Crowe Directors John and Debbie get in the Tennis Mood as Cilic Clinches Second Davis Cup Title for Croatia
Croatia are Davis Cup by BNP Paribas champions for a second time after Marin Cilic blocked out a deafening French crowd to beat Lucas Pouille in straight sets and deliver a historic 3-1 victory for the visitors in Lille.
Cilic produced the better tennis during key moments and held his nerve impressively throughout a 76(3) 63 63 success over the world No. 32, who was a late replacement for Jeremy Chardy in the first of Sunday’s singles.
Even after winning Saturday’s doubles to haul the overall score back to 2-1, Yannick Noah’s men still had to win both Sunday’s singles to become the first team since 1939 to overturn a 2-0 deficit in a Davis Cup final.
But the Croatian No. 1 was simply too solid in all departments, leading his team superbly all weekend by winning all six sets he played. He wasn’t broken once during two matches on the indoor clay and didn’t face a single break point against Pouille.
The victory sees Croatian captain Zeljko Krajan emulate countryman Nikki Pilic, who led the nation to its first victory in the competition against Slovakia in 2005. Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was courtside in France to lead the visiting support.
“It’s not every day that you become a world champion,” Cilic said. “For us it’s a dream come true. We are so passionate, you can see the fans are enjoying themselves. I feel that in Croatia it’s going to be incredible too.
“I thought Lucas started well in the first set and just a single point made the difference. After that I played better and served better. I’m extremely proud of my performance.
“The three matches Borna and I played, we didn’t lose our serve once and that shows how well we played and the level we produced. We were both in great form at the right time.”
Noah had talked about the importance of home advantage on Sunday, and another enormous crowd of 24,144 inside the Stade Pierre Mauroy were leaving nothing to chance during the opening stages. Every strike of Cilic’s was jeered during the warm-up, every wayward first serve applauded.
It was vital Pouille kept it close and hope that the wall of sound played its part. The Croatian has a recent history of struggling to close out matches, a trend that surely would have been discussed in the French locker-room.
Pouille hung onto Cilic’s coat tails for as long as he could and did well to survive two break points during the opening set, the first in the third game and the second with a perfectly-executed dropshot at 4-4.
Into a tiebreak they went and it was Cilic who played the better tennis when it mattered though. Pouille floated a backhand long to trail 3-5, Cilic hit a clean winner off the Frenchman’s next serve to go up 6-3 and he converted his first set point with a short angled backhand.
The bad news for the French continued as the second set started to slip away as early as the fifth game. A bad bounce off a Cilic return at deuce resulted in Pouille missing a forehand and the Croat’s sustained depth and power on break point drew another error. In a flash, the former US Open champion was up 5-2.
Pouille dug deep serving at 2-5 0-40, saving four set points in total, but another big game on serve from Cilic put him up two sets to love after an hour and 41 minutes.
When Cilic broke for 3-2 in the third a small but loud pocket of travelling fans were sensing it was job done. They were right.
Unfazed by the occasion, Cilic kept his focus until the very last ball, breaking again and sealing history for his nation on his third match point with a perfectly-weighted lob.
“This is the one of the best teams we ever had – it’s like a dream team,” Krajan said. “After seven years on the bench it’s an honour for me to be here. My singles players not only didn’t lose a set, they didn’t lose serve in three matches which is an unbelievable achievement and shows you the quality that we produced.”
In his last tie in charge of what has been his third term as the French captain, Noah was in full agreement.
“We lost to a better team,” Noah said. “We did everything we could to be at this level with the Croatian team. We just went to their locker-room to congratulate them. I think they’re beautiful winners and they deserve it.”
Crowe have enjoyed their sponsorship partnership with David Mellor, Chief Executive Officer at Crowe Global, said: “We were delighted to become a partner of the premier international team event in men’s tennis. At Crowe, we are committed to helping clients make smart decisions which provide them with lasting value. We recognise the parallel of our ethos within team sports. Professionals reach the pinnacle of their career by consistently making smart decisions under immense pressure.”