Just a few days after the completion of the year's first Grand Slam, Australian Open, the action moves to the Davis Cup tournament. India begin their 2019 campaign by hosting a strong Italian side in the qualifiers.
Unlike the previous years, this year's Davis Cup will have a new format. First of all, the five matches in the tie will be played over two days, instead of three.
Apart from India and Italy, there are 22 other nations competing in the Davis Cup qualifiers for a place in the Davis Cup Finals, which will be held in Madrid (Spain) from November 18.
The winners of all 12 qualifier ties will make it to the Finals, while the 12 losing nations will be competing in the 2019 Zone Group competitions to take place in August or September this year.
The Finals will have as many as 18 teams - the 12 qualifiers, the four semi-finalists from 2018 (France, Spain, United States of America and champions Croatia), and two wild-card entries.
While all the qualifier ties will be played over five matches with three sets each, the final will have just three matches in each tie - two singles and one doubles - with all the matches being best of three tiebreak sets.
The qualifiers will begin with two singles matches on Day 1 followed by the doubles match and the two reverse singles match on Day 2.
As mentioned earlier, India will take on a strong Italian side in their qualifier. But they have made full use of the home advantage as they have chosen to host the tie at the Calcutta South Club in Kolkata that has grasscourts, Italians' least favourite surface.
In spite of this disadvantage, the visitors will start the tie as favourites. They have some world-class talent in their team, and most of their players have plenty of Grand Slam experience too.
India are led by multiple-time Grand Slam Doubles champion Mahesh Bhupathi, who will be the non-playing captain. Bhupathi has named Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Divij Sharan and veteran player Rohan Bopanna in the side.
While the first two names will play singles matches, Bopanna and Sharan will take care of doubles.
The Italians, on the other hand, are led by their non-playing captain Corrado Barazzutti and will not be having the services of World No. 15 Fabio Fognini. Still, they have a formidable side as they are spearheaded by World No. 19 Marco Cecchinato and have World No. 37 Andreas Seppi, World No. 53 Matteo Berrettini and veteran Simone Bolelli in their ranks.
Compared to the Italians, India's highest ranked player is Prajnesh, who is 102nd in the world.
Here is all you to know about the Davis Cup qualifier:
Date: February 1 and February 2
Venue: Calcutta South Club, Kolkata
Time: The play on the first day will begin at 11:00 am, whereas it will start at 10:30 am on the next day.
Telecast: Indian viewers can watch all the five matches on DD Sports.
India: Mahesh Bhupathi (non-captain), Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan
Italy: Corrado Barazzutti (non-playing captain), Marco Cecchinato, Andreas Seppi, Simone Bolelli and Matteo Berrettini
Friday, Feb 1:
Ramkumar Ramanathan vs Andreas Seppi
Prajnesh Gunneswaran vs Matteo Berrettini
Time: 11 am onwards
Saturday, Feb 2:
Rohan Bopanna/Divij Sharan vs Marco Cecchinato/Simone Bolelli
Prajnesh Gunneswaran vs Andreas Seppi
Ramkumar Ramanathan vs Matteo Berrettini
Davis Cup India vs Italy: News, Updates, Schedule, Results and more on SportskeedaPublished 31 Jan 2019, 23:56 IST