India will play host to Italy in the Davis Cup 2019 Qualifiers, with the matches to take place from February 1-2 next year. The qualifying matches in February, in the week after the end of the Australian Open, break with tradition in several ways. They have been cut from three days to two and each rubber will be decided over three sets, not five.

India had ended the 2018 Davis World Group Play-off tie against Serbia earlier this month without a single win, losing 0-4, in Kraljevo. India made the cut for the qualifiers because of their higher ranking in the Asia-Oceania zone. Italy were one of the four losing quarter-finalists.

The four 2018 semi-finalists – France, Croatia, Spain and the United States – qualify directly for the Davis Cup Finals, while 12 more spots will be decided via the qualifiers. Argentina and Great Britain were handed wildcards in the revamped 18-team Finals format.

India captain Mahesh Bhupathi was happy to get a home tie but did not comment on the venue or surface that the team would prefer playing on. “We will have to talk to everyone,” he was quoted as saying by the Times of India. “It’s too early and we don’t need to let [Italy] know [about the choice of surface] just now.”

India are likely to choose either grass or hard-court for the tie considering European players are used to playing on clay, the report said. However, weather could also play a factor in deciding the venue.

Italy currently have five players in the singles top-100, including world No 13 Fabio Fognini, and hold a 4-1 record against India in the Davis Cup. The last two meetings between India and Italy had been in the Davis Cup World Group first round. India had won on grass in Calcutta in 1985, while Italy had prevailed on clay in Genoa in 1998.

With inputs from AFP