Namangan, Uzbekistan, 6 April 2013 | AAP

Australia holds all the aces heading into the final day of its crunch Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan after Lleyton Hewitt and Matt Ebden secured a gutsy five-set doubles win on Friday.

The pair defeated Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 3-6 6-3 on clay in Namangan to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five tie.

It left Australia needing to win only one of Sunday’s two reverse singles matches to progress to September’s World Group play-offs, where they would earn a shot at returning to the competition’s top tier for the first time since 2007.

Bernard Tomic can wrap it up if he beats Uzbek No.1 Istomin in the first match, while Hewitt would likely come in to face Dustov if the tie goes to a deciding fifth rubber.

Australian captain Pat Rafter spared Hewitt from Friday’s singles, with Marinko Matosevic losing in four sets to Istomin after Tomic won the opening rubber against Dustov.

With both Uzbek players backing up from tough singles battles, the first-time Davis Cup pairing of Hewitt and Ebden had the advantage of being the fresher duo at the Pahlavon Sport Complex.

Still, the home team came out strong and broke Hewitt’s serve in the third game of the opening set.

But the Australian pair fought back to 3-3 and pounced on Istomin’s service game at 6-5 to take the first set.

The home side rallied to take the second in a tiebreak but another crucial break on Istomin’s serve late in the third set allowed Australia to go 2-1 up.

Istomin and Dustov fought back to send the match to a deciding set but Hewitt and Ebden displayed brilliant fight in the fifth.

They secured a crucial early break, from 0-40 down, and showed nerves of steel in holding off the Uzbeks, with a crucial hold from 0-40 down on Hewitt’s serve to reach 5-2.

Ebden had battled illness in the days leading up to the match but still showed the form that helped him to a mixed doubles Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

He preserved an unbeaten Davis Cup record while record breaker Hewitt improved his doubles record in the competition to 14-3.

Ebden paid tribute to Hewitt after the match, saying the veteran helped to inspire him in the deciding set.

“Rusty was incredible. He really showed me how to win a fifth set,” Ebden told AAP.

“He got super pumped, definitely led me and came up with some big points.

“It was a good quality match and such an important one to win.”

Hewitt felt the decision to miss the opening singles had worked out perfectly and said Australia would also benefit from keeping Istomin and Dustov on court for almost four hours.

“You really have to try and be as fresh as possible going into the key matches and that was the thinking,” Hewitt said.

“It’s nice we can keep them out there a long time today for five sets but Matty and I felt pretty fresh which is good.”

Rafter paid tribute to both sides, admitting he was surprised with how Uzbekistan kept fighting.

“It was one of the best doubles matches I’ve ever seen,” Rafter said.

“… It was a match that went a long time and that sets us up well for tomorrow but we’ve got to get the job done, no complacency.”

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) 7-6(1) 6-4 3-6 6-4
Saturday 6 April – 12pm (6pm AEDT)
R3 Lleyton Hewitt/Matt Ebden (AUS) v Farukh Dustov/Denis Istomin (UZB) 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 3-6 6-3
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.