Davis Cup: Del Potro leads fightback as Argentina defeats Croatia
(CNN) Only two teams in Davis Cup World Group history have come back from a 1-2 deficit to win tennis’ most coveted team prize — on Sunday, Argentina became the third.
The South Americans claimed their first Davis Cup title in dramatic fashion against Croatia winning both singles rubbers on the final day in Zagreb.
Argentina looked to be heading for defeat after Juan Martin del Potro and Leonardo Mayer were comprehensively beaten 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 by Croatian pairing Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig in Saturday’s doubles rubber.
Argentina had finished runner-up in four previous finals — 1981, 2006, 2008 and 2011 — but after del Potro pulled off a stunning win against Cilic in Sunday’s opening singles match the tide started to turn his team’s way.
It was win or bust for del Potro, and when he lost the opening two sets it looked as if Argentine hearts would be broken once again.
But to the delight of the traveling fans, which included football legend Diego Maradona, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist stormed back to win the remaining three sets in a marathon contest lasting four hours and 53 minutes.
The stage was set for Federico Delbonis to face veteran Ivo Karlovic in the deciding singles match.
Delbonis, urged on by a sea of sky blue and white in the crowd, raced into a two-set lead against his 37-year-old opponent.
And with an early break in the third, the writing was on the wall for the 2005 champions.
The world No. 41 didn’t falter, winning the match 6-3 6-4 6-2 to complete a historic comeback.
“What Del Potro did was amazing,” Argentina captain Daniel Orsanic said. “He represents his country with so much pride and he also showed how good a player he is.
“His achievement borders the impossible, while Federico played a perfect match and was on top of every ball throughout the contest.”