The world number one will pair up with Nikola Cacic to face off against world number one doubles partnership Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic for a place in the final against either the Russian Tennis Federation or Germany.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner has only ever lost one Davis Cup singles match – against Olivier Rochus on clay back in 2005 – and handled a pressure situation against a fired up Cilic after Borna Gojo had beaten Dusan Lajovic in three sets earlier in the day.
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2014 US Open winner Cilic fashioned six break points in the opening set and a further two in the second, but was unable to convert against Djokovic, who has now not been broken in matches against Dennis Novak, Jan-Lennard Struff or Alexander Bublik at this year’s event.
Djokovic, contrastingly, was brutally efficient when the opportunity presented itself, sealing the decisive break in game nine of the first set from 0-40 down and securing an early double break in the second to race away from the 33-year-old Cilic and send the match to a decider.
“It was always going to be a tough match,” said Djokovic afterwards.
It was a very nervy start from both of us and we both knew the significance of the match!
Earlier, world number 279 Borna Gojo held his nerve to beat Dusan Lajovic 4-6 6-3 6-2 to give Croatia a 1-0 advantage.
The importance of this opening rubber made it a high-pressure, low quality affair as both players struggled to put together any fluid tennis but it was 23-year-old Gojo who managed to settle better to give his country the advantage.
The tie represented the first time that the pair had met, and Gojo – buoyed perhaps by impressive results against Italy’s world number 21 Lorenzo Sonego and Australia’s world number 61 Alexei Popyrin earlier in the competition – was in the ascendancy from the off and was two points away from a 5-1 advantage in the first. However, after a spectacular collapse, 17 of the final 18 points went Lajovic’s way as the world number 33 gave Serbia the early initiative.
The Croatian finished the first set with 19 unforced errors to his opponent’s 12, and the match remained a low-quality affair in the second. Gojo, again, was in the ascendancy early, passing on an opportunity to open up a 4-0 advantage, but, unlike the first set, he managed to capitalise on the early break to serve it out to send the match to a deciding set.
Gojo again broke early in the decider, twice, as his more experienced opponent began to churn through the unforced errors – Lajovic would finish the match with 44 – and held his nerve to see it out.
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