Disastrous opening day for Davis Cup final hosts
Hosts France face an uphill struggle if they are to win the last ever Davis Cup final in its current format in the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, as they ended the first day down 2-0 without even winning a set.
The hosts wrongly assumed that a slow surface would be more problematic for the visitors Cilic and Coric, especially after playing on the hard court of the ATP Finals in London last week. Marin Cilic appeared in the round robin matches, but Coric only practiced as one of the reserve players.
However the hungry Croats were not thrown off the scent of victory in front of a partisan home crowd.
French Captain Yannick Noah’s surprise selection of experienced but short of match practice in 2018 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga backfired badly as world No. 7 Marin Cilic easily defeated the lacklustre Frenchman 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
Cilic was always in control over Tsonga. In the first rubber one of the “new kids on the block” in men’s tennis, the prodigious 22-year-old Borna Coric, coming off the back of his best ever season, also won in straight sets 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 over world No.40 Jeremy Chardy.
Chardy was also a surprise choice to open the tie, getting the nod over compatriot Lucas Pouille, the highest ranked Frenchmen in the squad.
Chardy looked as though he would take the second set when he led 5-4 but Coric stood firm, breaking the Frenchman’s serve and going on to take the set 7-5
Coric briefly looked as though he might be in trouble in the third set when he needed a medical time-out when leading 4-3, but resumed confidently taking the set 6-4 and victory.
The French will be looking to their current French Open doubles champions and runners up in last weeks ATP Masters final in London Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert to take the tie into the third day when they take on Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig who captured their second ATP World Tour team title this year in the Chengdu Open.
The Croatian players were cheered on enthusiastically from the VIP box by Croatian Superfan – and indeed President no less – Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who also witnessed Croatia’s World Cup Final Soccer defeat by France in Moscow in July and will be quietly confident that her team can avenge that defeat on the clay court of Lille.