In a showdown between the world’s best player and doubles pair, Croatia’s top-ranked twosome beat a Serbia led by Novak Djokovic to send their country into the Davis Cup final.
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic brushed aside Djokovic and partner Filip Krajinovic 7-5, 6-1 in doubles on Friday to win the semifinal for Croatia 2-1.
Croatia will seek its third Davis Cup come Sunday against the winner of Saturday’s other semifinal between Russia and Germany.
Djokovic had already done what he could to force the doubles match after Borna Gojo put Croatia in front by upsetting Dusan Lajovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the opening singles.
Djokovic pulled Serbia level at 1-1 by beating Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-2 before he stepped back on the Madrid Arena's indoor hard court for the decider.
But Mektic's and Pavic’s well-honed teamwork proved too much for the 20-time Grand Slam winner.
“We went out there believing we could do it, but we always knew that it was going to be the toughest rubber if it came down to doubles, playing the best team in the world,” Djokovic said. “They know each other so well, when one crosses the other knows where the other one will be. We singles players just play it back into the middle. They always make you hit the perfect shot.”
Serbia won the previous two Davis Cup meetings with Croatia since they became independent nations following the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Nikola Cacic had been slated to join Djokovic if it went to doubles, but team captain Viktor Troicki made a last-minute switch for Krajinovic to play alongside his star.