MALAGA: Italy returned to the Davis Cup final after a gap of 25 years as Jannik Sinner beat Novak Djokovic in both singles and doubles to secure a 2-1 victory over Serbia on Saturday that earned the 1976 champions a title clash with Australia.
Sinner and doubles partner Lorenzo Sonego beat the Serbian duo of Djokovic and Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-4 to secure a famous victory that sent the former champions packing and sparked wild celebrations at a heaving Martin Carpena Arena in Spain.
Up next for Filippo Volandri’s side, who will be playing in an eighth final and seeking a second trophy, are 28-times champions Australia after Lleyton Hewitt’s team eased past giant-killers Finland on Friday.
Sinner earlier saved three match-points to stun Djokovic 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in an extraordinary singles match to help Italy draw level with Serbia at 1-1 after Kecmanovic had put the 2010 champions ahead by beating Lorenzo Musetti 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-1.
Sinner was facing Djokovic for the third time in 11 days and the world number four, who beat the top-ranked Serbian early in the ATP Finals before losing to him in the title clash, made a quick start to ease through the opening set with two breaks.
The 22-year-old, who had sparked Italy’s comeback in their quarter-final against the Netherlands, took his foot off the gas in the next set to allow Djokovic back in but kept chipping away in the hope of sealing a second win over him in six meetings.
He saved three matchpoints from 0-40 at 4-5 in the decider and then broke Djokovic for a 6-5 lead before holding his nerve to make a forehand pass and pull off one of the most remarkable wins of his career amid deafening cheers.
“It was for sure the game-changer today,” Sinner said of his singles heroics at 4-5.
“I just tried to push in every single point and the 0-40 game helped the confidence and also after I broke him. It’s all part of tennis.”
Defeat was a bitter pill for Djokovic, the winner of three of the four Grand Slams in a stellar season, as the 36-year-old lost his first Davis Cup singles match since the semi-final in 2011 when he retired against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro.
It was only the fourth time Djokovic had lost a tour-level match after having a match-point and Sinner also became the first player to beat the 24-times Grand Slam champion twice in singles in the same season since Daniil Medvedev in 2019.
Kecmanovic had earlier rallied from a set down to power past Musetti and leave Serbia one win away from their third final in the elite men’s team competition and first since 2013.