Having had a professional tennis career spanning 17 years and with a career-high ranking of No. 18, Italy’s 34-year-old Andreas Seppi certainly has gained a lot of experience. By this time, he is well aware that ranking hardly matters if a player is inspired enough to show his audacity against an established name.
After all, he himself caused a stir in the tennis world when, as an unseeded player, he sent the second-seeded Roger Federer crashing out of the Australian Open in four sets four years ago. It was an outcome nobody had envisaged. Seppi had surrendered to the Swiss maestro in their 10 previous meetings so he had the slimmest chances of a victory.
Yet he pulled it off. Showing his guts and gumption, the Italian validated the fact that ranking is just a number at the end of the day. All that one needs is copious amounts of belief.
Four years later, Seppi was perhaps reminded of his own achievement when he refused to underestimate India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan ahead of India vs Italy Davis Cup Qualifier to be held on the lush green lawns of the South Club in Kolkata from February 1-2.
With Ramanathan placed at 133rd in the current world rankings and Seppi perched at 37th, it is a gulf of nearly 100 spots. Yet there was no air of condescension when the Italian, who reached the final at Sydney earlier this year, spoke about his rival whom he will face in the very first rubber on Friday.
He has indeed been closely following the 24-year-old Indian’s career. That he reached the final at Newport on grass just last year is something Seppi knows all too well. Ramkumar does indeed have a game that is adept for the fast courts and the Italian thoroughly underlined that.
“He has played a few times on grass and he can, of course, play very good on this surface,” said Seppi on Ramanathan.
“He played the final in Newport and also some other good tournaments on grass. He is going to be dangerous. He can do a lot of serve and volley so it’s not going to be easy. But every match is difficult so I am looking forward to the match,” elaborated Seppi who lost four out of the seven matches that he played on grass in 2018.
On being asked if he felt any pressure after having been saddled with the responsibility of playing Italy’s first rubber, a nonchalant Seppi downplayed the possibility of a pressure situation and simply said that the team just has to fetch three points.
“We just need to win three points so it doesn’t matter who brings those points. My match is first so it will be good to give the lead to Italy.”
And his composure was all the more laudable since the South Club grass courts are way different from the ones they are used to playing on. Seppi was totally candid about the fact that it does not come close to the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon but the Italian team has also been one to quickly adapt to the conditions, no matter how unfamiliar it might be.
“We just had a couple of days of practice. For sure, the courts are not like Wimbledon. It’s different grass for sure. Not so perfect but we knew that from the beginning. But we have to play and we’ll give our best.”
As for the obvious question of how the new Davis Cup format is looking, Seppi has given his thumbs up. Best-of-five set matches played over three days had earlier been too taxing for the players in an already overloaded calendar. Under the new rules, the tie finishes in two days with all the matches being best-of-three.
“It’s different but it’s okay. You play two days so we have more time to travel to the tournament the week after, instead of playing best-of-five matches over three days. So for me, it’s okay,” Seppi explained, clearly pointing out how less demanding and much more welcoming the new format is.