Marin Cilic and Borna Coric came out swinging in the first two singles rubbers of the Davis Cup final on Friday, both winning in straight sets to give Croatia a 2-0 lead over France.
Coric was the first to take to the indoor clay at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France, breaking serve four times—and saving the only two break points he faced—to beat Jeremy Chardy, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.
Chardy had won two of their three previous meetings, but Coric was on his game this time, ripping 23 winners off the ground, including 16 with his forehand, to prevail in two hours and 19 minutes.
“It was a really great match from the beginning to the end,” Coric said in his on-court interview. “I was playing very aggressive. I was very calm—I didn’t lose my nerve in the second set when I had, I think, four break points, but didn’t use it. But I just stayed calm, and I think that was the key of the match.
“I was serving really well in the important points. That was also a key, for sure.”
Cilic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took the court next in a battle between Davis Cup veterans, with Cilic pulling off an almost identical victory to Coric, beating the Frenchman, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
The world No. 7, who holds the all-time record for most Davis Cup match wins for a Croatian player, was asked coming into the Davis Cup final how excited he was about the tie, on a scale of 1 to 10. His response?
“Probably 15,” he replied. “It’s great to be a part of this generation that we have in our team. It’s been an incredible journey for us.
"We’ve enjoyed it so much—we’ve had ups and downs and times where emotions were going crazy, throughout the year and the years before, so it’s just incredible that we’re here again and that we have a chance to win the trophy. We hope to play the best tennis of our life.”
Cilic is now 38-17 in Davis Cup play: 28-11 in singles and 10-6 in doubles. Coric is now 10-7 in singles play in Davis Cup. He’s never played a doubles rubber.
Speaking of doubles, that match will take place on Saturday, and Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic can clinch the title with a win. But they’ll have their work cut out for them as they take on Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who have won three Grand Slam doubles titles together.
Dodig and Pavic have one Grand Slam doubles title each, but with other partners.
Only one time in history has a team come back from 0-2 down in the Davis Cup final. That happened in 1939, when Australia came back from 0-2 down to beat the U.S. in a Challenge Round final.