Cilic leads Croatia to Davis Cup playoff win, Spain out

Sun Sep 14, 2014 6:19pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Marin Cilic completed a dream week by steering Croatia into the Davis Cup World Group on Sunday but Spain found themselves out in the wilderness after crashing to defeat in Brazil.

Less than a week after winning the U.S. Open, Cilic snatched the crucial fifth rubber of Croatia's World Group playoff tie against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, beating Thiemo de Bakker 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2 7-5 to complete a 3-2 victory.

Cilic, rested for the first singles, had won Saturday's doubles with Marin Draganja.

"It was extremely good tennis and I'm extremely happy to be back in the World Group with my team," Cilic said on court. "We have a young team and we're only going to be able to improve."

Almost unthinkably for a nation blessed with so many top 100 players, Spain will not be in next year's World Group after they were relegated following defeat against Brazil on an indoor claycourt in Sao Paulo.

Roberto Bautista Agut's 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2 defeat by Thomaz Bellucci in the first reverse singles after the visitors trailed 2-1 overnight means Spain will be missing from the elite for the first time since 1996.

They have won the title five times since 2000 but this year they have been weakened by the absence of a host of big names including Rafa Nadal and David Ferrer.

Croatia, the 2005 champions, and Brazil will be joined in the World Group by Belgium, Australia and the U.S who all triumphed at the weekend in their playoff ties against Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Slovakia respectively.

Argentina, finalists three times since 2006, came from 2-1 down on Sunday to beat Israel 3-2 and maintain their World Group status in a tie moved to Miami from Tel Aviv some weeks ago due to the fighting in the Middle East.   Continued...

Marin Cilic of Croatia celebrates after defeating Kei Nishikori of Japan in their men's singles final match at the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton