Istomin, ranked 184th in the world, will spearhead the Uzbek challenge along with Sarvar Ikramov and Vaja Uzakov for tie to be played at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI) from Feb 8-10. They arrived here Tuesday night, and the fourth member of the team Farrukh Dustov will join them shortly from Italy.
’We arrived early because we wanted to practice in grass for two weeks but till now we didn’t get a chance as the courts are not ready. Back home, with temperature hovering around minus 10 degrees, we were practicing indoors as the grass courts are covered with snow,’ said Istomin, who recently stretched Lleyton Hewitt to four sets in the second round of the Australian Open.
The grass courts at NSCI are under-prepared and would only be available for practice from Saturday.
Istomin was confident that despite all the hiccups, his team would give the Indians a good run for their money. ’We have a relatively fair chance against India as our players enjoying a good run of form, especially Dustov and me,’ he said.
Uzbekistan doesn’t have happy memories from their last encounter in India as they lost 5-0 in their last tie at Jaipur two years back. But the visitors will take much confidence from the fact that at home last year they defeated the hosts 4-1.
’Indians play better in grass but we will definitely try to improve our Jaipur performance as we are better prepared this time. We have special shoes for grass court,’ said the Uzbek captain, who idolises Roger Federer.
Considering both the team’s present world rankings - India on the 29th spot and Uzbekistan just one rung behind them on 30th - there is nothing much difference between the two sides. But with the tie being held on grass at home, gives India a slight edge over the visitors.
Meanwhile, on personal front Istomin wants to better his performance this season and expects to see himself in the top-100 by the end of the year.
’After the Davis Cup tie, I will go to France to play some challengers. This year, I am also planning to play more grass court tournaments as last year I didn’t play a single one because of injury.
’Though my strong points are serve and forehand, I need to improve my overall game if I desire to secure a place in the top 100,’ said the Russia born Istomin.
Istomin also said that apart from national coach cum non-playing captain, Peter Lebed, his mother Claudia Istomin, who is also his coach, would be present to cheer for the team.