Argentina beats Croatia 3-2 to win its 1st Davis Cup title

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) Argentina won its first Davis Cup title on Sunday when Federico Delbonis swept past Ivo Karlovic in straight sets to complete a stunning 3-2 comeback win over Croatia.

Delbonis dropped to the ground after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory. His teammates fell into each other’s arms and celebrated in front of thousands of Argentine fans in the packed Arena Zagreb.

This was the first Davis Cup title for Argentina in the fifth final it has played since 1981. Croatia won in 2005.

Going into the reverse singles Sunday, the Croats were leading 2-1 in the best-of-five-series after winning the doubles on Saturday.

Juan Martin Del Potro then rallied from two sets down to beat Marin Cilic 6-7 (4), 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 as Argentina drew level at 2-2.

With the victory, Argentina became only the third team to come back from 2-1 down in the final since the World Group Davis Cup format was introduced in 1981.

Delbonis went up a break in the first two sets and added two more in the third when Karlovic sent a forehand wide for the victory.

The 41st-ranked Argentine passed the big-serving Croat veteran at ease throughout the 2:09-hour match.

“This is fabulous,” Delbonis said. “We somewhat felt we could do it despite trailing after the doubles.”

The comeback started with Del Potro’s heroics that included a finger injury in the fifth set against Cilic.

“I was calm, I hoped all the time that I could win and I did it,” said Del Potro, displaying a bandage on his little finger on his non-racket left hand.

He said the injury happened in the fifth set while he was trying to catch a ball.

“I’m very happy to hand my team a chance of a victory,” Del Potro said.

The action-packed match at Arena Zagreb that lasted nearly five hours saw plenty of drama created by two players with similar styles.

“It is very difficult to lose such an important match,” Cilic said. “I feel a lot of disappointment.”

Cilic had a furious start to race to a 3-0 lead including a break in Del Potro’s first service game. The Croat capitalized on the first of three break points with a cracking forehand winner.

Del Potro fought back in the seventh game with Cilic under pressure at deuce. Two ground strokes, first a forehand long then a looping backhand, saw Del Potro break at the sixth attempt.

In the tiebreaker, Cilic raced to a 5-0 lead to seal the game with a slice backhand down the line that Del Potro could not control.

Under pressure after losing his fourth straight tiebreaker during the finals, Del Potro started the second set slowly and dropped his serve in the fifth game with a double fault and another in the seventh at love.

At that point, Cilic seemed to be cruising toward victory with some spectacular ground strokes that the tired-looking Argentine watched in disbelief.

But then Del Potro, who has recovered after two injury-hit years, showed the form he displayed in beating now top-ranked Andy Murray as Argentina knocked out holder Britain in the semifinals.

He broke Cilic in the 12th and 10th games in the third and fourth sets respectively to send the match into the decider.

“After losing the third set, I was still confident I could win as he looked tired,” Cilic said. “I started pushing a bit too hard, handing him a chance for a comeback.”

Trailing 15-40 in the eighth game of the final set, Cilic sent a forehand beyond the baseline to give Del Potro the decisive break. He served out the match to keep Argentina alive.

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.

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