Roger Federer sealed Switzerland’s place in the Davis Cup semi-finals by completing a comeback win for the hosts over Kazakhstan on Sunday, as Italy trampled Britain’s last-four hopes into the clay in Naples.
France are also in the last four, despite looking dead and buried on Friday when they lost their opening two singles matches against a weakened Germany lineup.
Wins for Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and Gael Monfils earned the French squad a 3-2 victory in Nancy, France, to set up a semi-final against holders the Czech Republic, who whitewashed Japan 5-0 in Tokyo.
When a squad needs a player to win a decisive fifth rubber in a gripping Davis Cup tie, having one with 17 Grand Slam titles to his name would be a dream scenario for any team captain. So it proved for Switzerland’s Severin Luthi in Geneva on Sunday when Federer strolled out to face world No. 64 Andrey Golubev after Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka had hauled the Swiss side level with Kazakhstan at 2-2 with his 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Mikhail Kukushkin.
Not that world No. 4 Federer had it all his own way against Golubev, who hit back from a break down to take the opening set to a tiebreak. However, Federer then showed his class, winning the breaker 7-0 before taking the next two sets 6-2, 6-3 to keep Switzerland on course for their first-ever Davis Cup title.
Britain went into Sunday’s with a 2-1 lead against Italy, needing to win just one of the day’s two singles to reach the last four for the first time since 1981.
However, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray proved no match for an inspired Fabio Fognini, who won 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, before Andreas Seppi overcame nerves to outclass James Ward 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 and put Italy in the semis for the first time since 1998.
“We have waited for a long time to go into the semi-finals,” Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti said. “We started the day with two difficult matches. My players played two great matches. It’s difficult to believe that we won six sets.”
France captain Arnaud Clement was also a happy man after his team emulated the 1996 side who also rallied from a 0-2 deficit to beat Italy.
Tsonga and Monfils were untroubled on Sunday as they completed the recovery to keep France on the path to their first Cup in 13 years.
The semi-finals are to take place in France and Switzerland from Sept. 12 to Sept. 14.
Following the Davis Cup action, Federer is now just 405 points behind Wawrinka in the ATP rankings released yesterday, while Murray stayed eighth after losing his match.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal maintained a 2,050-point advantage over Serbia’s Novak Djokovic at the top, while Frenchman Richard Gasquet broke back into the top 10.