Croatia Favored for Friday Lead in Davis Cup Final

Posted on December 2, 2005

Not unlike his almost-one-man upset of the U.S. in the opening round of the 2005 Davis Cup, Croat Ivan Ljubicic will play the pivotal part Friday when he leads off in the Davis Cup final versus Slovak Karol Beck.

Beck, reportedly struggling with various injuries, was somewhat of a surprise call as he has practiced sparingly this week. In the second singles Friday, Croat Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic will take on Slovak No. 1 Dominik "The Dominator" Hrbaty.

Scheduled for the Saturday doubles are two undefeated Davis Cup teams for 2005 in Ancic/Ljubicic vs. Beck/Michael Mertinak.

Left out of the equation is popular Croat Goran Ivanisevic, who nonetheless could see action if either Ancic or Ljubicic go five sets on Friday, or either succumb to injury.

Hrbaty says that while the Slovaks are underdogs on their home court, it takes a team effort and Ljubicic cannot do it alone.

"Ljubicic is not Croatia, he is not the team, he is just one person," Hrbaty said. "It's going to be tough, but we play at home, in front of the home crowd. At home we are always something like a dark horse, and we are going to prove it again and beat Croatia."

It is the first Davis Cup final for both countries, and for Ljubicic a chance to go 12-for-12 in singles and doubles matches in the same year, which would tie John McEnroe's record set in 1982.

While Ancic has been spotty in singles play, Ljubicic has been rock solid, beginning his quest against the U.S. with wins over Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi on American soil.

"They were great wins but if we lose in the final it's going to be easy to forget them," said the 28-year-old Ljubicic. "I'm not thinking about (McEnroe's) record. I just want to win the Davis Cup even if Mario wins both singles and I lose both and we win the doubles."

Ivanisevic's dream is to play a part in what will likely be a Croatian victory, though he says he won't participate in a dead-rubber singles match.

"If we win 3-1, there's no point of playing [the dead rubber] because everybody's going to be drunk," says the former Wimbledon champ.