Fognini beats Murray to ignite Italian rally past Britain
Naples, Italy (SportsNetwork.com) - Fabio Fognini kept Italy alive in its Davis Cup quarterfinal against Great Britain with a stunning straight-set win over Andy Murray in the opening reverse singles match on Sunday and Andreas Seppi finished off the comeback with another three-set victory over James Ward.
Fognini had the weight of his country's hopes on his racket and came through with a surprisingly easy 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over the reigning Wimbledon champion.
Seppi then completed the successful rally with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Ward to send Italy into its first Davis Cup semifinal since 1998.
"We have waited for a long time to go into the semifinals," said Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti. "This is really a great victory. We started the day with two difficult matches. My players played two great matches. It's difficult to believe that we won six sets."
The Italians will next travel to Switzerland in September after the Swiss pulled off their own comeback. Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer each won singles matches on Sunday to beat Kazakhstan.
Murray had beaten Seppi on Saturday in a singles match that was suspended from Friday, then teamed with Colin Fleming for a doubles win over Fognini and Simone Bolelli to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
It appeared as though Britain would advance to the semis for the first time since way back in 1981 with Murray up first on Sunday, but Fognini came up with his second victory over the two-time Grand Slam champ in three tries and continued his strong play on clay this season. He won the title in Vina del Mar in February and followed that with a loss to David Ferrer in the final at Buenos Aires.
"Today, I just played better than Andy," said Fognini. "I tried to focus on my game and do my best. It was an important point for me. It was a very difficult match, but I played really good."
Fognini trailed 3-1 in the first set, but won the final five games to take the set. He broke serve for a 4-3 lead in the second set and broke again on a Murray double fault to capture the set.
The third set was on serve until the final game, when Fognini secured the lone break to finish the match.
Murray had won 19 straight Davis Cup singles matches and lost one for the first time since 2005.
"He played very well, that's for sure," said Murray. "He's a very good player, especially on this surface. I knew it was going to be a tough one and I wasn't quite able to play well enough."
That left it up to Seppi and Ward.
The first set produced six breaks in the first nine games before a rain delay of about 25 minutes. When play resumed, Seppi broke serve to take the opening set.
Seppi broke serve for a 4-2 advantage in the second set, then used a pair of breaks for a 4-1 lead in the third and celebrated the rousing comeback with his teammates after Ward drilled a return of serve long.
"I think I was for sure more nervous than a match in a normal tournament," said Seppi. "Here you are playing for your team, for Italy, not just for yourself, so you have a lot of responsibility."
Italy improved to 12-4 all-time against Britain in Davis Cup play, including a win in their last meeting 30 years ago.
04/06 14:13:28 ET