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Sinner leads Italy to first Davis Cup title in 50 years

MALAGA, Spain (AP) — Jannik Sinner capped his perfect week by leading Italy to its first Davis Cup title in nearly five decades.

Sinner took his record to 5-0 this week by beating Alex de Miñaur 6-3, 6-0 in the second singles match of Sunday’s final, giving Italy a 2-0 win over Australia for its first Davis Cup title since 1976.

Matteo Arnaldi had given Italy the first point with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win over Alexei Popyrin.

The No. 4 Sinner beat top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the singles and doubles matches in Saturday’s semifinal showdown against Serbia.

The 22-year-old Italian needed 1 hour, 21 minutes to seal Italy’s victory against Australia.

“We are all very young. We are really hungry to try to win it one more time for our life, but having this feeling at least once, it is a really special feeling,” said Sinner, who has beaten nine top-10 players since September, though he lost to Djokovic in the ATP Tour Finals a week ago.

Arnaldi earlier saved eight break points before getting a break of his own to close out the first match in the decisive third set.

“I think I won one of the most important matches of my life,” the 44th-ranked Arnaldi said.

The Italians, who had never won the title other than in 1976, had lost the three finals it played against Australia, which was last year’s runner-up to Canada.

Australia eliminated Finland in the last four this year. The Aussies are 28-time champions but haven’t lifted the trophy at men’s tennis top team event since captain Lleyton Hewitt was on the winning squad as a player in 2003.

“There hasn’t been another nation that’s gone back-to-back in the last two years, so we are showing a pretty good effort collectively,” De Miñaur said. “We are very, very close. It stinks like hell. We’ll be back. We’ll get this. I mean, we’ve got a very, very strong future ahead of us.”

Australia this year became just the second nation to win 200 Davis Cup ties, with the United States being the other.

Matteo Berrettini was not in the Italian team because of an injury but he was in Malaga supporting his countrymen.

“Thanks to Matteo,” Sinner said. “He has had a very tough year (with) a lot of injuries. For all of us, that he came here, it means a lot. He gave us a lot of positive energy.”

Malaga again

The final 8 of the Davis Cup Finals will stay in Malaga for another year.

Spain was awarded a wild card Sunday for the group stage in Valencia.

This year’s finalists, Italy and Australia, also go straight through to the group stage in September. So does Great Britain, which lost to Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The women’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals will remain in the southern Spanish city of Seville next year.

The Italian Davis Cup team celebrate with the trophy after defeating Australia during the Davis Cup final tennis matches in Malaga, Spain on Sunday. PHOTO: AP