Italy deny GB first Davis semi-final in 33 years
Great Britain’s chances for the first Davis Cup semi-final in 33 years fell short as Italy fought back in the last day to win the match 3-2.
After finishing 1-1 at the end of the first day and winning a crucial doubles on Saturday, team GB needed only one win to secure the tie.
There was nothing to do for Andy Murray, who lost 6-3 6-3 6-4 to Fabio Fognini, and James Ward, defeated by Andreas Seppi 6-4 6-3 6-4.
On the slow clay of Naples, Italy, there was little the Wimbledon champion could do against his Italian rival, ranked 13 in the world.
Murray, who is still on his way to a full recovery after undergoing back surgery, had little to recriminate in his loss.
"When I had my main opportunities I was a little bit disappointed in myself, and when he had his he was exceptional, so credit to him," said the Scot.
He started solid and found an early break, but the Italian reacted fiercely and after kicking his bottle of water and arguing with the umpire, found a series of five consecutive games to win the set.
Murray held on for most of the second set, but it was Fognini who found the right moment to break - and closed the second set with authority.
In the third set, serve dominated the scene until the very end. In the 10th game the Italian broke Murray’s serve to take the match and level the standings.
The result of this tie was all in the hands of the last two men standing: James Ward and Andreas Seppi.
The Londoner, who earlier this year surprised everyone by upsetting Sam Quarrey in Davis Cup, knew he needed another terrific effort to overcome the Italian, former top 20 and currently ranked 34 in the world.
Tensions ran high for both, as a British victory would have meant the first semi-final in 33 years for them; for the Azzurri the stage had been missing for 16 years.
Seppi started with an early break, but it was immediately clear that the serve was not to be fundamental, at least in the first set.
Ward broke back, but once again lost his serve in the sixth game, with Seppi returning the favour immediately.
With such enormous pressure on both players the quality of game was sporadic; similarly to the rain that stopped the game for some 20 minutes on 5-4, when Ward had just broken Seppi’s serve.
After the interruption, Ward lost his momentum and his serve for the fourth time in the set, giving the Italian the first set.
The difference in rankings between the two (more than 120 positions) suddenly started to show on court, as the Italian found his cool after the first set.
Seppi took the second set with ease and flew two breaks up in the third. Ward tried to react positively, and managed to gain one of the two breaks back, as well as saving three match points on 5-3.
But the Italian did not let the missed chance get to his head and with a solid game closed 6-4 to give his home crowd and his country a splendid semi-final.
Italy will face Switzerland, who edged past Kazakhstan 3-2, in September, while the British team will be back in 2015 with the first round of the world group.