from Turin, our correspondent
It will be of new Italy-Croatia in Turin, as in 2013. At that time we played at Pala-Vela, today it will be the setting of PalaAlpitour to decide who will detach the ticket for Madrid and for the dream of a new salad bowl.
Previously, Croatia had beaten us 3-2 in 2001 at the Foro Italico, when the feat of today’s captain Filippo Volandri against Goran Ivanisevic was not enough for the Azzurri and with the same score in 2008 on the hard court of Dubrovnik when after the victory of I learned about Cilic, the defeat of Bolelli with Ancic was decisive
Of that challenge won by the Azzurri 3-2 here in Turin in Croatia there are practically all except Ivan Dodig, second singles player who lost the two matches against Andreas Seppi and above all against Fabio Fognini in the fifth and decisive match.
For Fabio it was one of Davis’ many hero weekends thanks also to the double won on Saturday paired with Simone Bolelli again against Dodig and Marin Cilic (who had ensured the red and white two points thanks to the victories over Lorenzi and Seppi).
Since 2013, many things have changed. Fabio Fognini, after many years of battles, has turned from being the absolute protagonist into a hen per the “young kids with whom we are okay for 10 years”.
Marin Cilic, on the other hand, remains the beacon of his national team, at the time he was number 12 in the world, he already had a decent career behind him, but only the following year would he have completed his explosion with the resounding victory at the US Open 2014, dominating Roger Federer in the semifinals before beating Nishikori in the final.
Roger Federer himself denied the Croatian champion, hoisted up to world number 3, a further slam success, rejecting him in the 2017 Wimbledon finals, when Marin was practically paralyzed by a blister and emotion, and in Melbourne in January 2018 when Roger he won the twentieth major, only winning it in the fifth set.
Since that time Marin alternated good things with long moments of difficulty that saw him slide behind the lines, up to a melancholy position close to the number 50 in the world (number 47 in May of this year).
But then the Croatian regained confidence and trust, at first returning to raise a trophy after three years of fasting (Queen’s 2018) on the grass in Stuttgart, beating Shapovalov and Auger Aliassime in the final and then repeating the success in the recent tournament in St. Petersburg, beating Taylor Fritz in the final act and thus returning to the top 30 in the world.
There are Cilic’s hands and heart on the second Croatian salad bowl, the one he won in Lille in 2018 against France, in the latest edition of the “real” Davis Cup. Marin dragged his teammates (Borna Coric, victorious over Chardy and the double Dodig-Pavic defeated by the French) with away victories over Tsonga and Pouille, thus overcoming the bitterness of the burning defeat suffered in the final in Zagreb against Argentina by Juan Martin del Potro who recovered two sets of advantage in the key match of that challenge, which lasted almost five hours.
The first historic Croatian triumph was signed by Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic (With Ivanisevic and Karlovic) who in 2005 broke Bratislava for the delirium of an entire nation.
The challenge that will be worth a place in the Madrid final-four will revolve around the match that will see the Croatian number one opposing our nunero one (in the absence of Matteo Berrettini), Jannik Sinner.
Today Cilic managed to lose unexpectedly against the Hungarian number 282 Zsombor Piros, in a match that meant nothing for his national team, but which once again confirmed the moments of emptiness that pass through the matches (and the entire career) of the Croatian.
John Isner, after scoring just two games against our young champion (most clear defeat suffered by the American giant in his career) predicted a top 3 future for Jannik. We asked Cilic, who was top3, what Jannik will have to do to reach that level. “Jannik is young and he is already top 10, so he has already shown that he is very competitive at high levels, he has had a fantastic season. To get to the top he will have to have continuity in the slams and in the 1000s, that’s what makes the difference in the end, no one knows where he will go, when I got to number 3 I had twelve fantastic months. But Jannik is improving day by day in an incredible way “.
Sinner-Cilic, certainly, but not only. Lorenzo Sonego has proved to be a fundamental pawn in the blue chessboard by Filippo Volandri. The new Davis formula (even if according to Nicola Pietrangeli we should no longer call it that …) entrusts the numbers 2 with the task of opening hostilities and so far Lorenzo the Turin and Turin player has always handed the racket to Jannik after bringing Italy into benefit.
It will be necessary to understand who will choose captain Vedran Martic between Borna Gojo, good at surprising Popyrin on the first day and Nino Sedarusic who today assured the Croatians the point they needed to have the mathematical certainty of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Borna Gojo, twenty-two years old and number 276 in the ranking, took his first steps in the world of tennis on the American university circuit, where in 2016 he had contributed to the conquest of the NCAA title, then his professional career was slowed down by many physical problems. “I have had very tough years, this year I have only been injured for a long time, it is not easy to play when you are not at 100%, but I have had the opportunity to play for my national team and for me this counts more than anything else”.
His activity is mainly concentrated in the challenger circuit, although in October he managed to qualify for the main draw of the ATP250 in Moscow where he lost in three sets to Duckworth, playing a good match.
Nino Serdarusic is a little higher in the ranking (n.242) and is two years older than his teammate. Many races in the challengers where we saw him lose by Cecchinato in three sets in Croatia and some sporadic appearances on the major tour (he qualified in Stockholm beating Vavassori in which before losing to Van de Zanschulp).
His family runs a restaurant in Umag where he has helped in the past and where he now and again goes to enjoy a steak with truffles or octopus salad. He is coached by brothers Tomislav and Filip who led him to tennis after playing football for up to 10 years. Just like his possible opponent Sonego, a past as a winger in Turin. After the victory with Marozsan he did not hide his joy: “All year we always play for ourselves, with the national team it is another thing. I felt the emotions of this day on my skin, it is the best moment of my career “.
The strong point of the Balkan team is undoubtedly the double. Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are the number 1 couple in the world and this season they have won nine titles, including the first all-Croatian victory at Wimbledon, as well as victories in Rome, Monte Carlo and Miami and the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics by beating the other Croatian couple Cilic / Dodig.
Captain Volandri, after the forfeit of Matteo Berrettini, has summoned Simone Bolelli, who with Fabio Fognini has formed a very competitive couple, capable of winning a Grand Slam in Australia and also playing the ATP Finals in 2015. However Simone did not appear in good condition And Volandri tried alongside Fognini first Lorenzo Musetti against the USA, then Jannik Sinner against Colombian champions Farah-Cabal in a match that ended at 02.30 tonight. Probably, in case of need, it will be Jannik himself who will have to work overtime, but given the strength of the Croatian double, it will be the case to win the two singles.
Volandri plays the charge: “Jannik’s test with Fabio has been largely passed. The Croatians are a great team, Cilic is a slam champion and the double is very strong. But Jannik and Lorenzo had a very good impact with the competition, we respect everyone but fear no one “.