%TItalians Adriano Panatta and Paolo Bertolucci stunned Australia's top-ranged doubles pair of John Alexander and Phil Dent today, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, to keep alive their country's hopes in the Davis Cup final.
After decisive victories in the opening two singles matches Friday Australia leads, 2-1, in the best-of-five-match series and remains a firm favorite to win the Davis Cup for the 24th time, the first since 1973.The sonclusive singles matches - Alexander vs. Panatta and Tony Roche vs. Corrado Barazzutti - are scheduled Sunday.
Roche trashed Panatta in straight sets and Alexander beat Barazzutti in four sets in the opening singles on the grass center court of White City Stadium.
It was the stubby Bertolucci, nicknamed the "Pasta Kid," who threw the Australians off balance as the Italians took command of the ferocious and occasionally brilliant doubles match.
Bertolucci, who partnered Panatta in the doubles triumph that clinched a 4-1 victory over Chile and Italy's first possession of the Davis Cup last December in Santiago, exhibited sizzling passing shots and dazzling net play today.
The Australians were never able to break the Italians' service. The Italians set the pattern of the match in the third game. Taking command of the net like two Horatios on the Bridge, they repelled every Australian assault and broke Dent's serve.
From that point on, the first and second sets were a breeze for the Italians. In the third set, Alexander - the steadier of the veteran Australian pair today - got noticeably stronger causing the Italians to fight for every point.
It was not until the 11th game, with the crowd sensing an Aussie revival, that Panatta and Bertolucci were able to exploit Dent's serve again. The 27-year-old Sydney native fought off three break point, but then volleyed into the net to give Italy the break and a 6-5 lead.
Panatta served out the match with four decastating deliveries to complete the victory and keep Italay's flickering hopes of defending the 77-year-old trophy, symbolic of international team supremacy in tennis, alive.