Croatia, France take 2-0 leads in Davis Cup semifinals

ZADAR, Croatia -- Borna Coric pulled off a through-the-legs lob shot winner that drew bows from the crowd in the Davis Cup semifinals on Friday.

Early in the third set of a 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over Steve Johnson, Coric ran down a lob and replied with a shot known as a "tweener" that flew over the head of his 6-foot-2 opponent and landed within inches of the baseline.

Later, sixth-ranked Marin Cilic gave Croatia a 2-0 lead over the United States with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Davis Cup debutant Frances Tiafoe.

In the other semifinal, defending champion France holds a 2-0 lead over Spain.

The 21-year-old Coric, considered one of the top up-and-coming players in the game, said he had never before even come close to landing such a difficult shot.

"I normally go somehow around my back," he said. "But I just felt that I can do it. It was not such an important point, so I just did it. Honestly, I never do it in practice as well, so I don't know how it was that good, to be honest. It was really luck.

"I did mean it [to be a lob], but I thought I'm going to miss by a lot," Coric added. "But I made it."

U.S. captain Jim Courier, a four-time Grand Slam winner as a player, was impressed.

"It was special. That was a great shot. That one will be on a highlight reel for a while," Courier said. "Of course he lost the next point, and it counted the same, so I always remind myself that though they look good, they only count the same as the next point coming."

Moments earlier, the 18th-ranked Coric had landed a delicate forehand drop-shot winner to close out a close second-set tiebreak.

"He came up with some good stuff today," Johnson said.

With his 37th Davis Cup victory, Cilic moved atop Croatia's all-time list, one ahead of Ivan Ljubicic.

Cilic breezed through the first set in 26 minutes, but Tiafoe pushed the 2014 U.S. Open winner over the second half of the match.

Carlos Ramos, the chair umpire who penalized Serena Williams in the US Open final, officiated the second match without incident.

In Saturday's doubles, Croatia's Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic will face Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison with a chance to clinch the best-of-five series. The reverse singles are on Sunday.

The winner of the best-of-five series on an outdoor clay court along the Dalmatian coast will meet either France or Spain in the final.

In that semifinal, Benoit Paire overcame nerves to win his Davis Cup debut and Lucas Pouille won a five-set battle to give France a 2-0 edge against Spain.

Paire beat Pablo Carreno Busta 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 on the indoor hard court at Stade Pierre Mauroy before France's No. 1 player Pouille defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

"It's well deserved," France captain Yannick Noah said. "Benoit wore out Carreno Busta then we saw a crazy match, with a lot of unexpected developments, Lucas was fantastic."

Spain is without top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who was ruled out because of the right knee injury that forced him to retire from his US Open semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro last week.

In the doubles on Saturday, Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut are set to face Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.