Croatia will face off against France in the Davis Cup World Group semifinal tie in Kresimir Cosic Hall, Zadar, Croatia. The two countries have only met once before back in 2004 where France came away as a 4-1 winner over the weekend. The Croatian team have had a rough ride to get to this stage while the French team have come through a little more comfortably.
Croatia's route to the semifinal
Croatia has been made to work for their tie's more than the French team have. They endured two 3-2 victories. In the first round, they defeated last year's finalist Belgium whilst coming through the US in the quarterfinals.
In the first round, Croatia faced Belgium, a team who finished as runners-up in last year's competition to Great Britain. After the first day of action, the teams were level at 1-1 thanks to victories from Marin Cilic and David Goffin. The crucial rubber tie was won by the most experienced pair in Ivan Dodig and Marin Draganja before David Goffin got his and Belgium's second victory of the weekend to send the tie into a deciding rubber. Borna Coric kept his nerve and put the Croatian's into the next round with a comfortable straight sets victory over Ruben Bemelmans.
The quarterfinal tie was against the USA who in recent have failed to live up to expectations. Again, the Croatian team were away and had to put in an impressive performance if they were to get through to the semifinals for the first time in seven years. After the first day of action, the Croatian team found themselves 2-0 down to the USA after Jack Sock defeated Borna Coric in five and John Isner beat Borna Coric in straights. The Bryans who had been a downfall for a couple years then lost to Dodig and Draganja which prompted a comeback. The final day proved to be crucial as Croatian completed the comeback with Cilic and Coric winning their matches against Isner and Sock.
France's route to the semifinals
The France team who disappointed against eventual champions Great Britain in 2015 at the quarterfinal stage, parted with their team captain at the time Arnaud Clement and appointed Yannick Noah who brightened team spirits.
The first round saw France face a weakened Canada team in the first round on clay in Guadeloupe. The Canadians were missing Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor while the French team had their full team in abundance. After day one, the French team were, to no one's surprise was 2-0 up on Canada. Victories from Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon in straight sets put the home team in the ascendancy. Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who had only lost one doubles match in the Davis Cup made light work of their opponents coming through in straights and sealing France's place in the quarterfinals.
The mouth-watering tie saw the Czech Republic welcome France to the Werk Arena in Trinec where they did battle on the indoor hard court. The first rubber saw an upset as Lukas Rosol defeated Tsonga in five sets before Lucas Pouille eased past Jiri Vesely in straight sets to finish day one 1-1. The world number one doubles team Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut was made to work for their victory as Rosol and Radek Stepanek lost in five sets. Having lost the opening rubber tie, Tsonga then made amends and sealed France's place in the semifinals with a four-set win over Jiri Vesely.
Despite being without two of their strongest players Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France has an abundance of depth flowing throughout their nation. Yannick Noah has called on Richard Gasquet who missed the quarterfinal tie with an injury, Lucas Pouille who gained his first call-up against the Czech Republic and the in form doubles duo of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. All of France's players are ranked inside the world's top 100 with three of them being ranked inside the top 50.
The French team have been consistent during the Davis Cup. In the past 10 years, they have made six quarterfinals, one semifinal, two finals and in 2009 they needed a World Group play-off match against Netherlands to which they came away as 4-1 winners.
Although France will not be sending their number one and two players, their number three and four (Gasquet and Pouille) ranked inside the world's top 20 will spearhead the team while experienced doubles pair (Herbert and Mahut) will play the crucial doubles tie on Saturday.
The Croatian team have a full team to call on against France. Their number one player and world number 11 Marin Cilic will be joined by next gen star Borna Coric who is ranked at number 42. Ivan Dodig and Marin Draganja have also been called up to play the doubles tie against the very experienced world number one team. Ivan Dodig is currently ranked at number eight while Marin Dranganja is ranked at 132 but has been as high as number 20 in the world of doubles.
The last time the Croatian team made the semifinals was back in 2005 when an unseeded team lifted the trophy. Since then they have struggled to live up to expectations. They have made three quarterfinals and a semifinal while also having to go through the play-off route three times.
Marin Cilic and Borna Coric Croatia's number one and two ranked players will do battle in the singles with the more experienced Dodig and Draganja going up against Herbert and Mahut on Saturday in the doubles match. Although they will have the home crowd on their side, the Croatian's are the underdogs coming into this tie.
Prediction: France 3-2 Croatia