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US ousted by Croatia in Davis Cup quarterfinals
POREC, Croatia (AP)—The United States was ousted from the Davis Cup, and left to wonder how it might have gone had Andy Roddick been around to pelt opponents with his laser serve.
James Blake was unable to keep the Americans alive in the quarterfinals Sunday, losing to Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in the opening match of reverse singles.
Cilic’s victory on indoor clay put Croatia ahead 3-1 in the best-of-five format, sending the country to its first semifinal since winning the Davis Cup in 2005. The final score was 3-2 after American doubles specialist Bob Bryan beat Roko Karanusic 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the concluding match.
Roddick was unavailable because of a hip injury after losing a five-set final to Roger Federer at Wimbledon. That left Blake as the Americans’ No. 1 singles player.
“It shows how important Andy is for the team,” Blake said. “Being on the No. 2 spot is less pressure than playing on the No. 1 spot.”
U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe acknowledged that without Roddick the Americans faced a “better team.”
“Cilic had a great match. I’m very impressed by his maturity,” McEnroe said. “His serve was definitely better than Blake’s today.”
The Americans, the 32-time champions, have lost all three meetings against Croatia in the Davis Cup, including defeats in 2003 and 2005. The U.S. won the competition two years ago and was bidding to reach the semifinals for the fourth straight year.
“I played well, trying to attack, but I missed too many opportunities,” Blake said. “That’s what happens when you play someone like Cilic.”
Croatia will play the Czech Republic at home in September. The Czechs beat Argentina 3-2 on Sunday.
“We have a great chance against the Czechs at home,” Cilic said. “It’s much better than playing Argentina away.”
Added McEnroe: “Croatia has a great chance in the semifinals, and if they get (Mario) Ancic and (Ivan) Ljubicic, they will be even a better team.”
Ancic missed the quarterfinals because of an illness, and Ljubicic had tentatively announced his retirement from the Croatian team.
In other quarterfinals, Spain advanced 3-2 at home against Germany and will meet Israel in the semifinals. Israel clinched its series against Russia on Saturday and completed a 4-1 victory Sunday.
Croatia took a 2-0 lead after Ivo Karlovic rallied past Blake and Cilic outlasted Mardy Fish in five sets in Friday’s opening singles. Twins Bob and Mike Bryan beat Croatia’s Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko in Saturday’s doubles.
Cilic started tentatively and had to save two break points in his first service game, but then broke Blake twice in the opening set. In the second set, Blake made repeated unforced errors on his backhand and double-faulted on Cilic’s set point.
Cilic then wasted five break points at 4-3 in the third and Blake broke for a 5-4 lead. But Cilic broke in the second game of the fourth and held on to win with a crosscourt forehand, prompting standing ovations from the boisterous crowd.
“I think I played a perfect match against Blake,” the 20-year-old Cilic said. “This is one of the most important victories in my career.”