Davis Cup: Bopanna-Sharan pair secures consolation win for India

Italy won the tie 3-1, with the Rohan Bopanna-Divij Sharan pair securing India's only win of the tie.

100

Divij Sharan and Rohan Bopanna helped India avoid a whitewash by winning their doubles match against the Simone Bolleli-Matteo Berrettini pair.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Italy travelled to India for the Davis Cup qualifier without its best player, World No. 15 Fabio Fognini. But once here, it didn’t even feel the need for the second-best, Marco Cecchinato (No.19), as India was beaten by a handsome 3-1 margin at the Calcutta South Club on Saturday.

Do the Italians have a grass court hidden in a corner back home, captain Corrado Barazzutti was asked after the victory. “No, we have a garden,” he replied in jest. Either way, it was nothing more than a stroll.

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan had thrown a lifeline by beating Matteo Berrettini and Simone Bolelli 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. But other than arresting the slide of Indian doubles in recent years -- the last win at a similar stage came in the 2014 World Group Playoff against Serbia -- it achieved nothing.

Andreas Seppi handed Prajnesh Gunneswaran, the India No.1, a second dispiriting defeat in two days, winning 6-1, 6-4, as the crowd watched their beloved nation’s hopes evaporate steadily under the winter sun. The result now consigns India to the Asia-Oceania zonal level for the eighth year running, even as it sent Italy to the inaugural Davis Cup Finals to be held in Madrid in November.

100

Andreas Seppi stretches himself to return with his backhand against Prajnesh Gunneswaran.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

 

The morning, for the hosts, started with hope. In the opening four holds, Bopanna and Divij lost all of three points. The duo found its return game too, as two down-the-lines at 2-1 threatened the Bolelli serve. But where India couldn’t capitalise on the solitary break point it earned, Italy nailed it at the first opportunity, breaking Bopanna to 5-4 and taking the set one game later.      

When the Italians lost serve in the fourth game of the second stanza, it didn’t seem out of turn. They appeared to struggle against the varying speed of their opponents’ serves. Berrettini, who is the sort of player who likes pace, snatched at his shots while facing Divij, whose slower serve seemed to throw him off. A string of such errors meant Italy spurned the two break chances it had in the ninth game. Divij held his nerve through four deuces to level the match.

The final set was capricious. Berrettini and Bolelli made the play in the fourth game to go up 3-1. But Bopanna and Divij responded by breaking Bolelli back-to-back. The two holds -- at 3-4 and 5-4 -- demanded steely nerves, and they had them in plenty, sending their supporters into raptures.

But by the time crowd settled, Seppi had raced to a 3-0 lead. Prajnesh does strike a fine forehand, but rarely hits through the court. The kind of penetrative power he needed for a point-ending shot deserted him throughout. Seppi, whose movement was top-notch, covered every blade of grass. And with efficiency, he combined some artistry, a mix Prajnesh had no answer to.    

The result: Italy bt India 3-1 (Matteo Berrettini & Simone Bolelli lost to Rohan Bopanna & Divij Sharan 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; Andreas Seppi bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-1, 6-4).