Tennis: Swedes take seventh title

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The Independent Online
ITALY'S FANATICAL supporters gazed longingly at the Davis Cup in the spotlight at the Fila Forum yesterday before Sweden, the holders, took custody of the trophy for a seventh time.

A final memorable for the noise of the crowd and the courage in adversity of Andrea Gaudenzi, the Italian No 1, was settled in two days by the experienced, unflappable Swedes.

The favourites to win the doubles from the outset, the Swedish pair, Jonas Bjorkman and Nicklas Kulti, dealt efficiently with Italy's scratch partnership of Diego Nargiso and Davide Sanguinetti, who deputised for the injured Gaudenzi. The Swedes won 7-6 6-1 6-3 after an hour and 46 minutes, to go 3-0 up in the tie.

The opening set was crucial, and the Italians prolonged it by breaking their opponents when Kulti served with Sweden leading 5-4. Until then, Kulti and Bjorkman had each served twice without dropping a point. But in the 10th game, Sanguinetti forced a break point with the pace of his return, and Nargiso converted it, driving a forehand across the court.

Anti-climax followed when the set proceeded to the tie-break. Sanguinetti paid for two weak serves on the fourth and fifth points, and Sweden won the shoot-out, 7-1.

Sanguinetti's serve was under threat again in the second game of the second set, Kulti's return at 15-40 giving Sweden a 2-0 lead. By now there were signs of unrest in the 12,400 capacity crowd, although they continued to support what was fast becoming a lost cause. Sanguinetti was broken again for 1-5.

Nargiso, who had tried to nurse Sanguinetti through the contest, is not the calmest of players. He was on the point of losing his temper after disputing a line call in the fifth game of the second set, but recovered to ensure the match was completed in a dignified manner. Bjorkman, the highest-ranked player in the tie, at No 24, was not selected for the singles because clay is not his best surface. He made his mark yesterday, hitting the winning shot in the third set, a backhand cross-court pass off Nargiso's serve.

Gaudenzi, who recovered from 0-4 and saved a match point before his injured right shoulder prevented him from finishing the fifth set of the opening singles match against Magnus Norman on Friday, will have an operation tomorrow. Ronald Leitgeb, Gaudenzi's manager, confirmed yesterday that a shoulder ligament torn during the semi-final against the United States in Milwaukee in September, had snapped towards the end of Friday's match. "We knew Andrea would have to have an operation," Leitgeb said, "and it was just a question of whether it was done after Milwaukee or after the final. Andrea felt he had to play in the final. The consolation is that the doctor has told us the operation will be more straightforward now the ligament has broken."