Super Cilic ready to steer Croatia to a second cup victory
Spain should be solid on clay and could be best of big guns
Starts 2am Friday
Marin Cilic missed out on Croatia's only Davis Cup triumph – he first played in the competition a year after his country's 2005 victory – and the Australian Open finalist could be worth a bet along with Borna Coric to bring further cup joy to their nation this year.
Croatia have been drawn in the easier-looking bottom half of the draw, avoiding respected challengers Spain and Australia who are in the top section along with holders France.
Lleyton Hewitt's Aussies could be a real force with Nick Kyrgios ably assisted by Jordan Thompson and, possibly in the months to come, Thanasi Kokkinakis.
But while Kyrgios seems to be maturing a little this season, the Green and Gold often have something to prove in this competition and this year is no different.
Croatia have nothing to prove. We know how good Cilic is – the fact that he took Roger Federer to a fifth set in the first grand slam of the year suggests he's bang on top of his game – and Coric is one of the best young players on the ATP Tour.
Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic were the Croatian heroes 13 years ago – this time it could be Cilic and Coric.
Croatia found only Argentina too good in the final two years ago, but there was no shame in Cilic spurning a two-set lead against Juan Martin del Potro in the crucial rubber.
Times have changed, though, and where Del Potro now struggles to win even ATP 250 Series titles, Cilic has eliminated a decent percentage of the unforced errors that used to litter his game and he looks a much more proactive performer than the Tower of Tandil.
There is no Argentina to worry about this time too, the South American giants having been relegated from the World Group after losing to Kazakhstan in the playoffs in September.
Switzerland are unlikely to win in Kazakhstan this week, so Federer probably won't be called on by his country later on this year. Serbia would appear to have plenty to do at home to USA in round one, so Novak Djokovic may not be needed in due course. And even though Kyle Edmund is no mug on clay, Great Britain are not expected to surprise Spain in Marbella, so Andy Murray is also unlikely to strut his stuff in the cup in 2018.
Of the big-name players, Nadal could enter the fray later in the season – Spain look pretty strong favourites for their opening home match on the slow red terrain – and it’s no surprise to see the Iberians second favourites to France.
Croatia are preferred, though. They may have to work hard to dismiss a Canada team featuring Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil, who has started the year well, but it will be disappointing if they cannot come through that opening test.
Croatia to win Davis Cup
2pts 11-2 Coral
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