Kolkata, Jan 31 (IANS) India will strive to make the most of home conditions, a favourable surface and format to battle history and former champions Italy in a Davis Cup World Group qualifiers tie here from Friday.
India, led by non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi, will be playing on the iconic South Club grass court, a surface where the Italians have not had the most success in recent years.
The visitors sprang a surprise by leaving World No. 19 Marco Cecchinato out of the singles in the draw.
The two singles rubbers will be played by Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran against Andreas Seppi and Matteo Berrettini. Ramkumar and Seppi will take on each other in the opening rubber with the order being reversed on the second day.
The 2018 French Open quarter-finalist will however partner with Simone Bolleli in the doubles rubber.
They will take on India’s top-ranked pair of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan.
Bhupathi, who made his debut as a Davis Cup player at the South Club 24 years ago, has been bullish about this being India’s best chance to advance to the elite World Group stage of the Davis Cup for the first time since 2011.
Besides the surface, the duration of the matches in the new format – best of three sets rather than the usual five — also gives India some advantage.
Traditionally, India have been stronger in the doubles rubber and will look forward to the second day of the two-day meet. Veteran Bopanna and Sharan are in good form too, having recently clinched the Maharashtra Open.
But India need three points to win the match and therefore, the country’s two highest ranked singles players Prajnesh and Ramkumar will have to continue the good work they have been doing over the past year.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at [email protected])