World number 18 Borna Coric has opened the Davis Cup World Group semi-final tie against the USA at home in Zadar with a convincing 6-4 7-6 6-3 win over Steve Johnson in two hours and 24 minutes. Johnson won their only match at the Roland Garros last year but Borna was the favorite today in front of the home crowd, keeping his second serve safe to play against only one break point.
Steve converted it but he stood no chance after winning just 32% of the points on the second serve, offering eight break chances to his young opponent and suffering three breaks that drifted him away from the finish line.
This was the eighth Davis Cup win for Borna in 15 singles rubbers and he has found the hitting zone right from the start, sailing through his service games in the opening set and breaking Steve in the third game after a deep return that the American failed to control.
Coric heled at love in game 10 to claim the opener 6-4 in 34 minutes and he earned another break at the start of the second set after another poor forehand from Johnson. The American pulled the break back in game six when Borna sprayed a forehand error and he saved a break point at 4-4 with a smash winner to stay in contention in this part of the match.
The set went into a tie break and Steve was 4-3 up before Coric grabbed four points in a row to take the breaker 7-4, saved a beautiful forehand volley winner for the last point to open a huge two sets to love lead. Just like the opener, the third set was decided by a single break from Borna in the fourth game following a costly double fault from Steve, moving 4-1 up with a hold at love in the next game.
Serving for the win at 5-3, Coric fired a service winner to seal the deal and deliver the opening point for his country. Playing in his 53rd Davis Cup rubber, Marin Cilic has scored the record-breaking 37th win (27-10 in singles) following a 6-1 6-3 7-6 triumph over the 20-year-old Frances Tiafoe in two hours and 14 minutes to become the most successful Croatian Davis Cup player! This was the Davis Cup debut for the young American and he played better and better as the match progressed but it wasn't enough for at least a set against world number 6 who was carried by the partisan crowd and the fact that Borna Coric delivered the opening point for Croatia earlier against Johnson.
Marin fired 13 aces and he got broken only once from two chances he offered to Tiafoe, keeping the pressure on his rival and sailing through the opening two sets before working harder in set number three in order to bring the win home in straight sets.
The Croat was untouchable on the first serve but Frances found the way to make a lot of damage on the second serve return, although not enough to create more break points. Cilic had eight break points and he converted five in sets one and two, building a huge lead and finishing the job in the tie break of the third for the second point against the great rivals.
It was Cilic who had the best possible start, taking 12 of the first 13 points for a 3-0, breaking Tiafoe at love in the second game after a forehand winner. Frances wasted a break point in the fifth game and he netted an easy forehand to fall 5-1 behind, allowing Cilic to claim the opener with a backhand winner in game seven after just 26 minutes.
The American lost his serve in the third game of the second set as well and Marin landed a forehand down the line winner to secure another break of serve in game five, moving 6-1 4-1 up after just 47 minutes. Tiafoe did manage to pull one break back in the next game and he forced five deuces on the return in game eight, unable to create a break point and hitting a break point in the next game to lose serve again and hand the set to his rival.
The third set was the best part of the match and we saw 12 commanding holds on both sides to set up a tie break, a must-win one for Tiafoe. He opened the lead with an early mini-break but Marin got it back with a service winner in the seventh point after a volley winner, winning four points in a row and moving over the finish line with a service winner at 6-5 to deliver the second point for Croatia who now needs only one more to reach the third Davis Cup final.