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France vs Croatia Davis Cup Final Preview, Matches and Live Streaming: Marin Cilic beats Lucas Pouille to give Croatia second Davis Cup title

Leye Aduloju in News 25 Nov 2018
  • Croatia beat France 3-1 to win a second Davis Cup title
  • Marin Cilic scored the winning point, beating Lucas Pouille 7-6 6-3 6-3
Croatia celebrate their second Davis Cup title. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Marin Cilic defeated Lucas Pouille 7-6 6-3 6-3 in the first of Sunday's reverse singles to give Croatia a second Davis Cup title.

This weekend’s final between France and Croatia holds special significance, as it is the last final of the famous old competition in its current guise before it undergoes a drastic, controversial revamp from 2019.

The French are competing in their 19th Davis Cup final, and are seeking an eleventh title, having ended a sixteen-year title drought with last season’s victory, while the Croatians have been far less illustrious, as this is only their third final, and are chasing a second title. 

France recorded identical 3-1 victories over Netherlands and Italy in the opening two rounds of the 2018 World Group, but they finished off Spain inside three rubbers in the semi-finals, with Benoit Paire and Lucas Pouille starring in singles, while Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut sealed the deal in the doubles rubber. Croatia were also fairly comfortable in the first two rounds, easing to 3-1 victories over Canada and Kazakhstan, but they were pushed all the way in the semi-finals by the United States, who fought back from 0-2 down to force a deciding fifth rubber. Borna Coric delivered an epic five-set win over debutant, Frances Tiafoe in the deciding rubber to send the Croatians into the final, and the Zadar crown into delirium.

Can top-20 stars, Coric and Marin Cilic inspire Croatia to the title in Lille, or will the home side, boasting the return of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, retain their title?

France vs Croatia Davis Cup Match Schedule

Croatia defeated France 3-1 to win their second Davis Cup title.

France vs Croatia Davis Cup Match Results

RUBBER 1: Borna Coric (CRO) bt. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-3 7-5 6-4

Borna Coric put gave Croatia the first point in the 2018 Davis Cup final with an impressive 6-2 7-5 6-4 victory over France’s Jeremy Chardy.

Despite trailing Chardy 1-2 on head-to-head coming into Friday’s, Coric was arguably the favourite ahead of the clash, on the back of his brilliant 2018, and the young gun produced the sort of performance that has propelled him from 48th to 12th on the ATP rankings to put Croatia in early control in Lille.

Borna Coric. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)
Coric may be just 22, but he is quickly becoming a Davis Cup stalwart for his country, with Friday’s victory improving his record in the competition to 10-7. Beyond the actual tennis, which was excellent, Coric expertly blocked out the crowd, who tried but failed to put him off his game.

Coric’s improved serve was evident all through the encounter- he served at a very healthy 76%, winning 80% of points on his first serve, and a remarkable 15 of 19 second serve points. The Croatian saved both break points he faced. The 22-year-old had Chardy in all sorts of pressure right from the opening game, carving out three break points before eventually forcing the break, and Chardy never truly found a way out of the incessant pressure created by Coric’s solidity and probing.

Coric won 15 points in a row on his way to a 4-0 lead, and though Chardy finally got on the board, the Croatian went on to close out the set with minimum of fuss.

Chardy carved out his only break points of the match at 2-1 in the second set, but Coric snuffed out both chances, and went on to break in the eleventh game, on his seventh break point of the set, before serving out to love for a two-set lead. The break came earlier in the third set- in the third game- as that was enough, as Coric went on to close out a superb 6-2 7-5 6-4 victory after two hours and 15 minutes.

RUBBER 2: Marin Cilic (CRO) bt. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-3 7-5 6-4

After watching his compatriot, Borna Coric produce a convincing win in the tie’s opening rubber, Croatia’s No. 1 took the stage later in the day, and recorded an almost identical 6-3 7-5 6-4 victory over France’s former world No. 5, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Playing Tsonga, who had won just one of five matches since returning from knee surgery in September was always a gamble, and it didn’t quite come off for captain Yannick Noah- although it’s hard to think any other player in a French squad missing its top three players could have beaten the rock solid Cilic. 

Marin Cilic. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Cilic served at just 62%, but he won 91% of points on his first serve, dropping just five points when that formidable first delivery went in. his second serve conversion rate wasn’t too shabby- as it stood at a respectable 61%. Like Coric earlier, he also did not drop his serve, saving all five break points he faced. Cilic played a very clean match, striking 38 winners and just 27 unforced errors, while Tsonga was in the negative in this department, as he hit 34 unforced errors, as against 25 winners. The first and only break of the opening set came in the sixth game, and while Tsonga saved set point while serving at 2-5, he could do very little in the next game, as Cilic closed out the set to love.

The second set went with serve until the eleventh game- Cilic saving two break points at 3-4- but it was the Croatia who took his chance when it came, converting his only break point of the set for a 6-5 lead. Again, he served out the set to love.

Cilic saved more break points in the fourth and sixth games of the third set, but crucially he got the break in between, and would go on to bag the win after two hours and 15 minutes. Tsonga did not play badly, but it came down to a few big points here and there- which went Cilic’s way. Perhaps, had he been a bit sharper, he could have converted one of those break chances.

In the end though, the biggest picture is that the French have the proverbial mountain to claim as they attempt to become just the second team to overturn a 0-2 deficit in a Davis Cup final.

RUBBER 3: Nicolas Mahut/Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) def. Mate Pavic/Ivan Dodig (CRO) 6-4 6-4 3-6 7-6(3)

France kept their hopes of an unlikely Davis Cup title defence alive on Saturday after Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert teamed up to conquer the Croatian pairing of Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig in four sets in front of an electric home crowd of 22,910 spectators inside the Stade Pierre Mauroy.

Coming into the do-or-die tie behind 2-0 after Marin Cilic and Borna Coric propelled Croatia ahead on Day 1, Mahut and Herbert carried the weight of a nation on their shoulders and they delivered with aplomb, registering a 6-4 6-4 3-6 7-6(3) victory in three hours and 38 minutes.

France appeared on course for a relatively routine victory as they broke Dodig’s serve in each of the first two sets and went ahead 2-0 in the third, but Croatia produced a huge turnaround to win six of the next seven games and send the match into a fourth. Mahut and Herbert then had three match points at 5-4, 0-40 on Pavic’s serve, but the Croatian fired down four thunderous serves to hold, with the set ultimately heading into a tiebreaker.

Herbert ripped a forehand return up the middle of the court to hand France the first mini-break and they steadily built up a lead throughout the tiebreak, converting their fourth match point to keep the final alive.

RUBBER 4: Marin Cilic (CRO) def. Lucas Pouille (FRA) 7-6 6-3 6-3

Marin Cilic secured a second Davis Cup title for Croatia with a 7-6 6-3 6-3 victory over Lucas Pouille in the first of Sunday's reverse singles in Lille.

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut had given the French hope of an unlikely comeback after winning the doubles rubber on Saturday, but with two top 15 players- Marin Cilic and Borna Coric- to call on, Croatia were always favourites to finish off the tie at some point on Sunday.

Marin Cilic. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)
The highest ranked player in the French squad, Lucas Pouille had been surprisingly left out of singles' action on Friday, but the world number 32 was recalled by captain, Yannick Noah on Sunday for the salvage mission. Pouille might not have been in the greatest of forms, but he rose as high as 10th in the rankings in March, and he showed some of that form in a competitive opening set against Cilic on Sunday. The Frenchman stayed with Cilic for most of the set, saving two break points and forcing a tie break, but the visiting player upped the ante as the breaker developed, winning four straight points from 3-3 to take the set. The world No. 7 flashed a forehand past the serving and volleying Pouille to bring up set point, before closing out the set with a backhand drop shot.

Cilic forced the first break of the match in the sixth game of the second set, enough to win him the set, and he scored two more breaks in the third set to close out an ultimately comfortable victory. Cilic did not face a break point throughout the match, winning 89% of points on his first serve, and 67% on his second in another competent serving display.

“It’s not every day that you become a world champion,” Cilic said. “For us it’s a dream come true. We are so passionate, you can see the fans are enjoying themselves. I feel that in Croatia it’s going to be incredible too".

Croatia become the last team to win the Davis Cup in its current guise, with the competition set to adopt a revamped format from the 2019 season.

France vs Croatia: The squads

France vs Croatia Squads

Player 1 (Ranking)Lucas Pouille (32)Marin Cilic (7)
Player 2 (Ranking)Jeremy Chardy (40)Borna Coric (12)
Player 3 (Ranking)Pierre-Hughes Herbert (55)Franko Skugor (492)
Player 4 (Ranking)Nicolas Mahut (201)Mate Pavic (-)
Player 5 (Ranking)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (259)Ivan Dodig (-)
CaptainYannick NoahZeljko Krajan

Croatia have their strongest possible singles line-up, with the formidable duo of world No. 7, Marin Cilic and world No. 12, Borna Coric leading their quest for a second title. 

Cilic has been the stalwart of this Croatian side for the last few years, amassing a 27-11 record in singles rubbers, while Coric has quickly become a pivotal member of the team, playing a key role in their progress to a second final in three years. Both players are coming off fine seasons, Coric especially, as he has produced a career-best campaign, surging from No. 48 at the start of the year to end with a personal-high 12th. 

Team Croatia. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old claimed his biggest career title in Halle, beating Roger Federer in the final, while he made his first Masters 1000 final in Shanghai, scoring yet another win over Federer in the semis before falling to Novak Djokovic. Coric also made the semi-finals at Indian Wells, while he got to the fourth round of the US Open- the first time he had reached the second week in a Slam. Cilic had another top-ten season, the high points being his title run at Queen’s and a runner-up finish at the Australian Open. Cilic and Coric will definitely be in singles action, while Mate Pavic, the world’s no. 4 doubles player will lead their doubles challenge. Ivan Dodig, another quality doubles player, has been nominated as his partner, but coach Zeljko Krajan may decide to switch things up on Saturday, with Cilic being a possible but unlikely option.

While Croatia roll out the heavy artillery of two top-15 players for this final, the French do not quite have that luxury, with their top three players, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon all missing from this one. Lucas Pouille, ranked 32nd is the highest ranked player in the squad. 

Pouille, who scored the winning point in last year’s final has been overlooked for Saturday’s singles, with captain Yannick Noah opting for Jeremy Chardy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga was also part of last year’s finals squad, going 1-1 in his singles rubbers, but this will be his first appearance since then, having only just returned from knee surgery. The former world number five is down at 259th in the rankings, and has played just six tournaments all year. He sustained the knee injury while playing Pouille in the Montpellier semi-finals in February, and did not return to action until Metz in September, after undergoing surgery in April. Tsonga has won just one match in the four tournaments he has played since his return. He does have a useful 21-8 Davis Cup singles’ record to bank on.

Defending champions, France. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Chardy’s record isn’t shabby either, standing at a decent 5-1. He was actually unbeaten before 2018, but suffered his first defeat against Fabio Fognini in the quarter finals. The Frenchman has had a decent season, climbing back into the top 40 following a runner-up finish in s-Hertogenbosch, semi-finals at Queen’s and Istanbul and solid fourth-round runs at Indian Wells and Miami. He also won a Challenger title at Surbiton. However, his recent form hasn’t been great, as he has won just five matches since July, none of them consecutively.

France may be second favourites in the singles, but the home side will fancy their chances in Saturday’s doubles rubber with the excellent doubles combination of Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, finalists at the Nitto ATP Finals. If France are to win this tie, then it’s almost imperative that Mahut and Herbert (assuming Noah doesn’t flip things up again) win Saturday’s rubber.

Davis Cup Format

This is the final edition of the Davis Cup in its current format, with the competition set to adopt a new guise in a controversial revamp from the 2019 season. Under the new system, 18 teams will converge at one venue at the end of the season, with the teams split into six groups of three. Each group winner, along with the two best second-placed teams will progress to the knock-out stages.

For one final time, the Davis Cup will be played in its traditional format, developed over the 116 years the competition has been contested.

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.

France vs Croatia: The History

France and Croatia meet for just the third time, with both nations splitting their previous two encounters.

France defeated Croatia in Metz in the first round of the 2004 tournament, with Arnaud Clement, Nicolas Escude and Michael Llodra starring against a Croatian side parading Ivan Ljubicic, Mario Ancic and Ivo Karlovic, while Marin Cilic spearheaded the Croatian revenge in 2016, winning two singles rubbers, and joining forces with Ivan Dodig in the doubles as they beat the French in Zadar to qualify for the final.

France are the far more illustrious nation, with 10 titles from 18 previous finals, while Croatia have just the one title from their two finals. 

France vs Croatia is live from Lille from 23-25 November.

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify 

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France vs Croatia Davis Cup Final Preview, Matches and Live Streaming: Marin Cilic beats Lucas Pouille to give Croatia second Davis Cup title

Marin Cilic defeated Lucas Pouille in straight sets in the first of Sunday's reverse singles to give Croatia a second Davis Cup title.

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