Bryan Armen Graham
Tuesday July 14th, 2009

The disjointed, season-long format of the Davis Cup has never lent itself to casual viewership. Last weekend's quarterfinal ties, tucked away in the shadows of the Wimbledon afterglow, set the stage for a pair of semifinals that don't take place until after the U.S. Open.

But the sport's most prestigious team event always seems to produce storylines worth the wait. Here are three impressions from the quarterfinals with an eye toward the semifinals in September.

Cilic delivers for Croatia

With a home victory, Croatia improved its all-time record against the United States to 3-0. Ivo Karlovic set the tone in the opening match, storming back from two sets down against James Blake for his first five-set victory in 12 career attempts. But it was 20-year-old Marin Cilic who truly shone for the hosts, giving Croatia a 2-0 advantage with Friday's win against Mardy Fish and coasting past Blake in Sunday's reverse-singles clincher.

Croatia's good fortune continued Sunday when the Czech Republic eliminated Argentina. Instead of traveling to South America for the semifinals, the Croatians will play host to the Czech team, at which time Mario Ancic (who is sidelined with mononucleosis) and Ivan Ljubicic (who would have to be talked back into playing more Davis Cup) could be available to contribute.

"This was one of the greatest ties I've played so far," Cilic told reporters Sunday. "I think I've gained a lot of experience here, everyone supported me, and it really felt good to play at home. The Czechs are also a great team, but playing at home is a little bit of an advantage, so with our team we can go through to the final."

Israel makes history

Playing in the quarterfinals for the first time in 22 years, Israel came up with the weekend's biggest shocker. Harel Levy, the 210th-ranked player, upset Igor Andreev in four sets in Friday's opener. Dudia Sela extended the underdog's advantage in the second singles match with a four-set victory against Mikhail Youzhny. Former Australian Open doubles champions Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram then defeated Igor Kunitsyn and Marat Safin to secure Israel's first berth in the Davis Cup semis.

Israel advances to meet host Spain, the defending champion. Rafael Nadal could be waiting for the Israelis after missing the quarterfinal victory against Germany with a knee injury.

"What a team ... I think that as a team we are the No. 1 team in the world," Ram said. "We are all friends, we all grew up together since the age of 14, we know each other so well, and the families too. I don't think there has been any other team like it. There is such friendship and its great to experience."

Wasted brilliance

Two players from losing teams produced some of the best performances of the weekend. Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro did not drop a set in victories against Ivo Minar and Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. But del Potro compatriot Juan Monaco couldn't close the deal, losing to Radel Stepanek in the fifth and deciding match.

Another standout effort came from Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, who roared past Spain's Tommy Robredo in straight sets Friday and turned back an inspired Fernando Verdasco comeback attempt from two sets down in Sunday's reverse-singles match. Kohlschreiber edged Verdasco 8-6 in the fifth set.

"Does the Davis Cup ever end? Does it ever start? Does it take place in a vortex? Has anyone ever actually won a Davis Cup?" --Bill Simmons, columnist (as re-tweeted by Amer Delic), July 11, 11:13 a.m.

"Me and the dog watching Davis cup" --Andy Roddick, looking stoic while catching the Davis Cup action with a friend, July 11, 6:29 p.m.

"I'm in NYC shopping at Bergdorff Goodmans for shoes. I have serious shopping issues. A pair okay more than a pair of shoes are calling me." --Serena Williams, confessing her shopaholic tendencies, July 13, 12:41 p.m.

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