Croatia knock out short-handed Spain to reach Davis Cup semifinals

Malaga, Spain, Nov 23 (EFE).- Forced to make do without all-time great Rafael Nadal and world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, Spain was bounced out of the Davis Cup 2-0 here Wednesday by a formidable Croatian side.

Borna Coric got his team off to a strong start in that quarterfinal tie with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) win over Roberto Bautista Agut, who fell short despite the efforts of more than 9,000 fans at Jose Maria Martin Carpena Sports Palace in Malaga to will him to victory.

The 26th-ranked Croatian, who revived his career this summer with a surprise run to the Cincinnati Masters title, earned a key break in the seventh game and then fended off a break point three games later en route to wrapping up the first set.

Neither player faced a single break point in the second set, with the fast indoor hard-court conditions in Malaga clearly favoring the server.

In the tiebreaker, the 21st-ranked Spaniard saved two match points after falling behind 6-2 but eventually succumbed to the strong serving of Coric.

“I was serving very, very well. I didn’t serve this well since probably Cincinnati. So obviously it’s much easier to play like that,” the Croatian said afterward.

In the second match, Pablo Carreño Busta battled Marin Cilic to the finish line but eventually fell 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).

The Spanish world No. 13 struck first with a service break in the fifth game but proceeded to lose his own serve in the very next game.

Then in the 11th game, the 17th-ranked Croatian self-destructed by committing two consecutive double faults to lose his serve at love to fall behind 6-5.

In the following game, Carreño Busta staved off one break point before clinching the first set.

After committing seven double faults in the opening set, the 2014 US Open champion got that part of his game under control in the second to record a series of relatively easy service holds.

He also put the Spaniard under constant pressure with his return game and earned the only service break he needed in the sixth game.

In the decider, Cilic took the lead at 3-2 after three consecutive breaks of serve but Carreño Busta fought back to level the set at 4-4 thanks to two more double faults by the Croat.

The match-deciding tiebreaker was then a seesaw affair that saw the Spaniard take a 4-1 lead with passing shot and ground stroke winners before Cilic clinched victory by reeling off six of the last seven points.

Afterward, Cilic admitted that the tie would have been very different had Nadal and Alcaraz been available.

But with the 36-year-old veteran opting to rest and the 19-year-old phenom unavailable due to an abdominal injury, Croatia managed to get past Spain’s still-formidable B team without the need for a deciding doubles match and book a semifinal showdown against Australia, who defeated the Netherlands 2-0 on Tuesday. EFE


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