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Sinner the hero as Italy captures first Davis Cup title since 1976

One day following his heroics against Novak Djokovic and Team Serbia, Jannik Sinner led Italy to its second-ever Davis Cup title and first since 1976.

Sinner defeated Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-0 as Italy swept Australia in the two singles rubbers on Sunday evening in Malaga Spain. After Matteo Arnaldi beat Alexei Popyrin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in the opener, Sinner needed just one hour and 21 minutes to secure the trophy.

The world No. 4 compiled a 5-0 record for the week, going 3-0 in singles and 2-0 in doubles. He helped the Italians come back from 1-0 deficits against both the Netherlands in the quarterfinals and Serbia in the semis. Against Djokovic, Italy was one point away from elimination on three occasions before Sinner dug out of a 0-40 hole at 4-5 in the third set and eventually stunned Djokovic 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

“This is a really important win for me and for the whole team and Italy together,” the 22-year-old commented. “We felt the pressure; we had a lot of responsibility. But still we managed. We were excited. Obviously everyone is really happy about the end result.

“This is something different–something really special–because you don’t play for yourself but you play for the whole team. I think every one of us, we were really excited to be part of this. I think the whole team, they pushed every one of each other, and this is maybe our key why we are standing here with this trophy.”

Of course, the real key was Sinner. He was simply dominant in Malaga to cap off an incredible season overall. Sinner compiled a 64-15 record that included four titles–highlighted by his first triumph at the Masters 1000 level (Toronto)–plus runner-up showings at the Miami Masters and Nitto ATP Finals.

“Jannik, he’s played awesome all week,” Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt praised. “Yeah, the last few weeks, to be honest, last few months. So he showed why he’s a top 3 or 4 player in the world at the moment. He backed up what he did yesterday against Novak and played extremely good tennis.”

“I think probably Novak said maybe a week ago, Jannik is riding this amazing wave of confidence,” De Minaur added. “He’s playing in indoor conditions with some heavy balls where he can hit the absolute crap out of the ball. He’s seriously impressive the level he’s showing.”

“I think he shows how important confidence is in tennis,” said Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, who lost Sinner in the quarterfinals. “He just played really well. I mean, he’s full of confidence. He’s playing super well. He improved a lot. For me, I have always been a big fan of him. I think he’s one of the best players in the world. I think he has a chance of being No. 1.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.