ASTANA, Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan’s hopes of making the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinals took an early blow following the news their top ranked player; Mikhail Kukushkin will miss the opening singles.
The World No. 155, who has won 12 of his 17 single matches in the competition, recently had a hip operation and he was seen grimacing on court during practice before Thursday’s draw.
“He had hip surgery on both sides and this was a serious injury and we understand that Kukushkin will not be able to play in this important match”, stated Dias Doskarayev. The Kazakh Davis Cup captain went on to add: “All the four players are ready and being the Davis Cup, anything can happen”.
Following the absence of Kukushkin, the home side’s hopes will be pinned on Andrey Golubev who will get proceedings underway against Andreas Haider-Maurer.
The two have met only once, back in 2009 in a Challenger Event, which the Russian born Kazakh won in three sets. Golubev, who once looked destined to become a world top 20 player, has slipped to 187 in the rankings, down from a career high of 33, not long after he helped his adopted nation beat Switzerland in the Davis Cup back in September 2010.
The Kazakh No. 2 admits he hasn’t been in the greatest form recently and knows he will be in for a tough encounter against his Austrian opponent.
“He’s a great fighter, he’s good from the baseline and he’s a good player,” commented the 25 year-old. “He’s ranked in the top hundred, which is higher than me, so it is going to be tough”.
Haider-Maurer has experience of playing Kazakh opponents, as he beat Evgeny Korolev in qualifying for this year’s Australian Open, as does he’s team-mate Jurgen Melzer, who disposed of Kukushkin in round one of the same tournament.
Melzer will be second on court on Friday, incidentally playing Korolev and the world number 30, who’s also won three Grand Slam doubles tournaments, is pleased with his start to the new campaign.
“I have always been struggling at the start of the season. I managed to get to the quarters in Brisbane and the 3rd Round at the Australian Open. I am happy with my game at the moment and most importantly, my fitness levels are back to a high level again, which I was lacking last year,” mentioned the 31-year-old.
Melzer will start as the clear favourite against Korolev, who has dropped to 211 in the world rankings following a combination of poor form and injuries. The pair have met on two occasions with the Kazakh, who was born in Moscow winning their last meeting in 2009.
“A lot of things have changed since we last met, but Jurgen has remained as good as he was then,” commented Korolev. “I have had some ups and downs, but I am really looking forward to playing this match as you don’t always get the opportunity to play against such good players, so I will give my best and see what happens.”
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Andrey Golubev (KAZ) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
R2: Evgeny Korolev (KAZ) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
R3: Yuriy Shukin/Andrey Golubev (KAZ) v Alexander Peya/Julian Knowle (AUT)
R4: Andrey Golubev (KAZ) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
R5: Evgeny Korolev (KAZ) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
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