FOR the second successive year, Australia had to settle for runners-up as a powerful Italian unit continued its outstanding 2023 Davis Cup run to lift just its second men’s team trophy in history. Led by top five young gun Jannik Sinner – fresh off back-to-back victories against Novak Djokovic in singles and doubles last match – the Italians only needed the two matches to take out the tie.
Italian captain Filippo Volandri pulled out a surprise in opting for Matteo Arnaldi in the second singles over the higher ranked Lorenzo Musetti, after Musetti lost his singles to Miomir Kecmanovic in the semi-final. That choice seemed to be inspired as Arnaldi knocked off Australian Alexei Popyrin who was ranked four places higher than him in two hours and 27 minutes.
Arnaldi weathered 12 aces off Popyrin’s racquet, serving five of his own, but also nine double faults as he only served at a 50 per cent clip. His first serve success rate was strong at 70 per cent, and his second serve came in at greater than his opponent, with 48 to 43 per cent.
Both players broke three times from a stack of chances, and hit the identical amount of winners (35) as well as the split on the forehand and backhands sides being equal as well (22 and 13 respectively). It was an unlucky game from the Australian who won five more points than his Italian counterpart, though that largely came during the 6-2 second set.
It looked to be headed for a long third set with Arnaldi on serve and Popyrin at 30-15 in the 10th game of the deciding set. But alas for the Australian, it would come crumbling down as Arnaldi claimed the final three points of the match to secure the 7-5 2-6 6-4 win in what was a critical victory.
It gave the Italians a massive boost of confidence given Sinner’s form and the Australian doubles pairing of Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell‘s form, with each of those options heavily favoured. Italy had won the lineball match in the tie, and now Sinner only had to continue both his recent form and past form against Alex de Minaur to secure the Italians’ second Davis Cup.
Sinner did just that in a swift 81 minutes. After de Minaur served out the opening game to love, and gave Sinner some issues in his first service game, it was all the Italian, who broke back and then held a 3-1 lead midway through the first set. Despite de Minaur having his chances, he could not match it with Sinner who had three set points in the ninth game, taking it with the second chance.
From a 4-3 lead, Sinner won the last eight games of the match in brutal fashion, destroying any hope of a renowned de Minaur comeback, putting his hand up as the player most likely to breakthrough for a maiden Grand Slam title in 2024.
Sinner hit 10 more winners (25-15) and had six less unforced errors (9-15) in an outstanding performance where he won 74 and 50 per cent of his first and second serve points, compared to de Minaur’s 55 and 38 per cent. Unfortunately for the Australian, he just lacked the weapons to counteract a red-hot Sinner, and despite not playing badly, the Italian was on another level.
Italy had not won a Davis Cup since 1976, in what could have been a golden era of Italian tennis. After winning in ’76, the European nation came runners-up in three of the next four years, before not featuring again until 1998. It took a further 25 years to reach the final, and this time, 47 years after the original, Italy became world champions again.
DAVIS CUP FINAL RESULTS:
Matteo Arnaldi (Italy) defeated Alexei Popyrin (Australia) 7-5 2-6 6-4
Jannik Sinner (Italy) defeated Alex de Minaur (Australia) 6-3 6-0