Mag By Craig Gabriel
FRANCE, SPAIN, USA, CROATIA IN DAVIS CUP FINAL 4
While France reached the semis of the Davis Cup for the third time in as many years, Croatia last made the semis in 2016 and for the USA, the competition’s most successful nation, and Spain, they feature in the final four nations for the first time since 2012.
In Lille last November, Lucas Pouille became a new French tennis hero when he beat Steve Darcis in the deciding rubber to hand France the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. The quarterfinal tie against Italy was Pouille’s return to the competition and once again he scored the point that sealed the tie for his nation when he beat Fabio Fognini in four sets.
Playing in Genoa, it was the first time France had played a tie in Italy since 1977 and it marked the first time France had defeated Italy in Italy in more than nine decades – the last was in Rome in 1927. Then it was the Musketeers that took France to the final and that year beat the USA.
The last time Croatia was in the semis was 2016 and in their quarterfinal they were favoured against Kazakhstan. The leader for Croatia was Marin Cilic and he sealed the weekend for his nation when he pummelled Mikhail Kukushkin in the first reverse singles 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. The Croats have a poor recent record in home ties – they had lost five of the last seven. This provided a bit of a correction.
Croatia reached the semis for the fourth time and Cilic equalled Ivan Ljubicic for the most Davis Cup wins by a Croat player, 36.
Spain went into the tie against Germany with the Germans holding a 10-6 advantage. This tie, in the middle of a bull-fight ring in Valencia with an atmosphere that was sensational, was the most gripping of the quarterfinal round; it went right down to the wire, the fifth and deciding rubber.
The last time the two nations met was in 2014 and Germany won, but now Rafa Nadal was back in the Spanish team. The superstar was blinding as he beat Alexander Zverev to push the tie into a decider and then David Ferrer put to one side his disappointing effort on the first day, to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5 in the fifth. It was monumental with a sensational winner on match point that left Kohlschreiber an emotional wreck having come so close.
The German was so upset that even Ferrer tired to console him in a gesture of sportsmanship that Davis Cup has highlighted time and again.
So, after six years Spain is through to the semis.
While that tie was a nail-biter and a rollercoaster, the USA produced the most convincing win of the weekend. In Nashville which is known as Music City, Jim Courier’s side hit all the right notes to also break a six-year drought and secure their place in the semis.
Belgium was without its two best players, David Goffin and Steve Darcis and with that the Americans won the opening day’s singles and then the doubles and added the one dead reverse singles to make it a 4-0 sweep.
September 14-16 will be the semis. France will be home to Spain. Their last meeting was 2011 in the semis in Cordoba and Spain won and they lead the nation head-to-head 6-2. Meanwhile, Croatia will be home to the USA for their fifth meeting with the Croats leading the series 4-0. The last meeting was in Portland in 2016.