 66% of points on his first and second serves respectively. He faced just one break point throughout the match- he got broken for 3-3 in the second set- but that was the only notable blip in polished two-hour 27-minute contest.

RUBBER 2: Marin Cilic (CRO) def. Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-1 6-3 7-6

Croatia's number one, Marin Cilic rounded off the perfect day for the home nation by beating the USA's Frances Tiafoe in straight sets to.give the Europeans a commanding 2-0 lead after Friday's singles rubbers.

With 26 singles Davis Cup singles match wins to his name, plus a four-match winning streak to bank on, Cilic was the overwhelming favourite again Davis Cup debutant, Tiafoe, and that gulf was apparent on Friday, as Cilic delivered a comfortable 6-1 6-3 7-6 victory.

The Croatian was almost untouchable in the opening set, dropping just one point on his first serve, but Tiafoe gradually grew into the match, earning his only break of the match in the sixth game of the second set. Problem is: Cilic broke serve three times in that set, and had disappeared into a two-set lead in just over 70 minutes of play.

Tiafoe stuck with the Croatian in the third set, which featured no break points for either man, but Cilic found that little bit extra in the tie break, recovering from 0-3 and 2-4 down to take the breaker 7-5.

The former US Open champion struck 42 winners and committed 40 unforced errors, while Tiafoe was ultimately undone by his soaring error numbers, which totaled 46 as against 24 winners.

Croatia are firmly in the drivers’ seat in Zadar, and it will take a herculean effort from the Americans to prevent the hosts from advancing to a second Davis Cup final in three years.

RUBBER 3: Mike Bryan/ Ryan Harrison (USA) def. Mate Pavic/Ivan Dodig (CRO) 7-5 7-6 1-6 6-7 7-6

Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison held off a rousing fightback from Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig to beat the Croatians in a thrilling five-setter, and keep the USA in this Davis Cup semi-final. The Americans are still firm underdogs heading into Sunday's reverse singles, but Bryan and Harrison's four-hour 43-minute heroics give the 32-time champions a fighting chance of pulling off the stunning comeback/upset.

RUBBER 4: Sam Querrey (USA) def. Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-4

American captain, Jim Courier made an inspired alteration to his original line-up, as he sent out Sam Querrey, instead of Steve Johnson, for the first of Sunday's reverse singles, and the American responded by scoring his first ever victory over Marin Cilic in seven attempts to even the tie and force a deciding fifth rubber.

Cilic looked on his way to clinching the tie for the home side when he took the first set on a tie break, but Querrey responded in kind, eking out the second set on a breaker. An agitated Cilic smashed his racket in frustration in the third set as the errors mounted, and duly got a code violation from umpire Carlos Ramos- the man at the receiving end of Serena Williams' now infamous US Open outburst. That did little to help his cause as Querrey kept his cool to pull out the win in four sets, and give the Americans a genuine shot at completing the comeback.

RUBBER 5: Borna Coric (CRO) def. Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-7 6-1 6-7 6-1 6-3

Young guns, Borna Coric and Frances Tiafoe were tasked with the responsibility of getting their respective countries into the Davis Cup final, and it was Coric's greater experience in this competition that told in the end, as Croatia's No. 2 twice came from a set down to defeat Tiafoe. Tiafoe took the first set on a tie break, but Coric responded in emphatic fashion, dropping just one game in the second.

The world number eighteen, playing his 16th Davis cup singles' rubber, appeared to be running away with it when he led 5-1 in the third set, but he lost his way, as Tiafoe fought back to take the set on a gripping tie break, which featured 24 points.

One of Coric's great strengths is his mental fortitude, and he showed all of it on Sunday as he recovered from that disappointment to dominate the next two sets, and send Croatia to the final, where they will play France.

Croatia vs USA Squads

Croatia vs USA Davis Cup Squads

Player 1 (Ranking)Marin Cilic (6)Steve Johnson (30)
Player 2 (Ranking)Borna Coric (18)Frances Tiafoe (40)
Player 3 (Ranking)Franko Skugor (368)Ryan Harrison (51)
Player 4 (Ranking)Mate Pavic (972)Sam Querrey (61)
Player 5 (Ranking)Ivan Dodig (-)Mike Bryan (-)
CaptainZeljko KrajanJim Courier

Croatia's top-20 players, Marin Cilic and Borna Coric should definitely be on singles duties on Friday, and the home captain, Zeljko Krajan will be expectant on both to deliver an early lead for the country.

World number six, Cilic has become a Davis Cup veteran, with a total of 52 matches, 36 of them in singles. Cilic boasts a 26-10 record in Davis Cup singles ties, including 11-4 on clay. The 29-year-old is on a 4-match winning streak in Davis Cup singles rubbers, and hasn't been beaten since blowing a two-set lead against Juan Martin del Potro in the 2016 final.

The top-ten mainstay has had a solid year, winning his only title so far at Queen's, but he reached the Australian Open final, and quarter finals at Roland Garros and the US Open.

Coric, on the other hand, has had the best year of his career, winning his biggest title in Halle, where he famously stunned Roger Federer in the final, while producing his best Grand Slam performance at the US Open, where he reached the fourth round. The 21-year-old, who broke into the top-20 for the first time this year is even at 7-7 in Davis Cup matches, and was beaten by Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin in his most recent appearance in the quarter finals in April.

Croatia's doubles combination will likely be Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig, who are ranked 4th and 24th respectively on the rankings, although Franko Skugor, ranked 39th, or even Marin Cilic, who has been required to do a job in recent ties, remain an option.

While the Croatian's choices for Friday's singles rubbers appear clear-cut, things are not that straightforward in the American end. In the absence of John Isner and Jack Sock, it will be interesting to see which players get Courier's nod. The only near certainty is that Mike Bryan won't be playing on Friday, but any of Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe, Ryan Harrison or Sam Querrey presents a reasonable case to be nominated.

There isn't much experience to call on in there, with Querrey, who has a 9-9 record in singles rubbers, the most experienced member in the squad. Johnson is 2-2, Harrison is 1-2, while Tiafoe has never played a Davis Cup tie.

Will Courier settle for the relative experience of Querrey, or could he possibly go for the youthful innocence of Tiafoe, who picked up his first career title at Delray Beach and was a finalist on the clay of Estoril earlier this year?

One half of the doubles pairing appears set, with Mike Bryan set to get the call. Either one of Sam Querrey or Steve Johnson should be his likely partner.

Davis Cup Format

Davis Cup ties are played according to a unique format developed over the 116 years the competition has been played. However, the tournament in its current guise will be discarded from the 2019 season, with the ITF board adopting a new format from next season.

Each Davis Cup tie consists of five rubbers: Two singles matches played on Friday followed by a doubles match on Saturday, with the reverse singles pairings being played on Sunday. Each match is decided over the best of five sets.

Player nominations for each tie can be changed up until an hour before the start of play.

One nation hosts the tie, with the choice of ground decided by where the two competing teams played last time.

From next season, the finalists for the previous year will have the choice of hosting their first-round ties.

Croatia vs USA: The History

Croatia go into this tie as the favourites, not just because they have the better side on paper, but also because of the lopsided history between the sides. The Croats have won all four previous meetings against the Americans, all of which have come on the 21st century. On the two previous occasions when Croatia reached the final, they beat the USA along the way, in 2005 when the Europeans went all the way to win the title, and in 2016, when they roared back from 0-2 down to win a quarter final in Portland.

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Croatia vs USA Davis Cup SF Preview, Matches and Live Streaming: Borna Coric beats Frances Tiafoe in deciding fifth rubber as Croatia reach third Davis Cup final

Croatia take on the United States in the quarter finals of the Davis Cup from 14-16 September. Can Marin Cilic and Borna Coric propel Croatia into a second final in three years? Read our preview, predictions and stream the matches live online.

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