Paolo Lorenzi let slip a two-set lead and was forced to save three match points before beating Marco Chiudinelli to put Italy 1-0 up Friday in its Davis Cup first-round tie against a Switzerland team missing Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.
Lorenzi won 7-6 (16-14) 6-3 4-6 5-7 7-5 in a match which lasted nearly five hours and also featured the longest tiebreaker in World Group history.
The Italian clawed his way back from 5-2 down in the final set and, although he wasted two match points, sealed the win when Chiudinelli hit long.
Lorenzi was ranked 92 places above Chiudinelli after a fine run of form, but the 146th-ranked Swiss had a 3-0 head-to-head record against the Italian.
Clay is also Chiudinelli’s least favourite surface but he was aggressive from the start and Lorenzi had to save two break points in the sixth game.
There was little to separate the pair in the tiebreaker too but Lorenzi finally took the set with an ace – one of 17 he served up in the match.
Chiudinelli rebounded to earn the first break of the match at the start of the second set but Lorenzi broke back twice in succession. He also saved two break points in the seventh game before going on to take the set with another ace.
Lorenzi saved two set points on his own serve in the third set but gifted Chiudinelli a way back into the match when he sent a forehand long.
The Swiss player then claimed the fourth set as well with a superb return to level the match.
It appeared as if the momentum had swung Chiudinelli’s way and he raced into a 5-2 lead. But Lorenzi fought back and managed to save three match points as his opponent twice returned into the net.
Andreas Seppi plays Henri Laaksonen in the second singles, with Italy without its top-ranked player Fabio Fognini, who is injured.
The winner of the tie plays Poland or Argentina in the quarterfinals.