Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Oscar Gonzalez / NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic beat Marin Cilic for the 18th time on Friday to keep Serbia alive in their Davis Cup semi-final clash with Croatia.
The world number one, undefeated in singles in the tournament since 2011, triumphed 6-4, 6-2 to bring Serbia back to tied 1-1.
It was the 19th consecutive Davis Cup victory for the 20-time Grand Slam winner.
Previously, 279th-ranked Borna Gojo took a surprise victory over world number 33 Dusan Lajovic, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to put Croatia ahead.
The semi-final will be decided when Djokovic and Nikola Cacic face world number one duo Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in doubles.
Mektic and Pavic are the Wimbledon and Olympic champions.
Cilic, a former world number three now at 30, dug eight break points on Djokovic’s serve but couldn’t convert a single one.
Gojo has played well above his world rankings in the tournament so far and has shown real courage against Lajovic to come back from a set, especially after letting a 4-2, 40-0 lead slip away in the first set, losing 17 of the next. 18 points.
He also beat Italian Lorenzo Sonego (27th ranked) in the quarter-finals and Australian Alexei Popyrin (67th) in the group stage.
“In the first set I had a 4-2 40-0 lead, I was in control, I slipped in that game. I laughed at myself a bit, but then the captain, the teams and the fans have taken me back, ”Gojo said.
“Obviously Davis Cup is a special competition where the pressure is more on everyone and I managed to play some of my best tennis here in this tournament.
“I’m very happy to have managed to get these big wins, in terms of the standings, but for me it is more important that I managed to score the point for the team.”
Serbia have beaten their Balkan neighbors in their previous two Davis Cup matches.
The first came in Split in 2010, when Serbia won 4-1 in the quarter-finals on their way to winning the competition.
They also defeated 5-0 in 2015.
Serbia, who climbed into the bottom eight as one of the top two finalists, are aiming for a third Davis Cup final and Croatia, two-time group winners, fourth.
The winners will face either Russia or Germany, who will play on Saturday, in Sunday’s final.