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ITALIANS END DROUGHT — Sinner brings Davis Cup trophy back to Italy

TEAM Italy smiles after beating Australia to win its first Davis Cup title since 1976. | LLUIS GENE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MALAGA, Spain (AFP) — Italy won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1976 as Jannik Sinner crushed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-0 to seal a 2-0 win over Australia on Sunday in Malaga.

The world No. 4 clinched victory in the second singles rubber after Matteo Arnaldi dug deep to beat Alexei Popyrin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in the opening clash.

Sinner, who remarkably beat top-ranked superstar Novak Djokovic twice in one day on Saturday as Italy eliminated Serbia, secured his country’s second title against Lleyton Hewitt’s 28-time winners in style.

“I felt quite good today. This is a really important win for me, the whole team and Italy together,” Sinner said.

“This is something different, really special, because you don’t play for yourself, you play for the whole team.”

The Italian demoralized the scampering De Minaur with a relentless performance, overpowering him with vicious ground-strokes to the delight of the majority of the packed Martin Carpena arena.

Sinner had won each of the five prior meetings between the pair and the world No. 12 came no closer this time, brutally dismantled in 81 minutes.

Australia’s wait for a Davis Cup trophy goes on, with their last coming in 2003, but Italy, who last reached a final in 1998, celebrated wildly when De Minaur went wide to end the tie.

On Saturday, Italy was on the verge of elimination, but Sinner saved three match points against Djokovic to force a deciding doubles clash.

“Yesterday, we were one point away from being out and now we can celebrate winning, I think we can all be very, very happy,” said Sinner, after ending Italy’s 47-year wait, the third-longest gap between titles in Davis Cup history.

Sinner, who lost the ATP Finals showdown with Djokovic a week ago in Turin, deserves special credit for his stunning displays in Malaga — he won all five rubbers he played in.

Laser-focused from the start, he broke early in the first set for a 2-1 lead when De Minaur sent a lob long and then consolidated with a powerful forehand.

The 22-year-old brought up three set points and clinched the first set with the second of them when De Minaur volleyed beyond the baseline.

In the second set Sinner produced 19 winners to just five unforced errors to sweep to victory.

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