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Borna Coric and Marin Cilic put Croatia in command of the Davis Cup final on Friday, leaving hosts and defending champions France facing what looks like mission impossible, reports Reuters.
France captain Yannick Noah’s odd choice of Jeremy Chardy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the opening singles rubbers backfired spectacularly as Croatia built a 2-0 lead inside the huge Stade Pierre Mauroy — home to Lille’s football club.
World number 12 Coric gave Croatia a flying start with an emphatic 6-2 7-5 6-4 win over an erratic Chardy and the 33-year-old Tsonga, out for most of the season after knee surgery, was then pummelled 6-3 7-5 6-4 by world number seven Cilic.
Chardy, ranked 40th, and Tsonga, now down at 259, were both trusted ahead of world number 32 Lucas Pouille.
Zeljko Krajan’s team need one of the three remaining rubbers to emulate their 2005 Davis Cup triumph while French hopes of extending the contest to Sunday rest with doubles pair
Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Noah has lost only one of 10 ties since returning for a third stint, against Croatia in the 2016 semi-final.
The 58-year-old will step down after the final but his hopes of signing off with a fourth title as captain are in tatters.
No side has overturned a 2-0 deficit in a Davis Cup final since Australia beat the United States in 1939.
Nothing went right and even the choice of a clay surface looked suspect
as Croatia’s players revelled
on it.
At times, Noah could have been excused for disappearing behind the gigantic black curtain used to cut the 50,000-seater football stadium in half to create a stunning tennis amphitheatre.
“When you are close to
winning, one or two points
here and there, you can have a lot of frustration,” Noah told reporters.
“But today we were very far behind. They were superior to us. We never even saw the finish line.”
There has been an end-of-era feel during the build-up to the final — the last before the 118-year-old team competition gets a controversial makeover.
Whatever the future holds it did not detract from the electric atmosphere under the closed roof of a stadium hosting its
third Davis Cup final in five
years.
French fans are passionate
about the Davis Cup and
they cranked up the volume
with their choreographed
chanting throughout the afternoon’s action.