BY ANDREW DAMPF
ZADAR, Croatia (AP) — Substitute Sam Querrey rallied from a deep hole to keep the United States alive in the Davis Cup semifinals.
The American, who was playing in place of Steve Johnson, beat sixth-ranked Marin Cilic 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-4 Sunday to even the best-of-five series at 2-2.
Croatia’s Borna Coric was to face Davis Cup rookie Frances Tiafoe in the decisive fifth rubber.
The winner will face France in the Nov. 23-25 final
After winning the opening set, Cilic wasted a 6-1 lead in the second-set tiebreak then completely fell apart with a series of errors under pressure from the big-serving Querrey.
“I just hung in there,” said Querrey, who jumped into the arms of U.S. captain Jim Courier to celebrate. “After being 6-1 down in the tiebreak, I just played aggressively and from then on the pressure just builds.”
Chair umpire Carlos Ramos issued a code violation to Croatia after Cilic slammed his racket to the clay and mangled the frame late in the third set.
Since it was the first violation of the match, it was only a warning. No points were deducted and Cilic did not exchange any words with Ramos.
Ramos was also the umpire who gave Serena Williams three code violations in her straight-set loss to Naomi Osaka during last weekend’s U.S. Open final. The American great argued she wasn’t being treated the same as some male players.
It was a memorable win for Querrey, who had never beaten Cilic in six previous meetings and whose ranking has fallen from 11th to No. 61 this year.
Querrey’s previous match was a first-round loss to Andreas Seppi at the U.S. Open in which he retired in the fourth set due to cramps.
“It’s one of the best matches of my career. That’s for sure,” Querrey said. “Considering my year, it’s been tough lately so this is a huge boost.”
In a matchup featuring two players standing 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), Querrey was the more efficient server. While both struck 16 aces, Querrey led in every other category and averaged 132 mph (213 kph) on his first serves to Cilic’s 126 mph (204 kph).
A 32-time champion, the U.S. is aiming to reach its first final since winning the title in 2007. Croatia, which won its only title in 2005, is looking to reach its second final in three years.
Croatia has won all four previous meetings.
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