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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the week ending on Jan 2, 2006
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Jan 2 Note-1

Terrific news!!! ..  Prakash Amritraj just upset Ricardo Mello (BRA,111) 36 62 63 to start off the main draw matches at Chennai! .. Wow, what a nice start .. Go P$$$$ !!!! .. He certainely justified the wildcard the organizers gave him, though we all complained that it looked unfair to give him over those like Karan, because P$ had not at all played in a while and been in terrible form with injuries for many months! ..   Great to see him back at his best and doing his thang!

The good news doesn't end there either! ... Rohan Bopanna upset the 6th seed in the qualies, Rajeev Ram (USA,196) 76(3) 64 and qualified in !!!!! ..  Are our Davis Cuppers cooking or what? .. There were some pessimistic newspaper reports yesterday that I saw that we would need those like Pat Cash etc to sell the tournament .. How about two of our own, Kash and Bops, selling the tournament and bringing some excitement there .. I hope the stadium gets packed tomorrow for Bops' match and then on wednesday for Prakash's second round .. Let's Go!!!

The one who is absolutely thrilled about this right now would be Leander Paes - because he needs these guys in 5 weeks to go tackle the South Koreans in Busan .. What a nice start to the year!!

For some weird reason, they have scheduled all the Indians matches today .. Leander play doubles right about now in the evening, and Vishal Uppal comes up late at night.

The ITF grade-3 juniors starts today at Chandigarh .. Rupesh Roy, Sanaa Bhambri, Poojashree Venkatesh, etc are taking part there.

Jan 1 Notes

Big upset today by Rohan Bopanna at the Chennai Open, as he got past Danai Udomchoke (THA,121), 46 64 62, but Hartsh Mankad ended up at the losing end with a series of cramp problems after having a great start against Michael Kohlmann - 63 57 46 ..  Also playing a tough tough three-set was young Somdev Varman who went down after a big fight, 36 75 36 ..  The best news about Rohan's match was reportedly his "cerebral" tennis (as the Hindustan Times called it), as he made adjustments in a bit of a windy day, going for some kick serves and variation rather than go for too much on his fserves .. He did have his customary double faults but turned the tablkes on Danai and stayed ahead till the end when Danai also had some injury problems .. Anytime we hear of Bopanna making use of his tactical abilities, it is good news - as he has occasionally had the tendency to rely too much on his first serve, which is Asia's fastest .. See the results in the Chennai Open page.

In other news, Sania Miza arrived in Hong Kong for the big invitational tournamenty this week, the The Watson Water Champions Challenge - a small three round 8-player tournament with huge names like Davenport, Venus, Serena, Clijsters etc ..  It is great to see her playing in such company and getting an early test against top players to start off the year .. She is assured of at least 2 singles matches there because of a back draw played among the first round losers .. Sania takes on Venus Williams in the first round .. She is playing doubles with Kim Clijjsters in a two-round doubles draw of 4 teams.  It all starts on Wednesday evening .. Sania's singles R1 is on Thursday.

Dec 31 Notes

Shubha Nava Vatsaram! .. Happy New Year, folks!

The news was not great from the Gold Coast WTA in Australia - Shikha Uberoi played a close match but fell in three sets 64 46 46 to Yan Zi of China, ranked #99 .. Ooh, she had chances to pull a second upset in a row .. But, I am encouraged by Shikha's form, going into the new year.

Only three Indians advanced at the Chennai Open .. Harsh Mankad beat Kamala Kannan easily, and Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Varman advanced with easy wins aghainst decent top-700 players too .. The bad news was that Karan Rastogi could not do much in a straight sets loss to the 123rd ranked 2nd seed Gicquel .. A few decnet matches by Indians there but all of them were against higher ranked players, and it was tough to expect upsets .. The best show was by P.Ravishankar, who took the 138th ranked 4th seed Navarro-Pastor to three sets and by the former Asian junior champion ArunPrakash Rajagopalan (good to see you playing, man!!) who took the Yves Allegro, a top doubles player (and Federer's partner) to a 7-5 third set before falling .. In the secon round of qualies, both Rohan and Somdev face very tough opponents in top seed Udomchoke (#121) and the third seed Berrer (#126) .. Harsh has a slightly easier match against #447 Michael Kohlmann, who is a top-50 doubles player who had squeezed inside the top-100 in singles too, a few years back ..  Also in the second round is the 6th seeded Indian American, Rajeev Ram, and another Indian American, Vivek Subramanian (a college player in the US), who beat Vijay Sunder Prashant .. See our Chennai Open page for all the scores.

The main draw came out today .. Wildcard Prakash Amritraj has a decent first round matchup against #111 Ricardo Mello (BRA) .. Wildcard Vishal Uppal gets #99 Jiri Vanek .. If they can pull the huge upsets against these players (who are unseeded but much higher ranked), it gets much worse, as they are drawn to possibly face the top seed Ljubicic and the second seed Stepanek respectively in the R2 ..

The doubles draw also came out .. The top seeds are Paes and Damm .. One wildcard went to Prakash and Rohan ..  Cool .. Then I was pretty much disgusted to see Pat Cash being given a wildcard, to play with Karan Rastogi .. Karan, of course, should have got a wildcard in singles too (but the tournament seems to have not explored the option of saving a wildcard using ATP's exception rules when Ljubicic was brought in) .. He deserves a WC in at least doubles .. But why Pat Cash, for God's sake? ... Why does Chennai do these kinds of gimmicks every now and then? .. The man has not played any pro tour matches in at least 6 years (his last main draw singles win was against Mahesh in Chennai in 1997, the place where he got his last wildcard) .. It was suggested by some in our forum that this mayt be a way to get more excitement out there .. Really? .. That makes  no sense .. First of all, despite what Pat Cash thinks, he is not all that huge a draw .. I saw a newspaper comment from Vijay Amritraj that this was a "once-in a life time oppoirtunity for Karan" to play alongside a Wimbledon champion .. Well, may be, but we do have two wimbledon doubles champions and neither is playing with Karan, though either can play with him any time (and they do practice with him at Davis Cup) .. What are we doing, putting all these hero-worship ideas into the players? .. Tennis is tennis .. I am all for somebody good playing with Karan, but Pat Cash is the best doubles player we can find for him to play alongside, in his very first ATP tour-level doubles match ? .. How about a Leander or a Mahesh, if we really want to help our youngsters? ..

Anyway, there is another reason why I particularly dislike Pat Cash .. Of course I don't know the man, and have never met him .. For all I know he is a nice, kind, man .. But I do remember one incident, right there in Chennai in 1997 when Pat Cash was the recepient of a wildcard in singles .. His towels got stolen from the locker room after he lost his second round, and he went on a tirade about how he would never return to India, how he hated the place - "they can take the tournament and shove it" (something to that effect - I cannot find the April 1997 Hindu article in the archives to confirm - so this is from memory) .. Hey, in my book, anybody who comes to India and screams about how things are, is persona non-grata .. That doesn't mean I am condoning the theft or anything, but anybody who immediately goes on to act like everything sucks in India on the basis of something that gioes wrong, goes to my bad book ..  Varma, who was courtside in 1997, wrote in our forum today with a confirmation of how Cash was berating even the whole city on court before that when he got a bad line call . Well, may be those were his brash playing days and he has mellowed .. But, now they are giving him a wildcard again? .. But then again, Pat Cash has always been controversial - there was all that stuff about his acrimonious split with Rusedski whom he coached, with Rusedski talking about how he was trying to charge him too much for coaching and not sticking to his word .. Then the stories of his co-coach at his Gold Coast Academy, Gavin Hopper, being convicted for sexual relations with a girl Hopper coached in 1985 (which of course has nothing to do with Pat Cash, but his name came out with some of the news articles) .. He has also had a split with Philippoussis, and with the Tennis Australia folks, etc - with a lot of public spats in the press .. Puneet posted a recent  Australian newspaper article in our forum, talking about Cash complaining that Tennis Australia has not asked him to be a coach and saying he would "take his coaching to other countries which are interested" etc .. Anyway, he is definitely controversial .. On the other hand, he has had a couple of trips to India lately, spreading the word on his academy and doing some clinics for Bengal tennis Association, Chandigarh Lawan Tennis Association, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association etc .. He seems to be doing some good things, taking some kids to Australia .. Well and good .. Perhaps I should like him, but it is tough I guess .. So, this is not to really attack Pat Cash, and perhaps I am being very hard and judgemental on him .. Just that it all came out when I saw his, of all people, being given a doubles wildcard .. I consider this some sort of a shameless gimmick by the tournament, trying to make use of somebody who has once badmouthed the tournament .. How come they resort to all these gimmicks that no other tournament does (you see, no other tournament thought of giving this great wimbledon champion a wildcard for some 8 years!) and still alllows one of our own, like Mahesh Bhupathi, go walkabout to Doha rather than bring some extra fans to Chennai?

While we are at it, let me make the obligatory reference to the one who never gets a wildcard .. The highest ranked Indian doubles player at Chennai behind Leander .. Somebody who is "hanging around" at Chennai and playing singles qualies - one Mr. Harsh Mankad, who is also the Indian #1 in singles .. I would have loved to see Harsh and his very good friend Karan playing doubles together.. But I would say no more, because Harsh had told me before he left that he does not give two hoots for the wildcard crap done in India and just wants to be left alone ..

Well, of course, it is all par for the course .. The Chennai Open with their utterly classless acts, does make me angry every year about something or other .. OK, time to get back to tennis I guess.

Mahesh Bhupathi is at the $1M Doha ATP in Qatar .. He starts his partnership with Wesley Moodie (RSA) .. They are the third seeds there, facing a wildcard team - Lukasz Kubot (POL) and Oliver Marach (AUT).
 
Dec 30 Notes

Big win by Shikha Uberoi today in the Q1 at the $175K Tier-III WTA in Gold Coast, California .. She upset #107 Conchita Martinez-Granados (who was ranked as high as in the top-75 a couple of years back) by a 61 75 score .. Up next for Shikha is the 7th seed Yan Zi (CHN,99) who has beaten Shikha a couple of times in the past .. Come on Shikha!  Incidentally, her dad Mahesh Uberoi has given some details in the forum at her website (www.uberoisisters.com) .. He mentioned that Shikha will be working on and off with a new coach, Rafael Font De Mora, who has signed up to coach Neha for the long-term .. His academy is in Scottsdale, Arizona, and he is also the coach of Anna-Lena Groenefeld (#21) and Meghann Shaughnessy (#66) .. That is good news.

The qualifying draw came out at the $355K Chennai ATP and Harsh Mankad became the first Indian to be seeded in the Chennai qualifying draw with his career-high #222 ranking .. He faces Kamala Kannan in the first round .. Karan Rastogi, in the same section as Harsh, faces the second seed Marc Gicquel (FRA,123) - the tough draw for him .. Rohan has probably got the toughest draw, with top seed Udomchoke and 6th seed Rajeev Ram possibly coming in his way later, and playing Maric Matkowsky (POL) in the first round .. One surprise was to see Somdev Dev Varman in the qualies (probably on december break from Univ. of Virginia) .. He is playing Luka Gregorc .. The bad news was that Sunil Kumar, Sanam Singh, Vivek Shikeen and Vishnu Vardhan are all missing .. I believe Sunil is still injured, but not sure of others .. Sanam may be taking off to Australia for the junior tournaments there preparing for the AO juniors .. The qualifying matches start by Saturday morning at Chennai .. See the qualifying draw at our Chennai Open page .. You can find the main draw entry list also there .. Other than Rafael Nadal, there has only been one other withdrawal, which was by Kevin Kim (USA,101) due to an injury, a couple of days back .. That moved in Justin Gimelstob (USA) and Simon Greul (GER) into the main draw list ..

Speaking of Sanam, the Chandigarh folks probably hoped that he would play the grade-3 ITF juniors starting on the 2nd there - but it is definitely not the level for an ITF top-10 player to play - and he needs to get to Australia soon for the AO juniors .. But, Rupesh Roy, who has been at Boston for 8 months, training at the Bosse Foundation who have sponsored him (and has shown big improvements under their watch!), has come to india and will be playing at Chandigarh, as well as at the grade-2 in Delhi and grade-3 in Kolkata in the following weeks .. Rupesh could have squeezed into the AO juniors draw, but it is probably not a bad idea for him to play the Indian events and add some more points to his kitty to make sure of the entries at the remaining three grand slam juniors this year ..

Dec 29 Notes

Nothing much going on .. The $355K Chennai ATP qualifying sign-in is tomorrow (Friday evening) .. Shikha Uberoi is at the $175K Tier-III "Mondial Open" WTA in Gold Coast, Australia .. #153  Shikha is in the qualifying draw, facing #107 Conchita Martinez-Granados (different player from the former WTA #2 Conchita) ..

The venue and surface were announced last week for India's Davis Cup tie in Korea  .. This is the first round of the 8-team Asia-Ocenia Group-1 regional qualifying for the 2007 world final-16 .. Two knockout rounds in February and April determine the two A-O regional teams who will play along with 6 other such regional qualifiers and 8 first round losers of the 2006 WG in a 16-team world group playoff which selects 8 teams to join the 8 winners of the 2006 world group first round, thus making up the 2007 Worl Group (Got it? - it's my periodic explanation for any new/casual readers :)) ..  Anyway, our Davis Cup tie will be at Changwon, Busan, on outdoor hardcourts (decoturf surface) during the Feb 10-12 weekend .. As usual, we can expect a very tough tie, as Korea has *always* been the toughest away-tie we have had to play in our regionals, historically .. Will be no different this time with #107 Hyung-Taik Lee spearheading the Koreans .. We will have to watch how Harsh, Rohan, Prakash, Karan etc do in the next 3-4 weeks on hradcourts to make a determination on our team ..

Dec 28 Notes

Some news today, which seems unconfirmed as of now, but looks great -- there will be two men's ATP challengers in India in April !! .. According to a news item in the Times of India online, there will be two hard courts challengers in Karnataka, at Bangalore (Apr 17) and Davengere (Apr 24) .. Fabulous, if AITA and KSLTA manage to get that on to the ATP calendar soon .. The dates could not be more perfect, from our players' stand point, because the monday after those two challengers is the deadline for the qualifying entry for French Open .. Great chance for Indians to pick up some good points and make sure of the entry; I am loooking forward to seeing at least 4 Indians in the qualies (from among Harsh, Rohan, Prakash, Karan and Sunil Kumar) .. Harsh Mankad had told me that he had written to AITA a few weeks back about how the two weeks at the end of April would be the best time for challengers from the players' standpoint .. Not sure if that is why they selected these dates, but anyway, advanced thanks go to AITA and KSLTA  and I hope they manage to conduct these challengers ..

The Chennai Open announced today that the wildcards to Chennai would go to Ljubicic, Vishal Uppal and Prakash Amritraj .. I  would have preferred a wildcard to Karan, instead of Prakash, who would be getting it for a 4th time in a row .. Of course, asking for a WC for the India #1 Mankad has been useless for two years in a row .. Really, it would have been much more fair to have our top three Harsh, Rohan and Prakash playing in the qualies (after all, they are the three with the best chance to qualify in), and the youngster Karan getting in directly ..  I would have liked to see Prakash play qualies for another reason actually - he has not played for quite a long while and more matches under the belt at Chennai could have helped before the AO qualies the week after Chennai .. I guess that the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association had a say in one of the wildcards, and the Madras native Vijay Amritraj's son probably fit better for the Tamil Nadu WC .. I don't know the details - so, that was just a guess .. Anyway, not a huge deal, as we all are never happy with the wildcard situation in Chennai .. More importantly, in the big scheme of things, one wildcard (and the 5 cheap points and $3500) is a pretty small thing for our players who are all looking for 100s of points to move up to top-150 and top-100 ..

Dec 27 Notes

Bad news today .. Karan Rastogi could not do a whole lot against one of the hottest up  and coming youngsters of 2005, Sergyi Stakhovsky (RUS,185) in the first round at the $50K Doha challenger in Qatar .. KR lost 36 26 .. Not much else today, for news.

Dec 26 Notes

Some bad news today for the Chennai Open .. The long-awaited withdrawal of rafael Nadal finally happened today .. We all knew  all along that he was injured and would not take the risk of coming back too early befgore the Australian Open .. Rafa pulled out today .. But, for good news, Chennai Open managed to replace him with another top-10 players, Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, ranked 9  .. Of course, with the appearance money that they would have had to pay Rafael, I would think Ivan would have been easy .. The only b ad thing is that he would use up a wildcard spot, bcause he was not in the initial entry list .. Considering that the tournament would probably really lose all respectability with just 3 top-60 players and no top-20 players in the field, I think that is small price to pay for Ljubicic, who is a really good player ..

I do find a clause in the ATP rulebook that allows a straight replacement of a player in an "emergency situation," in the case of a late withdrawal of a "seeded player and/or player important to the viability of the tournament" .. I guess Nadal's withdrawal does qualify for that .. I am not sure if the tournament will try to save a wildcard that way though .. The PTI report today seems to say that Ljubicic will be a wildcard entry.

As it stands two wildcards should be going to Ljubicic, Vishal Uppal .. One WC remains, which I think will go to either Prakash or Karan ..

Harsh Mankad left from California this morning and is on his way to Chennai where he will get by thursday, as the qualifying sign-in is friday night .. Rohan should be going to Chennai by then too .. Karan Rastogi plays his first round at the Doha challenger tomorrow.

There were some articles this week with Sania Mirza's comments on how well her training has gone, with the legendary Tony Roche in Australia .. It is difficult to even find 3 or 4 weks of his tyime and it was quite fortunate that Sania managed to get the old man to work with her one on one for three weeks (along with Sophie Fergusson, a top upcoming player from Australia) .. Federer has just landed in Melbourne, looking for a few days of help from Roche too .. Sania gets down with coaching this week and fwill be focusing on a bit more of physical trainaing, getting ready for the prestigious Hong Kong exhibition before the Australian tournaments.


.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on Dec 26, 2005 ..

I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior playera, let me know .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan