Andreas Seppi overcame early jitters to beat Ramkumar Ramanathan in straight sets, giving Italy a 1-0 lead over India in the Davis Cup Qualifer in Kolkata on Friday. The World number 37 was slow off the blocks on the grass court of the Calcutta South Club but hit top gear in the second set to complete a 6-4 6-2 win in one hour and 11 minutes. The big-serving Indian fired eight aces but his weak returns meant that he failed to convert two break points in the first set before the Italian won five points in a row to wrap the opening set in 41 minutes.
Italy took a gamble by naming Seppi as their number one player ahead of world number 19 Marco Cecchinato, who had ousted world number one Novak Djokovic from the French Open last year.
In front of a motley crowd shouting 'Ram, Ram', it was a neck and neck battle till the eighth game with both holding their serves. Ramkumar, who is ranked 133, failed to convert two break points in the second and eighth game. The match was tantalisingly poised in the next game before the Italian broke it with a cross-court back hand.
He went on to win four games in a row to seal the first set. The second set turned out to be a formality for the Italian as he shifted gears in the third game to give Italy a 1-0 lead in the tie.