AP

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.

2-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova wins return from knife attack

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PARIS —¬†Sweat-soaked and still wearing her match outfit, Petra Kvitova was looking for someone to hug as she wandered into the players’ lounge in the French Open’s main stadium shortly after leaving the court Sunday.

She found her father, Jiri, and her brother, also Jiri, who greeted her with warm embraces and joyous kisses on the cheek. Kvitova’s family members rarely attend her tournaments, but this was different – “special” was the word she, and others, kept using.

Less than six months after a knife attack at her home, two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was back competing, winning the first match of her comeback 6-3, 6-2 at Roland Garros against 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States.

“I’m happy with the game, of course,” Kvitova said, “but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.”

Indeed, just being there under a cloud-filled sky at Court Philippe Chatrier was a triumph of sorts for Kvitova, who needed surgery on her left hand – the one she uses to hold her racket – after being stabbed by an intruder in the Czech Republic in late December. She was undecided until late last week whether to even try to play in the French Open.

“For us, it’s amazing. It’s miracle. Not even me or Petra thought she could be ready to come back so soon,” said her coach, Jiri Novak. “The prognosis was, let’s just say, not optimistic.”

During her on-court interview, Kvitova addressed Novak, her family and others in her guest box, saying: “Thank you for everything you helped me through (in) this difficult time.”

Several members of her entourage wore black T-shirts with white capital letters on the front that read, “Courage. Belief. Pojd.” That last word, which is the Czech equivalent of “Come on!” and was spelled with a red heart instead of the “O,” is often yelled by Kvitova to celebrate particularly good shots.

“The belief and the mind, the heart, it’s really important,” Kvitova said afterward. “So that’s … what we try to show everyone. I hope that it will be kind of inspiration for other people, as well.”

There were plenty of opportunities for her to clench a fist and scream “Pojd!” on Sunday against Boserup, who was making her debut in the French Open’s main draw and facing a lefty for the first time.

“She’s one of the nicest girls, and we are all really happy to see her back. After what she went through, it’s incredible,” Boserup said. “So it’s a victory for her to be back on court. It was really special.”

Kvitova began things with a quick forehand winner on the opening point.

“Amazing,” she said. “I surprised myself.”

Kvitova wound up compiling the match’s first 10 winners and finished with a 31-9 edge in that category. She took 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 3-0 lead and never really faced a whole lot of resistance, other than when she saved three break points – the only ones she had to deal with in the match – while ahead 3-1.

When it was over, Kvitova dropped her racket near the baseline and removed her blue headband. As she walked to the net for a handshake, her eyes welled with tears.

“We are happy that she is healthy. The hand is good – and also the head,” her brother Jiri said. “Mentally, she is back.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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

Venus Williams eases into French Open’s second round after beating Qiang Wang

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In a record 20th appearance at the French Open, Venus Williams eased into the second round with a straight sets victory over Qiang Wang of China.

Williams, who is seeded 10th, saved two set points to win 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The 36-year-old American will play Kurumi Nara of Japan in the next round.