Second time lucky? Sports-mad Croatia leader Grabar-Kitarovic watches Davis Cup showdown v France
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović stole hearts at the World Cup this summer and the sports-mad leader is again backing her nation in a top showdown with France - this time in tennis' Davis Cup Final.
Croatia and France are capping a remarkable sporting year by battling it out at the pinnacle of men's team tennis just months after meeting in football’s World Cup final in Moscow, when Les Bleus prevailed 4-2.
This time, the pair are meeting in the best-of-five Davis Cup final, starting on Friday in Lille, France.
With Grabar-Kitarović watching on - just as she was during the World Cup final - the Croatians started promisingly in their bid for revenge as Borna Coric defeated Jeremy Chardy in straight sets on the indoor clay at Pierre Mauroy Stadium.
The Croatians will line up with Coric as well as 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic, Franko Skugor, Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig.
The French team includes stalwart Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Lucas Pouille, and doubles specialists Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Croatia beat the US in September to reach this stage, while France saw off Spain.
Ahead of the meeting, France’s World Cup heroes – who defeated Luka Modric and Co. in Moscow this summer – sent a message of support to their tennis counterparts.
A quelques jours de la finale de la @daviscup, l'@equipedeFrance de foot apporte son soutien au #TeamFranceTennis ! @KMbappe, @AntoGriezmann, @FlorianThauvin, @_OlivierGiroud_ ou encore @stevemandada se souviennent de leur France-Croatie... 🇫🇷🇭🇷 #TousEnBleupic.twitter.com/fArvkJHzuW— FFT (@FFTennis) November 19, 2018
Croatia, however, can count on the support of sports-mad leader Grabar-Kitarović, and the effervescent leader was seen decked out in the red-and-white of the team's flag courtside on Friday.
France are seeking to become champions for an 11th time – some way behind the USA’s record haul of 32 titles. Croatia are aiming to add to their solitary triumph in 2005.
Some reports have labelled the France-Croatia showdown as the “end of an era” for a competition that began life in 1900.
From next year, the Davis Cup will ditch its traditional two-team final format for an 18-team phase in November.
Davis Cup Finals November 2019 MadridNations: 18 (6 round-robin groups of 3 teamsLength: 7 daysRanking points: NoPrize money: $20 millionATP Cup January 2020 AustraliaNations; 24 (6 round-robin groups of 4 teamsLength: 10 daysRanking points: YesPrize money: $15 million— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) November 15, 2018
That will be followed shortly afterwards by a new ATP team event planned for January 2020 in Australia, which will include 24 teams in a 10-day event.
With the already crowded season, concerns have been voiced that organizers are trying to squeeze too much out of players in their pursuit for revenues.
But for now, Croatia and France will be intent on battling it out again on one of sport’s biggest stages - while Grabar-Kitarović will be hoping it will be a case of second time lucky.