Sports Digest: Italy surpasses USA in doubles to reach Davis Cup semifinals

TENNIS

Italy defeated the United States in a doubles playoff on Thursday in Malaga, Spain, reaching the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time in eight years.

Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini defeated Tommy Paul and Jack Sock 6-4, 6-4 to secure Italy a 2-1 win after the teams split singles matches.

Bolelli and Fognini broke once in each set to form a semifinal match against the winner between Germany and Canada on Saturday.

Previously, Lorenzo Sonego used his big serve to defeat Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 7-6 (7) to put the Italians 1-0 ahead. Taylor Fritz drew the US level after a 7-6 (8), 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti.

The US holds a record 32 Davis Cup trophies, but the last came in 2007 under the previous format of best-of-five matches played in host countries instead of the revised event, which saw the last eight teams meet for a week in one place gather tennis. The American team, led by Captain Mardy Fish, arrived in Spain with high hopes that they could break this dry spell.

“I’ve wanted to win this thing as a player and captain for a very long time,” Fish said. “It’s not going to happen this year and it stinks. We’re going home without the trophy, which is a shame.”

Italy, whose only Davis Cup title was won in 1976, won without their top two players as Jannik Sinner has an injured finger and Matteo Berrettini is recovering from a foot problem.

Sonego, in 45th place, hit 17 aces and never gave Tiafoe a serve. Sonego took the win after Tiafoe netted a forehand after a long rally to end the tiebreaker in set number two.

19th-ranked Tiafoe, who reached the US Open semifinals in September, won his only previous meeting at the Paris Masters just over three weeks ago.
This time, Sonego took the initiative, Tiafoe said.

“A few weeks ago I was playing very aggressively, pushing him around and hitting him a lot harder. Today he was,” Tiafoe said.

Sonego saved two set points while serving 6-5 in the second set to force the tiebreak. He said he leaned on the vocal Italian fans who supported him in Spain, where more than 250,000 Italians live.

“I’m really proud of my team and of this incredible crowd, it looks like we’re in Italy. They’ve supported us from the start,” said Italy’s captain Filippo Volandri.

Fritz hit 12 aces and had a break to beat 23-ranked Musetti for a second time after beating him at Wimbledon in June.

On Wednesday, a Croatian team led by Marin Cilic reached the other semi-final after beating a Spanish side missing Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz in first place.

Croatia meets Australia, who defeated the Netherlands on Tuesday.

GOLF

AUSTRALIAN PGA: Adam Scott scored a 5-under 66 after a 6:00am start time to be one shot behind after the first round in Brisbane, Australia.

Three other Australians shot in the afternoon groups of 65s – Min Woo Lee, Jason Scrivener and John Lyras – and shared the lead on the first lap.

Brad Kennedy, Anthony Quayle and South Korean Jeunghun Wang matched Scott’s 66 for fourth place.

Scott played in the same early-morning group as British Open champion Cameron Smith, who was three strokes behind after a 68, and Ryan Fox, who was just behind Rory McIlroy in the merit rankings this season with a 72.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Dan Bradbury equaled the course record with 8 under 63 despite a bogey on his last hole to maintain the clubhouse lead in the first round of the Joburg Open, which was suspended overnight due to thunderstorms.

Starting on the back nine, the Englishman mashed up seven birdies and two eagles with a double bogey on the 15th and his only bogey on the No. 9, denying him the all-time course record. He was one shot ahead of Germany’s Nick Bachem, with France’s Romain Langasque another shot behind.

“It was pretty good to be fair, can’t really complain at 63 can I?” said Bradbury. “I got a bit of momentum on the second nine early on, but then the (first) thunderstorm stopped that, of course.”

Play was disrupted by the storms in the afternoon and then halted for the day, with nearly half the field yet to complete the round.

Clement Berardo of France was 6-under after just 11 holes after making four straight birdies when play was halted.

The Joburg Open is the first tournament of the 2023 season of the European Tour, with two further events taking place in South Africa in December.


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