NAPLES, ITALY: Two straight-set wins by Andreas Seppi this weekend helped secure Italy’s place in the World Group, the 16 teams that will compete for the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas in 2013.
Yet according to Italian team captain Corrado Barazzutti his country’s hopes of getting past the first round of the World Group next year depend largely on the results of Wednesday’s draw.
Italy was defeated by Czech Republic in their 2012 World Group first round tie in April, losing 4-1. That loss put them in the position of fighting against Chile to stay in the highest level of Davis Cup competition.
“If we play against a team like Argentina or Czech Republic, that would be very, very tough,” Barazzutti said Sunday. “It is much better for us to play at home against Croatia or Austria. We played last year against Czech Republic — we don’t want to play again.”
The Italians overtook Chile during their World Group play-off tie Friday through Sunday, winning all four singles rubbers to defeat the Chileans 4-1 overall.
The star of the tie was undoubtedly No. 28 Andreas Seppi of Italy, who defeated No. 289 Guillermo Hormazabal and No. 161 Paul Capdeville of Chile in two singles rubbers over the course of the weekend.
After Hormazabal fell to Seppi in the first rubber of the weekend tie, Capdeville fought back in a singles rubber against No. 54 Fabio Fognini that stretched over two days. But ultimately Fognini prevailed in a five-set nailbiter to win Italy another point.
Not one to roll over easily, Capdeville and partner Jorge Aguilar scored a doubles victory for Chile Saturday against Italy’s Seppi and Daniele Bracciali, keeping the South Americans in the fight for a third day.
The tie was decided in Sunday’s reverse singles rubber between Seppi and Capdeville, in which Seppi prevailed 63 61 63. Afterwards, Simone Bolleli won the dead fifth rubber, defeating 16-year-old Christian Garin of Chile 64 63 to leave the final score at 4-1.
Italy’s victory means they will be in the World Group for a second straight year. The Italians earned the right to return to the group of 16 elite nations in 2012 after their 4-1 win against Chile in Santiago last year. Previously, it had been 11 years since Italy had been part of the World Group.
Seppi said that he thinks Italy’s chances next year in the World Group are good, but that anything can happen.
“For sure that was our goal before this tie, to win this match to stay in the World Group,” Seppi said. “For us that was very important. Now we have to wait for the draw for next year. But we are very confident, we think we have a good team. When we are 100 per cent, we for sure are a tough team to beat.”
Given Italy’s number of highly ranked players, Chilean team captain Belus Prajoux said he didn’t necessarily expect Chile to win the weekend tie and ascend to the World Group this year.
“We have to be realistic,” Prajoux said. “We don’t have any player in the top 100. To win the World Group, you have to have at least one or two guys in the top 50 or in the top 100 — two or three people."
Prajoux said that Chile’s chances of competing in another World Group play-off tie next year look good — particularly considering that Canada and Brazil, some of the toughest potential competitors in Americas Zone Group I, will be in next year’s World Group. That means Chile won’t face them on the court during the first rounds of the 2013 competition.
Despite losing the tie against Italy, Prajoux said that he was happy that Chile’s youngest player, 16-year-old Garin, was able to get some valuable experience on the court. Garin lost to Italy’s Bolleli 64 63 in the fifth rubber, but he played well, Prajoux said.
“We think he is going to play very well in the future, and maybe he’s going to lead the team in a few years,” Prajoux said.