Davis Cup

11/28/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/28/2021 12:08

Croatia to face Italy in quarter-finals, Piros heroic in Hungary defeat

Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic completed the win for Vedran Martic's side, defeating Fabian Marozsan and Peter Nagy 76(6), 62 in the decisive doubles after an inspired Zsombor Piros produced the performance of his career to keep Hungary in the tie with a 46, 75, 64 victory over Marin Cilic.

Croatia's passage to the Knockout Stage had already been confirmed following debutant Nino Serdarusic's 64, 64 victory over Fabian Marozsan in the opening match, but take nothing away from Piros's performance to keep Hungary's fleeting hopes of claiming a best-second-place spot in the quarter-finals alive. The 22-year-old eclipsed his victory over Australia's John Millman on Saturday with a second three-set triumph, this time over Cilic, the former US Open champion, Davis Cup winner and one-time world No.3.

"I have no words, to be honest" Piros said after the biggest win of his career to date. "It seems impossible at the start of the match. I barely put a ball in the court, I was a bit nervous, even if it was not a big match for my team as there was no pressure on us."

Cilic had made the perfect start to the second match, consolidating an early break for a 3-0 lead and bringing up a set point on the Piros serve at 5-2. The young Hungarian rallied to stay in the set and even broke back in the next game, much to the delight of his teammates on the bench. But the world No.30 was not to be denied, instantly breaking again to clinch the opener.

Cilic had spoken about the pace of the court making it difficult to fire winners past opponents in Turin. And so it proved against Piros, who hared around the court throughout, going toe-to-toe with the former US Open champion in the extended rallies before showcasing some fine shot-making of his own as he looked for the lines with flat drives.

It is to Piros's immense credit that he refused to let his level drop a day after playing six sets of intense singles and doubles against Australia. The 22-year-old overcame a jarred ankle that required a medical time-out midway through the second set, having also needed treatment for a forearm strain on Saturday, yet went on to level up in the match with some fearless baseline tennis.

Even as the physical toll caught up with the world No.282 in the final set, he ramped up the aggression and shortened the points when possible, recovering from 4-1 down to level up at 4-4 before reaching 0-40 on the Cilic serve. The Croatian No.1 got back to deuce and even brought Piros to his knees after saving a fourth break point, but a rasping cross-court return brought him a fifth, converted when Cilic steered a forehand into the tramlines.

When he eventually served out the victory on his sixth match point, Koves ran onto the court to lift his charge into the air, tears flowing down the 22-year-old's face.

"I didn't play against a high-quality player as Marin until today and it was a pleasure to share the court with him. It's just an amazing feeling to be here as a winner, I don't believe it. I will believe it in a few days or weeks."

Croatia's progress had already been assured by Serdarusic - a late replacement for Borna Coric - who eased past world No.359 Marozsan, promoted into Gabor Koves's singles line-up in the absence of Hungary's long-time talisman Marton Fucsovics.

The 24-year-old world No.233 faced little resistance on serve, emerging from the contest without facing a break point. At 3-4 in the first set Marozsan did threaten briefly in a flurry of deuces, but having seen off the danger Serdarusic broke in the next game before serving out the set.

A single break decided the second, and while Marozsan dug in to deny the Croatian on his first match point at 5-3, it was a brief reprieve: Serdarusic held to love in the next game, sealing victory with an ace and a roar to his teammates as the supporters' band broke into song.

"All your career you play for yourself, you play singles matches, but this is the first time I felt on my skin how it feels," Serdarusic said of making his debut. "To win for the team, for the country, yeah, it's really the best moment of my career I can say for sure. We are really here for each other and breathing as a team."

With the tie all square, Marozsan returned alongside Nagy to take on doubles world No.1s Mektic and Pavic, and acquitted themselves admirably to take the first set to a tiebreak in an entertaining contest. The Croatians proved themselves a class apart in the second, too savvy and accurate for the inexperienced Hungarian duo, closing out the win as thoughts quickly turned to Monday's quarter-final clash with the hosts in Turin.

"We wanted to win and to make a statement and go into tomorrow's match with confidence," said Mektic, with Pavic thanking the Croatian brass band who played throughout the tie.

"There's not too many of them but they're pretty loud," said the doubles world No.1. "Definitely we're going to need some support. It's going to be a home crowd, and a very tough match - they have excellent singles players and anybody can play doubles over there, so don't know what to expect.

"Definitely it's going to be a tough match, and we're looking forward to it."