ZADAR, Croatia: Understudy Sam Querrey came from the verge of two sets down to pull off a remarkable four-set victory over Croatia's talisman Marin Cilic and draw the United States level at 2-2 in their Davis Cup World Group semi-final in Zadar on Sunday.
Querrey, drafted in by US captain Jim Courier as a replacement for his number one Steve Johnson, was one set down and saved five straight set points in the second before rallying to earn a shock 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-4 win.
"It's one of the best matches of my career, that's for sure," Querrey told reporters. "Considering my year, it's been tough lately so this is a huge boost."
It left the tie resting on the outcome of Borna Coric's match with US debutant Frances Tiafoe in the fifth rubber, with the winner guaranteed to take his country into November's final against France, who beat Spain in the other semi.
The US had been 2-0 down after Friday's opening singles, but clung on to the hope of reaching their first final in 11 years when 40-year-old Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison had to fight courageously to win a five-set doubles on Saturday.
Courier was rewarded for a bold, if slightly desperate-looking move when he gambled on throwing Querrey into the must-win fourth rubber even though the 30-year-old had never previously beaten Cilic in six attempts.
Cilic had also become the most successful Croatian Davis Cup player in history on Friday when winning his 37th rubber against Tiafoe but the world number six was found wanting when, after winning the opening set on a tiebreak, he stood on the verge of a commanding lead.
He took a 6-1 lead in the second set tiebreak in superb fashion only to crumble under Querrey's onslaught with the American world number 61 winning seven straight points.
"I just hung in there. After being 6-1 down in the tiebreak, I just played aggressively and from then on the pressure just builds," said Querrey.
Cilic's early dominance on the outdoor clay, cheered by an enthusiastic crowd in the Dalmatian resort, then evaporated as Querrey took the next two sets to win in three hours and eight minutes.