Tennis-Djokovic beats Croatia's Cilic to haul Serbia into contention
World number one Novak Djokovic kept Serbia's bid to reach the Davis Cup final alive when he beat Marin Cilic 6-4 6-2 to level their tie after Croatia's Borna Gojo overpowered Dusan Lajovic in the opening singles on Friday. The absorbing semi-final clash between the traditional Balkan rivals is headed for a decisive doubles, where the Serbians face a daunting task against the world number one pairing of Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.
World number one Novak Djokovic kept Serbia's bid to reach the Davis Cup final alive when he beat Marin Cilic 6-4 6-2 to level their tie after Croatia's Borna Gojo overpowered Dusan Lajovic in the opening singles on Friday.
The absorbing semi-final clash between the traditional Balkan rivals is headed for a decisive doubles, where the Serbians face a daunting task against the world number one pairing of Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic. Cilic's big serve kept him afloat before he double-faulted in the ninth game to hand Djokovic the initiative and the Serb then saved four break points to take the opening set.
The Croatian saved a break point in the opening game of the second but Djokovic moved up a couple of gears to brush Cilic aside for his 19th successive singles win in the competition. Having saved all eight break points he faced in the contest, as he also rifled down four aces, Djokovic sealed the victory after Cilic sent a forehand over the baseline.
"Good evening Madrid and thank you for attending," Djokovic, who is expected to team up with Serbia's only doubles specialist Nikola Cacic in the decisive rubber, said in Spanish after his 18th win in 20 meetings with Cilic. "It was always going to be a tough match against Marin, I know him very well. Winning a long first set gave me a lot of confidence for the second and now we've managed to put ourselves in the position to play the doubles.
"Playing the doubles is completely different to playing the singles. I don't play doubles much and we're up against the best doubles (team) in the world. We'll decide right now what's the best team." DRIVING SEAT
Gojo had put Croatia in the driving seat when he beat Lajovic 4-6 6-3 6-2 after a magnificent fight back gave the world number 279 his third win of this year's competition against better-ranked opponents. Gojo overpowered world number 33 Lajovic after beating 27th-ranked Lorenzo Sonego in Croatia's 2-1 win over Italy in the quarter-finals and inflicting a straight-sets defeat on Australian Alexei Popyrin in the group stage.
Lajovic seemed to have gained the upper hand when he rallied to take the opening set as he battled back from 4-2 and 40-0 down on Gojo's serve, but the 23-year old Croatian was unfazed and turned the tide emphatically. Gojo raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set and, having broken serve to edge ahead 4-2 after Lajovic hit back, he levelled the scores thanks to a big serve and stinging baseline shots which kept Lajovic on the back foot.
It was one-way traffic in the third set as Gojo kept up the pressure and stormed into a 4-0 lead, sparking loud celebrations amongst the Croatia fans as he wrapped up the contest with a service winner. "I slipped up in the opening set after I was 4-2 and 40-0 up and got a little bit down on myself, but the team and the fans picked me up and I managed to play better in the other two sets," Gojo said in an on-court interview.
"The pressure in this competition is much bigger on everyone and I managed to get some big wins by playing my best tennis here, but the most important thing is that I got the points for the team." The Russian Tennis Federation play Germany in the other semi-final on Saturday. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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