Italy's Fabio Fognini returns the ball to Argentina's Guido Pella during the Davis Cup first round tennis match in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Natacha Pisarenko
February 06, 2017

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Defending champion Argentina was knocked out of the Davis Cup in the first round by Italy on Monday.

Italy's Fabio Fognini defeated Guido Pella from two sets down in the deciding singles 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in more than four hours.

The match on outdoor clay was postponed from Sunday because of rain and darkness.

It's the 10th time since the challenge round was abolish in 1972 that a defending champion has lost in the first round. Switzerland was the most recent in 2015.

Argentina was without top player Juan Martin del Potro, who preferred to focus on tournament play. Only Pella and Leonardo Mayer remained from the team which won Argentina's first Davis Cup title in December.

But Pella almost won it for them. Up by two sets, his game lost its sting. He missed break points in consecutive games but Fognini, growing more patient, took his break chance in the eighth game and extended the match to a fourth set.

There, Pella squandered two break chances in the sixth game and broke his racket. Fognini took them to a fifth.

Fognini broke for 3-2, and Pella conceded his serve in the seventh to fall behind 5-2. Fognini served out, and kissed the red clay in Buenos Aires.

Italy won both singles on Friday, but Argentina came back by taking the doubles on Saturday, and the first reverse singles on Sunday, when Carlos Berlocq defeated Paolo Lorenzi 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Italy will face Belgium in the quarterfinals in April. The other matchups are: Australia vs. United States, France vs. Britain, Serbia vs. Spain.

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