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Healthy del Potro looks to lead Argentina to first Davis Cup title

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Leaving behind two injury-hit years, Juan Martin del Potro is looking to cap his successful comeback by leading Argentina to its first Davis Cup title.

The 2009 U.S. Open champion said host Croatia is the favorite in the best-of-five series, but believes Argentina is in a strong position after losing in four Davis Cup finals since 1981.

“Croatia has a very strong team, but we are looking forward to a very good weekend,” Del Potro said. “They are playing at home on a favorite (fast indoor) surface. But, I also like fast surfaces.”

Federico Delbonis will start Argentina’s quest for the title by playing Friday’s opening singles match against Marin Cilic. Thursday’s draw also pits del Potro against big-serving Ivo Karlovic, who returned to Croatia’s team after a four-year absence.

In the doubles, the Croatian pair of Ivan Dodig and Franko Skugor will face Leonardo Mayer and Gaudio Pella. Reverse singles are scheduled for Sunday.

“If I win, it will be a bit less pressure on Ivo and a bit more pressure on Delpo,” Cilic said. “I’m feeling quite positive.”

Argentina is the only nation in the Davis Cup’s 116-year history which has reached four finals without winning the title. Croatia, targeting its second Davis Cup title after beating Slovakia in the final in 2005, will be led by an in-form Cilic, who has reached a career-best year-end ranking of No. 6.

“We are hoping that this long quest for the cup title will come to an end,” del Potro said. “This is a very different team we have since the last finals, new players, new team captain (Daniel Orsanic). Hopefully, a different result as well.”

The 37-year-old Karlovic will be the oldest player in the Davis Cup final in nearly a century. The towering Croat said he hopes to have short points and many aces in the match against del Potro.

“I will try to evade long exchanges, he is better in long points,” Karlovic said. “More aces I serve, less able Delpo will be able to win.”

Croatia team captain Zeljko Krajan had to make a last minute change to his roster, leaving youngster Borna Coric out because of his recent knee surgery. Coric was replaced by doubles specialist Skugor.

“It was a very tough decision,” Krajan said. “Unfortunately, he is not fully fit to play long matches.”

Top-seeded John Isner wins 3rd Hall of Fame title

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Top-seeded John Isner beat Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Sunday for his third Hall of Fame Open title.

The hard-serving American also won the grass-court event in 2011 and 2012. He has 11th career titles, all at the ATP World Tour 250 level.

“It’s hard to win a tournament,” Isner said. “It’s no small feat to come out here and be the last man standing. I’m very happy about that. It’s been two years since I won a tournament, so I had that weighing on my mind.”

Isner became the second player to win an ATP title without facing a break point since records began in 1991. Tommy Haas also accomplished the feat in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2007.

“I’m very happy with how I played all week,” Isner said. “It was a perfect week and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Ebden was playing his first tour-level final.

“It’s a lot of reward for a lot of hard work, a lot of years of sacrifice,” Ebden said. “It’s disappointing, but at the same time I have to be happy with my week.”

Roddick, Clijsters among Tennis Hall of Fame inductees

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Andy Roddick says jokingly he can now keep Roger Federer from a unanimous selection for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

As a new inductee, Roddick gets to vote on future candidates. He jested ahead of his enshrinement on Saturday that he’ll use it to get back at Federer, who stood in his way during at least four Grand Slam finals.

Roddick joins inductees Kim Clijsters, six-time Paralympic medalist Monique Kalkman and journalist and historian Steve Flink. Tennis instructor and innovator Vic Braden was to be inducted posthumously.

Roddick won one Grand Slam and lost to Federer in the finals four times. He says he doesn’t ask himself what would have happened if he hadn’t come along at the same time of perhaps the greatest player.

He says the first text he got when he woke up Saturday was from Federer. Says Roddick: “He makes it extremely hard not to like him as a person.”