Croatia and Argentina meet at the ATP Cup on Wednesday, with both sides still in contention to top Group E.
There are quite a few qualifying permutations that can play out on Wednesday, but the simplest of the lot is that Croatia will win the group with any kind of victory over Argentina.
Argentina will definitely win the group if they defeat Croatia and Poland beats Austria in Wednesday’s other Group E match. Every other scenario requires some more complex calculations. The good news for both countries is that the Poland-Austria tie would have been concluded before the start of this tie, so the teams will know exactly what is required.
Croatia have been very good in the 2020 ATP Cup, winning both of their matches and five of their six rubbers. They took down Austria 3-0 in their tournament opener, before beating Poland 2-1 in their second match.
Argentina scored a 2-1 victory over Poland in their opening match, but they fell 3-0 to Austria in their second match, leaving their qualification hopes right in the balance. Will Croatia stay perfect and win the group or can Argentina inflict a first defeat on the Europeans?
CROATIA: 1. Borna Coric 2. Marin Cilic 3. Viktor Galovic 4. Ivan Dodig 5. Nikola Mektic. Captain: Luka Kutanjac.
ARGENTINA: 1. Diego Schwartzman 2. Guido Pella 3. Juan Ignacio Londero 4. Maximo Gonzalez 5. Andres Molteni. Captain: Gaston Gaudio.
Rubber 1: Marin Cilic (CRO) vs Guido Pella (ARG), live from Sydney from 5:30pm local time/ 6:30am GMT
Former US Open champion, Marin Cilic will seek his third straight win at the 2020 ATP Cup when he faces Argentine Guido Pella on Wednesday.
While Cilic has won both of his matches in Sydney, it has not exactly been plain sailing for the Croatian, who had to fightback from a set down to beat world No. 105, Dennis Novak 6-7 6-4 6-4 in his first match, before holding off little known Pole, Kacper Zuk in his second singles match on Monday.
The 448th-ranked Zuk held set point at 6-5 in the opening set tie break, but Cilic survived that scare before taking the 18-point breaker. The former world No. 3 broke in the first game of the second set, and maintained that lead for the rest of the match to dig out a two-hour 7-6 6-4 victory.
It still feels a little bit odd to refer to Marin Cilic as Croatian No. 2, but that is exactly where he is currently at following a difficult 2019. The 31-year-old struggled with a knee problem at the start of the year, and never truly got back his best form throughout 2019. He made just one semi-final, and it came very late in the year at the ATP 250 meet in Stockholm.
Cilic still isn’t operating at his very best, and he will be tested again on Wednesday when he faces Argentina’s Pella.
Pella defeated Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak 6-2 2-6 6-2 in his opening group match, setting Poland on their way to a 2-1 victory, and he looked set for another win when he ran through the opening set against Dennis Novak, but Novak recovered admirably to pull off a 0-6 6-4 6-4 victory. Argentina would go on to lose the tie 3-0.
Pella put together a fine 2019, compiling a career-best 34-24 win-loss record. The Argentine won his first career title in Sao Paolo, reached a final in Cordoba, and advanced to his maiden Grand Slam quarter final at Wimbledon, where he scored eye-catching wins over the big-serving duo of Kevin Anderson and Milos Raonic. The Argentine broke into the top-20 for the first time, and ended the season at No. 25- his previous best finish was 58th in 2018.
Pella has won his last two matches against Cilic, and leads the head-to-head 2-1. He pulled off a memorable five-set victory at Wimbledon in 2018, battling back from two sets down to stun the Croatian. Their most recent encounter was in Monte Carlo last year; Pella winning 6-3 5-7 6-1.
I think this one is right in the balance. Cilic at his best will probably be too powerful for Pella on this surface, but the Croatian isn’t quite at that level at the moment, and Pella is very capable of taking down the former US Open champion.
Borna Coric (CRO) vs Diego Schwartzman (ARG), live from Sydney from 7:00pm local time/ 8:00am GMT
This really is a fantastic ATP Cup tie, featuring two singles matches that can absolutely go either way! Following Cilic vs Pella is Diego Schwartzman vs Borna Coric, as two of the most tenacious players on the tour go head-to-head.
Coric is looking to bounce back from the heavy defeat he suffered against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz a couple of days ago, while Schwartzman is aiming for his first win of the competition, and by extension, first win of the season.
Coric had played so well in his three-set victory over Thiem in his tournament opener, but he was blown off the court by Hurkacz, who wrapped up the 6-2 6-2 victory in just 72 minutes.
The 23-year-old was ranked 12th at the start of last season, but he could not match his achievements from the previous year in 2019. Coric actually did OK for most parts of the year, maintaining a top 15 ranking up until October, but he fell away badly at the end of the year, losing his last five matches, and finishing at No. 28 in the year-end rankings. He also had a few injury issues, like the abdominal problem that forced him to miss Wimbledon, and the back injury that necessitated his withdrawal from the US Open.
He made a terrific start to the new year, taking down world No. 4, Dominic Thiem, but he would have been extremely disappointed with the lopsidedness of the loss to Hurkacz. Can he make up for that with victory over Diego Schwartzman?
One thing is for sure, if he is going to beat Schwartzman, he will have to work extremely hard for the win, with the Argentine keen to register his first win of the new season.
The Argentine has lost both of his ATP Cup matches, falling 4-6 6-2 6-3 to Hubert Hurkacz, and 6-3 7-6 to Dominic Thiem in his second singles match.
Schwartzman may not have won a match this year (and the sample space is very small to be honest), but he did plenty of winning in 2019. He was a titlist in Los Cabos and finalist in Buenos Aires and Vienna. He also made semi-finals in Sydney and Rome, as well as the quarter finals at the US Open.
The 27-year-old ended the season in 14th- the second straight year he would finish inside the top 20. It is surely a matter of time before he gets off the mark in 2020 and hits his stride.
Schwartzman trails Coric 1-2 in their head-to-head, but he did win their most recent meeting at Roland Garros last year. Just like the first match, this one is really difficult to call. Expect many long points between two of the most dogged players on the tour. I’d say Schwartzman, being the more natural aggressor, had the edge. I find it surprising that all of their previous matches ended in straight sets; this might just be the one that extends into a final set.
Rubber 3: Ivan Dodig/ Nikola Metkic (CRO) vs Maxime Gonzalez/ Andres Molteni (ARG), to follow singles matches
Croatia have the doubles expertise and experience of Ivan Dodig in their ranks, and they may need all of it with this tie being so unpredictable and possibly going down to the deciding rubber. Dodig and Metkic have delivered so far, winning both of their matches in Sydney.
Argentina have stuck with Maxime Gonzalez and Andres Molteni in their two previous matches, and will likely retain the pair for their final group match.