As expected, Indian players proved no match to their Italian counterparts on the first day of the Davis Cup qualifier at the South Club grass courts in Kolkata, losing both the singles matches in straight sets.
The day started with India No. 2 Ramkumar Ramanathan taking on Andreas Seppi. An erratic Ramkumar proved no match for the experienced Italian and lost 4-6, 2-6.
In the second rubber, India No. 1 Prajnesh Gunneswaran was outplayed by Davis Cup debutant Matteo Berrettini and lost 4-6, 3-6.
The results don't come as a surprise as the Italians were far superior in the rankings and experience at the world level. Even though grass was not the favourite choice of surface for the visitors, a world ranking of 37 for Seppi and 53 for Berrettini proved that they are seasoned campaigners.
In the first match, World No. 37 Seppi took an hour and 11 minutes to dismiss Ramkumar. The Italian broke the Indian in the ninth game and then served out the first set. Ramkumar probably gave everything in the first set, had nothing left in the tank and surrendered meekly in the second set. Seppi broke the Indian in the third and the seventh game to wrap up a contest that promised much but due to Ramkumar's erratic game, delivered very little.
In the second rubber, Berrettini's renowned forehand proved too much for Prajnesh, who came into the tie at the back of a maiden Grand Slam appearance at the Australian Open. Prajnesh lasted less than an hour against the Italian, who he lost to in the Challenger event in Chengdu, China last year.
The onus is now on the doubles combination of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan to reduce the deficit for India on the second and final day of Davis Cup's newest format. A win against Simone Bolelli and Marco Cecchinato will make sure the tie at least goes into the reverse singles. No easy task for the Indian combo as in front of them is a Grand Slam doubles winner in Bolelli and the world number 19 in singles in the form of Cecchinato.