Croatia has claimed their Group D Davis Cup tie against Australia, sweeping to a 3-0 victory on the opening day.
The 2018 champions won both singles rubbers before the Olympic doubles gold medalists Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic defeated the Australian combination of Alex de Minaur and John Peers.
In the opening singles fixture, Borna Coric didn’t take his place in the Croatian team due to recent shoulder surgery, he was replaced by world No.276 Borna Gojo.
His contest with Alexei Popyrin was pulsating with strong serving, short points and quick games a feature in the opening set.
The Australian had chances at 1-1 and 2-2 to squeeze a break, but those chances were snuffed out with some strong serving from Gojo at key moments.
There were only six points dropped on serve in total from that stage of the set until the tie-break began, with Gojo making the most of what again were limited chances and securing the breaker 7-5.
The second set would progress a similar way, with Popyrin generating a break point at 1-1, which Gojo saved, before both players continued to hold with relative comfort.
The Australian dropped only five points on serve in his opening five service games with the set appearing to be headed to another tie-break.
At 5-5, Gojo created his first break point opportunity of the entire match and seized on a couple of unforced errors to take the decisive break.
He calmly served the match out for a 7-6, 7-5 victory.
Popyrin struck 24 winners to 19, but crucially made 27 unforced errors compared to just 13 from the Croatian.
Gojo only won 15 points on the Popyrin serve throughout the match, but he got them at significant moments which helped secure victory.
In the second rubber, former US Open champion Marin Cilic came out of the blocks quickly against Alex de Minaur.
With the score at 1-1 in the first set, Cilic went on a surge winning 28 of the next 34 points to take the opener 6-1 in commanding fashion, before seizing an early break in the second set for a 2-0 lead.
de Minaur needed to lift, and found a way back into the contest with some trademark fight as he held off break points at 1-3 before getting the set back on serve with a break of his own.
Leading 6-5 in the second, the Australian played some huge points on the Cilic serve to break and claim the set.
This time, with momentum going his way de Minaur was the one who got the break early in the third and at 2-0 he appeared to be on track for one of the most memorable victories of his career.
The Croatian had other ideas though with Cilic again surging to claim four straight games, before closing out the set and the match 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.
de Minaur fought hard, but was only able to win 53% of points on his serve for the match, compared to Cilic’s 70%.
The former US Open champion also struck 29 winners to 6 in an impressive and powerful display.
In the doubles, the contest was tight early before the Croatian Olympic champions Mektic and Pavic won 9 of the last 10 games to claim the match 6-3, 6-1 over John Peers and Alex de Minaur who was backing up.
The Davis Cup by Rakuten finals contain six groups of three nations, with the top team in each group, plus the two best second ranked teams progressing through to the quarterfinals.
Australia will take on the third member of Group D Hungary this week, needing a clean sweep of results to give themselves any chance of progressing.
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