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Croatia One Win Away from Davis Cup Title


Croatia has one hand on the Davis Cup trophy, after taking the doubles rubber in Bratislava. Croatia's pair of Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic had just too much teamwork for Slovakia's second-choice combo of Michal Mertinak and Dominik Hrbaty, who was a late replacement for injured Karol Beck.

Hrbaty was supposed to bolster the Slovak pair, but he proved the weaker link, and while the Croats did not deliver their best performance of the year, they are still unbeaten in the Davis Cup over five matches, dating back nearly 15 months.

In retrospect, Slovakia lost the match late in the first set. Ancic and Ljubicic looked very shaky in the opening games, and twice the home side was a break up.

But both times the visitors broke back, and when Ljubicic sent down a questionable ace at 6-5 in the tiebreak, the Slovaks were left with nothing to show for their early dominance.

The Croats then grew in confidence, and after saving break points in the seventh game of the third set, Ancic discovered some self-belief, which was to prove crucial in the third set tiebreak. Again it was won 7-5, to leave the score looking close, but the team of higher pedigree, if not necessarily better on the day, ran out 7-6 6-3 7-6 winners.

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