Sunday's opening singles rubber at Arena Zagreb proved a true classic, as Del Potro fought back from two sets down to get the better of Croatia's Cilic in a match spanning nearly five hours.
Croatia started in the final day with 2-1 lead, but Marin Cilic failed to beat Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in a match that lasted four hours 53 minutes, losing the chance to secure the title. This was the first comeback from 2 sets to love down for the Argentine (he forced the 5th set in those situations only once before) and it may prove to be the crucial match of the entire tie, as the victor will be determined between Ivo Karlovic and Federico Delbonis.
Ivo Karlovic, 37, is scheduled to play 41st-ranked Delbonis with the title on the line as Croatia look to emulate their 2005 triumph while Argentina bid for a maiden crown at the fifth attempt.
"This was an emotionally exhausting match and one of the biggest wins of my career". In the fifth set Del Potro broke in the eighth game after the players traded early breaks, holding serve afterwards to end it.
Del Potro fought back in the 7th game with Cilic under pressure at deuce. "Juan Martin won an incredible match and Federico played the match of his life". Cilic turned aside the first two set points, but a lunging backhand volley victor would give the Argentine the third.
The victory capped a terrific year which has seen the 28-year-old return from four wrist surgeries to win Olympic silver.
"I'm really proud to be part of this fantastic team", said Argentinian team captain, Daniel Orsanic.
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Having clinched the opening set tiebreak, Cilic raced through the second set before Del Potro, who improved his record against the Croatian to 9-2 in all competitions, started his comeback with a passing shot between his legs.
Out of the game for almost two years and forced to undergo three wrist operations, Del Potro's comeback has been the feel-good story for tennis in 2016.
He served out the match, sending the Argentine fans and their bench into jubilant celebrations.
Del Potro committed a costly double fault to gift Cilic the advantage at the start of the deciding set, but the world number 38 hit straight back in the following game to level.
The serving prowess of Karlovic got him out of a hole at 3-3 when, after he had failed to take a break-point opportunity of his own in the previous game, he fired down three aces in succession to recover from 15-40 down.
"Mentally, it's easier for me because we have won today", Cilic said.