Davis Cup: Croatia leads Argentina 2-1 after doubles

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia needs one more point to win its second Davis Cup title after winning the doubles against Argentina in straight sets on Saturday.

Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig defeated Juan Martin del Potro and Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-3 for a 2-1 lead over Argentina in the final.

Cilic can secure the decisive point for Croatia against del Potro in the first reverse singles on Sunday. If del Potro wins, Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic and Argentina’s Federico Delbonis will decide the final.

“We will push to the end,” Dodig, the hero of the doubles victory, said. “Nothing will stop us now.”

Cilic said he expects a victory against del Potro in a matchup of former U.S. Open champions, “although it won’t be easy.”

“Mentally, it’s easier for me because we have won today,” Cilic said. “Our matches were always tight and some small details could decide.”

Del Potro said he and Cilic are good friends on the tour, “but tomorrow will be a different situation.”

“He is playing really good this year. He will be playing at home and it will be difficult,” del Potro said.

Croatia’s only previous Davis Cup title was in 2005.

Argentina is the only team in the Davis Cup’s 116-year history to have reached four previous finals and not won.

On Saturday, the Croats dominated tiebreakers in the first two sets with Dodig making some spectacular shots and Cilic holding his serve at key points.

The crucial break came in the sixth game of the third set on Mayer’s serve when the Argentine netted a seemingly routine forehand after making a string of mistakes in previous exchanges. The Croatian duo converted the second of three opportunities.

“The second set tiebreak was crucial,” Cilic said.

Cilic closed out the match with a big first serve that Mayer could only send long. The Croats threw their arms in the air and got big hugs from the bench.

In the opening singles on Friday, Cilic defeated Delbonis, and del Potro beat Karlovic.

Diego Maradona led thousands of visiting fans with chants and frantically waved a scarf with the Argentine flag from his executive booth at Arena Zagreb. He was wearing a black band on his arm to mourn the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“He was like my second father,” Maradona said.

Top-ranked Halep wins tough 3-setter in Miami

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania struggled to post a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 second-round win over French lucky loser Oceane Dodin at the Miami Open on Thursday.

In the first career meeting between the players, Halep allowed the 98th-ranked Dodin to break her serve on six of seven opportunities she presented in the match, which lasted more than two hours.

Halep broke Dodin’s serve for the seventh time at 4-4 in the third set before closing it out.

Halep played in her third career Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, but has yet to secure a Grand Slam trophy.

Halep’s best Miami Open was reaching the 2015 semifinals.

Also Thursday, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber of Germany advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Johanna Larsson of Sweden.

Kerber is 19-4 this year and has reached at least the quarterfinals of all five tournaments she’s played.

Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open and U.S. Open champion, won her first tournament since that U.S. Open at Sydney in January. She also reached the Australian Open semifinals.

Serena Williams loses in first round at Miami Open to Osaka

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Serena Williams lost in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday, still rusty in her return from pregnancy and unable to overcome a tough draw against Naomi Osaka, who won 6-3, 6-2.

The 20-year-old Osaka, who earned her first career title Sunday at Indian Wells, showed no signs of letup and overpowered the erratic Williams. Osaka had the stronger serve, and in rallies wore down Williams working her from side to side.

The matchup worthy of a final came about because both players are unseeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best 22nd, while Williams’ ranking is 491st after her layoff of more than a year.

Another new mother and former No. 1, three-time Key Biscayne champion Victoria Azarenka, defeated Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-0.

Williams has endured a first-round defeat only four other times, most recently at the 2012 French Open. The latest loss came at a tournament she has won a record eight times and considers her hometown event.

The match was the last for Williams at Key Biscayne, 90 miles south of her home in Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament is moving next year to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, and Williams helped with the ceremonial groundbreaking Monday.

After her defeat, she left without speaking to the media.

Because of Williams’ ranking, she entered the draw as a wild card, and looked the part. She was a step slow to balls in the corners and often late with her swing, while she put barely half her first serves in play.

Osaka, who has both American and Japanese citizenship and lives in Fort Lauderdale, was playing her idol for the first time but didn’t seem a bit fazed. She improved to 14-4 this year.

Things may get tougher for her in the second round, when she’ll face No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis