Croats down Italy and first into Madrid semis

Despite playing in a packed auditorium baying them on, Italy fell to Croatia in the first of this year’s quarter-final ties being played out in Turin, to progress to the semis being held in Madrid where they will face either Serbia or Kazakhstan.

I don’t think anyone from us expected to go this far, but we played amazing and I can’t believe we’re going to Madrid Nikola Mektic

Two-time champions Croatia (2005 and 2018) came through 2-1 to become the first team to reach the last four and prevented Italy from reaching the semis for the first time since 2014.

Going into the tie, the Italians were clear favourites but they were unable to quell the Croats though they did make a match of it only to fall in the deciding doubles rubber where the doubles world No.1s Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, claimed the winning point by defeating Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli 6-3 6-4 in just 79-minutes.

World No.10 Jannik Sinner had brought the Italians back into the tie when he beat former US Open champion and member of the 2018 title winning team, 33-year-old Marin Cilic, to force that deciding doubles after the veteran Croatian had just failed to clinch the match and tie in the Croats favour when he served for it in the second set.

In what was a gutsy performance, the 20-year-old Sinner battled his way back in the second set tie-break which he won convincingly before ultimately claiming a 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3 victory and level the proceedings following the brilliant start provided by world No.279 Borno Gojo in upsetting Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego, ranked 252 places higher, 7-6(2) 2-6 6-2.

“It honestly feels incredible,” said Mektic. “I don’t think anyone from us expected to go this far, but we played amazing and I can’t believe we’re going to Madrid.”

Pavic added: “I want to congratulate the Italians – they played a great tie, and in that second match (Sinner) came back from a set and a break. And to the crowd: you were unbelievable. Thank you everybody for coming.”






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