Fabio Fognini pulled off a surprise 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory over two-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray to level the best-of-five quarterfinal at 2-2 before Andreas Seppi defeated James Ward 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in the decisive match.
“A great feat, a great success for all Italian tennis,” Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti said. “It was time we got back to the semifinals. It’s credit to everyone, to a team which has a great character. It was a victory of character.”
Seppi rarely struggled against a player ranked 127 places below him and comfortably served out for the match.
Italy will play Switzerland in September’s semifinal.
“Today I just played better than Andy and that’s tennis,” Fognini said. “I was annoyed yesterday after the doubles. This was a very important victory, it’s certainly my best match in Davis Cup. I just stayed focused on my game and I managed to win.”
Fognini triumphed in the match between the countries’ top players, despite dropping his serve in the first game. The 13th-ranked Fognini managed to save two break points but double-faulted to hand Murray the opening game.
In a typically lively Davis Cup atmosphere, British fans chanted “Fabio, we are in your head,” but he was cheered on by the vociferous home support.
Murray almost dropped serve again early in the second set as he had to fend off two break points after being 40-0 up. However, Fognini broke twice at the end of the set following another double-fault from Murray on the first of two break points.
The final set went with serve until the final game, when Fognini went up 40-0 on Murray’s serve. Murray saved one match point when Fognini netted a forehand, and rescued the second with a crosscourt volley but hit the third into the net.
“He played very well today, that’s for sure,” Murray said. “He’s a very good player especially on this surface, so I knew it was going to be a tough one and I wasn’t able to play well enough. I did OK physically, not the best, but I’ve been worse.”