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U.S. comes up just short in Davis Cup quarterfinal loss to Croatia

July 17, 2016 09:48 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Team USA’s bid to advance to the Davis Cup semifinals and continue its quest for a record 33rd title came up agonizingly short after Croatia rallied from the brink to defeat the U.S. and advance to the semifinals.

The U.S. had led two-nil after wins by Jack Sock and John Isner on Friday, but Croatia won the doubles match on Saturday and then claimed both reverse singles matches on Sunday to take the tie, 3-2.

With the U.S. squad needing a win in either match on the final day of play at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center in Portland, Ore., Isner fell to Marin Cilic, 7-6(9), 6-3, 6-4, and Sock (pictured above) lost to Borna Coric, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“These matches are won and lost on small margins,” U.S. captain Jim Courier said. “[If] there are a couple points that go our way, we’re sitting here with a smile on our face instead of a little disappointment.”

The result runs Croatia’s Davis Cup record against the U.S. to 4-0 and sends the country into September’s semifinal against France, which finished off its victory over the Czech Republic, 3-1, earlier in the day.

"It's really unbelievable," Croatia captain Zeljko Krajan said. "We are still ... shocked from this win. Looking back on Friday and being two-love down and then playing against the Bryans yesterday, didn't look very positive for us. Friday was tough. It really looked Mission Impossible. Now we are all just unbelievably happy."

Sunday's quarterfinal tie came down to a battle between Sock and Coric, both former US Open junior champions, who traded the opening two sets. Coric made the first move in the third set by racing out to a 3-0 lead, and he won three of the final four games to move one set from victory.

Sock led 3-2 and 4-3 in the fourth set, but Coric sealed what would prove to be the decisive break at 4-4 before serving it out to love.

“Obviously was on a pretty good high after Friday,” said Sock, who rallied to upset world No. 12 and 2014 US Open champion Cilic in the opening match of the tie. "Wasn’t an ideal start the first couple sets. Point here or there can switch, the momentum can swing your way and all of a sudden you’re back in it.

“[I’ll] take the positives from fighting back Friday my first time from two sets down, and then just keep doing the things I’m trying to do muself on the court, things I’ve been trying to improve on and keep working on, and take into the summer.”

Earlier in the day, Cilic kept Croatia alive by toppling Isner to even the tie at 2-2. Cilic broke Isner three times – once in the second set and twice in the third – after taking the opening-set tiebreak, 11-9. Isner dropped only four points on his serve in that first set – and only one on his first serve – but it was Cilic who found a way to win the breaker on his fourth set point after Isner failed to convert one of his own with Cilic serving at 6-7.

“Felt like I definitely was the better player in the first set,” said Isner, who will play in Washington, D.C., and at the Emirates Airline US Open Series event in Toronto in the run-up to the US Open. “Didn’t get paid off, but that’s on me. He came up with the goods when he needed it. That gave him a lot of confidence.”

Isner dug out of a 0-40 hole in saving four break points at 1-2 in the second set, but the American blinked first as Cilic broke for a 5-3 lead and then served it out to take a commanding lead. Then in the third set, neither player earned a break point opportunity until Cilic created – and converted – the lone chance at 4-4 before serving out the match.

The U.S. will return to World Group action, Feb. 3-5, 2017.