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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, December 3, 2021

 
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World No. 1 doubles team Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic beat Novak Djokovic and Filip Krajinovic clinching Croatia's win over Serbia and a spot in Sunday's Davis Cup final.

Photo credit: @DavisCup

In a climactic clash of world No. 1s, Croatia’s clutch attack was too tough for Serbia.

World No. 1 doubles team Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic beat Novak Djokovic and Filip Krajinovic 7-5, 6-1 clinching Croatia's 2-1 win over Serbia and a spot in Sunday's Davis Cup final at the Madrid Arena.

More: Djokovic Gives Full Support to WTA

It was the third Davis Cup meeting between the two nations since the split of Yugoslavia and the first time Croatia has beaten border rival Serbia.

"Obiously, it was a great win; we played a tough team," doubles world No. 1 Pavic said. "Obviously, Novak is the best player in the world so tough to beat that team. We managed to do it.

"We played a great match in the doubles and I mean from the group stage through the quarters and now the semis, Marin and Borna played some great matches. We also played doubles unbelievable. We're super happy to be in the final and we'll be ready for the final."




Deploying a divide-and-conquer strategy, the Croats dominated at net winning eight of the last nine games to charge into their fourth Davis Cup final. 

Olympic doubles gold medal champions Mektic and Pavic did not drop serve in a confident 72-minute victory.

Two-time champion Croatia will play for its second Davis Cup crown in the past four years when it faces either Russian Tennis Federation or Germany on Sunday.




Today’s semifinal was the first Davis Cup tie starring world No.1 singles and doubles players on opposing sides since 2013 when Djokovic was also involved as his Serbian side stopped an American squad with the Bryan Brothers.

Opening today's tie, World No.279 Borna Gojo continued his Davis Cup heroics defeating veteran Dusan Lajovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to stake Croatia to a 1-0 lead.


World No. 1 Djokovic shoulder pressure maintaining his dominance of Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-2—his 18th win in 20 meetings vs. the 2014 US Open champion—to level this semifinal and force decisive doubles.

Captain Viktor Troicki opted to pair Djokovic with Krajinovic—Nikola Cacic had partnered both Djokovic and Krajinovic in prior doubles matches this week—and the Serbian side faced more pressure throughout.

The Croats held serve with more conviction throughout a tense first set.

Djokovic, who saved eight break points in his singles sweep of Marin Cilic, fended off four break points in his opening doubles service game battling through a three-ace game to level.

A dramatic set escalated in the 12th game as Pavic punished a dipping return giving Croatia set point on Krajinovic’s serve. The ensuing rally saw Serbia dig in at net and reflex some rapid-fire volleys. Croatia patiently chipped away at the Serbia side and drew the short volley. Mektic pounced sweeping a finishing forehand down the middle to give the Croats a one-set lead after 46 minutes.

Trying to diagnose a hole in the top-ranked team, Krajinovic was mixing some serve-and-volley with serving and staying back. Four games into the second set, Krajinovic paid the price for passive positioning when Pavic torched a lefty forehand pass for break point.




The lefty Pavic lasered a forehand past a lunging Djokovic breaking for 3-1 prompting the Serbian to kick his racquet bag in frustration. A lunging Mektic pushed a volley into net that crashed into the tape and crawled over helping Croatia confirm the break for 4-1.




The Croats closed with conviction celebrating with a swirling group hug and looking ahead to Sunday's final.

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) d. Marin Cilic (Croatia) 6-4, 6-2

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic denied pressure and friendly foe Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-2 with a confident performance.

Djokovic denied all eight break points he faced delivering his 19th straight Davis Cup win to level the tie at 1-1 and force the decisive doubles.

“It was always gonna be a tough match against Marin,” said Djokovic, who improved to 18-2 lifetime vs. Cilic. “I know him very well.

“Obviously, winning the first set gave me a lot of confidence for the second. Just a very nervous start from both of us. We both knew the significance of this match. Now we managed as Serbian team to put ourselves in position to play decisive doubles. Croatians have the best doubles players in the world. We’ll try to do our best and let the better team win.”




Serving in the ninth game, Cilic squandered a 40-15 lead, misfiring on a forehand and coughing up the first double fault of the match gifting Djokovic a 5-4 lead.

The Wimbledon winner fended off four break points in a tense 10th game pumping some gutsy second serves to snatch a one-set lead after 55 minutes. Djokovic saved all six break points he saved in the set.




Loosening up with the lead, Djokovic dented Cilic’s forehand wing drawing successive errors to break for a 2-1 second-set lead.

Tormenting the former US Open champion with power and touch, Djokovic lured Cilic forward with a drop shot then bumped a backhand lob over his head. That stirring sequence helped the world No. 1 score the double break for 4-1.




The 20-time Grand Slam champion drilled a backhand winner down the line scoring his 19th straight Davis Cup victory—and leveling the tie to set up the decisive doubles.

Borna Gojo (Croatia) d. Dusan Lajovic (Serbia) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

World No.279 Borna Gojo continued his heroic Davis Cup run defeating veteran Dusan Lajovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to stake Croatia to a 1-0 lead.




Confident serving and a crackling crosscourt forehand powered Gojo to a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes. Lajovic, two points from a 1-5 deficit, was struggling to clear the net when stretched on his forehand. The Serbian stormed through five straight games in a 21-minute span for a one-set lead.

Undeterred, Gojo managed his nerve and forehand more effectively.

“The first set I was up 4-2, 40-love I was in control. I slipped in that game there. I got down on myself a little bit,” Gojo said. “But then the captain and the team and the fans managed to pick me back up. And I think I managed to play better throughout the last two sets.”

In a replay of the first set, Lajovic played an abysmal game donating a love break—and splattering his Wilson stick to the court in disgust as Croatia took a 2-0 lead.

Gojo served out the second set forcing a decider after 86 minutes.

Running wide of the doubles alley, Gojo slashed a running backhand strike down the line starting the third set with a jolting break that sparked a 5-1 lead. He never looked back carving out a pair of fine closing in two hours.




It was Gojo’s third win over a Top 75-ranked opponent of the week following his triumphs over Australian Alexei Popyrin and Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

“Obviously, Davis Cup is a special competition where the pressure is bigger on everyone,” Gojo said. “I managed to play some of my best tennis here at this tournament.

“I’m very happy that I managed to get those big wins ranking wise. For me, it’s more important to get the win for the team.”


 

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