Marin Cilic led Croatia into the Davis Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, knocking out six-time champion Spain, who were without the world’s two highest-ranked players, Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal.
World number 17 Cilic, a former US Open champion, battled back to defeat Pablo Carreno Busta, who was ranked 13th, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) so that Croatia could play Australia in the semi-final.
Borna Coric had defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) earlier on Wednesday to set up the 2005 and 2018 champions.
After spending three hours and 13 minutes on the court, Cilic, who was 34 when he made his Davis Cup debut in 2006, won after dropping the first set, giving up a break in the decider, and being 1/4 down in the tiebreak.
The 10,000-strong home crowd at the Palacio de Deportes was stunned into silence by Croatia, who finished second to Russia in 2021 final.
Cilic stated, “It was an incredible battle.”
However, he acknowledged that the absence of 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal and US Open champion Alcaraz helped Croatia, which had previously lost all three Davis Cup matches against Spain.
It would look very different. Throughout his entire career, Rafa has led the team. He ranks among the best Davis Cup players of all time.
Sergi Bruguera, captain of Spain, lamented his team’s exit.
Coric, the 26th-best player in the world, defeated his 21st-ranked opponent with 14 aces, winning the Cincinnati Masters title in the summer.
In the Davis Cup, Bautista Agut had won seven of his previous eight matches, dating back to 2019.
“I just think that overall I played very smart,” I said. I did attack whenever I had to.”I was defensive when I needed to make a defense,” Coric stated.
Two environmental protesters rushed onto the court and attempted to tie themselves to the net, but security staff wrestled them to the ground and ejected them from the arena, causing play to briefly stop.
“The adoption of a vegetable-based agri-food system” was one of the demands made by the pair, who belonged to the “Futuro Vegetal” group.
On its Twitter account, the organization provided an explanation, “We interrupted the Davis Cup to demand urgent changes in the food system.”
The 32-time Davis Cup champions United States will play Italy in Thursday’s remaining quarterfinals, while Germany will play Canada.