…’An incredible feeling’: Italy win Davis Cup for first time in 47 years
…Victory could herald glorious era for Italian tennis
Italy fulfilled their potential as one of the most promising tennis nations in the world by defeating Australia 2-0 to become Davis Cup champions for the first time since 1976.
In the opening rubber between the second-ranked players in Málaga, the 22-year-old Matteo Arnaldi edged past Alexei Popyrin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 to give Italy the first point. Then, less than 24 hours after toppling Novak Djokovic twice in one day, Jannik Sinner again demonstrated nerves of steel as he closed off the best two weeks of his career by dominating Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-0.
“This is a really important win for me and for the whole team and Italy together, no? We felt the pressure,” said Sinner. “We had a lot of responsibility. But still we managed. We stand up for it. We were excited. Obviously, everyone is really happy about the end result.”
The tie was dictated by a brutal opening encounter, a must win for both teams because of the dominance of Sinner and the Australian doubles team. Arnaldi and Popyrin, two younger players who have yet to break the top 35, were thrust into an enormous occasion for which nothing in their career had prepared them.
The contest was decided by Arnaldi’s sheer stubbornness and resilience. The Italian was thoroughly outplayed throughout the third set, facing break points in four of his five service games and eight in total. His easiest hold in the entire set was from 15‑30 down as the Australian eased through his own service games.
Somehow, Arnaldi kept hold of his serve, playing fearlessly on the break points, and he kept the set on serve long enough for Popyrin to feel pressured by the scoreboard. One poor game by Popyrin while trailing 4-5 decided the match. Asked how he won, Arnaldi said he did not know.
“I was playing pretty bad, I think,” he said. “The second and third set, one of the worst of this year. But, you know, it was – important for me to play every point, to stay there and try something.”
Between Sinner’s incredible recent form and his 5-0 record against De Minaur over four years, the 22‑year‑old entered the court heavily favoured to close out the tie.
After a timid start, Sinner soon found his rhythm. He attacked relentlessly off both wings, spraying winners from all parts of the court, and it soon turned into a rout. For all the improvements De Minaur has made this year, the Australian does not have the weapons or the variety to disrupt a dialled-in Sinner’s game. De Minaur’s admirable attempts to take the ball early and attack only played into Sinner’s hands, providing the Italian with the pace he loves to feed off.
Sinner ended an astonishing few weeks with a stream of brutal, untouchable winners, underlining his arrival at the top levels of the sport and his ability to fight for, and win, the biggest titles in the world.
As the Italian team sprinted on to the court to celebrate their title, their victory came with a warning. Sinner and Arnaldi are 22 years old, Lorenzo Musetti is 21 and five other Italians in the top 200 are under 22. On their team bench sat an injured Matteo Berrettini, the former world No 6 and 2021 Wimbledon finalist. There is more to come.