ZADAR, Croatia – Marin Cilic eased past American Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Friday to move Croatia to within one win of its third appearance in the final of the Davis Cup, tennis’ premier international team competition.
The world No. 6 needed two hours and 14 minutes to give his team a 2-0 lead over the United States in this semifinal tie, which is being played on outdoor clay at the Sportski Centar Visnjik venue in this southwestern city.
Earlier in the day, Borna Coric defeated Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-3 to give Croatia a 1-0 lead.
The 29-year-old Cilic raced through the first set, saving the lone break point he faced and converting two of the four break-point opportunities he created.
Despite losing serve once in the second set, Cilic broke Tiafoe three more times to give himself a commanding lead in the match.
Tiafoe improved on serve in the third set and did not face a single break point.
In the tiebreaker, the American struck his ninth ace of the match to grab a 3-0 lead, but Cilic rallied from 4-2 down to win four straight points.
Although Tiafoe saved the first match point, Cilic clinched the victory with a service winner.
Croatia is looking to reach its third Davis Cup final, having reached the championship tie in 2005, when Croatia won its lone title, and in 2016 when the Eastern European nation lost to Argentina.
The Croatian team can book a place in the final on Saturday, when the doubles duo of Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic squares off against the US pair of Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison.
If the Croatian team loses the doubles rubber, the tie will continue on Sunday with Cilic taking on Johnson and – if necessary – Coric playing Tiafoe.