BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Fabio Fognini made his experience tell to beat Guido Pella in five sets and send Italy into the Davis Cup quarter-finals at the expense of depleted holders Argentina on Monday.
Fognini battled back to win 2-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-2 in the final and deciding rubber which had been postponed on Sunday due to rain delays and failing light.
Italy, who lost at home in last year’s quarter-finals to an Argentine team that went on to win the trophy for the first time, will take on Belgium in the last eight in April after their 3-2 victory.
The tie at Parque Sarmiento in the Argentine capital was another raucous affair with passionate support from the home crowd including special guest Diego Maradona.
Fognini, ranked 36 places higher than Pella at 48, struggled to settle in the cauldron-like atmosphere but finally found some rhythm in the third set to begin to turn round the match.
After his win, he praised the home crowd and promised his shirt to Maradona.
“The atmosphere is normal, the Argentine fans are great and Diego is Diego, to have him nearby is special. If he comes to the changing room, I’ll give him my shirt or whatever he wants,” Fognini told reporters.
The Italians had looked set for a comfortable victory after Paolo Lorenzi beat Pella and Andreas Seppi overcame Carlos Berlocq in the opening singles.
However, Argentina, without the heroes of their 2016 victory, Juan Martin del Potro and Federico Delbonis, fought back as Berlocq and Leo Mayer won the doubles in five sets against Fognini and Simone Bolelli.
Berlocq’s marathon five-set win over Lorenzi on Sunday, which began at 1100 local time and finished after 1930 following two long rain delays, set up Monday’s finale.
The other quarter-final ties to be played in April see 2015 champions Britain visit France, Serbia host Spain and the United States travel to Australia for a clash of the competition’s historically most successful nations.
Belgium, semi-finalists last year when they fell to Argentina, completed a 4-1 win over Germany in Frankfurt on Sunday having shared the opening singles 1-1 on Friday.
Argentina must now wait until September for a relegation/promotion playoff to try to maintain the world-group status they have held since 2002.
Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Clare Fallon