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Giuseppe Merlo

tennis player

Nickname: Beppe
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Bio He was an Italian tennis player.

Merlo reached the semifinals of French Championships in 1955 (losing to Sven Davidson) and 1956 (losing to Lew Hoad). In the final of Rome in 1955, Merlo led 2 sets to 1 and had 2 match points against Fausto Gardini, but minutes later had to retire with cramps. Merlo lost in the Italian Open final again in 1957 (to Nicola Pietrangeli).

His other career highlights include winning the Reggio Calabria International tournament four times (1959–60, 1963, 1967). He was part of the Italian Davis Cup team, winning 25 matches out of 35.

He was a son of the goalkeeper of the city club of Merano, his career began in 1945, when he moved to Bologna to play for Virtus. He made his victorious debut in the Davis Cup in 1951, lined up against Poland and claimed his first Davis cup win.

In 1952, he was sent by the Federation to California, together with Gardini, to improve his game; he is trained by Mark Tennant who also made him play some matches with the champions Jack Kramer and Pancho Gonzales, who have already turned professional. In the same year he made his debut at the French Open, where he was eliminated in the third round by Lew Hoad; at Wimbledon, he was stopped in the first round. He also ran into the Australian the following year, at the Internazionali d'Italia and, again, at Roland Garros, with the same result, respectively, in the first and third rounds. The same year he started in the Davis Cup, playing and winning both singles against the Netherlands and Sweden. On that occasion, Italy reached the semi-finals of the European zone but was eliminated 2-3 by Belgium in Brussels. Merlo beats Jacques Brichant but is defeated by Philippe Washer. In the Davis Cup 1954 Merlo is sidelined, together with Fausto Gardini. Marcello Del Bello and Orlando Sirola are preferred to him and then debutant Nicola Pietrangeli is promoted to starter but Italy, after passing the first round, did not go beyond the quarter-finals, losing to Sweden 5-0.

In 1955, Merlo was one step away from his great success at the Internationals of Italy. In the final against Fausto Gardini, in fact, he was leading by two sets to one: he had two match points at 6-5, in the fourth set, but he suffered from cramps; in these conditions he also managed to get hold of a third, but to no avail and was forced to retire, at 6-6, in the throes of a nervous breakdown. A few weeks later, he was accepted as the No. 1 seed. 7 at the French Internationals; he defeated the American Vic Seixas in the quarterfinals and reached the semifinals, where he lost to the Swedish Davidson, whom he surpassed a few weeks earlier, in the Rome tournament. Before that, only Giorgio De Stefani in 1932, among the Italians, had done better in the Paris tournament. In the same year, he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon where he was eliminated by the champion Ken Rosewall. He made an appearance at the US Internationals, where he lost in the first round. In the Davis Cup, Merlo returned to the starting line-up winning both points against Germany and Denmark; he was later substituted in the semi-final against Great Britain. He returned to the victorious European final, beating Lennart Bergelin but in the interzone final, in Philadelphia against Australia, Sirola was again preferred to him.

The following year he reached the quarterfinals at the Internazionali d'Italia. He still disputed a splendid Roland Garros, where he was entered as seed no 5. He reached again the semifinal, where he was defeated only by the Australian Lew Hoad, then winner of the tournament and the two subsequent Wimbledon tournaments. In the Davis Cup, he was lined up again this year until the victorious final of the European zone, again against Sweden. In October, he defeated Nicola Pietrangeli in five sets and became absolute Italian champion for the first time. In the Davis Cup he was again the starter in the singles. He took the two points in the first round against Poland. Against Denmark he lost in the opening against the strong Kurt Nielsen but then won the decisive point for the passage of the round. In the difficult away match at Roland Garros (3-2 for Italy) he lost to Paul Remy but then beat Pierre Darmon. He contributed to the Italian triumph in the European final away against Sweden (5-0) beating Ulf Schmidt. However, once again, in the interzone final against the United States, on the grass of Forest Hills, he was left at home to make way for Sirola in the singles as well. Scoreː 4-1 for the United States.

In 1957, Merlo reached the final again at the Internazionali d'Italia but, even with the underdogs, he was defeated in just three sets by Nicola Pietrangeli. At Roland Garros, he was seeded no. 4 and reached the quarterfinals. He returned to the starting lineup in the national team that reaches the final in the European zone but was faced with the insurmountable Belgian obstacle, to which he gave both points (defeats with Brichant and Washer). At the end of the year he confirmed himself as the absolute Italian champion in the singles, beating Orlando Sirola in five sets.

At the 1958 Internationals of Italy, Merlo reached the quarterfinals, as well as at the Internationals of France, where he was seeded no. 8. he He was fielded only once, in the Davis Cup, in the easy interzone semifinal against the Philippines. He still reached the quarterfinals at the 1959 Internazionali d'Italia, where he was defeated by the Chilean Ayala, who also surpassed him in the round of 16 at Roland Garros. In the same year, he reached the second round at Wimbledon and was deployed twice again in the Davis Cup, with acquired results.

In 1960, Merlo disputed another splendid tournament in Rome: he defeated the Australian Neale Fraser in the quarterfinals and lost only in the semifinals to the American Barry MacKay. At Roland Garros he was seeded no. 12 and reached the round of 16. On the grass of Wimbledon, he stopped in the second round. He was not selected (again) as the member of the blue team that competed with Australia for the Davis Cup in the final. Orlando Sirola and even the young Sergio Tacchini continue to be preferred as singles player. In October, however, he became the absolute Italian champion for the third time, beating Tacchini in three sets in the final.

At the 1961 Internazionali d'Italia, Merlo lost only in the quarter-finals to the champion Rod Laver. He does not compete in Paris, where he has been seeded for six consecutive years; he lost in the first round at Wimbledon. Now thirty-four, he was selected only once to play for Italy in the Davis Cup.

Even in 1962, however, he entered the first sixteen at the Roland Garros. In 1963, he was Italian champion for the fourth time, beating Tacchini again in three sets. Two years later, the crisis of the Davis Cup national team forced the non-playing captain Vasco Valerio to recall him as starter and, at thirty-seven, he played the last singles matches but failed to win the third point against the modest but fresher Holeček. Italy was thus eliminated by Czechoslovakia 3-2.

Overall he played 35 Davis Cup matches with the blue shirt, winning 25. He competed until 1970, winning twenty-two tournaments in all.

He retired from competitive tennis in 1969 when he was 41 years old. He was 91 at the time of his death in July 2019.
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