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Croatia wins in 5 for first Davis Cup title

By Associated Press
Published December 5, 2005

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - Croatia won its first Davis Cup title Sunday, with Mario Ancic beating Michal Mertinak of Slovakia 7-6 (7-1), 6-3, 6-4 in the decisive fifth match.

Dominik Hrbaty had pulled Slovakia even at 2-2 by defeating an ailing Ivan Ljubicic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Ancic then downed Mertinak to clinch the best-of-five series between two first-time finalists.

"I felt everything was under my control," Ancic said. "It's an unforgettable match and an unforgettable day. This has been a spectacular year for me."

Croatia's Nikki Pilic became the first captain to win the trophy for different nations. He led Germany to Davis Cup titles in 1988, 1989 and 1993.

"There is no comparison," he said. "Today I won with my people."

Croatia became the 12th champion in the competition's 105-year history. This was Croatia's biggest team success since the country became independent in 1991. The soccer team's third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup was considered Croatia's sports highlight.

"I am not sure people realize how big it is to be at the top of the pyramid," Ancic said.

Goran Ivanisevic, who came out of retirement for the final, added the Davis Cup championship to his 2001 Wimbledon title. He wasn't selected to play singles or doubles but was a member of the four-man squad.

Hrbaty ended Ljubicic's unbeaten run in Davis Cup play this year and beat the Croat for the first time in six meetings. Ljubicic said he woke up with neck pain that required treatment all morning.

"I didn't know if I would play or not," he said. "It was probably the most difficult decision I had to make in my career - to play or not."

INDOOR: Paul Haarhuis won the Champions Masters title in London, beating defending champion Jim Courier 6-3, 7-6 (7-2). Courier saved three break points from 3-2, 40-0 down to push the tiebreaker, but Haarhuis took control and won $100,000.

[Last modified December 5, 2005, 03:00:29]


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