Sinnner beats Djokovic twice to put Italy into Davis Cup final
MALAGA, Spain (AP) — Novak Djokovic had three chances to finish off Italy and put Serbia into the Davis Cup final.
But Jannik Sinner led Italy back from the brink of defeat, saving three consecutive match points before ending Djokovic’s streak of 21 straight wins in Davis Cup singles matches to level the semifinal match at 1-1 on Saturday.
Sinner then outdid the top-ranked Djokovic again in doubles to seal Italy’s 2-1 comeback win and put it in the final for the first time since 1998.
Djokovic had hoped to cap a superb season, when he increased his Gram Slam haul to a record 24 titles after winning three more majors, by taking Serbia to its first Davis Cup final in a decade.
“For (me) personally it’s a huge disappointment, because I take the responsibility, obviously having three match balls, being so close to winning it,” Djokovic said. “When you lose for your country, the bitter feeling is even greater.”
Miomir Kecmanovic beat Lorenzo Musetti 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-1 to give Serbia a 1-0 lead in their semifinal showdown, and Djokovic had Serbia on the cusp of the final when he faced Sinner in the second singles match.
But the fourth-ranked Sinner rallied to beat Djokovic 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. It was the third singles match between the top-ranked Djokovic and Sinner in 12 days. Sinner beat Djokovic in the ATP Finals group stage last week before Djokovic beat Sinner in the final to earn a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals title.
Sinner then teamed up with Lorenzo Sonego in the doubles. They beat Djokovic and Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-4.
“Match of my life? I don’t know, but it’s for sure very important," Sinner said on his singles win.
“It helps a lot that the last competition of the season is a team competition, because you get a lot of energy from your teammates, from the whole team, and then the crowd is different too,” he said. “I really enjoyed playing today. It was a great match. At the end of the match, I was really happy for the team to be at least able to play a deciding doubles.”
Italy will face Australia in Sunday’s final on the same indoor hard court in southern Spain. Italy’s only title was in 1976. Its last final was in 1998.
Sinner’s wins avenged his loss to Djokovic for the ATP Finals title just six days earlier.
Djokovic’s previous singles loss in the Davis Cup was when he retired against Juan Martin del Potro in Serbia’s 2011 semifinal defeat against Argentina. Djokovic’s last loss in a completed singles match in the Davis Cup was in 2009.
In the first singles match, Musetti recovered from an early break to win a first-set tiebreaker. But Kecmanovic got stronger as the match went on and enjoyed a lopsided third set for his first win in three career meetings with Musetti.
In the second singles match, Sinner started strongly and won back-to-back breaks for a 4-1 lead in the first set. Djokovic then hit back by breaking Sinner twice in the second set to force a decider.
Djokovic had five break chances, including the match points, in the third set, but Sinner saved them all. Djokovic squandered his trio of match points before Sinner rallied and broke his next service game to go ahead 6-5 before serving out the match.
Sinner clinched the decisive point in doubles when he jammed Djokovic with a big serve that the Serb backhanded in the net.
“Congratulations to Italy for qualifying for the final,” said Djokovic, who helped Serbia win its only Davis Cup title in 2010. “They deserved it. They played really well, particularly Jannik, in singles against me and then doubles as well. He barely missed a ball in the entire match.”
During a tense moment in the doubles match, Djokovic gestured to the crowd with both hands as if asking for more when Italy’s fans were shouting and jeering him. On Thursday, after helping to beat Britain, Djokovic told a section of the British fans to “shut up” and “be quiet” as they began drumming during his on-court interview.
On Thursday, Djokovic became the outright most successful Serbian player when he beat Cameron Norrie for his 44th victory in the competition.
Australia beat Finland in the other semifinal match on Friday. Australia lost to Canada in last year's final.
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