The Davis Cup semi-finals in September will feature Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and France after a vintage Italian performance snatched victory from Great Britain's grasp. Wimbledon.com reports...
You could say it came down to how Fabio Fognini felt on the day. The ebullient Italian can blow as hot or cold as almost anyone on the tour. And so, when, in the midst of his first set against Andy Murray, he got a little riled up by the Stirling university contingent, the pundits and press in attendance sagely thought that Fognini would either focus his fire or let it burn him out.
He picked the former. And that is the sport.
“I played my best tennis. It was really tough. I know Andy and it’s always difficult playing against him,” Fognini said after beating Murray 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to level the tie at 2-2 and put all the burden on James Ward, the British No.2.
“I was really angry after the match and during the night, but this morning I woke up and said ‘OK, let’s go, put your face in the court like always’ and I was right today."
Murray had come into the tie with the lingering effects of a virus, and, after a rain-delayed victory over Andreas Seppi on the opening two days, Murray combined with Colin Fleming to win the all-important doubles rubber, beating Fognini and Simone Bolelli 6-3 6-2 3-6 7-5. Fognini, in particular, was furious.
But the double-shift left Murray dehydrated and understandably weary, and he admitted that he wasn't quite able to bring his best against Fognini.
“He played very well, that’s for sure,” said Murray. “He’s a very good player, especially on this surface. I knew it was going to be a tough one and I wasn’t quite able to play well enough.”
The fifth and final rubber fell to Ward and Andreas Seppi, the Italian ranked 127 places above the Briton prevailing in straight sets despite Ward's best efforts.
I think I was for sure more nervous than a match in a normal tournament,” said Seppi. “Here you are playing for your team, for Italy, not just for yourself, so you have a lot of responsibility.
“It was not easy, especially the beginning and the end also to close out the match. I played a very good last game and it was good to close it out in three sets.”
Italy thus advance to their first Davis Cup semi-final since 1998, after what captain Corrado Barazzutti described as "a really great victory."
“We have waited for a long time to go into the semi-finals,” said Barazzutti. “We are very satisfied for that."
The Italians will play Switzerland in the final four, after Roger Federer won a fifth rubber for the first time in his long Davis Cup career to give the Swiss a whisker-thin 3-2 victory over Kazakhstan. The other semi-final will be between the Czech Republic, who swept past Japan 5-0, and France, who came back from behind to beat Germany 3-2.
While understandably disappointed at coming within a rubber of a place in the semi-finals, Great Britain can take some solace in the fact that for the first time in years they will not forced to contest a play-off in September, content instead that their spot in the World Group for 2015 is secure.
“We deserve to be here,” said British captain Leon Smith. “We are a World Group team now and the job is to make sure that the players and staff keep improving so that when we get to the 2015 campaign, we can hit the ground running and keep trying to build on this.
“Hopefully we can get a home tie in next year’s draw because that’s three tough ones away on clay now. It would be great to get a home tie so that we can really fill a big arena to give this team that home advantage.”
For full reports, video highlights and audio interviews, visit DavisCup.com
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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