November 26, 2018 / 6:09 AM / 16 days ago

Tennis: Croatia captain Krajan hails his Davis Cup dream team

LILLE, France (Reuters) - Croatia captain Zeljko Krajan hailed his “dream team” after Marin Cilic sealed a second Davis Cup title for the Balkan nation by beating France’s Lucas Pouille on Sunday.

Tennis - Davis Cup Final - France v Croatia - Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille, France - November 25, 2018 Croatia's Franko Skugor, team captain Zeljko Krajan and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic celebrate with the trophy after winning the Davis Cup REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Just as he was on Friday against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 30-year-old world number seven was in commanding form to crush Pouille 7-6(3) 6-3 6-3 to give the Croats a winning 3-1 lead.

He did not drop a set in his two singles while Croatian number two Borna Coric had given the favourites a flying start on Friday with an easy win over Jeremy Chardy.

Neither Cilic nor Coric dropped serve all weekend as Croatia emulated the 2005 side which beat Slovakia in the final.

“This is the one of the best teams we’ve ever had — it’s like a dream team,” Krajan said. “After seven years on the bench (as captain) it’s an honour for me to be here.

“My singles players not only didn’t lose a set, they didn’t lose serve in three matches which is an unbelievable achievement and shows you the quality that we produced.”

Victory was especially sweet for Cilic who had bitter memories of the 2016 final against Argentina to banish.

In that match in Zagreb, he was two sets to the good against Juan Martin del Potro and required just one more set to give Croatia a match-winning 3-1 lead.

Del Potro battled back to win in five before Federico Delbonis beat Ivo Karlovic to give Argentina victory.

“I always sleep well,” the 30-year-old Cilic, who made his debut in 2006, said, when asked whether that Del Potro defeat occasionally kept him awake at night.

“I’m just proud of the team today after everything we’ve been through. “This is definitely one of the best moments of my career. There was a lot of pressure but I played a hell of a match today and deservedly won.”

Cilic said the fact that the final was the last in the competition’s current guise added to the joy.

“It’s historic,” he said. “I have been part of this team since 2006. I have seen a few generations of players, I have seen a lot of tennis, a lot of wins, a lot of matches lost too.

“It’s amazing to finish a chapter of this kind with the way we played and the atmosphere that was in the team.”

Tennis - Davis Cup Final - France v Croatia - Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille, France - November 25, 2018 Croatia team captain Zeljko Krajan lifts the trophy as they celebrate winning the Davis Cup REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

France captain Yannick Noah, who will step down from his third stint in charge, said his team had been outplayed as they failed in their bid to win the title two years in succession.

“The guys did the maximum,” Noah said. “Sometimes the bar is too high. That’s my feeling.

“We lost to a better team. We did everything we could to be at this level with the Croatian team. We just went to their locker-room to congratulate them. I think they’re beautiful winners and they deserve it.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris

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