Croatia dominate France on first day of Davis Cup final

Croatia's Marin Cilic celebrates a point during his singles win over France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Picture: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images
Croatia's Marin Cilic celebrates a point during his singles win over France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Picture: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images
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Croatia are on the verge of their second Davis Cup crown after Borna Coric and Marin Cilic dispatched their France rivals in the opening singles of the final.

Croatia, who won their sole title in 2005, lead 2-0 and need just one more point to depose the defending champions in Lille this weekend.

The Croatians clearly have the best players, who have not lost away from home since 2015. History also plays in their favour: Since Australia in 1939, no team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit in a final.

A glimmer of hope remains for the hosts, though, with Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The French pair reached the final at the ATP Finals last week and are slightly favoured against Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig in today’s doubles.

After Coric dismantled Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 7-5, 6-4, the seventh-ranked Cilic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 on the indoor clay court at Pierre Mauroy Stadium. France hoped the slow surface would be a problem for Cilic and Coric, who had to adapt quickly to clay after playing last week on a hard court at the ATP Finals in London. Cilic played in the elite event, while Coric practiced as a reserve. But the Croats were unfazed and excelled in front of a hostile crowd.

Tsonga faced an onslaught from Cilic in the opening set and had no answers. Cilic won his first three service games at love, broke for 4-2 after Tsonga made a couple of backhand errors, and held at love again to seal the opener.

The Frenchman, who was sidelined for seven months until September because of a knee injury, played too short when not hitting too long, and exposed himself to Cilic’s ferocious forehand attacks.

In a tight second set, Cilic coped with the pressure to save two break points in the eighth game and Tsonga cracked with unforced errors. A backhand wide handed Cilic a 6-5 lead and the former US Open champion wrapped up the set at love on serve.

He broke again for 3-2 in the third set after a Tsonga double fault and held on.

Earlier, the 12th-ranked Coric was flawless. Chardy was picked by captain Yannick Noah ahead of 2017 star Lucas Pouille to play in his first Davis Cup final. But he was overwhelmed by Coric’s deep groundstrokes as the Croatian stormed to victory.