Disastrous opening day for Davis Cup final hosts

Hosts France face an uphill struggle if they are to win the last ever Davis Cup final in its current format in the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, as they ended the first day down 2-0 without even winning a set.

The hosts wrongly assumed that a slow surface would be more problematic for the visitors Cilic and Coric,  especially after  playing on the hard court of the ATP Finals in London last week.  Marin Cilic appeared in the round robin matches, but  Coric only practiced  as one of the reserve  players.

However the hungry Croats were not thrown off the scent of victory in front of a partisan home crowd.

French Captain Yannick Noah’s surprise selection of  experienced but short of match practice in 2018 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga backfired badly as world No. 7 Marin Cilic easily defeated the lacklustre Frenchman 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

Marin Cilic. Photo: Anne Parker 

Cilic was always in control over  Tsonga. In the first rubber  one of the “new kids on the block”  in men’s tennis, the prodigious 22-year-old Borna Coric, coming off the back of his best ever season, also won in straight sets  6-2, 7-5, 6-4 over world No.40 Jeremy Chardy.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Photo: Anne Parker

Chardy was also a surprise choice to open the tie, getting the nod over compatriot Lucas Pouille, the highest ranked Frenchmen in the squad.

Chardy looked as though he would take the second set when he led 5-4 but Coric stood firm, breaking the Frenchman’s serve and going on to take the set 7-5


Borno Coric. Photo: Roger Parker

Coric briefly looked as though he might be in trouble in the third set when he needed a medical time-out when leading 4-3, but resumed confidently taking the set 6-4 and victory.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Photo: Anne Parker

The French will be looking to their current French Open doubles champions and runners up in last weeks ATP Masters final in London Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert to take the tie into the third day when they take on Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig who captured their second ATP World Tour team title this year in the Chengdu Open.

Croatian  Superfan, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Photo: Roger Parker

The Croatian players were cheered on enthusiastically from the VIP box by Croatian Superfan – and indeed President no less – Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who also witnessed Croatia’s World Cup Final Soccer defeat by France  in Moscow in July and will be quietly confident that her team can avenge that defeat  on the clay court of Lille.