How Argentina finally broke its Davis Cup drought

Argentina beat Poland, Italy, defending champ Great Britain and Croatia en route to its first Davis Cup title. Reuters/Marko Djurica

BUENOS AIRES -- Argentine tennis has been dreaming of this year for decades, the year that ended with the Davis Cup finally traveling home.

It was arguably the toughest Cup schedule in years, with all four series played abroad. But one match after the other, Argentina had the team spirit it lacked on other occasions (exactly four) to conquer the most desired trophy in Argentine sports.

Sparked by Juan Martin del Potro's epic five-set comeback win against Marin Cilic on Sunday, Argentina rallied to beat Croatia 3-2 and clinch its first Davis Cup crown. It is only the second time a team has won after playing every series on the road (France also did it in 2001).

Captain Daniel Orsanic was the mastermind behind the success, selecting the best of what was available for each series and making sure the group was ahead of individuals in each of the four victories against Poland, Italy, Great Britain and Croatia.

"Delpo showed his huge heart after turning around the match that looked lost," Orsanic told reporters after Sunday's victory. "Federico played a perfect match under huge pressure. I'm really proud to be part of this fantastic team."

It started in March against Poland. Without Del Potro, who had just returned to training in February after undergoing wrist surgery for the third time, Argentina got gutsy victories from Guido Pella and Leo Mayer to seal a 3-2 win. Carlos Berlocq and Renzo Olivo were also in the lineup.

Delpo made his Davis Cup comeback after a four-year hiatus against Italy, teaming up with Pella for a crucial doubles point. Federico Delbonis was the hero of the series with two singles victories, including an upset of Fabio Fognini on Sunday for a 3-1 quarterfinal win.

In semifinals, Argentina were clearly the underdog in Glasgow against reigning champion Great Britain. But Del Potro rebounded from his gold-medal defeat against Andy Murray in Rio and beat the three-time Grand Slam winner in five sets. And while Great Britain rallied to even the series at two, Mayer remained calm in the deciding match to beat Daniel Evans in four sets and book a ticket to the final.

Zagreb, Croatia, was the final stop, as Argentina was vying to snap the longest drought in its history. Argentina first played in Davis Cup back in 1923. Fresh were the memories of Cincinnati (1981 against the United States), Moscow (2006 against Russia), Mar del Plata (2008 against Spain) and 2011 (Seville, once more against Spain). And, even more important, there was a feeling that some of those opportunities had been squandered because of a lack of teamwork and unity.

Trailing 2-1 heading into Sunday's final day, Del Potro rallied back from two sets down to seal a historic five-set win against Cilic in 4 hours, 53 minutes. Delbonis did not hesitate and closed his match in straight sets against Ivo Karlovic.

With the victory, Argentina became just the third team to come back from 2-1 down in the final since the World Group Davis Cup format was introduced in 1981.