Kolkata, February 1: Not ruling themselves out even after falling behind 0-2, captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Friday said India paid the price for not making the most of the opportunities in their first singles rubber against former champions Italy in the Davis Cup World Group qualifier tie here on Friday. India's top two singles players Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ramkumar Ramanathan were swept aside by Italy's senior-most player Andreas Seppi and rising star Matteo Berrettini to hand Italy a commanding 2-0 lead going into the second day's play.
While 22-year-old Berrettini was head and shoulders above Prajnesh, who he beat in the Chengdu ATP last year, sealing the tie in less than an hour, Ramkumar frittered away two break points in the first set to turn the tide in Seppi's favour. "We had half-a-chance early there in the first set of the first match and we didn't take it. Davis Cup: Superior Italy Push India to Brink with 2-0 Lead.
"When you are playing players who have so much experience and are used to playing at a level you have to take your chances. We didn't at 3-4, 30-40. I am a firm believer that if you take your chances, you will get rewarded. That's where the momentum swung," Bhupathi told reporters. Ramkumar got a break point in the second game after he was leading 1-0 but Seppi, ranked 37, held serve. Davis Cup Draw: Prajnesh Gunneswaran to Take on Matteo Berrettini, Ram Up Against Andreas Seppi.
In the eighth game, Ramkumar was leading 4-3 but failed to cash in as Seppi changed gears to wrap up the set 6-4. He won the second set easily by 6-2. Bhupathi remained hopeful, saying he will will now bank on their doubles specialists Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan to keep them afloat. "There is no doubt that we are disappointed but tomorrow is a light day and stranger things have happened. We are not going to rule ourselves out. We will try and win the doubles, we will try and chip away one by one and see what happens."
India bounced back to defeat China 3-2 from a similar situation last year. Ramkumar, who is on a career high 102, said he became nervous after failing to break despite being 4-3 up in the first set. "Nerves and tension got to me. It's a learning experience for me. I gave my best, Seppi was better today. He deserved to win." Prajnesh completely surrendered to Matteo Barreettini 6-4, 6-3 in less than an hour.
It was a harrowing start for the southpaw, who conceded breaks in both his opening games of first and second set. "That put a lot of pressure on me because he is a good front-runner and has a very good serve. He used that to his advantage. I think he played more aggressive than I did and that worked well for him," he said after losing to Berrettini for the second time since Chengdu ATP last year.
Hailing Berrettini, Prajnesh said: "He is a very good first strike player with a big serve, big forehand. He uses those to his advantage. I feel I needed to put more balls in play, start the rally and I felt I would have more of an advantage and I just didn't do enough to get that to happen."