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.
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 a one-hour 43 minutes battle.
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.
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.World number 19 India will now compete in the Zone Group action later this year.
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.
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.
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.