Comeback kids: Del Potro, Delbonis lead Argentina to first Davis Cup title

The 2016 tennis season ended in appropriate fashion on Sunday: with the ATP World Tour Comeback Player of the Year storming back from two sets down in a must-win situation.

Needing to beat Croatia’s Marin Cilic in the fourth rubber of the Davis Cup final to keep Argentina’s title hopes alive, Juan Martin Del Potro did just that before watching Federico Delbonis cap off the comeback and give the Argentines their first-ever Davis Cup championship. Del Potro downed Cilic 6-7(4), 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 in four hours and 53 minutes and Delbonis crushed Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the decisive fifth rubber.

“We did what we had to do,” victorious captain Daniel Orsanic commented. “We could have lost, but the guys were amazing today. Juan Martin won an incredible match and Federico played the best match of his life. I dreamed for this so many times.”

Sunday came dangerously close to marking the completion of an Argentine nightmare that had begun on Saturday, when Cilic and Ivan Dodig rolled over Del Potro and Leonardo Mayer 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-3 to put the Croatian side ahead 2-1. Having played well at the World Tour Finals one week earlier before kicking off this tie with two victories (first in singles over Delbonis), Cilic parlayed his momentum into a two-set lead against Del Potro. The world No. 6 blasted 18 aces without double-faulting a single time through the opening two sets.

It all turned around, however, with the host country just one set from glory. Del Potro broke Cilic in the 12th game of the third set to extend the contest, converting his third set point with a lunging forehand volley winner. A dramatic fourth frame of play featured a controversial time violation against Del Potro issued by chair umpire James Keothavong. But the world No. 38 used it as fuel to his fire, and he produced a crucial hold at 4-4 before breaking Cilic in the following game to force a fifth.

Del Potro donated serve to begin the decider in inauspicious fashion, but it proved to be nothing more than a temporary hiccup in his charge to the finish line. The 2009 U.S. Open champion broke right back for 1-1 and earned another scalp of the Cilic serve for a 5-3 advantage. Del Potro made no mistake with the match on his racket, putting the exclamation point on his comeback with a love hold.

“This was an emotionally exhausting match and one of the biggest wins of my career,” Del Potro noted.

Delbonis’ win was without a doubt his biggest ever. The world No. 41 handled the immense occasion in impressive fashion, whereas Karlovic crumbled by committing seven double-faults and losing his usually daunting serve five times in 13 service games. Delbonis fired five aces, double-faulted only twice, and saved each of the two break points he faced.

“We played with our heart and tried to do [our] best,” Delbonis said. “This is amazing.”

“We can only congratulate the Argentines and Del Potro for hauling them back into the match,” Croatian captain Zeljko Krajan concluded. “We did all we could but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

9 Comments on Comeback kids: Del Potro, Delbonis lead Argentina to first Davis Cup title

  1. Congrats to Argentina.

    I do hope Cilic will someday help Croatia to another DC title. I like both Cilic and Delpo and their hug at the end before the ceremony, I can see they genuinely like and appreciate each other (and their efforts). I wish both well in their careers.

    • Great comment??so true. Both guys are fantastic sports and really professional players. Two of my favorite players to watch.

  2. That was a very exciting finale to the DC. Argentina deserved to win it this as they have been runner-up so many times.

  3. I was very happy for Argentina. After four losses, they finally have their D.C.! Good for them!

    I got to see the fifth set of Delpo/Ivo on a replay. Delpo stepped it up and came back from an early break of serve by Cilic. The he got the break and served it out. He kept his team’s hopes alive. Delbonis then got it done in straightforward fashion against Ivo.

    They showed a lot of heart. Whatever Delpo can win after all that he has been through, is great to see!

  4. What a comeback from Delpo from 2 sets down to level the tie, and then Delbonis sealing the deal, well played Argentina, i thought Croatia with that 2 / 1 lead would win the whole thing, good comeback 😉

  5. To add if Delpo carries this form forward, i think he could be a real force again next year, one of the top players will have him on their side of the draw in the GS early, so he could be dangerous ….

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