Genoa, Italy:With Roger Federer sitting out, Switzerland lost a doubles match to Italy in a Davis Cup playoff and had its lead cut to 2-1.
Simone Bolelli and Potito Starace beat Marco Chiudinelli and Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (3) on Saturday.
In Thursday's draw, Federer was selected to team with Wawrinka, reviving the team that won the Olympic doubles title last year. But Switzerland captain Severin Luthi decided to rest Federer in favor of the 117th-ranked Chiudinelli.
"We all know he's had a very heavy schedule over the last days and weeks, so we preferred that he rest today and be ready for tomorrow," Luthi said.
Federer lost in five sets to Juan Martin del Potro in the U.S. Open final Monday, and he is still getting over jet leg from his trip across the Atlantic.
"For sure to have Roger on the team is always an advantage, but we knew we had a chance with this team, the Italians just played better today," Luthi said. "(Federer) has no problem. You can expect him to play for sure tomorrow."
Federer can seal the tie with a win over Andreas Seppi in the first of Sunday's reverse singles matches on the red clay courts at the Valletta Cambiaso club.
The winner of the best-of-five series will return to the World Group next year.
Wawrinka beat Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 and Federer defeated Bolelli 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 in Friday's opening singles matches.
"We were talking about the solutions for (Federer) and the worst-case scenario would have been if we lose in five sets and then he would have to play three days in a row," Luthi said. "It was better that he rested today and be ready for tomorrow.
"It's not for sure that if Roger had played we would have won the doubles," the Swiss captain added. "We had a strong team on the court today. It's not like we were saying we're giving this point to Italy. They were just stronger today."
Italy also made a change in its doubles team, with Bolelli replacing Fabio Fognini alongside Starace.
Wawrinka was broken four times and also lost two points on his serve in the tiebreaker.
"For sure it was not my best doubles today," Wawrinka said, adding that he and Chiudinelli struggled to play in unison, having never played together in the Davis Cup.
The Italians were pleased by the decision to rest Federer.
"We were a bit surprised he wasn't playing. But it gave us a better chance of winning," Bolelli said. "We played well and showed that without Federer we're capable of winning in straight sets."