davis cup preview

Indian player Prajnesh Gunneswaran plays a shot during his singles match against Uzbekistan's Temur Ismailov at the Davis Cup Asia Oceania group one tie match held between India and Uzbekistan at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association Stadium, in Bangalore on April 9, 2017. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

KOLKATA — As the Indian team arrived in the city Jan. 22 for their Davis Cup World Group qualifier rubber against Italy, preparations at the South Club — which is hosting the competition after a gap of 16 years — were in full swing, with a tubular gallery being constructed.

The grass courts of South Club were chosen as the venue only after the All India Tennis Association secured two key exemptions from the International Tennis Federation, one being the seating capacity of 4,000 which is required.

Non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi, who is scheduled to arrive in the city Jan. 23, was keen to play on grass considering that Italians are solid hard court players.

The South Club — which has previously hosted 14 Davis Cup ties — has a seating capacity of 3,000.

"We had to construct tubular gallery on the centre court as there are synthetic courts around that and we had to make that arrangement. Work is going on at good pace and we are ready," said Giri Chaturvedi, secretary of the club which is in its centenary year.

"We are expecting a good crowd and the ground conditions are also good. India wanted to play here and they won't be disappointed," he added.

Ticket prices have been kept at Rs. 1,000 for general spectators and Rs. 500 for club members, club president Rajat Majumder said.

While 1,620 tickets will be printed for the Rs. 1,000 general category, there will be 1,000 member tickets available.

The Italian team is set to arrive on Republic Day, Jan. 26.

The last time India hosted a tie on grass was in 2016 when India played Korea in Chandigarh.

A total of 24 teams will play in the knockout qualifiers on Feb. 1 and 2 to decide which 12 teams will play the year-end finals. Twelve winners in February will join these six teams for the 18-team finals in Madrid in November 2019.

According to the new format, only four semi-finalists from the 2018 season along with two wild cards — Argentina and Britain — have a direct entry. India lost their World Group play-off to Serbia while Italy lost their quarterfinal to France.

Since India is ranked 20, it again got a shot at the World Group.

Indian squad: Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Divij Sharan, Rohan Bopanna, Saketh Myneni and Sasi Kumar Mukund.

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