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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.

Nadal-Djokovic semifinal suspended after 3rd set

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LONDON (AP) It was the kind of tennis that Wimbledon’s Centre Court crowd would gladly have watched all night long.

The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic had they been able to finish their semifinal before the tournament’s 11 p.m. curfew.

Instead, the two players – and a disappointed audience – were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.

The two players didn’t even get onto the court until after 8 p.m. because of an earlier marathon semifinal won by Kevin Anderson and when Djokovic converted his second set point in the tiebreaker – having saved three of Nadal’s – the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past 11. That left organizers no choice but to call it a night, although the announcement from the chair umpire led to a scattering of boos from some fans who clearly wanted more.

Most of them will have to watch the rest on TV.

The match will resume at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, before the women’s final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. At stake is a place in Sunday’s men’s final against the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late. Anderson’s win over John Isner lasted 6 + hours and went to 26-24 in the fifth set.

Djokovic-Nadal had clearly been the headline act of the day – they have five Wimbledon titles between them and met in the 2011 final while Anderson and Isner had never made the semifinals before – and their tennis was at another level from the earlier match. Even Anderson said he could feel during his match that the crowd would rather be watching the next one.

“They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match,” Anderson said. “I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They’ve been watching us for over six hours.”

While Anderson-Isner was mostly a serving duel with a few longer rallies thrown in, Djokovic and Nadal repeatedly slugged it out from the baseline, chasing each other around the court and coming up with spectacular winners from every corner.

Many of the best points came in the tiebreaker, including a 23-shot rally that Nadal finished off with a forehand half-volley drop shot to set up his first set point.

It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone, but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.

He eventually went up 10-9 with the help of a backhand passing shot and an errant shot into the net by Nadal brought the entertainment to an end – for now.

It led to the unusual situation of both players leaving the court to a huge ovation – and applauding the fans in return – but without there being a clear winner or loser.

To be continued.

Former No. 1 Kerber tops Ostapenko; into second Wimbledon final

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LONDON – It was clear right from the opening game of Angelique Kerber’s Wimbledon semifinal how things were going to go. She was not going to dictate or control much.

She was, instead, going to employ spectacular defense and solid, steady play, while letting her opponent, Jelena Ostapenko, be the one to determine the outcomes of nearly every point.

It worked. The 11th-seeded Kerber reached her second final at the All England Club by avoiding too many mistakes and using a seven-game run to seize control for a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 12th-seeded Ostapenko on Thursday.

“These are the matches I was working for as a young kid,” Kerber said, “and to stand here again in the final at Wimbledon is great.”

Kerber is a former No. 1 and a two-time major champion, both coming in 2016 at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. That was also the year the German was the runner-up at Wimbledon, losing to Serena Williams in the title match.

She could find herself up against Williams yet again: The 36-year-old American was scheduled to face No. 13 Julia Goerges of Germany in Thursday’s second semifinal on Centre Court.

Williams took a 19-match Wimbledon winning streak into the day. She won the grass-court tournament the last two times she played it, in 2015 and 2016, before missing it last year while pregnant. Williams gave birth to a daughter in September.

The left-handed Kerber was mainly a passive participant in the early going against Ostapenko. That first game consisted of eight points: Three were unforced errors by Ostapenko, including a double-fault to begin the proceedings; the other five were winners by her, including a 100 mph ace to close the hold.

Five games in, Ostapenko led 3-2, and the numbers were still tilted toward her. She had 14 winners and 10 unforced errors, while Kerber had three winners and – this was key – zero unforced errors.

There were no drawn-out points in the early going, no lengthy baseline exchanges, essentially because Ostapenko wouldn’t allow it. The Latvian plays an aggressive brand of first-strike tennis that carried her to the 2017 French Open title as an unseeded 20-year-old.

Kerber, in contrast, bides her time, working the back of the court to get everything back over the net, often kneeling to get low enough to reach shots.

Eventually, Kerber’s style ruled the day. She went on a half-hour run in which she took the last four games of the first set and took a 3-0 lead in the second. Ostapenko’s strokes were missing and she grew increasingly frustrated, slapping a thigh after a miss or leaning forward and putting her hands on her knees after others. By the time she flubbed a backhand while falling behind 5-1 in the second, she dropped her racket and screamed.

It took Kerber two tries to serve out the victory, getting broken to 5-2. But unlike in the quarterfinals, when she needed seven match points to win, this time it required only two, with the match ending – fittingly enough – on a forehand by Ostapenko that sailed wide.

The final tally told the story: Ostapenko had far more winners, 30-10, but also far more unforced errors, 36-7.