MORIOKA – Fabio Fognini won his third match of the weekend to lift Italy into the Davis Cup semifinals at the expense of Japan on Sunday.
Fognini, ranked 22nd in the world, won his opening singles on Friday in five sets and gave Italy the lead in Saturday’s doubles, when he teamed up with Simone Bloelli. That set up a must-win for Yuichi Sugita.
Japan’s top-ranked player here, the 41st-ranked Sugita twice blew leads before succumbing 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5. Sugita had won his opening singles match but could not put Fognini away in the fourth-set.
“Right up until the end, I was unable to make corrections to my serve and that was the reason (I lost),” Sugita said.
The Italian committed 14 double faults but hit 42 winners to come from behind and consign Japan to the playoffs in September, where it will have to win in order to return to the World Group next season.
“All four matches were extremely close,” Japan captain Satoshi Iwabuchi said. “There is an incredible sense of frustration from having lost, but no negative thoughts.
“I think the confidence each player gained through competing is big. I’m really looking forward to our next challenge.”