Kolkata: India lived up to their reputation in doubles but that was not enough as Italy secured a 3-1 triumph after winning the first reverse singles on Saturday to storm into the first-ever Davis Cup World Finals.
Trailing 0-2 after losing the opening day’s singles rubbers, doubles pair of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan kept India’s slender hopes alive by beating Simone Boelleli and Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in an one-hour 43 minutes battle.
But it only delayed the world number 10 Italy’s march into the Finals as world number 37 Andreas Seppi outclassed top-ranked Indian Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-1 6-4 in 62 minutes in the first reverse singles to render the fifth rubber unnecessary at the Calcutta South Club.
On a career high ranking of 102, Prajnesh had no chance in the first set and though the left-hander gave a better account of himself in the second set a share of 40 unforced errors dashed his hopes. World number 19 India will now compete in the Zone Group action later this year.
Italy boast of three players inside top-60 but no Indian feature in the world’s top 100 and Bhupathi said the country need to do a reality check after the loss. Having got a first-round bye, India advanced to the World Group play-offs after defeating China 3-2 in the Asia/Oceania Zone Group I in Tianjin.
They lost to Serbia 4-0 in the World Group play-offs in Kraljevo to be drawn against Italy who lost to France 1-3 in the quarters in Genoa.
Italy thus extended their head-to-head record against India to 5-1 with the hosts having an upper hand at the same grass courts in 1985.
However, India’s gamble on grass flopped this time with the 1976 champions Italy emerging as one of the 12 qualifiers to join 2018 champions Croatia, runners-up France, and semi-finalists Spain and USA in the Finals to be held in Madrid in November.
Great Britain and Argentina have got wild cards in the 18-team Finals which will feature six groups of three teams, with the six group winners and two best-performing group runners-up competing in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the summit clash on November 24.
In the must-win rubber, Bopanna and Sharan upped the ante by breaking newcomer Berrettini in the fourth game of the second set before sealing the issue.
Making a comeback for the first time since 2012, southpaw Sharan complemented senior pro Bopanna and wrapped up the match with a forehand volley winner in the end....