Sun, 06 Mar 2005

Indonesia gets upper hand over Uzbekistan in doubles

Musthofid, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

It was a scrappy, see-saw four-hour tussle, but Indonesia scraped by in the doubles on Saturday to lead Uzbekistan 2-1 in their Asia-Oceania Group I tie.

The veteran pairing of Suwandi and Bonit Wiryawan came back from losing the first set and held off a late charge by Murad Inoyatov and Denis Istomin to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 at the Senayan hardcourt in Central Jakarta.

With the final two reverse singles scheduled for Sunday, Indonesia is poised to avenge its defeats by the Uzbeks in 2001 and 2003. The winner will face India, who beat China in New Delhi on Saturday.

"We are happy that we could win the doubles. The win owes a lot to our high spirits, strong mentality and support from the fans," nonplaying captain Tintus Arianto Wibowo said.

The local pair were most deserving of the praise in the nail- biting fifth set when they staved off their resurgent opponents.

After they raced ahead 5-1, an Indonesian victory seemed assured. But Inoyatov and Istomin -- a late replacement for the ailing Vadim Kutsenko -- were able to close the gap, mainly thanks to some fumbling returns and volleys from Suwandi.

At 5-4, with Bonit serving for the match, Indonesia reached 40-0, but the Uzbeks brought it back to deuce and also held a break point.

Finally, however, the fans were put out of their misery when Istomin raced back to retrieve a lob, only for his shot to sail long.

"We suffered lapses. We lost concentration. I was overwhelmed by the prospect of having to win only one game to round off the match," admitted Bonit, at 37 the oldest player in the tie.

"I got back on my feet and I warned Suwandi against faltering further."

If Uzbekistan sought to disrupt Indonesia's game plan by fielding Istomin -- winner over Suwandi in Friday's first singles -- instead of Kutsenko, it worked at the outset.

Suwandi, 29, came out as flat as he was on Friday, giving a hit-or-miss performance that continued throughout the match and earned him jeers from the crowd.

Despite a short rain delay after the first set, Indonesia returned by taking over the net and breaking serve to go 3-0, eventually taking the set.

Held together by cool-headed Bonit in command, the Indonesians took the third in similar fashion, before the Uzbeks -- pulling their games together -- took the fourth to set the stage for the decisive set.

Despite Istomin's outstanding serve -- he notched up eight aces -- he was let down by snatched volleys and poor returns.

He was clearly frustrated by his play. When trailing 0-4 in the fifth set, he angrily threw his racket on the ground.

He also ranted at a linesman over a Bonit serve that he claimed was out.

"I was not happy with the linesman," the 19-year-old player said after the match.

Uzbekistan's nonplaying captain Petr Lebed said he played Istomin because Kutsenko had not practiced for two weeks due to a respiratory infection.

However, Lebed was mum on whether Kutsenko might be brought out for the singles on Sunday.

"We made a lot of mistakes. We didn't hold serve," he said of the match.

The reverse singles will be played at 10 a.m.