The Supporting Cast
Much of the intrigue for this final lies in the player selections Orsanic & Krajan will have to make come Friday. Both have tough decisions ahead of them, but they will tell you that is only a good thing. The importance of selection cannot be overstated and can make/break a tie. We imagine Guy Forget still has sleepless nights for his selection of Llodra rather than Simon to face Troicki in the 2010 final. Viktor had not managed to take a set in 4 outings against Gilles – yet he went on to trounce Llodra and in doing so clinch the title.
Delbonis, Pella & Mayer have all contributed crucial points this campaign, which can only be a good thing for unity and confidence. On a 9 match DC singles winning streak, we expect Mayer to figure prominently, and after a career blighted by injuries he could certainly do with a boost. Orsanic could well save him for days 2 & 3, partnering Del Potro in the doubles and then fresh enough to step up if needed for the 5th. If this is the case, a choice between Delbonis or Pella for day 1 will probably be based on how they’re feeling after some time on the Arena Zagreb court in practice this week.
Croatia’s eventual line-up is likely dependent on Ćorić’s fitness. After being forced to take knee surgery as recently as September, Borna was a big doubt. A Croatian social media campaign backed up by a call from Krajan pleaded for Karlović to return from the DC wilderness to help out; the big man duly obliged. However, Ćorić’s quicker than expected recovery makes Ivo’s selection no longer a certainty, despite an incredible season. Whether it’s due to a disconnect from the homeland, his disputes with the Tennis Federation, or his body not being designed for 5 sets; Karlović has a an underwhelming DC record. Contrastingly, young Ćorić looks made for the competition, and already has some impressive wins under his belt. Big victories on the tour over Nadal (twice) & Murray shows he enjoys, and can handle the spotlight.
A critical factor in selection (and results) will of course be the court speed. This is not the sluggish old Dom Sportova, the final will be played on a temporary court in the 12,000+ capacity Arena Zagreb, so the speed is currently a mystery. Once Ivo committed, you’d expect Krajan to have requested ice, so shrewd eyes (especially in the gambling world) will be on how those first few serves travel on Friday afternoon.
We feel this is a much closer tie than the 1.57 Croatia are currently priced suggests, and just to run the risk of looking stupid we’ll go with:
Ćorić the surprise inclusion but still 1-1 after day 1, Croatia to pip the doubles, Del Potro to edge Čilić, then Ivo to step up and complete his career fairy-tale ending. 3-2 Croatia. Far-fetched, sure – but who doesn’t want to see a fairy-tale? Well 41.5 million Argentines perhaps. But hey, screw them, they’re used to losing!
****Karlović then proceeds to retire and is so inspired by triumph he releases his much anticipated follow up record to 2008’s seminal piece ‘Bas Sve’****