Alè, ragazzi!


After forty-seven years, the Davis Cup returns to Italy. The result of planning and an ascending tennis movement that, thanks to the young age of its protagonists, promises emotions for many years to come. Gianluca Puzzo and Andrea La Rosa celebrate with a joint article the historic feat of these five youngsters.

The victory of Italy in the Davis Cup, alongside the Olympic gold in the 100 meters and Roma’s Champions League, was one of the sporting milestones I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. After Jacobs in Tokyo, I would have settled for that 33% satisfaction, but after last night, I can say I’ve reached a substantial 66%, with only the last, science-fiction-like step remaining to give my existence a sense of absolute sporting fulfillment. Growing up in the Galgani era, the former president of the Italian Tennis Federation who believed only the Davis Cup mattered in tennis, disregarding tournaments (imagine that…), I never missed a weekend of this competition on TV, undeterred by impossible time zones, never-ending matches, and often, the slim hopes of celebrating our victories, always accompanied by the unforgettable voice of Giampiero Galeazzi, who between a “turborovescio” and an “alè ragazzi,” did his best to keep spirits high on the couch. Decades of exhilaration as sudden as they were fleeting, like the victory over Wilander’s Sweden in the “four days of Cagliari,” or the one against the USA in Milwaukee, which was consistently unable to be followed up in subsequent rounds. These results mirrored our level, with very few good players to whom talent occasionally gifted heroic days, but never found continuity at those levels, the true divide between champions and, precisely, good players. Until yesterday, the day when Italy’s tennis team unbelievably repeated the victory of ’76, seized in Chile amidst a thousand political controversies and almost complete media silence (even RAI only sent a radio correspondent); no clandestinity this time, and no doubt, Italy was truly the strongest team, even without Berrettini (with whom we would have been unbeatable on indoor courts) and with Musetti injured after a set in the semifinal against Serbia. And indeed, no considerations (conceptually correct as they might be) about the ugliness of this format, so different from the original one, truly matter; Italy didn’t set these new rules, and they have been in effect for years, we just played better within those rules.
In Malaga, the team rallied around its announced champion, Yannick Sinner, as is customary for all teams; fresh from the ATP Finals where he had only lost in the final to Djokovic, he shouldered Italy in both the quarterfinals against the Netherlands and the semifinals against Serbia. In both instances, he carried the weight of securing two points, given the defeats of Arnaldi and Musetti in the opening singles matches, and he did so in both singles (legendary was the “revenge” against Djokovic after saving three consecutive match points) and in doubles, alongside a true Davis Cup man, Sonego, who also deserves credit for saving us in the qualification round against Chile, when Sinner wasn’t there. The final was paradoxically the easiest step for Sinner, who, thanks to Arnaldi’s hard-fought win in the opening match, could play freely against DeMinaur, a player he has always dominated, winning without the slightest difficulty. Thank you guys, for a truly unforgettable day.
(Gianluca Puzzo)

Remember Schumacher’s epic with Ferrari vividly, in the eyes of someone who, even as a teenager, was convinced of the unrepeatable nature of those achievements, and also the emotion of the 2006 World Cup just days after the high school graduation exam, like the most recent European Championship won after the pandemic, almost as a moral compensation for that dramatic period.
When I wrote the article about that memorable Italian summer two years ago, marked at the Olympics by triumphs more unique than rare, I thought I had reached the emotional pinnacle, sports-wise. Apparently, I hadn’t accounted for tennis, the sport that seems to be devised by the devil, as Adriano Panatta claimed, because just when you think you’re playing well, a slight relaxation can turn the game around, motivating the opponent and changing the momentum of shots and the confidence in legs, arms, but above all, in the mind. Today, the final of 1998, when, at the climax, Andrea Gaudenzi’s right shoulder cracked, is definitively shelved, today we all become part of the story to tell and who knows, still to write and pass on. In these lines, it would be out of place, as we often do at SportOne, to analyze the qualifications, scores, and everything else that led Italian tennis to this historic result; instead, it’s appropriate to pay tribute to the protagonists, capable throughout an entire weekend of keeping not only enthusiasts glued to the television but sports lovers in general, involving even the memories of parents and grandparents who have always passed on that one success from 1976.
The strength of the team led by former tennis player Filippo Volandri, composed of the best available with the aim of doing well and rewriting history, far from the usual side that characterizes this sport because the Davis Cup is different; individuals to win become a team.
It’s inevitable to recognize the specific weight of Jannik Sinner, probably in these weeks number one in the world regardless of what the ranking says (No. 4 ATP), capable against Serbia of defeating someone whose name is Novak and surname Djokovic, sending back three match points with personality, the only one to believe in that moment of the semifinal, which then became a turning point.
Through him passed the crucial moments, a wildcard in Arnaldi’s victory in the first match of the final, a movement that, in general, considering the young average age, besides the international ranking that sees five Italian tennis players among the top fifty in the world, will bring many children closer to this sport, increasing its popularity, waiting for Matteo Berrettini to reignite his tennis.
Last lines dedicated to Giampiero Galeazzi, at the forefront when it came to recounting Davis weekends, volcanic in his sports commentary that, in some way, had to hold back when commenting on the matches of a sport where silence and concentration are everything, saying “Alè” at the end of a rally in our favor was a form of calm celebration. This time, it’s a big win, let’s all celebrate, Alè from San Candido to Portopalo.
(Andrea La Rosa)

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Gianluca Puzzo

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