MORIOKA, IWATE PREF. – Local hero Yuichi Sugita dominated his fifth-set tiebreak to pull Japan even in its Davis Cup World Group first-round tie with Italy on Friday.
At two sets apiece, and Japan already trailing after Taro Daniel dropped the first singles rubber, Sugita fought off match point while serving with a 6-5 lead. Instead, he won three straight points to force a tiebreak and dropped just one more point en route to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-1) victory over Andreas Seppi.
It was the second time the 29-year-old Sugita, ranked 41st in the world, had faced the 33-year-old Italian veteran.
Seppi, now ranked 78th, won in straight sets in their previous match on grass in 2016.
“I am spent, completely,” Sugita said after their 3-hour, 28-minute battle at Morioka Takaya Arena, an hour’s train ride from his hometown.
“I was really looking forward to being able to play for Japan here in the Tohoku region, because I’m from Sendai. It was a great match and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Daniel, ranked 100th in the world, won the second and third sets but could not put away the 22nd-ranked Fabio Fognini, losing 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 3:56.
“Of course, I feel frustration having lost,” Daniel said. “I failed to contribute to the team, but it was fun. It was a satisfying match and I was able to play well.”
In Saturday’s doubles, Japan will send Yasutaka Uchiyama and Ben McLachlan to face Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi. Last week, McLachlan reached the men’s doubles semifinals at the Australian Open.