SANTIAGO, CHILE: Former world No. 5 Fernando Gonzalez was forced to retire from his match against Fabio Fognini with an injured left leg, handing Italy a 2-0 lead at the end of day one in Santiago. The Chilean, currently ranked No. 297, had only recently returned after hip surgery.
There was some doubt regarding Gonzalez’s real state of fitness. He had been training normally during the week, but since his return had had some retirements due to various medical problems. At the beginning of the match he appeared to be a little sluggish, not finding himself against his opponent, who took every chance he had in the first match, breaking early and securing a 64 lead.
In the second set, Gonzalez began to appear as he did before his surgery - more motivated, but especially more focused. Once again he was the powerhouse, with excellent serve and powerful forehands. However, his mobility was still under question. It was enough to win the second set 64, empowering himself as well as the crowd.
It was a brief illusion, however. At 1-1 in the third set, the Chilean slipped on the floor, fell in pain and the doctor was called. He tried to continue playing, but the pain was unbearable and he was forced to retire with tears in his eyes.
Earlier in the day, Potito Starace had put Italy in the lead by defeating Chile’s Paul Capdeville 63 63 26 76(5). The match began with both players studying each other, a balance that lasted until Starace broke in the seventh game. Capdeville entered into a slump and lost six games in a row.
That was enough to lose the first set and heavily compromise the second, which Starace took by playing as simple as possible, with good serve and approach to the net.
The Chilean No. 1 came back from wherever he was in the third set, putting pressure on the Italian, who looked tired. This sensation increased, with Capdeville breaking twice to take the set 62. In the fourth set, both players alternated mistakes, with Starace taking the best of the tiebreak and securing the match for his team.
Although the Italian camp was quite satisfied with the 2-0 lead, they were not fully happy.
“What happened to Fernando was quite bad” said Fognini. “I would have liked to win in court and not because of a retirement, but that’s tennis.
“In the first set I game him no chances. In the second, he increased his level with his forehand and serve, which I expected because I know how he plays, but it was also my fault as I let my serve down”.
Corrado Barazzutti, Italy’s captain, echoed Fognini’s words but also revealed that the result was beyond his best expectations. “I thought we were going to be 1-1 at the end of the first day, now leading 2-0 is very good. I hope we can clinch the qualification to the World Group soon, it’s been very long since we were there.”
Fernando Gonzalez did not attend the press conference as he was already on his way to the hospital to see the extent of the microtear, but captain Hans Gildemeister showed the emotional impact his injury had had on the team.
“Fernando is in deep pain” he revealed, “not only because of the physical problem, but also because of what goes on in his mind and heart. For many months now he has had to suffer physical pain, but now he was on the verge of returning for good, in front of his people, playing Davis Cup; his motivation was very high, and the deception is too big.”
The blow also deeply affected the Chilean team, who not only lost a point but also one of their top players for the rest of this tie, forcing them to an all-or-nothing from now on.
“We just spoke with Jorge (Aguilar), Paul (Capdeville) and Nicolas (Massu), and we agreed that we are going to fight until the last ball. This is not over yet, however bleak it might look, and tomorrow we will go for the win in the doubles, and then one match at a time.”
Aguilar and Massu look the most probable doubles team for Chile, while the Italians might be tempted to field Fognini and Simone Bolelli, who reached the semifinals last week at the US Open.
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 16/09/2011
Fabio Fognini (ITA) - 16/09/2011
Captain Hans Gildemeister (CHI) - 16/09/2011
Potito Starace (ITA) - 16/09/2011