By Alberto Amalfi | Wednesday 23 November 2022
Wearing Croatian colors inspires deep defiance Marin Cilic.
More: Nick Bollettieri tribute
Today a brave Cilic secured Croatia’s place in his sixth Davis Cup semi-final with a stirring comeback win over the Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.
Cilic defeated Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in a three-hour and 13-minute thriller that capped Croatia’s 2-0 win over hosts Spain in Malaga, Spain.
Croatia, bidding for their third Davis Cup championship, meet Australia in Friday’s semi-finals.
Australia defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
A confident Borna Korik served with conviction and put Croatia to a 1-0 lead with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over Croatia Roberto Bautista Agut. Coric’s win set the stage for Cilic’s inspired comeback. Coric pumped 12 aces against no double faults and didn’t give up his serve against Bautista Agut.
“I think I served very, very well. I thought I didn’t serve that well because probably Cincinnati to be honest,” Coric said. “Obviously it’s a lot easier to play like that. I can relax more in the service games when he serves because I know I’ll most likely be holding my serve. So that made a difference.
“I just think I played very smart in general. When I had to attack, I attacked. When I had to defend, I was defensive. I also mix up the rhythm, which is very important against him. I was just very Happy with my game to be honest.”
2014 US Open champion Cilic navigated a wild ride against the home side. Cilic cracked 20 aces but made double faults, sometimes after a double fault with a massive ace in the middle.
Cilic faced a 5-6 deficit with 30 minutes in the final set, teetering two points from the loss bar. Cilic stayed calm, held to force the tiebreaker, then bounced back from 1-4 at the breaker to prevail.
“Obviously, I was struggling a bit with my own service games just to keep it all together,” Cilic said. “You know, I’ve made double faults quite a lot and had quite a few problems with them.
“But overall, you know, I kept my cool. It wasn’t easy. You know, 4-2, come back, 4-All, go up to 5-4, and then it was a pretty tough game too, just 5 -4 hold there and put me in the tie break.
“All in all, you know, putting a lot of games of my career together at that end of the third set, so it was an incredible fight.”
It was the first time since 2018, when the nation won their second Davis Cup, that Cilic and Coric were healthy individual starters for Croatia.
A year ago, Cilic and Borna Gojo were individual starters as Croatia reached the 2021 final, bowing to Russia in the final.
Today Croatia went on hiatus as Spain were without World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, who is recovering from an abdominal tear, and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who has declared himself unavailable and is currently on an exhibition tour with Casper Ruud is, was missing.
“You know it would be a lot different because I would say both are – you know, Rafa has been a leader of the team throughout his career and, you know, with his own results and has always enjoyed that kind of team atmosphere,” he said Cilic.”And you know he plays singles, doubles, he’s one of if not the best Davis Cup players of all time, you know, in that sense.
“And then with Carlos, a fantastic season for him. Such a shame for him that he got injured in Paris-Bercy, can’t play the Masters in Torino as well and then this one at home too. So it’s very difficult for both of them. ” from them. Yes, but there is certainly a lot to look forward to for Team Spain in the years to come.”
Photo credit: Getty