Namangan, Uzbekistan, 5 April 2013 | AAP

Marinko Matosevic responded to his selection ahead of Lleyton Hewitt with his best Davis Cup performance but still fell short of victory as honours were split on the first day against Uzbekistan.

After Bernard Tomic got Australia off to a winning start in Namangan by beating Farrukh Dustov, a gallant Matosevic couldn’t follow suit in a tense 6-4 7-6(1) 3-6 6-4 loss to Uzbek No.1 Denis Istomin on Friday.

It left the must-win clay court tie square at 1-1 and Davis Cup legend Hewitt once again shapes as the key as Australia aims to progress to the World Group play-offs in September.

The 32-year-old will team up with Matt Ebden in doubles against Istomin and Dustov on Saturday and he looks likely to replace Matosevic in a potentially decisive reverse singles match on Sunday.

Australian captain Pat Rafter had surprisingly given unproven Matosevic the nod to compete on the first day, with Hewitt missing the opening singles for only the second time in his record 15-year career in the competition.

And despite the loss Rafter stood by his decision and was delighted with how Matosevic pushed Istomin, ranked four places higher at 46, to the limits ahead of the doubles.

“Marinko played by far his best Davis Cup match. He was very, very good against a very solid player,” Rafter told AAP.

“All in all it was a really good day.

“It would have been great to be up 2-0 but 1-all is not a bad scoreline and pushing Istomin the way he did was really good.

“We didn’t want to take it out of Lleyton today, he’s got a big match tomorrow and that match is really important.”

The performance at a packed Pahlavon Sport Complex means Australia’s bid to earn a shot at returning to the top 16 for the first time since 2007 remains alive.

Tomic marked his return to the team with a hard-fought 7-6(6) 6-4 6-4 win over Dustov, whose performance belied his ranking of 216.

Tomic gives Australia 1-0 lead (AAP)

Bernard Tomic gave Australia a valuable early edge in their must-win Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan with a tough straight-sets win over big-serving Farrukh Dustov on Friday.

Tomic triumphed 7-6(6) 6-4 6-4 on Namangan’s Pahlavon Sport Complex clay court in a welcome Cup return.

The 20-year-old had to fight hard against the 216th-ranked, 196 cm Dustov but, after battling back from an early break, his class shone through.

Tomic broke Dustov’s serve in the opening game of the second set and kept him at bay with some solid service to go two sets up.

The pair traded breaks for much of the third set but Tomic remained in control to improve his Davis Cup singles win-loss record to an impressive 9-2.

“He was serving really well and should have closed out the first set, being up 5-4,” Tomic said.

“I did a very good job to break back and win that first set.

“The second set I played more aggressively and managed to win that 6-4, which was also tough.

“Third set was good tennis. I think I lost a bit of my concentration and maybe should have won it more easily.

“But a win is a win and I am happy I won and got my team up in the tie.”

Australia lead the best-of-five tie 1-0, with the winner progressing to the World Group play-offs in September.

Marinko Matosevic was facing Uzbek No.1 Denis Istomin later on Friday, with Rafter opting against selecting regular spearhead Lleyton Hewitt for the opening day singles.

Uzbekistan are unbeaten in six Davis Cup ties in the remote, north-eastern city.

Follow all the action from the 5–7 April tie on Twitter. @tennisaustralia will keep you up to date with scores, news and photos as the tie unfolds.



Friday 5 April – 10am (4pm AEDT) 
R1 Bernard Tomic (AUS) d Farrukh Dustov (UZB) 7-6(6) 6-4 6-4
R2 Denis Istomin (UZB) d Marinko Matosevic (AUS) 6-4 7-6(1) 3-6 6-4
Saturday 6 April – 12pm (6pm AEDT)
R3 Farukh Dustov/Denis Istomin (UZB) v Lleyton Hewitt/Matt Ebden (AUS)
Sunday 7 April – 10am (3pm AEST)
R4* Denis Istomin (UZB) v Bernard Tomic (AUS)
R5* Farrukh Dustov (UZB) v Marinko Matosevic (AUS)
*The reverse singles line-ups could change prior to the beginning of play.