Croatia headed into the second day of the final needing only one more point against defending champions France after their singles players Borna Coric and Marin Cilic outplayed Jeremy Chardy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, respectively, in straight sets on Friday and without conceding a single break of serve on the opening day.
On the indoor clay court installed at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in northern France, the script changed dramatically during a pulsating doubles match.
Dodig and Pavic had only a few chances in the first two sets. Mahut and Herbert have lost just one match together in the Davis Cup – against Croatia two years ago – and in front of a crowd of 22,910 they sealed the first set after dropping just six points on their service games. Herbert played aggressively and Mahut raised his game on vital points, hitting a service winner in the fourth game of the opening set to deny Croatia’s sole break chance in that set.
Pavic missed an easy forehand volley at the start of the third set to drop his serve but the Croats gradually found their rhythm and made the most of Herbert’s sudden dip on serve to force a fourth set.
Herbert struggled on his serve as the French looked on the verge of a collapse at the start of the fourth, but he fought through a 13-minute game. Under pressure on his next service game, Herbert once again found the ability to get out of trouble as a lob from Dodig bounced just inches out.
Pavic saved three match points with big serves in the tenth game but the hosts played solid tennis in the tie-breaker to prevail.
So, France are back in the match but still face a big challenge. Their singles players looked out of their depth on Friday, casting doubt on the chances of a comeback in this afternoon’s reverse singles.
Cilic is set to face Chardy, with Coric playing Tsonga, although captains can change their line-ups.
No team have overturned a 2-0 deficit in a final since Australia beat the United States in 1939.