Spain’s attempt to win their seventh Davis Cup tennis title came to a swift end in their first knock-out tie, as they were defeated by Croatia in the first two singles matches on Wednesday night, 24 November.
The tie, which was played in Malaga’s Martín Carpena sports arena, was very one-sided as La Armada struggled to put their opponents under pressure, despite having the home advantage and an electric atmosphere in their favour.
It’s hard to say whether or not the end result would have been different had Carlos Alcaraz or Rafa Nadal (ranked world number one and two, respectively) been playing.
Roberto Bautista (ranked 21st) was a shadow of his usual self and was beaten in straight sets (6-4 and 7-6) by Borna Coric (26th), who was at the top of his game.
Bautista, despite his best efforts, wasn’t able to break any of his opponent’s serves. The Spaniard was also at the mercy of Coric’s cannon of a serve, which saw him ace 12 times and put in 27 winning shots.
During the second set, Bautista did improve and was able to force Coric to a tiebreak, though the Croatian pulled a three point advantage quite quickly to earn his team’s first point of the tie.
The second tie saw a better performance from Spain through Pablo Carreño (13th), whose clash with Marin Cilic (17th) lasted over three hours.
Carreño was able to get the upper hand on his opponent in the first set, winning it in the 12th game, but the Spaniard had his work cut out for him. Cilic dominated the second set and gave Carreño nothing to work with, eventually winning it 6-3 and setting up a thrilling third set.
Both players were constantly breaking each other's serve, and control of the game was swinging back and forth.
The crowd, which up until that point had remained respectful, began to have its voice heard when the match started to slip away from Carreño. They attempted to put Cilic under pressure, but it only made him stronger and he eventually closed the tie in Croatia’s favour.
The second singles defeat meant that the scheduled doubles match between Carreño and Granollers and Pavic and Mektic didn’t happen. Spain will now watch the rest of the Davis Cup Finals play out from the sidelines, with the semi-finals being played tomorrow and the final taking place on Sunday.