Dustov not worried about Istomin’s absence

Uzbekistan Davis Cupper Farrukh Dustov is not unduly worried about the absence of his team’s mainstay, Denis Istomin.

A former top-100 singles player, Farrukh Dustov’s fortunes took a big hit after he suffered an injury last year.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Uzbekistan Davis Cupper Farrukh Dustov is not unduly worried about the absence of his team’s mainstay, Denis Istomin.

“Injuries can happen to anyone. It’s not like anyone died,” Dustov remarked, “Of course, it will be tougher for us, because Istomin could have got us points in both the singles and doubles rubbers.”

Dustov is ready to step up to the plate. The 30-year-old is likely to feature in the doubles rubber, while his chances of playing in the singles fixtures will be known only after the draw ceremony on Thursday.

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A former top-100 singles player, Dustov’s fortunes took a big hit after he suffered an injury last year. Nearly six months out of action has seen his ranking slip to 737. “I broke a cartilage in my hand. It takes a lot of time to recover. This is my return to competitive tennis. I want to get back into the top-100 again,” he said.

Earlier this year, when Dustov was in Germany as part of his injury rehabilitation process, his countryman shook the tennis world. Istomin pulled off the impossible when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open.

“Istomin’s victory was the biggest moment in Uzbekistan’s tennis history. Our previous President, Islam Karimov, was a big tennis fan, but he died last year. If he was still alive, maybe Istomin would have had a monument built in his honour,” he said.

Dustov explained that while boxing is the most popular sport back home, Istomin’s success has raised the profile of tennis. “Istomin has inspired many youngsters to take up the sport. We are a small country, but children are beginning to believe that they too have what it takes to be world-class tennis players,” he said.

He also spoke warmly about his relationship with Istomin. “We have known each other for many years. There is a good atmosphere in our Davis Cup team. Yesterday, someone from the media asked me about the rivalry between Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. We don’t have these sorts of problems. There is a brotherhood among us,” he said.

Dustov, who has appeared in 26 Davis Cup ties so far, is not very well versed with his other Indian opponents. “I know that Ramkumar Ramanathan is a good player. I don’t know much about the other guy (Prajnesh Gunneswaran), but I’ve heard that he’s also very good.”