Team India grabbed the much-needed point in doubles but it was not enough to stop the Italian juggernaut which rolled to a 3-1 win in the Davis Cup Qualifier at South Club in Kolkata on Saturday.
Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan came back from a break down in the final set to secure a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over the pair of Simone Bolelli and Matteo Berrettini to salvage some pride for the hosts. In the fourth rubber, India’s No. 1 singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran was outplayed by World No. 37 Andreas Seppi 1-6, 4-6.
Italy thus advanced to the Davis Cup Finals to be held in Madrid in November where they will compete with Spain, Croatia, France, United States, Argentina, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Germany and Serbia.
The Maharashtra Open winners Bopanna and Sharan’s comeback win brought delight to the South Club crowd who had been waiting impatiently to see a fightback from the hosts after India went down in the first two rubbers yesterday. The doubles rubber too did not exactly start the way the home fans would have wanted as the Indians conceded a break of serve in the ninth game to lose the first set 4-6.
It was Bopanna's magical hands at the net that earned India a break point in the fourth game of the second set. Under pressure, the Italians faltered as Bolelli dumped a forehand into the net. It sent India up to 3-1 and gave the fans something to cheer for.
Bopanna did face a break point on his serve in Game 7 after Bolelli showed his deftness at the net. But Divij quickly erased that with a lob which paved the way for Team India to take the second set.
In the third set, India’s aggressive returns could not help them make use of a break point early on. Sharan was promptly broken in the very next game to send the visitors 3-1 up.
It was what fired up Bopanna. The 38-year-old found his fierce groundstrokes right after that and refused to falter. That, in turn, boosted the confidence level of Sharan too, who was making a return to the Davis Cup team after 7 years.
Fast returns and tremendous anticipation skills -- India were spot in pretty much every department after that as they broke back Italy and drew level at 3-3. The left-handed Sharan produced a couple of superb overheads to break the Bolelli serve once more and allow Bopanna to save a break point and serve out the win.
The victory made the motley crowd go berserk but the roars were soon silenced after Gunneswaran was barely able to do anything against the veteran Seppi. Dropping his serve twice in the 20-minute blowout of a first set dampened all hopes.
Prajnesh put up much more resistance in the second set but his mounting unforced errors off his forehand became the cause of his downfall. Seppi glided on the surface beautifully to make his opponent run to all corners before clinching the win in 1 hour 2 minutes.
India will now have to fight it out in the Asia-Oceania zonal level once again.Published 02 Feb 2019, 22:19 IST