In a victory that the sports press has dubbed the “Miracle of Málaga,” Italian tennis players broke a dry spell of nearly five decades to become the Davis Cup champions, defeating Australia 2-0 on Sunday in Málaga, Spain.
Italian tennis phenoms Jannik Sinner and Matteo Arnaldi, both 22, led the team to victory with stunning wins over Australia’s Alex de Minaur and Alexei Popyrin in the finals.
The Davis Cup, the world championship of tennis — akin to soccer’s World Cup — is an international team event put on by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The last (and, until now, the only) time Italy won the tournament was in 1976. This year, more than 9,000 fans watched the finals.
The Italian team was spearheaded by Sinner. Ranked fourth in the world, Sinner qualified after his triumphant win in the semi-finals against the top-ranked Novak Djokovic from Serbia.
Italy’s 2-0 victory over Australia in the finals began with rising star Arnaldi (who stepped up after injuries kept Matteo Berrettini from competing), who won against Alexei Popyrin in three sets, followed by Sinner’s defeat of de Minaur in straight sets. The double wins sealed the deal for Italy.
A “stroke” of luck or a sign of the future?
The sensational performance by the Italian team is good news for tennis fans as Italy’s roster boasts a wealth of young and talented players — six age 22 or younger are currently ranked in the top 200.
Trailblazers like the 73-year-old Adriano Panatta, the only Italian man in the Open Era to have ever won a Grand Slam singles title, are optimistic about the future. In an interview with Corriere della Sera published on Monday after the win, Panatta called Sinner “exceptional” and insisted he’d “hate himself” if he ever detected sensations of jealousy toward the heirs to his legacy.
“I did what I had to do 50 years ago,” Panatta told Corriere della Sera. “Now it’s the young people’s turn, which is as it should be.”