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Croatia clinches doubles, nears Davis Cup crown

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) – Croatia needs one more point to win its second Davis Cup title after winning the doubles against Argentina in straight sets on Saturday.

Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig defeated Juan Martin del Potro and Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-3 for a 2-1 lead over Argentina in the final.

Cilic can secure the decisive point for Croatia against del Potro in the first reverse singles on Sunday. If del Potro wins, Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic and Argentina’s Federico Delbonis will decide the final.

“We will push to the end,” Dodig, the hero of the doubles victory, said. “Nothing will stop us now.”

Cilic said he expects a victory against del Potro in a matchup of former US Open champions, “although it won’t be easy.”

“Mentally, it’s easier for me because we have won today,” Cilic said. “Our matches were always tight and some small details could decide.”

Del Potro said he and Cilic are good friends on the tour, “but tomorrow will be a different situation.”

“He is playing really good this year. He will be playing at home and it will be difficult,” del Potro said.

Croatia’s only previous Davis Cup title was in 2005.

Argentina is the only team in the Davis Cup’s 116-year history to have reached four previous finals and not won.

On Saturday, the Croats dominated tiebreakers in the first two sets with Dodig making some spectacular shots and Cilic holding his serve at key points.

The crucial break came in the sixth game of the third set on Mayer’s serve when the Argentine netted a seemingly routine forehand after making a string of mistakes in previous exchanges. The Croatian duo converted the second of three opportunities.

“The second set tiebreak was crucial,” Cilic said.

Cilic closed out the match with a big first serve that Mayer could only send long. The Croats threw their arms in the air and got big hugs from the bench.

In the opening singles on Friday, Cilic defeated Delbonis, and del Potro beat Karlovic.

Diego Maradona led thousands of visiting fans with chants and frantically waved a scarf with the Argentine flag from his executive booth at Arena Zagreb. He was wearing a black band on his arm to mourn the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“He was like my second father,” Maradona said.

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