Cilic and Coric give Croatia flying start in Davis Cup semi

Saturday, 2018-09-15 07:25:24
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Borna Coric in action during his match against Steve Johnson of the US. (Reuters)
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Marin Cilic gave Croatia a stranglehold over the United States as he beat Frances Tiafoe 6-1 6-3 7-6(5) to put the hosts 2-0 ahead in their Davis Cup semi-final in Zadar on Friday.

Cilic overwhelmed the American youngster in the opening two sets but was made to work harder in the third as Tiafoe finally shook off his debut nerves.

Cilic's victory made him Croatia's most successful Davis Cup player, moving him past the 36 rubbers won by Ivan Ljubicic.

Earlier Borna Coric gave Croatia a flying start by defeating Steve Johnson 6-4 7-6(4) 6-3 in the opening rubber.

The 21-year-old Coric had lost his only previous encounter with the US number three at Roland Garros but on Zadar's clay courts drew first blood for the hosts against Johnson, who was leading his country in the absence of John Isner and Jack Sock.

France's Benoit Paire reacts during his match against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta. (Reuters)

On the same day, Benoit Paire and Lucas Pouille earned contrasting triumphs as champions France took a grip on their Davis Cup World Group semi-final against Spain.

Paire made a remarkable Cup debut for France, outplaying an injured Pablo Carreno-Busta 7-5 6-1 6-0 in the opening rubber at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

After Paire had breezed to victory in less than two hours, French No.1 Pouille, back where he won the winning point for his country in last year's final, battled from a set down to beat Roberto Bautista Agut in a classic five-setter 3-6 7-6(5) 6-4 2-6 6-4 in three hours 41 minutes.

The 2-0 lead for France means that the champions can book a place in back-to-back finals - and the last in the competition's current traditional format - if Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut prevail in Saturday's battle of 30-somethings in the doubles with Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers.

They seem on course for a rematch of football's World Cup final with Croatia in November.