Denis Istomin will be happy to steer clear of another mention in Uzbekistan's Davis Cup record books when their best-of-five clash against New Zealand starts in Tauranga tomorrow.
Istomin, ranked 58 in the world, features in a couple of the Uzbekis' "longest ever" performances in the cup but will be content to do the business and get out of town in good shape against a Kiwi side tipped to struggle indoors at the city's new $42 million TECT Arena. New Zealand's leading player is Michael Venus, ranked 360.
Three years ago in the Asia Oceania Group I clash with Japan on clay in Uzbekistan, Istomin and No 2 Farrukh Dustov played their county's longest rubber, a 3hr 45min doubles marathon against Satoshi Iwabushi and Takao Suzuki. Japan won 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 to grab an unassailable 3-0 lead in the third-round tie. Twelve months earlier in New Delhi, Istomin's 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 8-6 win over India's Rohan Bopanna set new Davis Cup records for his country's longest final set (14 games) and most games in a rubber (57).
Uzbekistan will be hoping to wrap up the tie quickly by winning both of tomorrow's singles rubbers and Saturday's doubles indoors on the relocatable Rebound Ace surface. Twelve months ago Uzbekistan won 3-2 on clay, with both of New Zealand's wins dead rubbers.
Istomin, 25, expects New Zealand to be a tougher foe than last February.
"At our place we won easy but this time is not going to be easy.
"Their [strategy] will be to target Dustov ... in the ATP you play for yourself and can lose but with Davis Cup you cannot lose. That makes big pressure."
- APNBy Kelly Exelby