The Americans will have their work cut out for them this weekend after Marin Cilic and Borna Coric both won their opening singles rubbers to put Croatia ahead 2-0 in their Davis Cup semifinal tie.
Coric scored the first point of the day, getting revenge against Steve Johnson for a second-round loss at the French Open last year. The Croatian earned a 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory after two hours and 24 minutes.
After closing out a 34-minute first set, the 18th-ranked Coric looked like he was going to run away with it after breaking early in the second set for a 6-4, 3-1 lead. Johnson broke back and stayed with him through the tiebreaker, but the Croat snuck that breaker out and never really looked back.
“I played a very good match,” Coric told DavisCup.com after the hard-fought win. “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.”
Cilic followed with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over Frances Tiafoe. Like the previous match, it looked like Croatia was headed for a quick victory as Cilic raced out to a 6-1, 4-1 lead. But Tiafoe raised his level.
In the end, though, the sixth-ranked Cilic closed it out after two hours and 14 minutes and made some history, too—it was his 37th career win in Davis Cup, passing Ivan Ljubicic for most career wins in Davis Cup for a Croatian player (Cilic is now 37-16 in Davis Cup, while Ljubicic was 36-19).
“In these later stages of my career, I enjoy so much to play in the Davis Cup,” Cilic said afterwards.
“We have great success, great chemistry in the team. Atmosphere is really nice. In these years before we had a great team, but now we’re a bit stronger and we can have even more combinations.”
The U.S. will try to stay alive in the tie in the doubles rubber on Saturday, which will see Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison take on Croats Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic. Croatia can clinch the tie with a win.
Meanwhile, the other semifinal tie between France and Spain kicked off at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France, with the home team taking a 2-0 lead. The first rubber saw Benoit Paire bounce back from an early 5-3 deficit—and win 16 of the last 17 games—to beat Pablo Carreno Busta, 7-5, 6-1, 6-0, while the second rubber saw Lucas Pouille outlast Roberto Bautista Agut, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
France, the 2017 Davis Cup champions, can clinch a spot in the 2018 final on Saturday as Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut take on Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez in the doubles rubber.
This Weekend on Tennis Channel PLUS
-Davis Cup Semifinals (Sep. 14-16): USA takes on Croatia, while Spain faces France
-Additionally, watch Davis Cup World Group Playoffs featuring Austria vs. Australia and Canada vs. Netherlands