CROATIA dethroned holders France to win the Davis Cup for the second time as Marin Cilic beat Lucas Pouille in straight sets to seal the victory.
Cilic won 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-3 to secure the title for Croatia for the first time since 2005.
Pouille took Cilic to a tie-break in the first set on the indoor clay in Lille but could not mount a challenge in the next two, losing in two hours, 19 minutes.
It meant Croatia won all three singles matches in straight sets with the scheduled fifth match between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Borna Coric a dead rubber. France won a single match, in the doubles.
“It’s just a dream weekend, we all dreamed of playing this well all weekend,” said Cilic. “We did not even concede a service [in singles].”
It was the last final in the traditional format before a radical but controversial reorganisation of the venerable competition.
“Yes, that makes it special,” said Cilic.
The victory gives Croatia some revenge for their football team’s defeat by France in the World Cup final in July.
“We can’t wait to be in Zagreb, like the footballers when they came back from the World Cup,” said Zeljko Krajan, the Croatia captain.
The beaten Pouille made no excuses: “They were better than us and all we can do is congratulate them,” he said.
“I played a pretty good match but Cilic was better than me in every department. Last year I cried tears of joy. This year I cried because I was sad.”
It was an especially sweet moment for Cilic. In the 2016 final, he also played the first reverse singles with Croatia a point ahead, but lost in five sets to Juan Martin del Potro and Argentina went on to win 3-2.
“We were in this position before and Marin did not manage to do it,” said Krajan.
“This time, I told them that they were strong enough and that they would only have to focus on their game for this to happen.”
From next year a qualification tournament will take place in February, from which 12 teams will progress to the finals in November, along with the previous four semi-finalists and two wild cards.
The finals will take place at the Caja Magica in Madrid between November 18 and 24, but one concern is that many players take time off around that period of the year.
France team member Nicolas Mahut said he was still at a loss to understand the decision of his country’s federation to back the change.
“I won’t criticise the small federations which voted ‘yes’ because the new format will give them a change to blood young players. But not us. Sorry, but France’s decision just doesn’t wash as far as I am concerned.”