Croatia vs Poland ATP Cup Preview and Tips

andrew hendrie:

Marin Cilic and Borna Coric can help Croatia secure a spot in the knockout stages of the ATP Cup when they take on Poland in Sydney on Monday.

Croatia vs Poland ATP Cup tennis is live from Sydney from 10.00am local time on Monday (11.00pm GMT).

After orchestrating a 3-0 whitewash over Austria in their opening ATP Cup tie on Saturday, Cilic and Coric look to propel Croatia into the quarter-finals against Poland in Sydney on Monday. Both Cilic and Coric had disappointing 2019 campaigns, but they got their country off to a winning start in the ATP Cup – can they repeat those efforts against a Polish side that needs to win to have a chance of advancing to the last eight after losing 2-1 to Argentina in their first contest.

Group E

Previous results

Croatia ?? def. Austria ?? 3-0

Cilic def. Novak 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4

Coric def. Thiem 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3

Dodig/Mektic def. March/Melzer 7-6(4) 6-2

Argentina ?? def. Poland ?? 2-1

Pella def. Majchrzak 6-2 2-6 6-2

Hurkacz def. Schwartzman 6-3 2-6 6-3

Gonzalez/Molteni def. Hurkacz/Kubot 6-2 6-4

Teams

CROATIA ??: 1. Borna Coric 2. Marin Cilic 3. Viktor Galovic 4. Ivan Dodig 5. Nikola Mektic. Captain: Luka Kutanjac.

POLAND ??: 1. Hubert Hurkacz 2. Kamil Majchrzak 3. Kacper Zuk 4. Lukasz Kubot 5. Wojciech Marek. Captain: Marcin Matkowski.

Rubber 1: Marin Cilic (??) vs Kamil Majchrzak (??), live from Sydney at 10.00am local time (11.00pm GMT)

After falling to his lowest ranking (No. 39) since 2013 last season, Cilic desperately needed a winning start to 2020 – and after a battle against World No. 108 Dennis Novak of Austria, he did just that.

Novak came out of the blocks swinging freely and snatched the opening set in a tiebreak, but Cilic didn’t panic and was dominant behind his own delivery, holding every service game as he rallied to a 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4 victory in two hours and 27 minutes, firing 15 aces in the process.

Marin Cilic during his win over Dennis Novak (PA Images)

“[I’m] very excited. It was absolutely very difficult. Dennis played a great level. It was our first meeting, and it was absolutely a thriller and difficult match… and also a great match to start the year,” Cilic said. “I think the level was really, really good.”

Cilic battled a knee injury for the bulk of 2019 and will be hoping to remain injury-free in 2020 as he attempts to vault back up the rankings.

The 2014 U.S. Open champion failed to win a title for the first time in 12 years last season, with Cilic making just one semi-final in Moscow. In saying that, we mustn’t forget just how devastating Cilic can be when he’s at his best – he’s one of the few men to have won titles at 250, 500, Masters 1000 and Grand Slam level, along with winning the Davis Cup for Croatia. Can he claim another confidence-boosting win on Monday?

He can’t afford to underestimate Majchrzak, who is a much better and talented player than his current ranking of No. 101 suggests.

Majchrzak, 23, first made an impact at tour-level at the Australian Open last year when he led Kei Nishikori by two sets in the opening round, but he was forced to retire due to extreme cramping after absolutely dominating the Japanese from the baseline. Majchrzak didn’t win his first ATP match until July in Newport, but he did have a memorable U.S. Open, recording five-set wins over Nicolas Jarry and Pablo Cuevas to make the third round as a lucky loser.

Challenger titles in St. Brieuc and Ostrava helped Majchrzak hit a career-high ranking of No. 83, but a quiet end to 2019 saw him drift back outside the top 100 at No. 101. Majchrzak once again struggled in the hot and humid conditions in his ATP Cup opener on Saturday, falling to a three-set loss to Guido Pella.

This will be the first meeting between the pair, and it should be an entertaining match. Majchrzak is an excellent ball-striker and can certainly match it in the firepower stakes with Cilic, but obviously the Croatian is far more experienced and knows how to grind out results, even if he’s not playing his best. After surviving against Novak, I expect Cilic to do the same on Monday.

Rubber 2: Borna Coric (??) vs Hubert Hurkacz (??), live from Sydney around 11.30am local time (12.30am GMT)

Coric came into Saturday night’s ATP Cup encounter with Austria on a six-match losing streak from the end of 2019, but he started 2020 in perfect fashion, earning a first top 10 win since October 2018.

World No. 4 Dominic Thiem compiled a career-best season in 2019, but he couldn’t find a way past Coric as the Croatian battled his way to a 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3 victory, also snapping a three-match losing run against the two-time French Open runner-up. Thiem piled on the pressure in the deciding set as he created six break points, but Coric remained defiant with his consistent brand of tennis from the baseline, saving all of them to emerge triumphant after two hours and 43 minutes.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B66lccdB3Y8/

“It was great. Really, I was really shocked how many people are there. It’s midnight now,” Coric said. “Here in Sydney, we also have many Croatians here and obviously they were giving me support. I really felt it, and in the end I needed it also because at the end I was really struggling.”

Like his teammate Cilic, Coric experienced a disappointing 2019 campaign, falling to No. 28 in the world and finishing the season with that aforementioned six-match losing streak.

Injuries also played a part in his slide down the rankings however, with Coric pulling out of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open with abdominal and back problems. If he can get his body right, Coric has the tennis to make a push towards the top 10, as he proved in 2018 when he won the 500-level Halle title and finished runner-up at the Shanghai Masters, beating Roger Federer on both occasions. Can he record another ATP win on Monday?

Hubert Hurkacz of Poland celebrates after defeating Diego Schwartzman (PA Images)

He runs into another young gun. Hurkacz has been steadily rising for the last couple of seasons, bursting onto the scene in 2018 as he qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals, but he really took his game to the next level in 2019, winning his maiden ATP title in Winston-Salem, becoming just the second Polish singles champion in the Open Era.

The 22-year-old also made the Indian Wells Masters quarter-finals, defeated No. 4 Thiem to make the third round in Miami and won the Canberra Challenger to end the season at No. 37 in the world – and he got his 2020 season underway with a victory on Saturday, outlasting Diego Schwartzman in three sets. However, Hurkacz couldn’t seal the tie in the doubles with experienced partner Lukasz Kubot as the pair lost in straight sets to Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni, leaving Poland in need of an upset against Croatia to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.

Hurkacz and Coric have played once before, and it was a marathon clash, with the Croatian prevailing in over three hours on the clay of Monte-Carlo last year. Coric loves the grind and we could easily see another long contest in Sydney. Both players are confident after opening wins and I think this one is as 50-50 as they come.

Rubber 3 – Doubles, live around 2.00pm local time (3.00am GMT)

Teams to be confirmed

Croatia will almost certainly stick with the experienced doubles pairing of Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic after they beat Austria’s Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer in straight sets, while Poland are likely to do the same, with former doubles No. 1 Kubot partnering Hurkacz.