Croatia Pounces on Rafael Nadal and Absence of Carlos Alcaraz as Spain Crashes in Davis Cup | Tennis news


Marin Cilic led Croatia to the semi-finals of the Davis Cup on Wednesday, knocking out six-time champions Spain, who missed Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal, the two best players in the world. World No. 17 Cilic, a former US Open champion, fought back to beat 13th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) as Croatia reached a semifinal against Australia. Earlier on Wednesday, Borna Coric had launched the 2005 and 2018 champions by defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

The 34-year-old Cilic, who made his Davis Cup debut in 2006, dropped the first set, conceded a break in the deciding game and was 1/4 down in the tiebreak before being out on court after three hours and 13 minutes. triumphed.

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His 20 aces helped alleviate the damage caused by 15 double faults as the 10,000-strong home crowd at the Palacio de Deportes was left speechless by Croatia, runners-up to Russia in the 2021 final.

“It was an incredible battle,” said Cilic.

However, he admitted that the absence of US Open champion Alcaraz and 22-time Grand Slam title winner Nadal played into the hands of Croatia, who had lost all of their three previous Davis Cup encounters with Spain.

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“It would be very different. Rafa has been a leader of the team throughout his career. He is one of the best Davis Cup players ever.”

“Carlos, fantastic season for him. Such a shame that he got injured.”

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Spain captain Sergi Bruguera lamented his team’s departure.

“I think luck has had a little influence, and Cilic a little more today,” he stressed.

World No. 26, Coric fired 14 aces past his 21st ranked rival whom he had already beaten en route to the Cincinnati Masters title in the summer.

Bautista Agut had a seven-match Davis Cup winning streak, stretching back to 2019.

“I just think I played really smart overall. If I had to attack, I did. If I had to defend, I was defensive,” said Coric.

“I also mixed up the rhythm, which is very important against him. I was just really happy with my game, to be honest.”

Play was briefly halted when two environmental protesters stormed onto the pitch and attempted to tie themselves to the net before being wrestled to the ground and ejected from the arena by security personnel.

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The pair were members of the “Futuro Vegetal” group demanding “the adoption of a vegetable-based agri-food system”.

“We paused the Davis Cup to demand urgent changes to the food system,” the organization said on its Twitter account.

In Thursday’s remaining quarterfinals, the 32-time Davis Cup champions United States take on Italy, while Germany takes on Canada.

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