Paolo Cane beat Mats Wilander in the fifth set of the singles final today to give Italy an unexpected 3-2 victory over Sweden in Davis Cup tennis competition.
Cane won 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a four-hour, 37-minute marathon played over two days. The match had been suspended because of darkness Sunday with the players tied at two sets each and the teams tied 2-2.
The loss marked the first time since 1983 that Sweden failed to reach the Davis Cup finals. The Swedes played without Stefan Edberg, who had a key role when Sweden won the cup in 1984, 1985 and 1987.
Italy, with the unexpected victory, advanced to the quarterfinals and will play Austria, which defeated Spain 3-2 on Sunday.
Cane figured in all three of Italy’s points as he defeated Jonas Svensson in the opening singles Friday and teamed with Diego Nargiso in Saturday’s doubles victory.
Cane agreed to rejoin the Italian team for the match against Sweden after being disciplined by Italian officials last year after a disagreement with captain Adriano Panatta.
Pannatta and Cane embraced at the end of today’s thrilling fifth set. Cane broke into tears as a sell-out crowd waved Italian flags and shouted “Paolo, Paolo” after he defeated a player once ranked No. 1 in the world.
Cane started the fifth set aggressively and took to a 3-0 lead by breaking Wilander’s serve in the second game as the Swede made a streak of unforced errors. The Italian fired dazzling backhand passing shots and played fine drop-shots and volleys.
But Cane suddenly seemed in trouble after he failed to exploit two break points for 4-0.
Wilander moved to 1-3 and then to 2-3, rallying from a 15-40 deficit and breaking the serve of the temperamental Italian.
He then served to 3-3 and both players held their serve to 5-5.
Cane made a sensational dive in the 11th game to intercept a difficult ball and then fired a passing shot that gave him a 6-5 lead.
Wilander made two unforced errors in the 12th game to allow Cane two match points. The Italian exploited the very first with a winning smash.
“It was a lot of suffering,” Cane said, adding that he was exhausted physically and mentally.
“I also had some luck, but I played with great determination. I always trusted in a victory,” Cane said.
Sweden badly missed Edberg, who had announced he would skip the Italy-Sweden event even before he was injured in the finals of the Australian Open.