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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Jan 4, 1999

(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index)

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Jan 4 Note-1

No news yet on who won the qualifier doubles final at the $975K Qatar Open (Doha) today, to earn the right to play the world #2 team .. We will know soon..

There have been some newspaper reports on the ITF Futures circuit that starts next week at Chandigarh (Jan 11th, to be followed by Ahmedabad and mumbai) .. According to the Tribune (Chandigarh) on Sunday, the interest from foreign players is very high for the Indian circuit this time - 87 foreign entries have been received by ITF, London for the circuit ! .. Not all of them will make the direct entry, which is apparently closing at around #600 with the top seed ranked at #373 (Luke Milligan of Britain) .. The reports say that only Srinath would make it in directly, as it stands now (however, Srinath, I believe has chosen to not play due to the achilles tendon injury) .. Tuesday's Times of India reports that AITA will give the 4 main draw wildcards to Fazaluddin, Vijay Kannan, Vinod Sridhar and Manoj Mahadevan .. I have added the entry list, as in Tuesday's The Hindu at the Chandigarh futures page .. I am a bit puzzled by why Fazal with his #563 ranking is not in the direct entry already (it closes at #607 now) .. It is possible that Fazal had not entered the tournament on time, and had to use a wildcard (let us hope not - it would be nice to get one more Indian into the main draw) .. Currently, the qualifier wildcards have gone to Vishal Uppal, Avinash Arun, Akshay Vishal rao, Sunil Kumar, Chandrasekhar Mohanty, Rajkumar Gopalan and P. Ravikrishna - all of whom are deserving candidates .. The qualifier draw has 64 spots (to select 8 to the main draw of size 32) - Some of these players may get in anyway into the qualifiers, as we shouldn't expect all of those 50+ foreign entries not making the draw to show up .. The others who have enough ATP points to easily make the qualies are Harsh Mankad, Kirtanes, Vasu Reddy, S. Zaman, Saurav Panja, etc .. The question I have is - who will get that 4th wildcard spot if Fazal makes the direct entry ? - Sandeep Kirtane and Harsh Mankad as the 6th and 7th ranked Indian players (after LP, MB, SP, FS and Vinod Sridhar) certainly deserve it but If I were to go by the norm, there is no way in hell Harsh Mankad will get any favours from AITA .. Both Vijay and Manoj are ranked below him, but based on their reputation for their talent, we cannot complain (I know who will get the WC if a spot gets free, and it's probably neither Harsh nor Sandeep!) .. Anyway, that is how it goes .. But I am glad to see Manoj Mahadevan get a spot in there .. Let us hope that he makes his mark like everyone has been waiting for him to do .. Same with Vijay, who will hopefully not run into top players like he did at the challengers..

Jan 3 Note-3

Just contacted the tournament office at the Gold Coast tournament - Nirupama seems to have played a close match in the first round of the qualies against 3rd seeded Brie Rippner (#107, USA), but lost 5-7, 4-6 on Sunday .. She may try the qualies at the Sydney tournament next weekend, but my guess is that the qualifier draw at Sydney will close a bit higher than the cutoff of #181 at the Gold Coast WTA tournament .. Hopefully she will squeeze in with her #162 ranking.

Jan 3 Note-2

The draw for doubles at the $975K Qatar Open in Doha is out .. The top seeds LP-MB will play a qualifier pair in the first round (it will be one of the two teams who won today's first round doubles qualies - Dilucia/Sell or Coupe/Merklein, probably the former, if I were to guess) .. The potential second round opponent would be the winner of Kempers/Nyborg vs Haggard/Koenig .. The second seeds are Delaitre/Santoro in the bottom half of the draw .. the 3rd seeds are the Czech pair Martin Damm and Cyril Suk, who could be one of the better new pairings for this year (Stolle and Suk have split up this year, I believe) .. the 4th seeds, in the other half of the draw are Kafelnikov and Vacek (good to see them staying put as a pair).

Still no news from the Gold Coast WTA tournament on how Niru's qualies have gone this weekend .. News is always tough to come by from Australia.

A five-week AITA mini- and sub-junior ranking tournament sequence ended this week at Bangalore .. This is for the under-16 and under-14 players .. The tournaments were held in Amritsar, Bhuvaneshwar, Guwahati, Hyderabad, and Bangalore .. I saw newspaper coverage of only the last two weeks at Hyderabad and Bangalore .. Whatever results I found are at the AITA mini & subjunior ranking tourney series page .. The story of the tournament was Sunil Kumar of Chandigarh, ranked #1 in India going into the tournaments (Parantap Chaturvedi was #1 under-16 till a couple of months back, but has probably moved on to the under-18 ranks now) .. Sunil Kumar won the first four legs of the tournament, and only lost the final of the last week at Bangalore (to P. Ravi Krishna, who was runner-up to Sunil Kumar in two of the previous legs) .. The story on the girls' side was Nandita Chandrasekhar of Tamil Nadu, who is in the under-14 group, but won three of the under-16 titles (and won only one u-14 title - I guess she was focusing more on the higher age bracket?) - you may remember a mention of her in my summary of the DSCL mini and subjunior nationals in October (Nov 16 Notes) .. Looks like she is really making big splashes for now .. Another girl who appeared in both u-14 and u-16 and had some good results is Isha Lakhani from Maharashtra (runner up to Nandita in the u-16 group at Bangalore this week) .. Others such as Vikrant Sane in the boys' u-16 had some good results too .. For now, if I am making some sense of the patchy newspaper reports, the names to keep in mind based on this set of five tournaments are Sunil Kumar and Nandita Chandrashekhar .. In fact, Ramesh Krishnan, who was in Chandigarh for a coaching clinic a few months back had specifically talked about Sunil Kumar.

Jan 3 Note-1

Nirupama made the qualifier entry at the $170K Australian Hardocurts tournament at Gold Coast, but is drawn against 3rd seed Aubrie Rippner (#107, USA) .. That is a very tough matchup .. As I said earlier, the Saturday qualies got mostly washed out - I will look for info from today (Sunday) ..

Jan 2 Notes

My email address is still not working well .. I get an occasional email, but I think some emails from some of you may be bouncing .. If any email has bounced back to you, please resend in a couple of days (after the sys-admins clear the problems), if you don't mind.

Very late update today - hope you saw the score updates at the Mumbai challenger page .. Mahesh and Gaurav couldn't get past the top seeds Noam Behr and Eyal Ran in the doubles final and lost 2-6, 6-7(5) .. According to the newspaper reports, the Isareli pair did a fine job of constantly keeping the ball away from Bhupathi and going after Natekar. Gaurav had trouble holding serve throughout the match .. Our pair had a good start in the second set, going up 3-0, but gave the one break back in the seventh game off Gaurav's serve .. In the tiebreaker, MB-GN were down 1-4, but fought back to tie it up at 5-5 before losing a minibreak again and ending it .. All in all, it was not a bad idea for Mahesh to play doubles here, just to stay sharp for next week at Doha .. By the way, MB would not have made the singles qualifier draw at Doha, and LP is skipping singles at Doha as I said yesterday.  I have not seen the doubles draw yet, but our guys will be the top seeds there (and also the defending champions).

Anthony Dupuis (FRA) finished his dream run with 10 matches in a row and 19 sets in a row, with the straight sets win over Julien Boutter (FRA) .. His second title in two weeks - 120 more pts and top-140 ranking now .. I am going to keep an eye on this late blommer 25-year old .. Along with guys like Takeo Suzuki and comeback player Younes El Aynaoui (Morocco), he has made the most out of the challenger circuit in 1998 .. 14-1 record in three challengers in India with 173 points in 1998 !

I am not sure if Nirupama is playing the qualifiers at the tier-III WTA event this week (Australian women's hardcourts at Gold Coast) - I doubt if she could make the qualifier draw .. Anyway, I saw a report that the qualifiers Saturday were mostly postponed due to rain there .. Nirupama has easily made the Australian Open qualifier entry list, which closed just below #180 .. She is ranked #162 now.

Will post some notes soon on the AITA ranking tournaments (under-14/under-16) at Hyderbad and Bangalore the last two weeks.

Jan 1 Note-2

Gaurav Natekar may be retired from active tennis, but the doubles gold medalist from the Hiroshima Asiad can still play .. Of course, it helps a bit when you have the world #3 as your partner ! .. MB and Gaurav moved to the doubles final today, beating Andrei Merinov (RUS) and David Caldwell (USA) (a team that Sharda Ugra of The Hindu called a "post cold-war combine", the other day :-)), 6-4, 6-3 .. They face the top seeds, Noam Behr and Eyal Ran, who beat Fazal and DeChaunac, 6-3, 7-5 .. Not a bad deal for both Fazal and Gaurav .. Fazal gets 25 points for reaching the quarterfinal, which is very good for him, as he had just 3 doubles points before, and brings his ranking up enough to get into the doubles draws at some of the futures he will play .. The prize money is not much in doubles, but the finalists share $1,550, the runner-up gets $900 and the semifinalists share $540 .. Gaurav gets 43 points already which will place him as the Indian #5 behind LP, MB and Kirtanes - just ahead of Harsh Mankad and Vijay Kannan ... Pretty good for a retired player ! - Fazal will move up from 1300+ to just inside 800 in doubles .. See the Mumbai challenger page for all the results (Thanks go again to Bharat Oza and Sundar Iyer for prompt faxes from the tournament office) .. The finals will be tomorrow (Saturday), and should be on live TV on Doordarshan in India.

..and, oh, by the way, Anthony Dupuis had another ho-hum 6-2, 6-2 win which makes it 17 straight sets won by him (win streak goes to 9 matches) .. He came to India as #209, and he has now picked up 60 pts last week and 43 this week so far, which is enough to push him up inside the top-150 ! .. A win tomorrow will place him at about #139 in the world .. Oh, mamma, he is hot !

Dec 31 Note-2

A quick update before I run for the New Years party here .. Talked to LP at Orlando today - he is there for some rehabilitation and is leaving for Doha Friday morning .. His hip and groin injuries are all healed; no pain, but he needs to work a bit more on strength/conditioning .. His heel is also not hurting, but he needs new shoes to give enough cushion, and the shoe companies are on vacation - he is awaiting his new supply and will have to manage with older ones at Doha .. Anyway, he has chosen not to play singles at Doha (I believe he would have made the direct entry there, or they might have given him a wildcard) .. He feels an extra 3 weeks away from competitive singles would be better in the long run .. Right decision, I feel .. He will not make the draw for Sydney (the week after) anyway, and the following week is the Aus Open qualies week .. This gives him three extra weeks to slowly bring himself back to being physically 100% for the tough year ahead .. MB joins him at Doha Sunday night and their firt match may not be till Wednesday ..

Following up on my notes on Harsh Mankad's year earlier (Dec 28 Note-1), I will be compiling and commenting on the results of the year for Vijay Kannan and Vinod Sridhar - both had some good results .. Coming soon ..

Dec 31 Note-1

All seven matches today at the Mumbai challenger got done in straight sets - I guess everyone wanted to leave quickly, and get ready for the New Years eve party .. Actually, they scheduled all the matches today to get done by late afternoon to facilitate that too. Now the bad news - Anthony Dupuis' two week domination-run conrtinued, with Mahesh Bhupathi going down, 6-2, 6-4 to him .. Win number 8 in a row for Dupuis .. 7th win in a row in straight sets. The scores of his last six matches - 6-4 6-2, 6-4 6-0, 6-4 6-2, 6-1 1-0, 6-1 6-3, 6-2 6-4 .. Man, that is something! .. By the way, who took the last set off Anthony ? - Our own young Vijay Kannan in the first round last week at Ahmedabad - 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 was the score there .. The other winners today are Gregory Carraz (FRA) who took out the 8th seed Motomura (JPN), Julien Boutter (FRA) who beat Kaneko (JPN), and Qualifier Sebastien DeChaunac (FRA) who upset Andrei Merinov (RUS) .. Now the only seed remaining in the semis is 3rd seed Dupuis who meets Carraz next .. Here is a bold prediction from me - somebody from France is going to win this thing ! :-)

Bhupathi and Natekar reached the semis of doubles today, beating Lior Mor and Ofer Sela of Israel, leaving Behr and Ran (in the doubles semis) as the only Israeli players left in the semis of singles or doubles .. Strange, how the Israel players who did so well last week have not done much here .. In a bit of a surprise, Sandeep and Nitin Kirtane got upset by the wildcards, Fazal and DeChaunac today .. Fazal and DeChaunac will face Behr-Ran, and MB-Gaurav will play Caldwell-Merinov (they upset the 2nd seeds Ljubicic and Motomura today) in the semis, tomorrow.

Dec 30 Note-2

Since our computer staff are all on vacation here, I have a feeling that the mail spools etc at this server is all filled up - the web pages seem to be a bit slow, and I have not got any emails for over a day (so, if any of you sent me emails, please wait till things get cleared in 3-4 days).

Check the Mumbai challenger page for results from there .. Here are some excerpts from Sharda Ugra's article in thursday's The Hindu on Mahesh's match against Fazal: "Mahesh Bhupathi may be short on singles matches and ATP ranking points this year, but he has never failed to remind other Indian pros just who, his doubles partner excepted, is the boss. Today Syed Fazaluddin was handed out that lesson ... The big Bangalore server didn't put a foot wrong on court today, his tennis an exhibition of the weapons at his disposal ..On court today this was brought home to again and again to Fazaluddin ... Poor starts by the 24-year-old Calcuttan in the opening games of either set, put Bhupathi up 2-0 .. Fazaluddin lost only one point in the next four games on his own serve but his shotmaking from the back of the court was far too patchy to put any kind of pressure on his Davis Cup teammate ... Bhupathi was pushed only when serving for the set at 5-4, when he squandered two set points, a long forehand gave Fazaluddin his only break point. The Calcuttan could not capitalise netting a backhand and Bhupathi's serve bailed him out yet again. Fazaluddin opened the second set in a matter identical to the first, dropping serve by netting a low forehand volley. Fazaluddin was attacking the ball a lot more on the Bhupathi serve but failed to convert his chances. Being broken in the first game of the second meant that the recovery job was all that much tougher; against Bhupathi firing on his serve, it was close to impossible .. Fazaluddin did get another chance, as his Asian Games doubles partner served two double faults to face break point again at 30- 40 in the second game. A poor return from the Calcuttan took care of that crisis and Bhupathi held for a 2-0 lead. A further break in the fifth game put 24-year-old Bhupathi up 4-1 and the match was served out with minimum fuss" .. Looks like MB was fully ready for this match .. As for Fazal, he does get 7 more ATP points to add to the 37 he has now .. He has the 12 points from his Chandigarh futures title falling off in a couple of weeks, and this makes sure that he will stay inside the top-575 even if he does not pick up any wins in the 3-week futures circuit starting in two weeks.

With the win, MB gets 13 ATP points which will move him up from #383 now to just inside #350 .. IF he goes all the way and picks up his first challenger title, he will get 60 total points which will move him up to inside the top 275 with an outside chance to make the qualifier draw at the Australian Open .. He needs to get past Dupuis and then a potential semifinal opponenet in Goichi Motomura, to pull that off.

By the way, the Asian wildcards for the Australian Open were announced recently - #115 Takeo Suzuki of Japan gets the men's wildcard, and #155 ranked Sung-hee Park of Korea gets the women's wildcard .. Nirupama missed out on the wildcard by a whisker - incidentally, had she been able to pull an upset against 4th seed Miriam Schnitzer in the QF at the Delhi challenger, she would have gone just ahead of Park and got the wildcard .. Interestingly, Park was ranked near the top-100 this time last year and made it into the main draw as among the last couple of players, which made it unexpectedly possible for Niru to get a wildcard (as she was just inside the top-200, a requirement, and all the other players between her and Park had country-mates already in the direct entry) .. So Niru got extremely lucky last year to get the wildcard (and shocked everybody by becoming the first Indian woman in the modern era to win a grand slam round), but missed it this year despite being about 40 spots up in rankings ! .. That is how it goes sometimes.

Some nice news: The Hindu also reports that MSLTA (Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association) is organizing a 4-week men's satellite circuit all by themselves this year - not sure exactly when, but it well be at Nagpur, Nasik, Pune and Mumbai .. Pune also has newly laid decoturf courts now (at the Deccan Gymkhana - the late great Dr Gangadhar A Ranade, did so much for tennis there - check out this nice article on that and the history of Davis Cup at Pune, in the Indian Express last week) .. Pretty soon a lot of foreign players will just move to India and play all year, if we keep bringing tournaments like this .. Kidding :-) ..

One more proverbial "feather" in LP-MB's caps - they have been selected, along with 20 yr-old Aparna Popat in badminton, for the KK Birla foundation award for sports of the year. It comes with Rs 75,000 .. Not big money for LP-MB, but the award selection committee was chaired by Sunil Gavaskar and had the likes of Naresh Kumar and Narottam Puri in it - it is an honour indeed (source: Hindustan Times).

More news: the Times of India reports that Nandan Bal is now in the Davis Cup selection committee replacing Sumanth Misra of Delhi who has opted out on his own according to RK Khanna, the AITA president .. Other appointments - the coaching committee is now chaired by Bharath Oza (who is the tournament director of the Mumbai challenger right now - and has been kind enough to keep me posted on the news there) .. Mr. CGK Bhupathi and Akhtar Ali are in the coaching committee - those are some big names for sure.

Incidentally, I am told that there will be a feature on CGK Bhupathi's "Tennis Village" in Bangalore, on the CNBC cable channel on January 2nd at 9.30 pm Indian time, as part of a program called IT Hour .. I know no more details, and I am not sure if the CNBC channel in India is the same as the CNBC in the US .. Anyway, let's check it out.

Dec 30 Note-1

Mahesh regains his ranking as the #2 Indian player (which Srinath got for one week), by beating Fazal today, 6-4, 6-2 .. Just received the fax from the tournament office (thanks go to Mr. Bharat Oza and Mr. Sundar Iyer) .. Other winners today in the QFs are Gregory Carraz (FRA), 8th seed Goichi Motomura (JPN), 3rd seed Anthony Dupuis (FRA), Julien Boutter (FRA), Hideki Kaneko (JPN), who upset the 4th seed Lior Mor, Andrei Merinov (RUS), and Sebastien DeChaunac (FRA) .. The story so far is perhaps the failure of the Israeli players enmasse .. There were 8 players from Israel in the main draw, including one qualifier (Kobi Ziv) and three seeds .. With Lior Mor, Ofer Sela and Kobi Ziv losing today, none have reached the quarterfinal .. Only the 8th and 3rd seed remain .. Mahesh, however, goes up against the 3rd seed Dupuis in the QF next .. Anthony has won 7 matches in a row and has basically been on an incredible run so far - Mahesh will hopefully end the run next ? ..

In doubles, Vijay Kannan and Anthony Dupuis lost to David Caldwell and Andre Merinov today .. In the other match, second seeds Ivan Ljubicic and Goichi Motomura advanced to QF over Barry Cowan and Miles MacLagan.

Dec 29 Note-2

Just a reminder - though I leave notes here on the matches, etc, most of the time I update the LP/MB/NV pages first with matches scores .. So, do check them when my notes here are a bit delayed .. Also, I have been updating the Mumbai challenger page as and when the scores come in (from the tournament office and newspaper reports) .. So, check that page, if you are dying to know of the results ..

Great news today, as Mahesh took out the 6th seed Eyal Ran, 6-4, 6-4 .. Unbelievable as it may seem, this is his first win in the main draw of any ATP tournament in FIVE months for Mahesh ! .. and guess whom he beat in that last match ? .. the same Eyal Ran at the Istanbul Challenger at the end of July .. MB has had a couple of wins in the qualifiers at New Haven and Shanghai, a win over Wilkinson at the Davis Cup, and all those wins at the Asia Cup and Asiad, but none in any ATP main draws .. Today, he had a break in the 5th game of the first set and wrapped it up easily .. Then that early second set bugaboo hit him again, as he dropped serve in game two .. I have never figured out how somebody with Mahesh's determination lets that happen to himself so many times - though he does fight back from it quickly, the problem is that some of the top players will just not allow him to get back in it .. That was not the case with Ran though, as Mahesh came roaring back after being down 0-3 to break Ran twice in a row to go up 4-3 and serve it out from there .. MB pulled out four aces today, and all were at crucial junctures .. MB reportedly said that he did not want the match to go to three sets - he is justifiably worried about getting tired again ..

The evening match before MB's match ended in an anticlimax, as Srinath retired when he and Fazal were tied at one set apiece - Fazal advanced, 6-3, 5-7, 2-1 .. Srinath's achilles tendon problem flared up badly .. Fazal said that it was a tough match for him, as Srinath is such a close friend and that he was having a hard time continuing to play to beat him, when he knew that his friend was obviously in pain by the late second set. Srinath said he almost did not play the match due to the injury, but decided to play in the end just to see if Fazal would make a lot of mistakes and lose one he had to win .. Once he saw that fazal was not ready to lose it, he decided to call an end to the match .. These two are indeed close friends (so is MB with them both), and they mean what they say about it .. Anyway, sad to see a great year for Srinath ending this way .. But a very good win for Fazal who picks up 7 points .. It must be really bitter-sweet all around for Fazal today as his dad, Syed Naeemuddin was let go today by the All India Football Federation as the Indian soccer head coach - as though Naeem is the reason for all the problems Indian soccer has had - after all the soccer team certainly did not stink up the place in Bangkok and arguably put up a better show than many thought - but that's all another topic - let me stick to tennis here.

Good to know that one Indian will be in the quarterfinal for sure now, as Mahesh plays Fazal next .. Hmm.. whom should I root for ? :-)

Pretty good day in doubles too for Indians at Mumbai .. Sandeep and Nitin Kirtane pulled a big upset over the 3rd seeds Noam Okun and Nir Welgreen of Israel, who were the winner of the title at the ahmedabad challenger .. Sweet revenge, as the Kirtanes had lost the first round at Ahmedabad to the same team .. Fazal and Sebastien DeChaunac beat Jamie Delgado and Arvind Parmar .. So, five Indians will be in the doubles QFs .. The good run by the qualifiers Harsh Mankad and Mustrafa Ghouse ended against Kentaro Masuda and Oren Motevassel.

Nice reports from the challengers so far in the newspapers - as I always say, no other place around the world has newspapers that cover events like challengers and futures as closely as the Indian newspapers do .. Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald), Sharda Ugra (The Hindu) and Arun Janardhan (Indian Express) have all been covering it well .. Incidentally, Prajwal Hegde has an year-end summary of tennis around the world in Wednesday's Deccan Herald and she ends the article commenting on the Indian scene with this - "The year saw the game in India moving onto more professional pastures. Leander-Mahesh duo`s success and Nirupama Vaidyanathan`s persistence has given Indian tennis new direction ... Above all, the scrapping of the domestic tour and replacing it with a flood of international tournaments has given tennis in India a new identity. We are not looking at producing national champions any more. We are looking at a new breed of ranked pros who will one day compete on the world stage on an equal footing" .. Pretty nicely stated .. This is exactly what is happening and what has to happen .. The Indian players feeling that they are part of world tennis, and that they are second to none ..

However, talking of the "flood" of tournaments, I am still concerned about the women's schedule, as I still haven't got the detailed plans from anybody .. ITF London says, as of today, that AITA had talked to them about more tournaments in India .. ITF is waiting for final word on sponsors etc, but officially nothing yet on the 4-week women's satellite "circus" for late February, now in the calendar - neither is there anything on converting them to futures events .. They seemed to say that they might end up as futures, but that if anything is to be changed for late February, things will have to be finalized within a week to 10 days .. I am sure AITA is aware of these things, and I hope they are doing something - despite driving everyone crazy by waiting till the end, AITA has normally managed to get things done in the end. Let's hope for the best.

Dec 29 Note-1

Hey, I just started receiving info from the Mumbai tournament office, thanks to the tournament director, Mr. Bharat Oza ! - Here is a late-afternoon update from the chalenger - Nitin and Sandeep Kirtane have won their doubles match to move to the QFs (make that two Indian teams in the quarerfinal now) .. The "prime" time matches under the lights are underway now - Fazal is playing Srinath, to be followed by MB vs Ran - at the newly named Dr. G. A Ranade tennis center (formerly the MSLTA courts), which now has five newly laid decoturf synthetic hardcourts and "industrial strength" lighting, according to newspaper reports .. Cool stuff .. A press friend had sent me some results from a mid-day UNI report, which shows two more seeds losing today - 2nd seed Razvan Sabau was upset by the top-seed-killer at Ahmedabad, Kantaro Masuda of Japan .. Also losing was the 5th seed Oleg Ogorodov, to Julien Boutter (FRA) .. Ofer Sela (ISR) beat Miles MacLagan (GBR) and qualifier Mashiska Washington (yes, the younger brother of Malivai) beat Ivan Ljubicic .. 3rd seed Dupuis (FRA) advanced beating country-mate Olivier Malcor, and is the top seed left - the #1, #2, #5 and #7 seeds are out in the first round - let us hope the 6th seed loses to MB later, too .. I will have more news after the prime time matches involving the Indians get done, as soon as I get the info .. See the Mumbai challenger results page.

By the way, take a look at the Nirupama Vaidyanathan page - I have added three color pictures from this year on that page (one from the Bangkok Asiad quarters against Li Fang), and taken out the black and white picture which were from a couple of years back ..

Dec 28 Note-3

According to the Deccan Chronicle, the doubles qualifier final today went to Harsh Mankad and Mustafa Ghouse at the Mumbai challenger .. They reached the main draw beating Vishal Uppal and Amod Wakalkar, 7-6(6), 7-5 .. Four ATP doubles points and a little bit of revenge for Harsh and "Pete", I guess, as they were knocked out in the final qualifier at the Vadodara challenger by Vishal and Sandeep Kirtane .. Now we have three all-Indian teams in the doubles, along with Nitin/Sandeep as a direct entry and MB-Gaurav (already in the QF) as a wildcard .. Fazal Syed and Vijay Kannan will also play doubles, as wildcards in foreign players' company .. Not bad at all !

As for tomorrow's singles matches, Mahesh has an opponent he has beaten before in the first round - he beat Eyal Ran at the Istanbul (Turkey) challenger, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, five months back .. He can repeat it, If he's not still mentally and physically tired after a long year and the Asiad, as he was last week .. Fazal plays Srinath in a repeat of the Chandigarh futures final in January, where he beat Srinath 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and got his career started off !

Dec 28 Note-2

Oh well .. We will have to wait to see that big win from Vijay Kannan - it didn't happen today, as he went down to #357 Andrei Merinov (RUS), 4-6, 1-6 at the Mumbai challenger .. In other matches, the 4th seed Motomura and the 8th seed Lior Mor won, but the top seed David Caldwell went down in the first round for the second week in a row - this time to Gregory Carraz (FRA) .. Noam Okun upset 7th seed Oren Motevassel .. In doubles, Bhupathi and Gaurav Natekar took care of Radovan Svetlink and Matej Pampulov in two sets .. I am unsure about which team won the final qualifier in doubles today - Harsh Mankad and Mustafa Ghouse were to play Vishal Uppal and Amod Wakalkar .. the newspaper report I saw says Ghouse-Wakalkar beat Uppal-Mankad ! .. That has to be a mistake .. We will wait and see.

Dec 28 Note-1

The singles qualifiers got done yesterday at the Mumbai Challenger (hope you saw the scores I had posted yesterday - didn't get time to leave notes here) .. the two Asian youngsters, Harsh Mankad and Aisam Quereshi (PAK) couldn't make it in .. Harsh, the only Indian in the final, lost to the #1 seed Kobi Ziv (ISR, #369), but he and Mustafa Ghouse were in the final round of doubles after a big win over Kobi Ziv and Aisam Quereshi (I believe the final is today against Vishal Uppal and a partner - so we will have one more Indian team in doubles) .. The other qualifiers are Sebastien DeChaunac (FRA), Olivier Mutis (FRA) and Mashiska Washington (USA) ..

I only have some patchy info on the draw, but it's a strange one, with Mahesh facing 6th seed Eyal Ran (ISR, #230) in the first round, the winner drawn to face the winner of Fazaluddin vs Srinath ! .. I hate it when it happens like that .. Those two matches are tomorrow (Tuesday) .. Wildcard entry Vijay Kannan meets Andrei Merinov (RUS, #357), which is scheduled for Monday evening - Merinov is a tough player, but is known to be inconsistent too - hope Vijay gets that first challenger win here.

In doubles, Nitin and Sandeep Kirtane are a direct entry .. Mahesh is playing doubles with Gaurav Natekar (who is basically retired now - Mahesh said he wanted to play a bit of doubles to stay sharp for the Qatar Open next week where he will get back with Leander), Fazal is playing with Dechaunac and Vijay is playing with Anthony Dupuis (not bad idea for Vijay to play with an experienced foreign player - one gets better in doubles with such outings, though I am not sure how good Dupuis is in doubles, having played only a little of it this year and ranked below #800) .. One qualifier doubles team to be decided today.

Back to tracking our youngsters - Now that he is done with singles for the year, how did our top junior in 1997, Harsh Mankad, do in his first year in the senior circuit ? .. I would say he did not make a big splash, though he has so far not disappointed, considering that not much support and opportunities were given to him .. After getting wildcard entries into the January futures, he has had to play qualifiers in every one of the three Indian challengers and the one Indian ATP big event .. This fanclub helped him a bit to go down and play at the Tijuana challenger in Mexico when he was in the US for a month of coaching, which he underwent with the little personal funds he could some up with, and a small sponsorship of a foundation in Mumbai - nobody else in India, including AITA, thought it fitting to give him some support .. Anyway, it's rather impressive that Harsh made it into the final round of qualifiers at four of the five tournaments - Vadodara, Mumbai and tijuana challengers, and the $400K Chennai ATP .. At Chennai and at Mumbai, he was the only Indian to reach the final round (among over 10 players who tried in each case) - his win over Barry Cowan (#309 now - yes, the same one who beat Mahesh last week) at the Chennai ATP qualifiers, and his show at the Mumbai qualifiers this week are perhaps the best .. Harsh's losses in the final rounds of the qualies were to Jan Krejci (now #465), David Nainkin (now #136) at Chennai, Tommy Lenho (#322) at Tijuana, and Kobi Ziv (#369) at Mumbai, and his only early round qualifier loss was a 5-7, 5-7 loss last week to Mashiska Washington (#402) .. At the beginning of the year, he had a win over #751 Don September, and losses to #695 Kravesec, #426 Jamie Delgado and # 317 Noam Okun in the three futures .. In the DSCL nationals, veteran Asif Ismail beat him in the QFs .. In the November satellites, he lost to Vinod Sridhar (#805), Patrik Erhardt (#584), Marian Leysek (#941) and Vijay Kannan (#941) and beat Danai Udomchoke (#590) and a couple of others, ending up tied with Vijay and Sandeep for second place among Indians .. Then the best result of the year - he won the masters doubles title with Vijay, moving up in doubles rankings by about 550 spots ..

So, Harsh Mankad ends the year with one win and six losses to top-400 caliber players, and one win over a top-600 player, with only Vijay Kannan, Vinod Sridhar and Sandeep Kirtane able to beat him among among active Indian players .. Harsh has about 8 or 9 wins over other Indians (Ramchandani, R.Gopalan, Rohan Saikia, Vijendra Laad, Ravikiran Bhat, P.Sreenivasan, A.Jagnani, Saurav Panja, etc) .. In doubles, he has not got any wildcard entries at any place, but has qualified in at Tijuana (with an unranked player he met in the hotel lobby whom he never knew), reached the final round at the other two places where he tried to play qualies at (Vadodara, Mumbai) and had that great run for the satellite masters title .. Overall, Harsh has had a decent year, and in my opinion, Vijay Kannan, Harsh Mankad, and Vinod Sridhar are all players who had good years .. My opinions are solely based on results though, as I don't see any of them play - but sometimes it is better that way, as the results do not lie ! .. Now, 1999 will be the first full year in the seniors for our top junior of 98, Vijay Kannan, and we will be following him very closely next year .. He is about 3 months younger than Harsh, but has so far been looked after well by AITA, and is considered by many to have high potential .. I would like to see Vijay being asked to play some qualifiers, though, to get tough match practice - it does not help to keep giving him wildcards - it's like throwing our best junior player "to the lions", so to say, in the main draw .. Though I complain that guys like Harsh are overlooked for wildcards, that is mostly because I feel it indicates that we are forgetting our youngsters - I am one who thinks that it is ultimately better for the youngsters to play these qualifiers .. At the end of 1999, I will be doing a compilation of Vijay Kannan's exploits, and hopefully he will be much higher ranked too, then !

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Dec 28 ..