Croatia Eliminates U.S. In Davis Cup Quarterfinals

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POREC, Croatia -- The United States was eliminated by Croatia in the Davis Cup quarterfinals Sunday when Marin Cilic beat James Blake to clinch the victory.

Cilic won 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 on indoor clay to give Croatia its first semifinal berth since winning the competition in 2005. Croatia won 3-2 after American doubles specialist Bob Bryan beat Roko Karanusic 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the final match.

"I think I played a perfect match against Blake," the 20-year-old Cilic said. "This is one of the most important victories in my career."

The Americans, the 32-time champions, have lost all three meetings against Croatia in the Davis Cup, including defeats in 2003 and 2005. The U.S. won the competition two years ago and was bidding to reach the semifinals for the fourth straight year.

The Croats will take on the Czech Republic at home in September. The Czechs beat Argentina 3-2 on Sunday.

"We have a great chance against the Czechs at home," Cilic said. "It's much better than playing Argentina away."

In other quarterfinals, Spain advanced 3-2 at home against Germany and will meet Israel in the semifinals. Israel clinched its series against Russia on Saturday and completed a 4-1 victory Sunday.

The U.S. was without Andy Roddick, who withdrew because of a hip injury after losing a five-set final to Roger Federer at Wimbledon. That left Blake as the Americans' No. 1 singles player.

"It shows how important Andy is for the team," Blake said. "Being on the No. 2 spot is less pressure than playing on the No. 1 spot."

U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe acknowledged that without Roddick the Americans faced a "better team."

"Cilic had a great match. I'm very impressed by his maturity," McEnroe said. "His serve was definitely better than Blake's today."

"Croatia has a great chance in the semifinals, and if they get [Mario] Ancic and [Ivan] Ljubicic, they will be even a better team," he added. Ancic missed the quarterfinals because of an illness, while Ljubicic had tentatively announced his retirement from the Croatian team.

Croatia took a 2-0 lead after Ivo Karlovic rallied past Blake and Cilic outlasted Mardy Fish in five sets in Friday's opening singles. Bob and Mike Bryan beat Croatia's Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko in Saturday's doubles.

Cilic started tentatively and had to save two break points in his first service game, but then broke Blake twice in the opening set. In the second set, Blake made a series of unforced errors on his backhand and double-faulted on Cilic's set point.

Cilic then wasted five break points at 4-3 in the third and Blake broke for a 5-4 lead. But Cilic broke in the second game of the fourth and held on to win with a crosscourt forehand, prompting standing ovations from the boisterous crowd.

"I played well, trying to attack, but I missed too many opportunities," Blake said. "That's what happens when you play someone like Cilic."