Italy fulfilled its potential as one of the world’s most promising tennis nations by defeating Australia 2-0 to become Davis Cup champions for the first time since 1976.
In the opening game between the second-placed players in Málaga, 22-year-old Matteo Arnaldi beat Alexei Popyrin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 to give Italy its first point. Then, less than 24 hours after defeating Novak Djokovic twice in one day, Jannik Sinner again showed nerves of steel as he completed 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, isn’t it? We felt the pressure,” said Sinner. “We had a lot of responsibility. But we still did it. We stand for it. We were excited. Of course everyone is very happy with the end result.”
The tie was determined by a brutal opening encounter that was a must-win for both teams due to the dominance of Sinner and the Australian doubles team. Arnaldi and Popyrin, two younger players who have not yet cracked the top 35, were thrown into a massive event that nothing in their careers had prepared them for.
The competition was decided by Arnaldi’s stubbornness and resilience. The Italian was clearly outplayed in the third set and had to accept break points in four of his five service games and eight in total. His lightest serve of the entire set came when he was 15:30 behind as the Australian easily played through his own service games.
Somehow Arnaldi held serve, played fearlessly on break points and held serve long enough for Popyrin to feel pressured by the scoreboard. A bad game from Popyrin with a 4:5 deficit decided the game. When asked how he won, Arnaldi said he didn’t know.
“I played pretty bad, I think,” he said. “The second and third sets, one of the worst this year. But you know, it was – important for me to play every point, stay there and try something.”
Due to Sinner’s incredible recent form and his 5-0 record against De Minaur over four years, the 22-year-old entered the pitch with great favoritism and finished the tie.
After a tentative start, Sinner soon found his rhythm. He attacked mercilessly from both wings, firing victories from all parts of the pitch and it soon ended in defeat. Despite all the improvements De Minaur has made this year, the Australian has neither the weapons nor the variety to disrupt the game of an inveterate sinner. De Minaur’s admirable attempts to win the ball early and attack only played into Sinner’s hands and gave the Italian the pace he so loves to benefit from.
Sinner capped off an astonishing few weeks with a flurry of brutal, untouchable winners, underlining his rise to the top echelon of the sport and his ability to compete for and win the world’s biggest titles.
As the Italian team sprinted onto the pitch 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 was an injured Matteo Berrettini, the former world No. 6 and 2021 Wimbledon finalist. There’s more to come .