Seppi, Berrettini put Italy in driving seat in India Davis Cup tie

Prajnesh Gunneswaran was handed a straight sets loss vs Matteo Berrettini. (Reuters pic)

KOLKATA: Andreas Seppi and Matteo Berrettini gave Italy a comfortable 2-0 lead over India on the first day of their Davis Cup world group qualifier on Friday.

World number 37 Seppi beat Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-4, 6-2 in the new Davis Cup format cut from the best of five sets to three.

In the second match on the Kolkata grass courts, 22-year-old Berrettini outplayed India’s top-ranked singles player Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4, 6-3.

The 34-year-old Seppi started as Italy’s lead player ahead of world number 19 Marco Cecchinato.

Seppi took time to find his rhythm but broke in the ninth game to go 5-4 up in the first set, despite his 24-year-old opponent playing his heart out in front of a raucous home crowd.

Ramanathan, 129 in the ATP rankings, hit eight aces in an aggressive start but lost steam against a superior Seppi who completed the win in 71 minutes.

Berrettini came out all guns blazing in the second match to break the left-handed Gunneswaran, who is ranked 102, in the first game. He wrapped up the match in just 57 minutes.

Italy will hope for a quick finish in Saturday’s final day when they play the doubles and reverse singles.

Under the new format adopted by the International Tennis Federation, the Davis Cup will be decided at a week-long season-ending 18-team event to be held in Madrid in November.