Italy into Davis Cup final after Sinner’s stunning comeback sees off Djokovic | Davis Cup

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The Davis Cup has a way of marking pivotal moments in a player’s career, unlocking qualities that can sometimes only be accessed while enduring the pressure of carrying the hopes of an entire team, not merely your own. As a raucous crowd inside Málaga’s Palacio de los Deportes chanted his name, Jannik Sinner seemed to take a significant step forward as he led Italy to a 2-1 win over Serbia and into a Davis Cup final for the first time since 1998.

In his third battle in 11 days with the best male player of all-time, Sinner trailed Novak Djokovic 4-5, 0-40 on his serve, triple match point down in the final set of an incredible tussle. Somehow, impossibly, he recovered to defeat the world No 1 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. He then returned for the decisive doubles alongside Lorenzo Sonego and the pair defeated Djokovic and Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-4 to clinch the tie.

Australia, last year’s finalists, await Italy in Sunday’s final after they defeated Finland 2-0 on Friday.

Before the tie descended into madness, it began on Saturday afternoon with another brilliant display from Kecmanovic. Two days after thoroughly neutralising Jack Draper’s enormous serve and power, Kecmanovic similarly dealt with Lorenzo Musetti’s guile and variety, sealing the first point for Serbia with an impressive 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-1 win.

The world No 1 and the second-best player in the world over the past few months went at it again. Last week, Sinner produced what was then the finest performance of his career as he duelled with Djokovic for three hours and gained his first win over the 24-time grand slam winner. As is normally the case, though, Djokovic won when it truly mattered, dismantling Sinner to win the ATP Finals.

This time, Sinner began the match vaporising the ball off both wings, determined to step inside the court and take control of the baseline as soon as possible. He constantly rushed Djokovic with his sheer pace and weight of shot, pushing him from on top of the baseline as he breezed through the set.

Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego of Italy on their way to winning their decisive doubles match against Serbia
Jannik Sinner (left) and Lorenzo Sonego of Italy on their way to winning their decisive doubles match against Serbia. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for ITF

Djokovic, though, was clearly flat. As his level rose in the second set, he served excellently and his defence began to bring errors from the Italian. The 36-year-old finished the set on top of the baseline, unloading on his forehand as he quickly forced a third set.

By the final set, the level had skyrocketed, with both players serving well and attacking without hesitation. Each was well aware that only the highest level would suffice. But it always seemed to be heading in one direction. Djokovic continually put pressure on Sinner’s service games while breezing through his own. His 0-40 lead on Sinner’s serve seemed like the inevitable consequence of his performance.

From that triple match point down, though, Sinner stood up and showed his toughness. He served out of his mind, attacking and moving forward. He reeled off five points in a row to hold and then as the crowd chanted the Italian’s name, it was Djokovic who baulked under pressure. He ended a poor service game at 5-5 with a failed serve and volley and Sinner closed out an astounding comeback, and victory in the match of his life, with a nerveless hold. He is the first player to recover from 0-40 and triple match point down against Djokovic.

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Thirty minutes later, Sinner and Djokovic were warming each other up again ahead of the decisive doubles. Djokovic is simply not as capable in doubles as he is in singles. With their greater serves, weaponry and willingness to constantly close down the net, Sinner and Sonego held their nerve through two tense sets and sealed an incredible tie.

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There has never been any doubt about Sinner’s clean, destructive shot-making and the increasingly complete game he was building around those assets. But he had started the year with doubts about his mental toughness against the very best players in the biggest moments.

He is ending the season by showing he is in position to take on anyone anywhere and that he should be competing for the biggest singles titles in the years to come.

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