Seppi leads Italy into Davis Cup finals

Andreas Seppi guided Italy into the first finals of the revamped Davis Cup after outplaying India 3-1 in the world group qualifier on Saturday.

Italy’s Andreas Seppi plays a shot against India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan during their men’s singles match in the Davis Cup 2019 tennis qualifier between India and Italy at the Calcutta South Club in Kolkata on February 1, 2019. (Photo by Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP)

Seppi brushed aside India’s number one Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-1, 6-4 in the first reverse singles tie at Kolkata’s grass court after India avoided a whitewash by taking the doubles.

Italy, who had led 2-0, overnight were forced to extend the encounter after Simone Bolleli and Matteo Berrettini lost to Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan 6-4, 3-6, 4-6.

The 34-year-old Seppi returned unfazed by Italy’s doubles loss to outplay the 102-ranked Gunneswaran in just over an hour to take his team into the finals in Madrid in November. The final dead singles game was not played.

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“It was an important win for us. Of course after a tough doubles, I had to come out and play a deciding single in the end and I played a solid match,” Seppi said after the win.

“Aim is to stay healthy because I am not the youngest guy on tour. I hope my body holds up and I can still enjoy some tennis in the coming years,” Seppi, who is ranked 37 in the ATP singles chart, added.

Under the new format adopted by the International Tennis Federation, the Davis Cup will be decided at a season-ending 18-team event between the week of November 18-24.

Seppi is not looking too far into the tennis calendar but is confident of a strong showing by his team.

“It’s a tough event and it’s end of the season so you never know how you feel as everybody is tired. So depends in which condition you go there but I think we have a strong team,” he said.

Seppi hit seven aces against the left-handed Indian to silence the home crowd that had their hopes raised after the doubles result.

Bopanna and Sharan came back from a set down to beat the Bolleli-Berrettini combination in the new Davis Cup format cut from the best of five sets to three.

Italy decided to play the 22-year-old Berrettini in the doubles tie instead of their top singles player, world number 19 Marco Cecchinato, who did not feature in any of the matches.

Seppi beat Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-4, 6-2 on Friday’s opening day, while Berrettini outplayed Gunneswaran 6-4, 6-3.