Argentina have won their first Davis Cup title, with Federico Delbonis sweeping past Ivo Karlovic in straight sets to complete a stirring 3-2 comeback win over hosts Croatia.
Delbonis dropped to the ground after his 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory as his teammates fell into each other’s arms and celebrated in front of thousands of Argentine fans in the packed Arena Zagreb.
Players danced around the huge Davis Cup trophy and fans, including soccer great Diego Maradona, chanted and waved Argentinian flags.
It represented Argentina’s first Davis Cup title in their fifth final, Croatia unable to add to their 2005 triumph.
Going into Sunday’s reverse singles, the Croats were leading 2-1 in the best-of-five-series after winning Saturday’s doubles encounter.
Juan Martin Del Potro then rallied from two sets down to beat Marin Cilic 6-7 (4-7) 2-6 7-5 6-4 6-3 as Argentina drew level at 2-2.
“Delpo showed his huge heart after turning around the match that looked lost,” said Argentina team captain Daniel Orsanic.
“Federico played a perfect match under huge pressure. I’m really proud to be part of this fantastic team.”
With the victory, Argentina became only the third team to come back from 2-1 down in the final since the World Group Davis Cup format was introduced in 1981.
Delbonis went up a break in the first two sets and added two more in the third when Karlovic sent a forehand wide for the victory.
The 41st-ranked Argentine passed the big-serving Croat veteran at ease throughout the match.
“This is fabulous,” Delbonis said. “We somewhat felt we could do it despite trailing after the doubles.”
Karlovic, who returned to the Croatian team after a four-year absence, said he was “hugely disappointed.”
“Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow, but tonight it is awful,” he said.
The comeback started with Del Potro’s heroics that included a finger injury in the fifth set against Cilic when he attempted to catch a ball.
“I was calm, I hoped all the time that I could win and I did it,” said Del Potro, displaying a bandage on his little finger on his non-racket left hand.
The match at Arena Zagreb that lasted nearly five hours saw plenty of drama created by two players with similar styles.
“It is very difficult to lose such an important match,” Cilic said. “I feel a lot of disappointment.”
Cilic had a furious start to race to a 3-0 lead including a break in Del Potro’s first service game. The Croat capitalised on the first of three break points with a cracking forehand winner.
Del Potro fought back in the seventh game when he broke at the sixth attempt, Cilic racing to a 5-0 lead in the tie-breaker.
Del Potro started the second set slowly and dropped his serve in the fifth game with a double fault and another in the seventh at love.
But Del Potro recovered, showing the kind of form he displayed in beating Andy Murray as Argentina knocked out holders Britain in the semi-finals to set up a deciding rubber.