Ivan Dodig and Marin Cilic dealt Bob and Mike Bryan a rare doubles defeat on Saturday to keep Croatia alive in their Davis Cup World Group quarter-final against the United States.
World number 12 Cilic stepped in at the last minute to partner Dodig, and the moved paid off with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over the Bryan brothers — owners of 16 Grand Slam doubles titles.
With the win, Croatia closed the gap to 2-1 in the best-of-five match hardcourt tie in Portland, Oregon.
“It was a group decision,” Cilic said of his replacing Marin Draganja in the doubles. “Ivan is our first player in the team and he felt that I would work a little better with him against the Bryan brothers.
“As it happened, today I played probably the best match of my life in doubles.”
The Croatians were on the ropes after singles defeats for Cilic and Borna Coric on Friday.
Jack Sock, ranked 26th in the world, roared back after dropping the first two sets to stun former US Open champion Cilic 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, and US number one John Isner then overpowered Coric 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
Cilic will try to keep the tie alive when he takes on Isner in the first reverse singles match on Sunday. He has beaten the big-serving American in all five of their prior encounters.
“It’s bit different situation now, it’s 2-1 on Sunday. Whatever happened the last two days it’s behind us. It’s going to be definitely a tough match against John, especially on this kind of court. I’m hoping I am going to be 100 percent and I can pull out a great match,” Cilic said.
With 32 titles, the United States are the most successful Davis Cup nation ever. But they were ousted in the first round the past two years by Britain and last reached the semi-finals in 2012 — when they were beaten by Spain.
The winners of the best-of-five match tie will take on either the Czech Republic or France in the semi-finals. France held a 2-1 lead over the Czechs in Prague going into Sunday’s matches.