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.

Two-time champ Azarenka gets Australian Open wild card

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has been awarded a wild card for the Australian Open.

Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has been involved in a custody dispute involving her son Leo, who was born last Dec. 19.

She hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon, where she lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10. The dispute with her former partner started shortly after Wimbledon ended.

Azarenka has played only six matches this year and is ranked 208th.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday that every assistance would be provided to the former No. 1, adding “Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can.”

The Australian Open starts on Jan. 15.

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”