BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: In the battle of the big men, an ailing Juan Martin del Potro brought a bit of calm to Argentina as he defeated Ivo Karlovic in straight sets to put the score at 1-1 after the first day of action at Parque Roca, in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal tie between Argentina and Croatia.
In the first match of the day, the Croatian No. 1 Marin Cilic had silenced the 14,000 people in the stadium as he gave his team an early, but far from easy, lead by winning over David Nalbandian in a thrilling five-setter 57 64 46 76(2) 63.
Nalbandian and Cilic are expected to face each other again tomorrow as the doubles match will gain scene in Mary Teran de Weiss Stadium. The Argentine will team up with Eduardo Schwank, while Cilic’s partner will be Lovro Zovko.
Argentina has not ended up level at home on the first day since the Davis Cup Final in Mar del Plata, in 2008, except that in that tie the outcome was the other way around: Nalbandian was the winner and del Potro lost in the second rubber.
The winner of this tie will play either Czech Republic or Serbia in September's semifinals. Argentina are assured of a home semi if they progress while Croatia will definitely be on the road once again if they win in Buenos Aires.
Del Potro, against everything
In the battle of big servers, Argentina’s top player, 6ft 6in Juan Martin del Potro, defeated 6ft 10in Ivo Karlovic 62 76(7) 61 in 2 hours 19 minutes. Even though the outcome was the best possible for the Tandil native, the day hadn’t started well for him, as he suffered sickness during the morning and the warm up. What is more, his place in the second rubber was confirmed only during the fourth set of the first match.
The key of the match was the second set tiebreak, where the Argentine saved three set points (down 6-3) to win by 9-7. After that, only the short time of daylight remaining was an issue, but del Potro could not only collect an important victory but also get his job done just in time.
“First of all, I feel really glad for the victory, I played really well and enjoyed the atmosphere. It was really hard for me, but I always want to play here, even if I’m not in best shape. I don’t want to lose any chance of playing in Buenos Aires in front of my own crowd, although it’s true that I don’t know if would have played if David had won his match,” said an exhausted del Potro.
Long battle for Cilic
Cilic had to battle for 5 hours 9 minutes to capture his first victory over Nalbandian in five matches, this one being their first encounter on clay. Although it was an extremely emotional match, it wasn’t a great display of tennis, with both players counting a lot of unforced errors (241 combined).
Argentine captain Martin Jaite had picked Nalbandian in advance for the singles in first day action instead of in-form Juan Monaco, who climbed to No. 16 after reaching the semifinals in Miami.
It's no secret that the Unquillo native is a huge fan of Davis Cup and he would happily play on all three days if it meant winning the tie for his beloved Argentina. However, the long match could have taken a toll from the 30-year-old Argentine, who has to recover quickly for tomorrow’s doubles match, partnering Eduardo Schwank against Cilic and Lovro Zovko.
“It’s not fun to lose at home, but sometimes it happens. It was a very close match, he played really well. I had some chances, but couldn’t take them, and that’s just the way it is. Physically I feel good, obviously tired after more than five hours of play. I hope to feel the same way tomorrow morning,” said Nalbandian, who lost only for the second time a singles match at home, the previous one against Russian Nikolay Davydenko in 2008.
Cilic wasn’t really surprised with the outcome of the match. “I was there, I was fighting and I took my chances, especially after the third set, when I started playing on a higher level. Physically I was also much better than him towards the end of the match. Definitely this one was one of my best victories in Davis Cup.”
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Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) - 06/04/2012
Marin Cilic (CRO) - 06/04/2012
David Nalbandian (ARG) - 06/04/2012
Captain Zeljko Krajan (CRO) - 06/04/2012