Italy beat the United States in a doubles decider Thursday at Malaga, Spain, to advance to the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time in eight years.
Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini defeated Tommy Paul and Jack Sock 6-4, 6-4 to secure a 2-1 win for Italy after the teams split the singles matches.
Bolelli and Fognini broke once in each set to set up a semifinal on Saturday against the winner between Germany and Canada.
Earlier, Lorenzo Sonego used his big serve to defeat Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 7-6 (7) and give the Italians a 1-0 lead. Taylor Fritz pulled the U.S. level after beating Lorenzo Musetti 7-6 (8), 6-3.
The U.S. holds a record 32 Davis Cup trophies, but its last one came in 2007 under the previous format of best-of-five matches played in host countries instead of the revamped event where the final eight teams gather in one spot for a week of tennis. The American team led by captain Mardy Fish team came to Spain with high hopes that it could break that dry spell.
“I have wanted to win this thing for a very long time as a player and captain,” Fish said. “It is not going to happen this year and it stinks. We are going home without the trophy, which is a bummer.”
Italy, whose only Davis Cup title came in 1976, won without its top two players as Jannik Sinner has an injured finger and Matteo Berrettini is recovering from a foot problem.
Sonego, ranked No. 45, struck 17 aces and never ceded a service game to Tiafoe. Sonego clinched the win after Tiafoe netted a forehand following a long rally to end the second-set tiebreaker.
No. 19-ranked Tiafoe, who reached the U.S. Open semifinals in September, won their only previous meeting at the Paris Masters just over three weeks ago.
This time Sonego took the initiative, Tiafoe said.
“A couple of weeks ago I was playing very aggressive, running him around, hitting much harder. Today, he was,” Tiafoe said.
Sonego saved two set points while serving at 6-5 in the second set to force the tiebreaker. He said he drew on the loud Italian fans who showed up to support him in Spain, which is home to more than 250,000 Italians.
“I am really proud of my team and of this unbelievable crowd, it looks like we are in Italy. They support us from the beginning,” said Italy captain Filippo Volandri.
Fritz hit 12 aces and had one break to beat the No. 23-ranked Musetti for a second time after defeating him at Wimbledon in June.
On Wednesday, a Croatia team led by Marin Cilic advanced to the other semifinal after beating a Spain side that was missing Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz.
Croatia will face Australia, which beat the Netherlands on Tuesday.
AUSTRALIAN PGA: Adam Scott shot a 5-under 66 after a 6 a.m. tee time to trail by one stroke after the first round at Brisbane, Australia.
Three other Australians shot 65s in the afternoon groups – Min Woo Lee, Jason Scrivener and John Lyras – to share the first-round lead.
Brad Kennedy, Anthony Quayle and South Korean Jeunghun Wang matched Scott’s 66 and were tied for fourth.
Scott was playing in the same early-morning group as British Open champion Cameron Smith, who was three strokes behind after a 68, and Ryan Fox, a close runner-up to Rory McIlroy on the European tour’s order of merit this season, who had a 72.
EUROPEAN TOUR: Dan Bradbury equaled the course record with an 8-under 63 despite a bogey on his last hole to hold the clubhouse lead in the first round of the Joburg Open, which was suspended overnight because of thunderstorms.
The Englishman started on the back nine and mixed seven birdies and two eagles with a double bogey on the 15th and his lone bogey on No. 9, which denied him the outright course record. He was one shot ahead of Nick Bachem of Germany, with Romain Langasque of France another stroke back.
“It was pretty good to be fair, I can’t really complain with a 63 can I?” Bradbury said. “I got a little bit of momentum going early on the back nine, then the (first) thunderstorm obviously stopped that.”
Play was interrupted by the storms during the afternoon and then halted for the day with close to half the field yet to finish the round.
Clement Berardo of France was at 6 under after just 11 holes, having made four straight birdies when play was stopped.
The Joburg Open is the first tournament of the European tour’s 2023 season, with two more events held in South Africa in December.
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