Istomin vows not to rest on past laurels as 2019 journey takes off from Pune
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Istomin vows not to rest on past laurels as 2019 journey takes off from Pune

The year 2018 has been a roller-coaster ride for Istomin as he had faced injuries coming at the start of the season before pulling up his socks and coming out as a completely different animal in the latter half of the campaign.

pune Updated: Dec 29, 2018 17:04 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,Istomin,Denis
Winning an Asian Games gold gives me a chance to play in the Olympics – something which every athlete wants. It’s very important to represent your country in any field, said Denis Istomin, world number 33(HT FILE PHOTO)

While 2019 is just three days away for the rest of the world, the new season for tennis players all around the globe has already begun. With the Australian Open set to commence from January 14 players usually look to give themselves two weeks of warm-up, participating in as many as tournaments and exhibition events as they can gain some fitness ahead of what could be a busy couple of months.

Brisbane, Dubai, Doha are only a few of the early season tournaments that encourage the top-ranked individuals to polish their skills as it helps in drawing more fans to the stands and gives the athletes an opportunity for tougher challenges that lie ahead.

Another potential destination for the players is, of course, Pune, where the Tata Open Maharashtra will serve as a curtain raiser for the new season at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex on December 31.

If the star power of Kevin Anderson, Gilles Simon and Hyeon Chung wasn’t enough to draw tennis enthusiasts to the arena, the presence of the world number 33 Denis Istomin will certainly cause a few to raise their eyebrows, as it will be the first time that the Uzbekistani will participate in a tournament held in the city.

Building up to the Masters 250, Istomin shared his thoughts with Hindustan Times, first by expressing how much he’s already loving time in Pune.

“I’ve been to India 8 years ago, for the Chennai Open. I’m very excited to come back. It’s my first time here in Pune and I’m really enjoying my stay thus far. There are extremely good courts and facilities and the talent is great.”

Coming to India at the start of the season seems to be an anomaly for the 32-year-old as in preparation for the first grand slam of the calendar in Melbourne, he prefers beginning the campaign in the same country, at the ATP 250 Masters in Brisbane, having competed there in 2015, 2016 and in January this year as well.

In 2017, he opted to participate in the Qatar Open – where he faced a first-round exit at the hands of third seed Tomas Berdych.

Explaining his decision to come to the city, the Uzbek athlete said, “I’m looking forward to getting started here in Pune. The weather here is wonderful. It’s not as humid as it is Chennai, so that’s an advantage. It’s not really hot as it’s only 28 degrees. Australia is hot this time of the year, so I think this a beneficial change. The courts here are fantastic. It’s a good training facility and the hospitality is great as well. “

The year 2018 has been a roller-coaster ride for Istomin as he had faced injuries coming at the start of the season before pulling up his socks and coming out as a completely different animal in the latter half of the campaign.

Speaking briefly about how 2018 has been for him from a professional standpoint, he said, “2018 didn’t start really well for me. I had a couple of injuries and took time to recover from them. But once I was on the field, there was no turning back. The second half of the year was really great. I had achieved my best result on clay and then won the gold in Asian Games. So it’s been a pretty decent year for me.”

Not resting on one’s past laurels is the sign of every great sportsman and Istomin is no different when it comes to looking back.

While he knows that 2018 turned out better than he thought, at 32, it’s difficult for him to set high ambitions for himself, but believes he has what it takes to ruffle a few feathers while he enjoys every minute he spends on the court.

“I am extremely hungry and eager to play. After finishing last season, I had a lot of time off and now I cannot wait to get back. At my age, it’s tough to set big goals as there are so many young players around the block. Winning an Asian Games gold also gives me a chance to play in the Olympics – something which every athlete wants. I’m not looking forward to winning but only to participate and give my best. It’s very important to represent your country in any field.”

First Published: Dec 29, 2018 17:03 IST