By Jake Davies
- The 2016 Davis Cup Final got underway in Zagreb
- Marin Cilic opened up with a win over Argentina’s Delbonis
- Juan Martin Del Potro drew the sides level by beating Ivo Karlovic
ZAGREB, CROATIA – The season proper draws to a conclusion with the Davis Cup Final – and the first day delivered in terms of tension!
Marin Cilic defeats Federico Delbonis 6-3 7-5 3-6 1-6 6-2
Before the Davis Cup Final started, many would have predicted the two No.1 players to come out on top in their respective singles rubber matches. That forecast proved accurate, but they were pushed dramatically on the opening day of the Davis Cup Final.
Both countries are desperate for a long overdue Davis Cup triumph and both countries have produced great talents over the years but have not dominated the competition like the United States or Australia have done, since the competition was founded in 1900.
Croatia are looking to equal the feat in 2005 where they won their only Davis Cup trophy, while Argentina have finished runner up of this competition on four occasions. With Marin Cilic and Juan Martin Del Potro competing for the coveted prize it is fair to say that the expectations of both countries is sky high.
Cilic started the opening rubber against the streaky left-handed player Federico Delbonis. Many British tennis fans will remember the Argentinian for his biggest career win by beating Andy Murray at Indian Wells this year.
One could argue that Cilic was the heavy favourite for this match. He had never lost a set to Delbonis in their previous meetings and was in very sharp form, particularly on the indoor hard surface.
It took the Argentinian over two sets to finally get a read of Cilic’s serve. The Croatian did not face one break point in the first two sets and it was looking like he would stroll to another comfortable, straight-sets win over his opponent. After taking the first two sets, 6-3 7-5, Cilic started to miss continuously on the forehand side.
That has always been his achilles heel over the length of his career, usually it holds up well against the lesser ranked players, but if he plays Del Potro on Sunday, he will have to manage that forehand with great caution.
Delbonis exploited the weakness of Cilic. The Croatian does not possess the confidence in his preparation of the forehand in comparison to the backhand. The backhand is a beautiful weapon of his, but Delbonis recognised the potential errors that can leak from Cilic’s forehand.
The Argentinian pounced on any limitations in the Croat’s game and grew into the match completely by levelling the match at two sets all. Unfortunately for Delbonis, he could not handle the additional pressure of a Davis Cup Final and succumbed to the World No.6 in five sets.
Argentina may not have got the win but keeping Cilic on court for over three hours could have an adverse effect on his performance in the doubles rubber, where many believe he will compete in on Saturday afternoon.
It remains debatable whether Delbonis gets elected for a potential fifth and deciding rubber. Leonardo Mayer boasts an 11-3 record in singles Davis Cup matches and would be a solid option if he is called upon by Davis Cup captain Daniel Orsanic.
Juan Martin Del Potro defeats Ivo Karlovic 6-4 6-7 (6) 6-3 7-5
Del Potro’s ascension to the heights of this sport is one of the greatest talking points and stories to tell. This match was dominated by the server. Del Potro took the decisive break in the opening game of the first set and then held comfortably for the remainder of the first set.
Many would agree with the sentiment that it would be pleasing to see Del Potro claim a Davis Cup trophy, after the setbacks and comebacks he has experienced following his 2009 US Open win, but Ivo Karlovic made Del Potro’s first step to glory extremely difficult to say the least.
In the second set tiebreak, Del Potro had two set points, and on the first, Karlovic completely dismantled a forehand winner to save the first and that dictated the rest of the tiebreak. Karlovic would go on to win the set encouraging a sense of anxiousness among the Argentinian crowd in attendance.
Del Potro only lost eight points on his first serve throughout the entire match and managed to hold his serve all the way through. That was partly because of Karlovic’s inability to put a lot of pressure on his return of serve. It is something that has held the Croatian back in taking his game to the next level during his career.
The 2009 US Open champion needed just the single break to win both Sets 3 and 4 and looked in solid form moving into the second day of the Davis Cup Final.
Play continues in the Davis Cup Final at 2pm GMT.
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