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Croatia gets key doubles win over U.S. to stay alive in Davis Cup

The Americans still hold a 2-1 lead in their quarterfinal match which ends Sunday at Tualatin Hills

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The U.S. doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan battle during their Saturday loss to Croatia's Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig in the two teams' Davis Cup quarterfinal. The loss leaves the Americans' lead at 2-1 heading into a pair of singles matches on Sunday at Tualatin Hills.No one said it was going to be easy.

A day after racing out to a 2-0 lead against Croatia in its Davis Cup quarterfinal at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center in Beaverton, the United States team was brought back to earth in a big — and painful — way on Saturday.

With a chance to clinch a berth in the Davis Cup semifinals at hand, the U.S. doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan — the winningest doubles team in U.S. Davis Cup history — came up short, falling 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to Croatia's Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig and seeing their team's lead shrink to 2-1. The first team to post three victories in the quarterfinal wins and advances to the Davis Cup semifinals.

“We just didn't execute … (We) weren't making a lot of first serves. Weren't getting them in trouble from the start,” said Bob Bryan. “They started returning well and gaining confidence. They just kind of outplayed us in every aspect of the game today.”

“We came up to the match with good tactics, good mindset, and we knew that if we play well that we are going to be able to beat them,” Cilic said.

Now, the result will be decided by two singles matches beginning at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Sunday’s first match is scheduled to feature each country’s top player — world No. 16 John Isner of the U.S. vs. world No. 12 Cilic. That match will be followed by world No. 26 Jack Sock of the U.S. facing world No. 54 Borna Coric of Croatia.

With the U.S. leading, 2-1, Isner could clinch the semifinal berth with a victory over Cilic in Sunday’s first singles match. In that case, if Isner wins in three sets, the final match between Sock and Coric will be played best of three sets; should Isner win in four or five sets, the final match likely will not be played. If Cilic wins, the match between Sock and Coric will decide it all.

Isner and Cilic have met five times on the ATP Tour, with Cilic winning all five matches. They last met in the third round at Wimbledon in 2015, with Cilic winning an epic, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-7 (4), 12-10, match. Cilic is the 10th Top 20 player that Isner has faced in Davis Cup competition, with Isner holding a 4-5 record versus those players.

“Obviously, we would've loved to close this out today, but we're up 2-1 going in and our singles players have confidence,” said U.S. Captain Jim Courier. “They won their matches yesterday. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we're confident.”

“We are pretty positive,” said Croatia Captain Zeljko Krajan. “Yesterday didn't look great after (we fell behind) 2-0, but today we kind of got unexpected win, let's say, on the paper. We're still positive about tomorrow; we still have chances in both singles matches tomorrow.”

Isner, who is competing in his 12th Davis Cup match, holds an 11-9 record in Davis Cup singles competition, defeating Coric on Friday in straight sets. Cilic is 18-9 in Davis Cup singles after falling to Sock in a five-set thriller on Friday.

Sock and Coric have faced each other just one time on the ATP Tour at the 2015 French Open, with Sock winning, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Both players are US Open junior champions, with Sock winning the singles title in 2010 and Coric winning in 2013.

Sock made his debut on the U.S. Davis Cup team last year in the World Group Playoff in Uzbekistan, where he won both of his singles matches. He also competed in this year’s World Group First Round in Australia, falling to Bernard Tomic in four sets.

On Friday, Sock —in his Davis Cup on home soil — came back from two sets down for the first time in his career to defeat Cilic in five sets. He is now 3-1 in Davis Cup singles play. Coric, who first played for Croatia in Davis Cup action in 2013, is 4-5 in singles play after falling to Isner on Friday.

The winner of the U.S.-Croatia matchup advances to the World Group Semifinal, held Sept. 16-18, for a chance to compete for the 2016 Davis Cup title.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Croatia's Ivan Dodig serves past teammate Marin Cilic during their win over the U.S. doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan on Saturday at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center. The Americans' lead in the Davis Cup quarterfinal is now 2-1 heading into a pair of singles matches on Sunday.

Davis Cup

Friday, 11:30 a.m. Singles A: Jack Sock (USA) def. Marin Cilic, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

Singles B: John Isner (USA) def. Borna Coric, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Doubles: Marin Cilic/Ivan Dodig (CRO)

def. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA) 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4

Sunday, 11:30 a.m. Singles C: John Isner (USA) vs. Marin Cilic

Singles D: Jack Sock (USA) vs. Borna Coric