It was always going to be a tall order trying to topple Uzbekistan in their Davis Cup tie in Tauranga but the manner of New Zealand's defeat was the most disappointing aspect.

Today the Kiwi pairing of Michael Venus and Dan King-Turner went down 6-4 7-6 6-1 to Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov to hand Uzbekistan an unassailable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five Asia Oceania group I tie.

New Zealand will next play in September and if they lose that will drop back to Group II. The tie will be against the loser of April's matchup on the other side of the draw which is shaping up to be a politically-charged encounter between China and Chinese Taipei.

Venus and King-Turner had a chance to establish a foothold in the match today when they broke Dustov to take a 4-2 lead in the second set, but immediately handed the break back and went on to lose the tiebreaker.


Their capitulation in the third set, when Uzbekistan rolled them in extra-quick time, summed up the tie.

But for as poor as New Zealand were, the class of Istomin _ the world No 58 _ also shone through. He thrashed Rubin Statham 6-1 6-1 6-3 in just 84 minutes on Friday to set the tone and was the dominant figure in the doubles.

"Istomin was just swinging and playing pretty well,'' King-Turner said.

The doubles was one area New Zealand felt they might have the edge, especially as Venus and King-Turner last month progressed to the Heineken Open semifinals together.

But the Kiwi pairing made too many errors at crucial times and King-Turner, in particular, came under pressure on his serve all afternoon.

Istomin and Dustov were barely troubled on their own serve and when they were, like when Istomin faced double break point at 5-4 in the first set, easily got themselves out of difficulty.

"We were always the underdogs going into this tie,'' Vos said.

"Obviously with Istomin it was tough, but we had to believe we could do this.

"I think the boys came out pretty good. We were a little bit unlucky and a couple of points in the tiebreak didn't go our way. I think they deserved to win.''

New Zealand have only pride to play for in tomorrow's reverse singles, when Uzbekistan will presumably give their third and fourth-ranked players Murad Inoyatov and Sarvar Ikramov a hitout. New Zealand captain Marcel Vos could also opt to give one or both of Artem Sitak and King-Turner a match.