Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Uzbekistan edges Indonesia in Davis Cup

Musthofid The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

Indonesia's hopes of finally defeating Uzbekistan on home soil were quashed on Sunday when the younger but higher ranked visitors took the decisive fifth match in their Davis Cup Asia- Oceania Zone Group I first round playoff.

Although Indonesia was ahead 2-1 coming into the final day's singles, Farrukh Dustov and Denis Istomin, both 10, fought off their opponents and the partisan crowd to win at the Senayan Hardcourt in Central Jakarta.

It was Uzbekistan's third 3-2 defeat of Indonesia in four years. They will meet India in the second round.

Dustov overcame cramping and a comeback effort from Suwandi for a 7-5, 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 victory in the rain-delayed first match.

Istomin, despite playing singles on Friday and with Murad Inoyatov in the losing doubles match on Saturday, showed no ill effects as he kept Prima Simpatiaji at bay 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-0 win.

The Uzbeks erupted in joy as another forehand from Prima -- his glaring weakness on the night -- overshot the baseline.

"I was proud that I could contribute a point that brought Uzbekistan the victory," Istomin said through the team's interpreter.

He admitted he was nervous with the tie riding on his shoulders. "But I convinced myself that I had the desire to win."

As the previously raucous crowd silently filed out of the stands, Prima could only trudge off the court with his head bowed, no doubt wondering what might have been.

The 24 year old had his chances but was unable to convert at crucial moments, especially at 5-4 on Istomin's serve with two set points. Tellingly, one of the points was wasted with a forehand error.

Istomin, ranked 756 on the ATP computer, had beaten Suwandi (820) on Friday, while Prima (987) thrashed Uzbekistan's number one Dustov (331).

Although Prima kept it close in the first two sets against Istomin, he was unable to play the attacking game that had left Dustov frustrated.

Prima wrested a 5-4 lead with a break in the ninth game of the first set, only to allow Istomin to break back through his double fault and a volleying error.

Although many games went to deuce, Istomin was the one more likely to finish them out. Prima's inability to win when ahead was also evident in the tiebreaks.

Prima opened the second set convincingly by racing to a 3-0 lead. But Istomin's solid backcourt game allowed him to close the gap and force the tiebreak, which he won.

By the third set, Prima's challenge was spent, and Istomin took six games in a row.

In the earlier match, Suwandi rallied from two sets down to force a decider, and the Indonesian Tennis Association's much criticized choice of the 29-year-old Bandung player appeared to have paid off.

But Dustov, who had received leg massages as the match dragged on, came back refreshed after the fourth set break, relying on his powerful serve to keep him in control. He used his 1.94 meter height to serve 16 aces, double that of his opponent.

Dustov put paid to Suwandi with a punishing volley.

"I felt tiredness in my legs. But after getting the massage many times, it became better and better. It was a long and tiring match," Dustov said.