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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Jan 07, 2002
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Jan 07 Notes

Mahesh and Jeff Tarango are in the doubles draw at the $357K Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand, and they get an easy first round match against wildcards Alistair Hunt and Daniel Willman of New Zealand .. Good doubles field there .. Bjorkman-Woodbridge are the top seeds, and Ferreira-Leach the 3rd seed there .. Wasn't it about 12 years back that 58-yr old Rick Leach said he was retiring from tennis? .. OK, may be four years back .. and I think he is perhaps younger than 58 :-) .. Leach had said last year that he was about to become an assistant coach under his father Dick Leach, the head coach at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where Prakash Amritraj is incidentally in the team .. I guess it's just an annual habit for Rick Leach to talk about quitting pro doubles .. Anyway, why should he? -- he is still among the best out there and can still make a cool $300K a year from that.

I believe Leander will be at the Australian Open qualies, but it worries me that his name is not in the commitment list for the qualies that I saw .. He did not make the original list for qualifying where the cut was at #266 (his ranking is at #299), but his name was also not in the alternate list for qualifying, which shows a handful of names ranked below him .. That means he probably did not enter for it, knowing that he will be able to sign in .. I assume that he will make it in, because the AO qualifying cut normally falls quite a bit below #300 by the time the qualies start .. We will wait for the qualifying draw at AO to come out in a couple of days.

Here are the newspaper articles on yesterday's LP-MB match - by, by Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald) and by S. Kannan (Hindustan Times), by Sutram Suresh (Times of India), and by Srinivasa Raghavan (Indian Express) .. Here is the write-up on the singles final, by  Nirmal Shekhar (The Hindu) ..

At the Victorian Juniors ITF grade-2 event in Australia, the top seed, 29th ranked Sania Mirza got upset today in the QF by Darya Ivanov (AUS,109), 61 60 .. In the 3rd round she had beaten the 16th seed Diana Julainto (INA), 26 64 64 in a three-hour match .. Sania (now ranked #42 in doubles) did make the doubles semifinal in the company of the new partner Linda Smolenakova (SVK,54) .. After a first round bye, they beat Nusa Gradisnik (SLO) and Nadja Pavic (CRO) 75 60 and then beat Dubravka Cupac (AUS) and Casey Dellacqua (AUS), the top two Australian u16 players, 26 62 60 in the QF .. They play the 8th seeds Katja Blocker (GER) and Hanna Nooni (SWE) in the SF .. One news report said that Sania looked "tired" in the doubles match; perhaps because of her tough win against Julianto - I wonder if that is what caused her surprisingly poor match against Darya Ivanov in the singles QF .. Sania had beaten Darya in a three-setter last March at the Mali Milk Cup grade-2 in Thailand, actually .. In the doubles second round, Sevvy Gallios (AUS) and Megha Vakharia went down to the 6th seeds Diana Julianto and Pichaya Laosirichon (THA), 06 36.

In other junior news, according to The Hindu, the "most promising junior'' award was presented to Karan Rastogi, in a special ceremony at the 2002 Tata Open, on Saturday.  The award was sponsored by Daikin, the official air-conditioner of the tournament .. Karan got to interact with those like LP, MB, RK and the Amritrajs - it's good for kids to get a encouraged like that .. I believe Karan will be playing the subcontinental ITF circuit next .. The circuit starts with a Grade 4 in Sri Lanka, followed by Delhi (G3), Chandigarh (G4), Kolkata (G4), and then the final two in Bangladesh at Rajshahi (G3) and Dhaka (G3) .. I hope to see those like Tushar Liberhan make a mark in this circuit, also .. See Jan 04 Note-3 for my Indian juniors new-year preview.

Jan 06 Note-2

Make that 11 three-setters in 17 matches at Chennai, and a 10-1 record in them .. Yet another close one today, but HELLO, TITLE #21 !! .. At the $400K Chennai Tata Open finals, #1 M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. #4 Tomas Cibulec/ Ota Fukarek, 57 62 75 .. They now have a 21-9 record in 30 ATP finals .. Actually an 18-4 record in finals other than in grand slams and WDC .. Their 4th title in 5 attempts at the Chennai Open .. I am sure the Chennai crowd certainly wanted the title, after their new hero Srichaphan went down 46 67(2) to the top seed Canas earlier in the singles final .. LP-MB get $23,350 to share for the title and 175 entry points.

Here is how the doubles final went - [Set 1] The match was closely fought from the beginning .. The second game, off LP's serve, went to deuces and so did the 3rd, off Cibulec .. Then LP got broken in the 6th game to fall 2-4 .. LP-MB got the break back immediately in the next game off Cibulec .. Then at the worst time, our guys dropped the 12th game, off MB serve at 15-40, and suddenly the set was gone at 5-7 .. [Set 2]  The Indian Express didn't seem to feel the urgency till midway through this set .. LP faced a 30-40 break point in the second game of the second set .. After saving that and two more AD out break points, LP held serve to even it at 1-1 ..  MB also was in trouble in the 4th game, down 0-30, but after one deuce it was even at 2-2 .. I think there was a momentum shift at that point, as our guys had Ota down 15-40, breaking him right there to go up to 3-2 ..  LP was immediately facing 15-40 break points but once again our guys stayed tough and held for a 4-2 lead .. Then it was a cruise to the end, with one more break in the 7th game .. [Set 3]  The set went without much drama at first .. When Fukarek served a love game to go up 3-2, it looked like our guys had temprarily lost a bit of momentum again .. It became serious trouble in the next game, when LP was down 0-30, and dropped serve soon .. No problems, though .. Our guys woke up just in the nick of time to break Cibulek at 15-40 in the next game to get back on serve at 3-4 .. They must have got all fired up now, as both MB and LP held serve to make it 5-5 and then force Cibulec to drop serve yet again at 15-40 to go up 6-5 .. Now the end was in sight and the Indian Express rarely let it slip away after that - MB served off the next game at 40-30 and the 2 hour 16 minute match ended with yet another title for the Indian Express ..

A funny thing happened at the scoreboard page of the tournament website .. At some point when LP faced a couple of AD out break points and finally got the AD in, it said "Adv INDIA" ! .. I guess they forgot that this is an ATP event, and not Davis Cup! .. But it shows how we all look at it, when these two play - In fact, for a few seconds I didn't even find it odd when they said INDIA for LP-MB! ..

Sania is in the QF with a goo dwin over 16th seed Diana Julanto at the grade-2 Victorian juniors .. Megha went down to the 4th seed, but after a good fight.  Scores later.

Jan 06 Note-1

LP-MB play the final against the Czech pair, Tomas Cibulec and Ota Fukarek at about 7.30 pm (9 am NY .. 2 pm London), +/- 30 min .. Let's celebrate a title in the chatroom.

Jan 05 Note-3

Out of 16 matches they have played at Chennai, our boys now have a 15-1 record (three titles, two SFs - thay have got two walkovers at Chennai) .. More ineterstingly, they have played 10 three-set matches there winning 9 of those, not to mention another 2 more matches which had both sets going to 76 or 75 scores .. Basically, all but 2 or 3 matches have been close matches by any definition .. They have all been close, possibly because the other teams end up putting their best show thanks to the unusual crowd reaction that they never find anywhere else for doubles (which brings out the best from the opponents too, knowing that the whole world is against them!) .. LP-MB have almost always pulled through, though - Today they won their 9th three-setter, what did you expect? - another close one .. [SF] #1 M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. #3 F.Cermak/ P.Luxa, 75 67(5) 75 .. The match took 2 hours and 42 minutes and finished only at 12.45 pm .. For the 5th time in its 6-year history, the Chennai Open has an Indian team in the doubles final ..

Not sure if the match reports will make it to tomorrow's newspapers, as it finished way too late, but here is how it went -- [Set 1] No quick start for our boys today .. It started pretty tightly .. MB's first service game went to a deuce, but he held .. Cermak held easily, and then LP's game went to two deuces .. Now it was Luxa's service that went to 40-40 .. The pattern of close games continued with a break attempt on MB's serve in the 5th game .. He too held for 3-2 .. The next three games were easy holds by Cermak, Paes, and Luxa .. MB was in a spot of bother again at 4-4, down 0-30, but four straight points got our pair out of trouble .. Cermak seemed to be serving well throughout the set and LP-MB did not take any points off his serve, I believe .. So the 12th game from Luxa was important .. The Indian Express must have raised their game right then .. They forced a 30-40 set pt and then an AD out, converting the second one to take the set! .. [Set 2] MB's service game went to a deuce at the start of the second set , but as always he held .. Then in game 5, for the 5th service game in a row, MB was again in trouble with a deuce and once again he wriggled off to stay ahead .. Cermak and Luxa were both staying away from danger and LP's service games continued to be trouble-free, as they were right from the beginning .. Finally, Mahesh had an easy service game to put the Indian Express up 5-4 .. In the 11th game, LP faced a crucial break point at 30-40, but after two deuces he too held .. They could not break Luxa this time in the 12th game and we were in a tie break .. LP-MB were down a minibreak at 2-5 .. They held serve twice and took one off Cermak to get back on par at 5-5 .. Then at 5-6, our guys lost another minibreak to drop the set .. [Set 3] Things started calmly in the 3rd set, with Luxa and Leander serving the first two games rather easily .. MB was the first to run into trouble again, in the 3rd game, falling to 15-40, but incredibly, once again he held serve after two deuces .. By now it was 6 of 7 MB service games that had gone to deuces .. No drama in the next few games, and MB held solidly in the key 8th game when it counted .. 4-4 ..  The Indian Express wasted two golden chances at 15-40 on Cermak's serve in the next game, though .. After LP held serve, it was 5-5 .. LP-MB were pulling out all their tricks by now, I am sure .. They went after Luxa in the 11th game and broke him at 15-40 .. It was all up to MB then .. As always happens, regardless of how MB's service games go in the rest of the matches, when the match is on the line, our guys do the job .. They did it again rather easily, and the 2 hour 40 minute marathon was over ..

They now face the 4th seeds Cibulec and Fukarek, who forced an incredible meltdown from the second seeds Black-Santoro at about 1 am in the morning .. That match was rescheduled to Court 2 due to the lenght of the first doubles semi .. Black-Santoro had comeback well to a 46 63 52 score .. They fell apart from that point, as the Czech pair beat them 64 36 76(1), just about before MS Subbalakshmi's Venkateshwara Suprabhaatam started at the nearby temples.

Jan 05 Note-2

LP-MB match at the Tata Open Chennai ATP is delayed a bit - should be starting by 9.30 pm .. How about the Chennai crowd's new darling Paradorn Srichaphan?? - he just became the first Asian to reach the final there .. Once again coming up with an easy giant-killing upset today - 63 64 over 4th seed Andre Pavel! .. New name for Srichaphan is "Mr.56"  (coined by Samarth Sinha of the fanclub -- Sri Chapphan, you see .. brush up your Hindi if you are rusty like me!) ..  Go Mr.56 !!! .. Top seed Canas just won his singles semi too, 46 63 63 over Kucera ..

Junior news - at the Grade-2 ITF Victorian Junior chamionships, Sania Mirza and Megha Vakharia have both reached the final 16 .. Sania beat Daniella Dominikovic, 76(3) 62 and plays the 6th seed Dianata Julianto (INA,104) next .. Daniella was the recent semifinalist at the Australian u16 championships and so she is a talented player .. 13th seeded Megha beat Natasha Kersten (AUS), 36 75 63 .. She has a tough match up next, against the 4th seeded Nina Bratchikova (RUS,53) .. In doubles, Megha Vakharia and Sevvy Gallios (AUS) beat an Ausralian pair, Kristy Condon and Shannon Tricklebank, 62 62 to reach the round of 16 .. They play the 6th seeds, Diana Julianto (INA) and Pichaya Laosirichon (THA), next .. Sania is seeded 2nd in doubles with Linda Smolenakova (SVK) .. They had a bye to the PQF and will play Nusa Gradisnik (SLO) and Nadja Pavic (CRO) next ..  On the boys' side, Rohan Gajjar could not do much against the 4th seed Clement Morel (FRA,14), going down 26 16 .. Rohan and Amanjot were the 8th seeds in doubles, but were upset 75 64 by Lars Poerschke (GER) and Artem Sitak (RUS) in the first round .. Also going down in the doubles first round were Sasha Abraham, Rishi Behl and Sujay Reddy, all playing with foreign partners.

Jan 05 Note-1

LP-MB's match is the 3rd one on the center court today, after the two singles semifinals .. Action starts at 5 pm in Chennai .. Srichaphan plays against #4 Pavel first and then #1 Canas plays Kucera .. [SF] #1 M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes vs #3 F.Cermak/ P.Luxa at about 8.45 pm (10.15 am NY, 3.15 pm London), +/- 15 min .. The chatroom will be open as usual, and there may even be running commentary of the match there .. The second semifinal, Black-Santoro vs Cibulec-Fukarek, is the last match, late at night.

Jan 04 Note-3

Junior news -- A few of our kids are out there in Australia, at the Grade-2 ITF Victorian Junior chamionships .. Sania Mirza is the top seed there and advanced to the second round in the 64-draw, with a win over wildcard Annabel Stefanchuk (AUS) easily, 63 60 .. She plays Daniella Dominikovic (AUS) next .. Also avancing to the second round was the 13th seeded Megha Vakkharia, who beat Julia Dziedzic (AUS,367), 76(1) 60 .. She plays Natasha Kersten (AUS) next .. Unseeded Sasha Abraham went down to Casey Dellacqua (AUS) 26 16 .. Da-Jung Hong (KOR) is the second seed there .. Also playing are the Asian Juniors champion Chin-Wei Chan (TPE) and the Asian #3 Pichaya Laosirichon (THA) .. On the boys' side the competition is a bit tougher, with the top eight seeds coming from the world top-40 .. Rohan Gajjar advanced to the second round beating Christopher Letcher (AUS,258), 64 63 .. He now has a tough match against the 4th seed Clement Morel (FRA,16) .. Amanjot Singh, seeded 9th, went down to Artem Sitak (RUS,82) 26 36 ..  It's been a while since Amanjot has had a good win - almost 7-8 months I believe .. Unseeded Rishi Behl lost to Tom Pocock (GBR) .. Actually Rohan is the only one out of 9 Asian boys to advance to the round of 32.

Here are the ITF junior worls rankings at the start of the new year for indians, with age, DOB, etc .. The 18 yr olds from 2001 have left the list and so the rankings drop a bit at the beginning of the year ..
        Name          Rnk   Age     DOB       Total   Events
                                              Events  Abroad
Girls: Sania Mirza    (27,  age 15, 15/11/1986,  20,   17)
       Megha Vakharia (90,  age 17, 28/08/1984,  15,   10)
       Isha Lakhani   (156, age 16, 29/04/1985,   3,    1)
       Sanaa Bhambri  (201, age 13, 07/03/1988,   4,    1)
       Sasha Abraham  (204, age 16, 27/05/1985,  18,   13)
       Lata Assudani  (249, age 16, 24/03/1985,   4,    1)

Boys:  Amanjot Singh  (43,  age 17, 27/02/1984,  25,   20)
       Rohan Gajjar   (75,  age 17, 08/05/1984,  21,   15)
       Karan Rastogi  (87,  age 15, 08/10/1986,  15,   10)
       Nishank Mishra (91,  age 17, 09/01/1984,  16,   13)
       Jaco Mathew    (105, age 17, 15/07/1984,  17,   12)
       Rishi Behl     (137, age 16, 29/09/1985,  19,   13)
       Saurabh Singh  (143, age 17, 18/12/1984,  16,   13)
       Arun Prakash   (252, age 16, 03/04/1985,   8,    3)

One other name to note in the boys' list is Tushar Liberhan at #331 who incidentally shares the birthday with Karan Rastogi .. Karan, Tushar and Pakistan's Shahzad Khan - all who recently turned 15, are probably the top three Asian 15 year olds .. Karan is the 3rd highest ranked 15 yr old in the world, actually .. Unfortunately, a back problem that cropped up three months back kept him away from the Asian juniors and the recent DSCL nationals (where Tushar won the u16 title) .. I am told that Karan is fully recovered now, but he has not gone to the Australian circuit now; he will be playing some of the events in India and Bangladesh and should be selected for the AITA team for the East Asia circuit in Mar-Apr .. The top Asian players are world #3 Yeu-Tzuoo Wang (TPE, about to be 17 yr old), #42 Tai-Wei Liu (TPE, just turned 16) .. #43 Amanjot, #67 Shunzuke Shimizu (JPN, age 17), #71 Hiu-Tung Yu (HKG, 17), #74 Anuwat Dalodom (THA,17), #75 Rohan, #87 Karan, #91 Nishank, #104 Atzuo Ogawa (JPN,17), #105 Jaco ..

On the girls side, other names of interest for us are 14 yr old Kartiki Bhat, 13 yr old Tara Iyer (who is training in the US now, I believe), etc .. The Asian rankings for girls are, #5 Angelique Widjaja (INA,17), #14 Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE,16), Sania, #41 Da-Jung Hong (KOR, about to turn 16), #68 Pichaya Laosirichon (THA,16), #75 Yoo-Mi Jung (KOR, about to be 17), #90 Megha, and #104 Diana Julianto (INA,17) .. By the way, Sanaa Bhambri is the highest ranked 13 yr old in the world! ..

On thing to note, especially on the boys' side, is the number of foreign events the top few Indian juniors have played .. The word is very much out that you *have to* play abroad to improve, and AITA has also helped with around 4-5 events abroad for a few of the top players .. Paes En Sport has helped Amanjot too (along with Sunil last year) .. I am sure there are a few other talented Indian boys who would improve with trips abroad, but probably none (in the age group above 15) who has done so significantly well at home as to undoubtedly deserve help for foreign trips, as fas as I know .. The one talented player about whom I am concerned is Isha Lakhani who has only played about 5 ITF events in the last two years .. If I am not mistaken, financial difficulties have kept her away even from traveling to Indian events, let alone abroad .. I think AITA made a mistake in not selecting her for the East Asia tour last year, though it may not have been that apparent at that time .. I hope she will get to go at least this year .. Those who remember my incessant complaints in 97, 98 about our players not playing abroad, would see how far we have come in the last couple of years .. The most important thing in playing abroad is for the kids to see where the standards of tennis are, and also in knowing early about the physical requirements to hang with the foreign kids .. Things are certainly looking up now!

There is the new year update on the juniors!

Jan 04 Note-2

This was easy .. LP-MB just got a walkover to the semifinal, due to injury to either Balcells or Bastl ..  The Chennai crowd enjoying the three-set barn-burner between Santoro-Kucera going into a final tiebreaker.

Jan 04 Note-1

It looks like the LP-MB match will start slightly earlier, just before 8.30 pm .. Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand must be becoming a crowd darling at Chennai, the way he keeps on coming up with one upset after another .. The #120 Paradorn just pulled off the biggest upset of his life, over the second seeded #18 Thomas Johansson in a comeback, 46 63 62, to reach the semifinal .. Wow! .. He is slowly establishing himself as the successor to Leander as Asia's flagbearer .. Though Hyung-Taik Lee and Takao Suzuki (earlier) have done very well too, I always felt Paradorn would be the one - don't know why! .. The top seed Canas advanced to the semi with a 75 11 win, as Jiri Vanek retired due to injury .. 3rd seed Santoro is in a dogfight on the other court with Kucera, 26 76(7) 00 .. See our Chennai Open page for results .. 4th seed Pavel plays Calatrava in the last match of the day, after the LP-MB doubles QF starting right now.

Jan 03 Note-2

LP-MB play their QF match against Juan Balcells and George Bastl, Friday at about 8.45 pm (10.15 am NY .. 3.15 pm London), +/- 15 minutes .. Come on and cheer them in our chatroom, and we may also have commentary from India, like today.

The reports are that the final game of LP-MB's three-setter today was a marvellous example of timely aggressiveness .. Johansson was serving well all day but our guys just went after him with two scorching returns each from LP and MB .. MB went for the patented two-fisted backhand return from the Ad side at the first match point which left Johansson with no choice but to volley into the net .. MB said later that it may even be the best match they have played at Chennai .. Johansson and Pavel gave them a run for the money .. The crowd finally came alive at the Tata Open, and the favorite sons (who look at Chennai for "spiritual rejuvenation", as a newspaper put it!) were the catalyst for getting the spirit going in Chennai .. There simply aren't any pro doubles matches played anywhere by anybody which create as much of an electric atmosphere as the Indian Express' night-matches in Chennai, I am sure .. Late at night, Srinath and Ajay Ramaswamy went down 26 26 to the 4th seeds Cermak and Luxa of CZE .. Sri and Ajay started by dropping serve, but played the seeds pretty well, with the first few games all going to deuces - our guys could not convert the break chances and it went downhill from there .. Sri and Ajay will pick up 40 points each for reaching the QF, which is big - it takes Sri to 94 points and a near-400 ranking .. Ajay will move up to 76 points and about 470 in the doubles ranking .. They also made about $2400 each before tax, which is good money too .. I hope these two will play some more events together - they seem to be a very good doubles team .. Here are the articles on the thursday matches - by Nirmal Shekhar (The Hindu), by Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald) and by S. Kannan (Hindustan Times), by Sutram Suresh (Times of India), and by Srinivasa Raghavan (Indian Express) ..

Here is an article in the Deccan Herald on Olivier Rochus, all of 5 ft 5 inches, who almost upset the second seed yesterday  .. All those who think smaller players cannot play top-100 tennis, should read the article and learn a lot from Olivier and his younger brother Christophe, who is only 2 inches taller and is also in the top-100 .. The key is working one's behinds off, on fitness and mobility, and doing it right with total focus on the court .. In fact, Ramesh Krishnan in his column in the Hindustan Times commented on the Rochus-Johansson match as the best of the tournament so far .. "I hope a lot of youngsters saw this match for there was plenty to learn. Rochus played exceedingly well from the back of the court and seemed to have plenty of time to make his strokes. His backhand was particularly impressive. He could come under or go over the ball with equal ease. Moreover, he played fine attacking tennis" .. Succinctly put!

I have updated the schedule for LP and MB till April .. And they are expected to will finally make their first appearance in Northern California, at the $400K Seibel Open in San Jose .. The Northern Californians who have been asking every year whether they would come to the bay area, finally get their wishes! .. More importantly, it feels good to report that MB is expected to play singles at least at a couple of places - a futures in UAE (probably) in the week before davis Cup in Lebanon and then the challenger at Hull, UK, two weeks after Davis Cup (he may need to play qualies for that, I believe) .. Not sure if LP is going to Hull, but he will probably make the draw there .. Actually it may be important for LP to play some singles that week and (and perhaps the week before the Davis Cup week) pick up some points as he loses 44 of his 108 points in mid February (from the two finals in Indian challengers last year - that will drop him below #425 and effectively out of entry cuts at any challenger .. LP should be going to the Australian Open next week .. MB is expected at the $400K Auckland ATP in new Zealand next week playing doubles with Jeff Tarango (MB cannot make the qualy draw at the AO) and will join LP for doubles at the AO the week after next ..

As for the domestic schedule in India for 2002 as of Jan 2nd, check out the updated AITA calendar page .. Here is an analysis of the schedule from The Hindu .. AITA has not added extra futures events for this year and has kept it to the usual 5 events for men (one less than last year, but there is a new one in Sri Lanka, which helps), in addition to the usual two 4-week satellite circuits .. Three challengers are expected in December, organized by Paes En Sport, etc .. The interesting thing is a few more domestic AITA prize money tournaments, mostly now grouped in one stretch in June-July, for men .. This is a much better way to do it than to arbitrarily spread it around over the calendar .. Good job .. The women's circuit is somewhat stronger from last year, except that there are two challengers this time, the one in late february being the one that is postponed from late last year due to the international security situation .. The November challenger will now be held at Mumbai, which will be the first women's challenger away from Delhi .. ut it would be nicer if at least some of those men's ranking events could have had women's draws also .. Basically, except for the fact that the satellite circuits are as usual during the traditional hot seasons, Apr-Aug, the players shouldn't have much to complain about, with so many events.

Jan 03 Note-1

The crowd got their money's worth I guess, as LP-MB had to pull out some of their patented Chennai magic to get through a tough first round match -- [R1] #1 M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. T.Johansson/ A.Pavel, 63 46 64 .. [set1: AP broken in games 3, 7 .. TJ in 9 .. LP in 8] .. [set2: MB broken in game 9] ..     [set3: TJ broken in game 10] .. We had some nice commentary in the chatroom from Rish in Jamshedpur (thanks!) .. Here is how the match went .. [Set-1] Our guys had their usual quick start, taking Johansson to deuces rightaway in the first game .. Then they broke Pavel at 15-40 in the 3rd game .. LP held serve to lead 3-1 .. Pavel was broken again in the 7th game, and the Indian Express went ahead to 5-2 ..  Our guys gave a break back on LP's serve in the 8th game at 15-40, but they immediately broke Johansson in the next game to win the set 6-3 .... [Set-2]  There was a break point on LP's serve in the 3rd game, but he held .. They then had two break points in the 6th game off Pavel .. TJ-AP won 4 points in a row to stay alive at 3-3 .. After MB held serve easily, they had their next chance at 30-40 off Johansson's serve in game 8 .. Once again TJ-AP stayed alive .. Those 3-4 missed break points almost came back to bite the Indian Express .. One thing about top singles players forming scratch teams is that they should never be allowed to hang in for too long in doubles matches and get comfortable, because they can beat you in the end .. They held serve and immeditaley got a break too to go im front and serve for the set .. LP-MB took them to deuces on Pavel's serve, and saved a set point too, but fell in the end to lose the set and go even .. [Set-3] Paes-Bhupathi again had Pavel at a deuce in the 2nd game, but for the umpteenth time, TJ-AP wriggled out of that and held serve .. Now the indian Express seemed to be getting into serious trouble at a 30-40 break point off MB's serve in the 3rd game, but LP hit a wonderful backhand volley smash to send it to deuce and they stayed on serve .. The previous couple of service games from MB had been well-contested, but he held easily in the 7th game and the Indian Express was up 4-3 .. After a scary 15-30 in the 9th game on LP's serve, our guys won 6 points in a row in an all-out blitz to finish the match .. All of a sudden it was 5-4 and Pavel was staring at triple match points at 0-40 .. LP-MB did not let him stare for too long, and finished it off fast .. Good start tp the year despite the little sleep-walking in the second set .. Our guys play Balsells and Bastle in the QF tomorrow ..

Canas advanced easily today ..  See the Chennai Open page .. The Srinath-Ajay doubles match comes up later today there.

Jan 02 Note-2

We finally get LP-MB playing at Chennai .. Their first round match is scheduled for Thursday at 7 pm (8.30 am NY .. 1.30 pm London), +/- 15 minutes .. Come to the chatroom to follow the match.

Srinath and Ajay beat Prakash Amritraj and Mustafa Ghouse, 76(3) 62 today to reach the QF of doubles where they will play the 3rd seeds Cermak and Luxa, which is also scheduled for thursday.

Srichaphan completely destroyed Stoliarov today, 62 61 to reach the QF .. Paradorn is on a giant roll out there, it seems .. Calatrava upset the 6th seed Hrabty today in three sets too .. See the Chennai page.

I have added the Dec 10 AITA rank lists for all 10 categories (men S/D, women S/D, boys u18 S/D, Girls u18 S/D, Boys u16/u14, Girls u16/u14) at the Ranking,Results,Links page .. Take a look .. I had not updated these rank lists since April, as AITA had started releasing the rankings at their site, where the latest release is always available as I had mentioned before .. As some said they liked my one-page version, I am continuing to post these - plus I will keep archiving the rank lists at the ranks-archive page, for future reference ..

Repeating one of my pet-peeves -- the boys u18 list has 270 names in it, but not even ONE from my homestate of Kerala, which is pathetic .. If you play any AITA event, you get a point and get listed .. What this means is that not one Kerala boy has played a single domestic event .. Yikes .. I repeat my concern - will anybody do something to get some of those athletes in that state to play tennis? .. Yeah, Kerala does not have such a big elite class and that is perhaps one of the reasons .. Plus there aren't that many tennis courts either (though I am told the Thiruvananthapuram tennis club is an impressive one) .. If AITA has any plans on rural talent search of the kind the Chandigarh folks did, Kerala would be a good place to start .. There has got to be some P.T.Ushas or T.C.Yohannans out there who could turn out to be good in tennis .. The lone Kerala representative from all 10 AITA rank lists is Sandra Sashidharan in the u18 girls list .. Sad, to say the least.

There has been some very aggressive work done by AITA and others like CGK Bhupathi in organizing "minitennis" melas ..  This is a fun version of tennis designed by ITF after significant research, to take the game to little kids and get them interested .. It is one way to take tennis to kids in schools without big tennis facilities too .. Bhupathi Sr had done a lot of work organizing one of these minitennis melas with KSLTA at the TennisVillage in Bangalore over the last month, and it turned out to be a pretty big success from all I hear .. It is a great way to spread the game .. Why not get the Kerala Tennis Association to do something like that? ..

Jan 02 Note-1

Mahesh brought out his full array of shots, "out of desperation, rather than design", as one newspaper put it, but looked not yet ready for a big return to top pro tennis in yesterday's loss to Vanek .. By the way, after I said that most matches seemed to be one-sided yesterday, the last four matches of the day late in the evening ended up as tight ones .. See our Chennai Open page for scores .. Here are the articles on yesterday - by Nirmal Shekhar (The Hindu), by Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald) and by S. Kannan (Hindustan Times), by Sutram Suresh (Times of India), and by Srinivasa Raghavan (Indian Express) ..

Only one match involving Indians today -- between two wildcard teams;  Srinath-Ajay playing Prakash-Mustafa .. It is 6-5 and on serve in the first set as I type .. Seems to be a close match.

Here is also an article from Ramesh Krishnan in the Hindustan Times - "Paes singles form a worry" .. He says, "The TATA Open release gives Leander's 2001 singles record as 5 -4. This is well short of the requisite numbers and has been going on for several seasons. The crux of the issue is he has nowhere near the kind of experience needed to do well on a day-in day-out situation. Since he has been doing so outstandingly well in the doubles, the singles suffers and this becomes a Catch-22 situation. The less he plays, the worse he plays and the worse he plays, the less he plays." .. I think RK is every bit correct in what he says .. LP needs to fully set his mind into doing well in singles, and there is really no easy way than to play singles at every opportunity, whenever, wherever, and at whatever level .. His singles career cannot move up, unless he regularly plays one or two singles matches every 2 or three weeks and till he has played at least some 10 pro events, including qualifying rounds whenever he can manage it .. Qualifying events is actually the key .. He can probably only find about 2 or 3 weeks to play challengers, at best, in the next 5-6 months .. In addition to the qualies at the three grand slams, he has to play qualies in at least another 5 ATP events .. This means an immediate dash to the next event, if ever they lose in the first couple of rounds at any event in doubles -- that is the kind of thing LP has not done at all .. I can think of countless occasions in the past when the fanclub members dearly wished after an early doubles exit, that he would show up at a qualifier (at a place where he anyway would be reaching by Monday to play doubles anyway) - we always got disappointed on that saturday morning that LP did not reach the qualies while many other doubles players from the same event he played had traveled and made it to the singles qualies .. If LP does not play qualies at every opportunity, it is guaranteed that he will not get enough match play to ever think of making a return in singles .. If he decides to do this, it is definitely not beyond him to be singles-ready by Wimbledon time .. If he doesn't do that, he will have no big points left once his Wimbledon points fall off, and he won't even be able to play qualies anywhere after that (which means - horror! - an unannounced end to his singles career .. I don't even want to think about it, actually!) .. But then again, it is easy for us to sit here and say "play, play, play" - only LP knows what it really takes .. All I am saying is that, there is no other choice .. After all, we all know how well he does in Davis Cup - and a lot of it is simply due to the incredible mental commitment he shows to playing in Davis Cup .. He needs to show that kind of commitment to *himself* and his singles career, not just to the country! .. Come on Lee, you can still do it.

By the way, I wrote all that because I have had to give all kinds of excuses and justifications to so many concerned fanclub members writing to me, asking why LP did not play qualies, almost invariably, everytime he missed an opportunity for that .. Despite all the excuses I always came up with, as extenuating circumstances for LP not playing singles at all those places, I know that the fans' opinions on this were largely correct .. It did not appear as critical in 98 and 99, but it is very critical for LP now .. And there aren't even any Indian challengers coming up in the schedule anymore (the three challengers in 2002 appear to be scheduled for December!) .. Where is LP going to play, other than at some qualifying events?

Jan 01 Note-2

It has been one one-sided match after another at Chennai so far, with 11 of the 12 completed first round matches finishing up in easy straight sets, with only one of those 24 sets even going to a tiebreaker .. Unfortunately, Mahesh's match was no different either -- [R1] Jiri Vanek (CZE,102) d. Mahesh Bhupathi (IND,775), 62 62 just now.

The real upsets so far have been the 63 63 job by Paradorn Srichapahan (THA) over the 5th seed Max Mirnyi, and the 62 64 win by Noam Okun (ISR) over 8th seed Kristian Pless .. Pless' loss is perfectly according to my record of picking somebody to do well and jinxing them nicely! :-) .. Another interesting match was between two qualifiers, Byron Black and Ivo Karlovic .. Karlovic, the tallest player in ATP at 6 ft 10, won 76 63 in one of the tightest matches so far at Chennai along with the Caltrava-Fukarek 3-set "marathon" yesterday .. Another qualifier to reach the seocnd round is Stefano Galvani, who upset countryman Luzzi today.

Here are the articles on LP's loss yesterday - by Nirmal Shekhar (The Hindu), by Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald) and by S. Kannan (Hindustan Times), by Sutram Suresh (Times of India), and by Srinivasa Raghavan (Indian Express) .. Gloomy stuff.

Jan 01 Note-1

Mahesh's first round match against Jriri Vanek is scheduled for 7 pm Tuesday .. That is 8.30 am New York, 1.30 pm London .. Come to the chatroom and follow the match ..

Dec 31 Note-3

Manisha Malhotra was at the qualies for the Auckland WTA event in New Zealand .. She was quite disappointed at the heavy turnout for the event, and could not make the singles qualifying draw .. She and usual partner Leanne Baker were in the doubles qualies, but went down in the first round to the Serra-Zanetti sisters from Italy, Adriana and Antonella, 2-8 in the single-set qualies .. So, no good news from there.

I believe Nirupama Vaidyanathan is expecting to get back to the tour only after a few more weeks (and I think she will quite possibly skip the Australian Open qualies as well) .. She needs to carefully handle some of the injuries that affected her schedule over the last few months .. She does assure us that her goals to go into the top ranks is unchanged - but a break is needed to work on a lot of things .. Personally I feel that Niru did seem to hit a plateau on her singles career - and some focused work is probably required to make the adjustments essential for her to go higher - I also feel that she is still as determined as ever about it.

Dec 31 Note-2

Wildcards Rohan Bopanna and Carlos Cuadrado went down after a fight in the first round of doubles at Chennai .. J.Levinsky/ D.Skotch d. R.Bopanna/ C.Cuadrado, 64 75 .. Decent show by the two talented youngsters (Cuadrado was a top junior, and the winner of the French Open junior singles title last year - thanks, Chetan D'Souza for reminding me to mention that!) - they actually had a chance to extend it to a 3rd set, up 5-3 in the second, but they lost the next four games ..

See the Chennai Open page for all of today's results .. No upsets of any kind today, as the 2nd seed Johansson and 4th seed Pavel won .. By the way, I see that it was lucky loser Marin who played Pavel, and not the wildcard Oliver Marach .. What happened? .. Did Marach not get to Chennai? .. Did he not know early enough about the wildcard ? .. I don't know what the story is .. Shoot - a main-draw wildcard seems to have been wasted - it could have been given to someone like a Mankad, or some other deserving foreign player .. Oh well.

Here is the PTI report on Leander's match today -- "Paes seemed to lack concentration and committed a lot of turnovers. His hustling tactics also did not work, as the Russian, the runner-up last year, played to a plan and succeeded.  Though the crowd and his film-actress girlfriend Mahima Chaudhury egged him on, Paes was never able to get into his rhythm. He was broken twice in the first set (3rd and 9th games) and the second set (4th and 6th games) ... After the match, Paes said he was not "sharp enough" against the Russian. lack of match practice was the reason for defeat, he said, adding that he would have to play more Futures tournaments to improve his play in singles" .. I like that last line, but I am not sure if he actually said "futures" and not challengers.  I cannot see Lee playing futures events.  As a fan, I am still not ready to give up on Leander as a pro singles player.  I do not want to see Leander struggling like this either.  What I would like to see is Lee making a serious commitment to singles (not just talk about it -- we need to see you play the qualies, play the challengers, and even futures if that is what it takes, Lee!), and make a comeback before calling it quits.  As always, I can never say that anything is beyond LP, with the kind of determination he has shown through his career on things he has set his mind on .. So I still keep hoping that we will see him make that comeback - and stop talking about getting old, and body taking a beating, Davis Cup distracting him, and doubles being the bread-and-butter, and all that stuff.  All true to some extent, yes ..  But, come on Lee, give it a real final go in singles, man - we want to see you go out on your on terms from singles, like you can!

Dec 31 Note-1

LP's first round match at Chennai ended really fast today .. Andrei Stoliarov (RUS,84) d. Leander Paes (IND,299), 36 16 .. Shoot.

One more match involving an Indian to be played today .. Bopanna-Cuadrado play doubles late in the evening.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 31 ..

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 player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.