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Croatia, France split singles

ZADAR, Croatia (AP) – Marin Cilic held his nerve to beat big-hitting Lucas Pouille 6-1, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 and draw Croatia level against France at 1-1 in their Davis Cup semifinal on Friday.

Earlier, Richard Gasquet won the opening tie against Borna Coric in straight sets to heap the pressure on the big-serving Cilic.

But the 2014 US Open champion fended off the threat from the 22-year-old Pouille, who is considered one of the rising stars of tennis.

Cilic was serving for the second set at 6-5 and 40-0 up but made two big unforced errors on his forehand as Pouille broke back to force a tiebreaker, which Cilic eventually clinched with an ace after wasting set points.

Pouille, a US Open quarterfinalist last month, made an early break and then held for 3-1 on his way to comfortably winning the third set.

But Cilic took Pouille’s first service game of the fourth set and then led 4-2 before saving two break points in the seventh game and then hitting two aces to win it and move 5-2 up.

Cilic clinched victory in the next game on his first match point when Pouille double-faulted.

France started brightly and quietened the home fans at the Kresimir Cosic Hall in Zadar.

Gasquet, who found out he would play in singles after Gael Monfils left the injury-hit France team on Wednesday, was in complete control against Coric and prevailed 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-1, limiting his mistakes to just 13 unforced errors.

The 17th-ranked Frenchman, whose previous match ended in a straight sets loss to Kyle Edmund in the first round at the US Open first round, said winning the second set tiebreak was the “key to the match.”

After Coric failed to serve out the second set, Gasquet erased a 3-1 deficit in the tiebreak.