ZADAR, Croatia — Borna Coric pulled off a through-the-legs lob shot winner that had the crowd bowing in admiration during 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 (1.88-meter) 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.
Carlos Ramos, the chair umpire who penalized Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final, officiated the second match without incident.
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.
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.
"In the third set he showed that he's capable of playing great tennis. He was serving really good and also hitting well from the back," Cilic said. "I was definitely a little bit lucky toward the end of that tiebreak to win it."
With his 37th Davis Cup victory, Cilic moved atop Croatia's all-time list, one ahead of Ivan Ljubicic.
"In these later stages of my career I enjoy it so much to play Davis Cup," Cilic said.
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 on an outdoor clay court along the Dalmatian coast will meet either France or Spain in the final.
Croatia is looking to extend its perfect record over the U.S. to 5-0.
"They're good at tennis," Courier said. "They've been good at tennis for quite a long while and they certainly know how to come together as a team and when you have the depth that they have you're tough to beat."