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Croatia clinch 3-1 victory over France to win Davis Cup

Pascal Rossignol, REUTERS | Team Croatia celebrate during the trophy ceremony after winning the Davis Cup on November 25, 2018.

Marin Cilic sealed Croatia's victory over defending champion France in the Davis Cup final with a 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-3 win over Lucas Pouille on Sunday.

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Cilic gave Croatia a 3-1 unassailable lead in the best-of-five series on indoor clay in northern France.

Croatia claimed a second title in the team event following its maiden win in 2005.

The Davis Cup final was played for the last time in its traditional format. Beginning next year, the top team event in men's tennis will be decided with a season-ending, 18-team tournament at a neutral site.

After Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert won Saturday's doubles, the hosts trailed 2-1 and needed to win both reverse singles on the final day to become the first team since 1939 to overturn a 2-0 deficit in a final.

But their hopes of comeback were quickly dashed.

The seventh-ranked Cilic struggled with his first serve in the opening set yet did not face a single break point.

Pouille, who replaced Jeremy Chardy after France captain Yannick Noah changed his line-up in a bid to force a decisive fifth match made repeated mistakes on his backhand. He managed to stay in contention on the back of his strong serve and some clever drop shots that surprised Cilic, but his Croat rival raised his level in the tiebreaker. Cilic won four straight points to seal the set, including a thunderous forehand pass that left Pouille stranded.

Pouille's level of play then dropped drastically while Cilic kept up the intensity and broke for a 4-2 lead in the second set. Pouille managed to save four set points in the eight game with a series of good serves before Cilic held his next service game to seal the set with a crosscourt forehand.

Despite the support of the vociferous French fans at the Pierre Mauroy stadium, Pouille appeared powerless in the third set and dropped his serve again in the fifth game after yet another backhand error that sealed his fate. The Frenchman saved two match points at 5-3 but was forced to watch when Cilic unleashed a superb lob that secured another break and the title.

(AP)

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