Croatia's world number 17 Cilic, a former US Open champion, rallied to defeat 13th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).
Marin Cilic led Croatia into the Davis Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, defeating six-time champions Spain, who were missing top-ranked players Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal. Croatia’s world number 17 Cilic, a former US Open champion, rallied to defeat 13th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) as Croatia advanced to the semi-finals against Australia. Borna Coric had set the 2005 and 2018 champions on their way earlier Wednesday, defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
Cilic, 34, who made his Davis Cup debut in 2006, lost the first set, gave up a break in the decider, and trailed by a quarter in the tiebreak before winning after three hours and thirteen minutes on court. His 20 aces helped mitigate the effects of 15 double faults as Croatia stunned the 10,000-strong home crowd at the Palacio de Deportes. Croatia finished second to Russia in the 2021 final. “It was incredible battle,” said Cilic.
However, he admitted that the absence of US Open champion Alcaraz and 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal aided Croatia, which had lost all three previous Davis Cup meetings with Spain. “It would be much different. Rafa has been during all his career a leader of the team. He’s one of the best Davis Cup players ever. Carlos, fantastic season for him. Such a pity for him to get injured.”
Coric, the world number 26, blasted 14 aces past his 21st-ranked opponent, whom he had already beaten on his way to the Cincinnati Masters title earlier this summer. Bautista Agut had a seven-match winning streak in the Davis Cup dating back to 2019. When two environmental protesters dashed onto the court and attempted to tie themselves to the net, security staff wrestled them to the floor and ejected them from the arena.
“I just think in general I was playing very smart. When I needed to attack, I did attack. When I needed to make a defence, I was defensive,” said Coric. “I also mixed up the rhythm, as well, which is very important against him. I was just very pleased with my game, to be honest.”