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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Jan 03, 2000

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Jan 3 Note-1

At the Gold Flake Open today, Sunil Kumar played a very good match today and shouldn't be ashamed of the loss he had against the 7th seed Ronald Agenor, it seems ..  Just got the report from the onsite fanclub member, Dr. Sanjeevi .. Ron Agenor d. Sunil Kumar, 6-4, 6-4 .. Here is Sanjeevi reporting:

Sunil Kumar's match with Agenor concluded just now. Sunil played well and showed that he deserved the wild card he received for the Goldflake Open .. In spite of his young age and lack of big match experience he played much much better than any of the Indian players who played in the qualifying rounds. He lost to Agenor 6/4, 6/4. In the first set he broke Agenor's serve in game 3 but lost his serve in game 4. Finally in the game 10 his lack of  experience showed and he lost his serve after 5 dueces. The same thing happened in the second set though no serveice games were broken. Again in the 10th game of the second set he lost his serve to the much experienced 35 years old Agenor. Agenor was the oldest player in this tournament and Sunil was the youngest player. The crowd support was maximum for Sunil and all the Indian players were there to support him off court. This was the best match of the day 1 ... I think Sunil should now concentrate on junior tournaments and win them to get the much needed experience in professional tennis ... I'll come back to send you the report of Leander's doubles match which has started in the center court ... In tomorrow's schedule (4th January, 2000) Leander is playing the first singles match against Boutter in the center court ..
Thanks for the report .. Go Sunil !! .. Nobody expected him to win his very first big event match, but he can make use of the experience from a loss like this where he was able to play a top-100 player that closely.

What's up with the tournament website, which was so good the last couple of years with live scores ? .. No live scores so far  .. The results page link and the scoreboard link are not active (but they have updated the draw page with some scores).. Good to have Sanjeevi out there to help us with occasional updates by email.

Jan 02 Note-2

None of the four Indians could advance to Monday's final round of qualies, in the second round of qualies completed today .. Srinath could not get past 2nd seed Jamie Delgado .. Actually the qualies at the Chennai Open has never been kind to Indians .. In the 4 years that the event has been at Chennai, there has been only one Indian who ever made it to the final round of qualies - 18 yr old Harsh Mankad in the 1998 Chennai Open where he upset the 6th seed Barry Cowan to reach the final round .. If I am not mistaken, no other Indian has even taken a match to the 3rd set in the second round of qualies when they normally face a top-300 player as one of 8 seeds ..

Leander is not scheduled to play singles on Monday, but he plays the doubles first round against Groen/Tieleman, assuming that Sander Groen who retired in his second round singles qualifying match today has not had any bad injuries or anything .. Another interesting match tomorrow - Sunil Kumar plays Ronald Agenor of Haiti .. The youngest playere in the field against the oldest! (Agenor is 35 years old and is on an improbable comeback that he started a couple of years back playing a lot of satellites and futures - now he is ranked in the top-100 and is the 7th seed!) .. Only a light main-draw schedule on Monday, along with the four final qualifying matches and the doubles qualifier matches - Sunil and AV Rao have a doubles qualifier wildcard and will be playing tomorrow.

Jan 02 Note-1

Lots of news from Chennai today .. I have posted the singles and doubles main draws, and the qualifier singles draw at our Chennai Open page .. take a look.

Leander has a very tough draw to negotiate, though he has a very winnable first round match against #133 Julian Boutter of France .. Here is the draw for LP,

6 Laurence Tieleman   (ITA, 87) vs   Markus Hantschk     (GER,128) \
  Thomas Behrend      (GER,119) vs   Alexander Popp      (GER,125) / \
  Bohdan Ulihrach     (CZE,107) vs Q Qualifier                     \ / \
3 Carlos Moya         (ESP, 23) vs   Oleg Ogodorov       (UZB,132) /    \ _ F
8 Andreas Vinciguerra (SWE, 98) vs   Alex Lopez-Moron    (ESP,116) \    /
  Adrian Voinea       (ROM,100) vs   Davide Sanguinetti  (ITA,120) / \ /
  Julien Boutter      (FRA,133) vs W Leander Paes        (IND,142) \ /
2 Cedric Pioline      (FRA, 13) vs Q Qualifier                     /
Those are some tough players -- barring upsets, it could be Pioline and Vinci in the next two rounds for LP .. In doubles also LP and Byron Black has a tough first round match against, potentially the best unseeded team there - Sander Groen and Laurence Tieleman .. Ghouse/Uppal and the Kirtanes made the doubles main draw and Srinath and Saurav have got a doubles wildcard (the other two doubles wildcard went to a French pair and a French-Austrian pair).  The rankings I am showing are the best-14 52-week ranks as of Dec 13th, the last in that system that ATP has published.  They have gone to a best-18 52-week system now, which should be roughly similar ranks.

In the qualies, there were quite a few Indians, but most lost in the first round .. Even those with just one ATP point who took the trouble of going there, like Jayant Sood, made it to the draw (this is why I complained yesterday when the tournament folks made a big deal of a wildcard to Saurav Panja in the qualies - he would have made it in anyway!) .. The bad news is that Fazal's bad luck with the draws continued as he ended up with the top seed in the qualies, Jiri Vanek (CZE,160) and went down .. Srinath, Vijay Kannan, Kamala Kannan and Nitin Kirtane advanced to the second round with wins over Indian opponents, but Vijay has lost in round 2 to Jiri Vanek already .. I have not seen the scores of the Srinath-Delgado, Nitin-Ishii and the Kamala-Ran matches, but those are all seeded opponents too .. I doubt if anybody other than Srinath has even a marginal chance to go through three rounds and make the main draw, though.

The point system schemes seem to be getting cleared up .. As we had guessed earlier, ATP seems to be using (5 times the race points) as the new point total for the entry rank list .. The Chennai tournament gives 1, 3, 8, 15, 24, and 35 points towards race rankings and 5, 15, 40, 75, 120 and 175 towards entry rankings .. The latter set is quite similar to what one would get every round in last year's system towards the rankings, if you include the average bonus points too [now there are NO bonus points in the system] .. The race rankings and points are of no interest to those who are not in the running for year-end top honors though ..  I assume ATP is not planning to change the points table for the challengers and futures which basically will still be giving the points as "entry points" which are used in the 52-week best-18 entry ranks [I believe ATP does not want to call these "true ranks" as ranks, but only as entry system list or something.. but seedeings in all tournaments are based on these ranks] .. I find one thing quite unfair - which is giving 5 entry ranking points to those who lose in the first round - this is particularly wrong in the case of wildcard entries.   It is not a big deal though, as the chance of getting more than a couple of wildcards at ATP tour events above challengers is low for anybody.

The Chennai Open official website  (http://www.goldflakeopen.com) has come alive with some good information, by the way .. Just like last year, they updated the whole site during the weekend just befor the tournament and now have added pages for the draw, results, etc .. This tournament was one of only a couple of tournament sites giving ball-by-ball score updates the last couple of years, and hopefully they ill again be continuing the good work.

I have also added a page now with results from the "Indian Oil Servo" Millenium Invitational at the Krishnan tennis Center this week .. See the KTC invitational page.

Jan 01 Notes

Happy New year ! (so, is it really the new millenium or not ? .. I have no idea .. Everyone says it is, but I have never heard anybody say that there really was a year zero .. who knows! .. I will go with the popular hype .. so Happy New Millennium!)

No news in any of the newspapers today about the Chennai draw, which must have been made by now .. Will try to find out more later today, but it may be sometime on Sunday before we finally get hold of the draw, I guess ..

Dec 31,1999, Note-2

The news today is that Marat Safin has withdrawn from the Goldflake Open due to injury .. I had actually heard rumors and rumbling on this about 4 weeks back from European sources, but chose not to report it, as it was unconfirmed .. It's unfortunate, as the Chennai people will miss the talented youngster .. Also withdrawing are Albert Portas and Juan-Carlos Ferrero of Spain and Cecil Mamiit from the US [UNI report] .. Not sure which players in the wating list will be in the main draw now (see our Chennai page for the full entry list with waiting list -- the guys in the waiting list are all in the waiting list at Adelaide, Doha, etc also) .. The official tournament website (http://www.goldflakeopen.com) has been very lame so far in terms of news, and generally looks worse than last year's page .. I believe Wessels had also withdrawn last week.

And, by the way, they gave that 3rd wildcard at Chennai to Paul Kilderry of Australia .. The Australian IMG still controls this tournament, I guess .. Heck, couldn't they come up with somebody better than Kilderry ? .. I know I should stop complaining about Indians not getting wildcards.. nothing against the guy, but KILDERRY ?? .. 26 year old definition of a tennis journeyman, now ranked 339 in singles and 150 in doubles (was in the 150 in singles in 1995 and inside 75 in doubles later) .. The real problem is that IMG generally gives wildcards to those under their contract in the tournaments they run, and they have not even sneezed at any Indian player other than the likes of Leander Paes .. And now they have offerred to sponsor Sunil Kumar (see this PTI report in saturday's Times of India) .. That is how it goes, but I still object to them taking such a cavaliar attitude in dropping higher ranked Indians like Srinath in favor of no-name foreigners - at least bring somebody worthy of taking a spot - there has got to be somebody at least in the top-200 they can find! .. To top it all, Sheila Maniam, the new tournament director has taken from exactly where Brian Cooney left off, and has pronounced today [see this UNI report] that giving a qualifier wildcard to Saurav Panja (for winning the KTC invitational) "is further proof of IMG's commitment to the development of young sportsmen in India" .. Aw, come on! .. Keep doing what you all are doing (and a lot of what this tournament and IMG does are good in the long run), but let us have some sense of proportionality in all these claims .. Very interestingly, I just saw this article, "New Millennium, Old Hat" by Siddharth Saxena in Saturday's Hindustan Times with a lot of tongue-in-cheek comments on what would be good in the future in sport .. I liked this passing comment by Siddharth, certainly not in reference to the Chennai event, but global tennis - IMG will finally take their hands off tennis, and suddenly the prize money at all ATP events will nose-dive. The sport will all of a sudden become playable, watchable even if players of 17 will talk of retirement, or alternative employement .. I got a chuckle at the coincidence of seeing that right after seeing the wildcard news! .. But in summary though, those like IMG are a necessary evil (:-)) and I hope players like Sunil Kumar can make use of the IMG help and sponsorship to chart out a plan for his development .. Incidentally, there were some comments by Leander in yet another article in the Times of India (excerpt) - Asked about the new hope on the Indian tennis firmament, the 16-year-old south paw, Sunil Kumar, Leander said he had the talent, But he was a little brittle. This was the time when players like him in the age group of 17 to 23 need support. All he had to do was to have his future programme worked out .. Good.

The inevitable result occurred at the "Bakeman" ITF satellites at Chandigarh today - Urska Vesenjak won the title with a 62 60 thrashing of Antonia Matic in the final .. The Vesenjak sisters won the doubles title over Manisha and Daskovich in three sets too .. Urska fully made use of her trip to India, picking up 16.5 points to add to the 8.75 points she previously had which will bring her up inside top-450, up over 200 points .. All congrats go to the young girl! .. See the Chandigarh satellite page.

Dec 31 Note-1

At the ITF "Bakeman" women's satellites at Chandigarh on Thursday, Rushmi and Manisha lost in the semis, to Urska and Antonia .. Manisha's loss was somewhat more of a surprise, but it happened in three sets .. Manisha picked up 4 WTA points from the two satellites in singles .. She has done much better in doubles however, as she reached the doubles final today in the company of her new partner Katarina Daskovich (she won the title last week with Ka-Po Tong) .. Manisha-Katarina beat the Russian pair, Kaliojnaja and Kondratieva today .. Manisha gets 4 points for the final, and can make it 5 with a win tomorrow .. She will move up about 90 spots from her Dec 27 raking of #479 now ..

WTA did update their rankings this week, and Nirupama is now at #207 in singles and #181 in doubles.

At the Indian Oil Servo Millennium invitational at the Krishnan Tennic Center in Chennai, 4th seed Saurav Panja beat the top seed Nitin Kirtane, 7-5, 6-2 .. In yesterday's semifinals, Nitin beat Vijay Kannan, 6-2 6-7 (3) 7-6 (4), and Saurav beat Manoj Mahadevan, 3-6 6-1 6-2 .. By winning the title today, Saurav made some good money, but more importantly, he gets an automatic wildcard entry into the Chennai Goldflake Open qualifiers.  Congrats to Saurav for the good wins there.

So you ask who won the last title of the millennium among Indian men ? ..  It turns out to be Harsh Mankad who beat out Saurav by a few hours! .. Harsh was playing the Freedom Bowl intercollegiate tournament in Fullerton, California, a 48-draw event with some good college players, some in the top-100 too .. Harsh won the title yesterday, beating Trent Brendon of Wake Forest University, 6-1 6-2 in the final ..  This is Harsh Mankad's first intercollegiate title in the US and it takes his college record to 10-4 .. Harsh was unseeded but scalped some seeded players along the way to the title .. I happened to watch some of his matches and was quite impressed with his returns and baseline game .. In fact, after he found himself at 57 12 and a break down in the semifinal, he won the match 57 62 60, and then won the final today, in the process breaking his two opponents' service 11 out of 12 times! .. His service is not a weapon, but he is very smooth in his tennis, imparts good pace to his groundies, and he has a lot of shot-making abilities and a very good tennis mind in terms of anticipation, etc .. It seemed that he can add some more bite to his service game with some upper-body strength training, etc .. I won't be surprised if we find Harsh at the top tiers of US collegiate rankings very soon .. He looked quite determined in working hard to fulfill the promise he showed as India's junior #1 for quite some time and he swears that he is not going to go the way of a lot of Indian juniors who came to US colleges and lost their goals .. He plans to get back to some more ATP satellites/futures over this summer, when he has to defend the 20 points from the Indian satellites earlier this year when he finished #4 with wins over those like Fazal .. He may not be able to play the Indian stallites this May however, as it clashes with college.

Dec 30 Notes

At the ITF "Bakeman" women's satellites at Chandigarh yesterday, Rushmi Chakravarti and Manisha Malhotra reached the semis with wins over Russian Olga Kaliojnaja and Croatian Antonia Matic .. The "unstoppable one", Urska Vesenjak, beat the top seed Katarina Daskovich once again, and will face Rushmi once again tomorrow .. In doubles, Manisha-Daskovich are in the semis, as are Rushmi and Sai .. See the scores at the Chandigarh satellites page.

We are just a couple of days away from the qualifying rounds at the Chennai Goldflake Open - the qualies will start a day later tahn ususal, on the Sunday, due to Y2K fears .. Not much news out of Chennai lately and the official tournament website has not been updated in a couple of weeks now ..  I have no scoops on who gets that 3rd wildcard like last year when they kept it away from Indians and lied to the press that no decisions had been made about a wildcard to Vinciguerra even though I found that people in Sweden were all well aware of it and that Vinci had even booked a ticket to reach Chennai later than when the qualies were to start .. Anyway, it's all old story - at least that wildcard was well-used on a talented player like Vinci who will be returning as a direct entry this year too .. As for now, we know that LP and Sunil Kumar will get two wildcards .. Not sure if they have announced who gets the 3rd if there is a 3rd wildcard .. I also saw somewhere that ATP was reducing the number of wildcards next year, but my info may be wrong on that .. ATP has hardly made any rules for the new year available to the public at their site yet.

By the way, the winner of the Chennai tournament gets 35 "Race ranking" points towards the calendar year ranking that they expect to hype up this year ..  I assume that for the 52 week entry rank list (the "ranks" that really matters), it will get multiplied by five and will replace the points the player is defending from last year's first week (see my Dec 13 Note-1 for some more details on the new ranking system - basically nothing much changes effectively, despite all the big talk from ATP and a ranking procedure that *looks* substiantially different) .. Since ATP in their typical style has still not had a press release with the full ranking tables to my knowledge, no idea how many points each round is worth - the ATP approach now is that the public is rather too dumb to know the details, and so they will only be given hype and the silly new calendar year rankings! .. We will wait for their website to tell us sometime in the future .. If anybody has the new information, please let me know -- there are a lot of us tennis-stats-junkies who are quite anxious to see the new points tables and the real details; not the ATP hype on the new system without enough details that the news agencies have all reported ..

Dec 29 Notes

Here are some interesting articles appearing in Indian newspapers over the last few days  .. Here is one in the Indian Express on the 26th, titled a century full of ironies .. Then there were two. One overhead, one ankle. One missed, one twisted..., thus starts the article with reference to Vijay's missed overhead at the Wimledon quarterfinals and also Ramanathan Krishnan's twisted ankle in the Wimby semis .. The article mentions all the heroes of the century starting from Sardar Nihal Singh and Ghaus Mohammed Khan .. About the high levels achieved by the Krishnans, Amritrajs, Mukherjeas, Naresh Kumar, etc .. Though it rarely mentions the dynamic duo, it ends such - On the first Sunday of a windy July - the last of the century - the most sought-after rectangle of grass was trampled upon and taken apart by the big boys of the sport looking for the biggest trophy of them all. That over, a sparse crowd waited for minor action. Within an hour, Indians were called up to the royal box, twice, to receive their Wimbledon trophies. It wasn't Vijay Amritraj, it wasn't Ramanathan Krishnan. They were Leander Paes, and Mahesh Bhupathi .. That explains why the article started with "Then there were two" .. Nice article .. It does make you think though -- in the ultimate analysis, one shouldn't be comparing the doubles exploits of the pair to the singles heroics of others, but one has to give the duo utmost credit for one thing - they are a rare case of a pair who achieved what they set out to do, to reach the pinnacle of what they do, without any ifs and buts - won grand slams, and reached an absolutely undisputed #1 spot .. It stands out among the many Indian sports legends almost all of whom have have that one case where they have to say "if only" .. The coming year will hopefully see our boys continue that, coming out of Sydney with no "if only.." with them.

Here is an article in the Times of India by Vijay Amritraj - Paes, Bhupathi do India proud, with a recap of their year and also some nice comments on player development in  India .. Here is Vijay Amritraj on his top 11 best players of the century in the world, as in Rediff-online, Mumbai .. Laver, Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Sampras, Tilden, Budge, Emerson, Pancho, Hoad and Rosewall ..

Another interesting article based on a PTI or UNI report last week (which somehow did not appear in the online editions of all the national newspapers) was in the Tribune, Chandigarh - Bleak future for women’s tennis, based on several comments that Nirupama Vaidyanathan made last week .. She is right on a lot of things she mentions .. A lot needs to be done to improve women's tennis in India .. One pioneer is not enough - it's time we developed the next group of players to follow Nirupama's lead and reach the higher levels in the WTA tour .. The kind of dedication shown by foreign players to their career that we can see when 15 and 16 year olds come to a difficult place like India to play futures during Christmas time, should be incentive and inspiration to Indian players to make the best effort from their side too .. Niru is absolutely correct in talking about the need for more academies and coaches - this is more important in the girls' case, as it is more difficult for Indian parents to send their girls to far-away places than in the case of boys .. Niru also mentioned that she will play a few more $25K and $50K challengers .. Hallelujah! .. I have been of the opinion that Niru's selection of events to play has been one reason for her ranking falling as low as it did during this year .. She missed many events where she could have made the main draw (for various reasons though - travel funds, health problems, etc), and ended up playing qualies at other events she should probably have skipped .. She has generally done much better in main draws than in qualifiers anyway, and that also points to her having to pick and choose events better .. She said, "my best is yet to come" .. Though some of us fans are getting impatient that she has not moved up in a couple of years from the #175-200 plateau, I believe Niru is right .. Her tennis has improved now, and barring health problems, we will be seeing her make more strides soon.

Dec 28 Notes

At the satellites in Chandigarh, two seeds fell today - unfortunately both were Indians - 7th seed Archana Venkatraman fell to Masa Vesenjak in three sets and 3rd seed Sai Jayalakshmi lost to unseeded 15 year old, Antonia Matic of Croatia, 46 61 26 .. What can I say ? ..  Disappointing .. I hope the Indian players won't lose heart at most of them not having a great time at these futures thanks to some of these talented young girls who have come there .. 2nd seed Manisha and 4th seed Rushmi advanced to the quarterfinals, however, beating Radhika Tulpule and Shalini Thakur .. Rushmi and Sai are in the doubles semifinal .. See the Chandigrah satellites page.

Still not much news from the the Indian Oil Servo Invitational 16-draw tournament at the Krishnan Tennis Center in Chennai .. Top seed Nitin Kirtane and 3rd seed Vijay Kannan advanced to the semis, beating R Arun Prakash (62 62) and Vijendra Laad (61 61) today [source: Indian Express] .. No news on who else is in the semis.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 27 ..