New Zealand's Rubin Statham was beaten by Uzbekistan's No 1 Denis Istomin in the first round at the US$50,000 Challenger in Burnie, Australia, yesterday just 10 days before the pair could meet again in the Davis Cup.
New Zealand meet Uzbekistan in a Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie in Tauranga on February 10-12 and Statham would have been keen to inflict a psychological blow. But the Kiwi, ranked 554 compared to Istomin's 60, went down 6-4 6-3.
Statham enjoyed more success in the doubles when he and regular partner Nima Roshan from Australia beat Australians Matt Reid and Ben Mitchell 6-0 7-6(6) in their first round match. The pair now face top seeds John Paul Fruttero of the US and South African Raven Klaasen in the quarter-finals.