September 19, 2016
Marin Cilic and Juan Martin Del Potro were the heroes as Croatia defeated France and Argentina shocked holders Great Britain.
That sets up a scintillating final in late November, with the South Americans looking to become champions for the first time.
After beating Lucas Pouille in Friday’s singles, Cilic went from strength to strength against the French.
He partnered Ivan Dodig to defeat Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the doubles, and completed a hat-trick when he came up against Richard Gasquet.
Even though Gasquet had won two of their previous three meetings, Cilic was roared on by 7,600 home fans and wouldn’t be denied.
When the Croat won five successive games in the second set, few doubted who was going to come out on top.
Sure enough, Cilic sent the crowd wild by wrapping up a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory. ‘It’s been a great weekend and I am at a loss to explain how I feel,’ he said, before adding modestly, ‘It was a great team effort.’
Meanwhile Del Potro wasn’t quite such an emphatic hero. But it has to be said that his victory over Britain’s Andy Murray in the very first rubber of their tie ultimately proved decisive.
Even though “Delpo” and his partner lost to Andy and Jamie Murray in Saturday’s doubles, and the big man opted to sit out the decisive rubber, his gamble paid off.
Guido Pella had beaten Kyle Edmund on the first day and even though Murray subsequently beat Pella, it wasn’t enough.
Leonardo Mayer showed breathtaking precision against Dan Evans to seal victory 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. And long before the end, the vociferous visiting fans were dancing for joy in the stands.
Both Andy Murray and Del Potro complained of physical exhaustion, feeling that they simply couldn’t have given any more. Their recent Olympic exertions, which had brought the Brit gold, had taken their toll as much as their own five-hour Davis Cup marathon.
Now the ever-popular Del Potro will have time to recover before the final – with a mouthwatering clash against Cilic highly likely to prove the pivotal moment when the big weekend comes.