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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Jan 12th, 2004
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Jan 12 Notes

Mahesh got the first win of the year today .. He is playing with a good partner at the $404 Heineken Open in Auckland, NZL - Frabrice Santoro (FRA,9) - and they are seeded first there .. [R1] (1) M.Bhupathi/ F.Santoro d. Gaston Gaudio (ARG)/ Nicolas Lapentti (ECU), 64 63 .. Their next round opponents will be decided later - either Koenig/Pala or Gambill/MacPhie ..

The first ATP rankings of the year came out today -- In singles, Prakash moved up to #265 and Harsh to #329 .. They are followed by Rohan at #356 and Sunil Kumar at #538 .. In doubles, after MB at #4 and LP at #13, we have Harsh at #183, Rohan at #210, Mustafa at #236 and Prakash at #238 .. Hope they will all raise these rankings during the year ..

No news yet on the Hyderabad $10 satellite that started today .. Awaiting news from Florida on the draw for Harsh at the $10K .. The Australian Open qualifying draw (for Prakash) would be known by late tomorrow or wednesday morning .. Navdeep Singh, Punam Reddy and company play at the Rajshahi grade-4 this week, I assume .. .

Jan 11 Notes

I'm traveling - hence the late news update .. The Chennai Open finished in great style with the top seed Carlos Moya beating the second seeded defensing champion Paradorn "Mr.56" Srichaphan in a 3rd set tiebreaker, and Nadal-Robredo completing the Spanish sweep with a tough 3-set upset of the top seeded Israelis, Erlich-Ram .. The tournament seems to have had one of the best weekends ever in its history with a whole bunch of close matches, both in singles and doubles .. For the first time in the 8 year history of the tournament, we had all four top seeds reaching the semifinals of singles too .. Paradorn's semifinal win was a classic yesterday, as he was down a set by a 1-6 score to Robredo, and had to come back, saving match points in the second set set and then some more in the 3rd (all in all, saving six MPs!) .. Paradorn came through well to push Moya to the limit today too .. In doubles, I think my hype the other day jinxed the young Polish pair, Fyrstenberg-Matkowski who lost in a tight 3-setter to the eventual winners Nadal-Robredo yesterday in the semi .. As for the young Spanish pair that won the title, their run has been great too -- they won all four of their matches in close three sets, dropping the second set every time .. Always good to see younger players winning doubles titles, especially those who have singles as their focus .. See the Chennai Open page for all the scores from the Tata Open .. This may well be the last edition at Chennai, as IMG keeps talking of interest from Hyderbad for holding the event .. It was also reported in the press that the Tatas will no longer be the title sponsors - if so, IMG will have to find somebody else for the future .. Despite my criticisms every now and then whenever strange things go on there and my general feeling that this tournament hardly helps Indian tennis with any "heart", it does serve one purpose for Indian tennis - it helps the young kids to be exposed to bigtime tennis that gets reported in the media, and thus get interested in tennis .. Hope it stays in India in the future.

Nothing much else going on .. The Hyderabad $10K satellite for women is starting on Monday .. The qualies are already underway, and Sheetal Goutham was among those who advanced yesterday.

Jan 9 Notes

The seedings held up pretty well, and all four top seeds have reached the semifinals at the Tata Open! .. This is quite a rare thing on the ATP tour .. In today's matches,  3rd seed Schalken was taken to the limit by 5th seed Mantilla but he won in a 3rd set tiebreaker .. Moya, Srichaphan and Robredo won in stright sets, though in close matches .. See the Chennai Open page for scores .. There will be some engrossing semifinals tomorrow .. All the Chennai ffans should get off their behinds and go watch the matches tomorrow .. Look, this tournament has some of the cheapest ticket rates in all of ATP tour (if you convert rupess to dollars) - What are you all waiting for? .. I hope more fans will come out and fill the stadium at Chennai like it used to be during the Indian Express days .. On the doubles side, keep an eye on a young Polish pair who have reached the semifinals .. Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski .. These two are just about 23 years old which is young in doubles .. They had some serious success in chellenger tennis over the last year and had come up to #84 and #92 in doubles rankings from near 200s at the beginning of the year (both are in the 500-800 range in singles) .. It is becoming quite tough for doubles specialists to crack into the ATP tour level in doubles, because of all the singles players playing doubles these days due to changed entry procedures over the last couple of years - it was nice to see a young pair come up .. Anyway, Chennai Open is the first ATP event where they made direct entry in doubles, and they actually won the only ATP tour level event they played (as wildcards at the Spot ATP)! .. These guys upset the second seeds Knowle-Kohlmann and play the semis tomorrow .. The last pair that I noticed like this since LP-MB were the Bryans a few years back .. I am not saying these Polish guys are that good - actually I don't know anything about how good their doubles game is, but their results have been good ..

Sunil Kumar, Mustafa Ghouse, Ajay Ramaswamy, Punna Vishal and Manoj Mahadevan had all entered for the $15K Dubai futures next week .. The cut was at #459 and none of them made the main draw directly .. Sunil was 7 out and Mustafa 21 out when the entries closed .. It may have moved up by now a bit - not sure if any of them made the trip for the qualies starting right about now, but I will keep an eye on that event.

Good and bad news from the Dhaka grade-4 .. One title and one runner-up from India ..Navdeep Singh won the tile beating Faris Khatabi (GBR) 62 61 .. Navdeep has been playing much more consistently than he was a few months back - turning 17 soon, he is not one of the youngest among the juniors, but he has been getting coached in the UK - could he turn out to be this year's Somdev? .. I hope so .. On the girls' side, Soon Mi Seo (KOR) upset top seed Punam Reddy in the final, 75 64 .. Punam and Sandri Gangothri went down in the girls doubles final to the South Korean pair Bae-Hae Youm and Soon Mi Seo in a close one - 63 67 06 .. No Indian pair reached the doubles final on the boys side.

Jan 8 Notes

Thierry Ascione (FRA,102) is quite a talented player, a 22 year old who made one of the biggest moves in the ATP tour last year, up from below 500 to inside top-100, and his talent had shown earlier when he ousted #49 Rafael Nadal .. So it was expected that Prakash would have a tough match .. However it shows how far the young Amritraj has come when he took a set off the French man before losing his way today at Chennai .. [R2] (wc) P.Amritraj l. T.Ascione, 63 16 26 ..

Here are some details in Prajwal Hegde's article in the Deccan Herald - There were no escape routes for Amritraj, however. His biggest weapon was his willingness to work, every point, every game. While the 20-year-old was fighting tooth and nail to hold serve the Frenchman was breezing through his service games much like an express train whizzing past smaller stops .... But at every opportunity Amritraj made him play in an attempt to blunt the edge. It paid off. In the eighth game, for the first time in the match, Amritraj pushed Ascione’s serve to deuce. He then punctuated a long rally with a forehand down-the-line winner to swing the advantage. On breakpoint, he took it to Ascione, who crumbled under the pressure, slamming a forehand long. Amritraj then closed out the set with a low volley .... In the second set, he kept up the pattern of play for the first three games. In the fourth game, without warning, he took his leg off the pedal .... At 15-40 he had three opportunities to put away a high volley. Nine times out of ten he would have put it away. This time, with the pressure of expectation settling heavily on his young shoulders, he failed. Amritraj lost his hold on the match here .... He didn’t win another game in the set and in no time at all was trailing 0-5 in the decider ..... “For a bit, in the second and third sets, I lost it mentally,” Amritraj said after his loss. “In the first set, I was working hard. Even though I was struggling with my service games I was taking it to him".

Akshay Sawai says in the Times of India article - "I should have done more with my returns," he said. "In the first set I was chipping them in deep and he was making errors when hitting off my returns. The second set onwards, though, they started to fall short. Also, he had gotten into his groove and started hitting the targets."  ....  There is, however, reason for hope from the manner in which Prakash, at 280 India 's highest-ranked player, performed in the first set. He had to fight to hold serve compared to his opponent, but he fought well. And when the break came in the eighth game, the crowd at the Nungambakkam Stadium found it's voice. At 40-30, Ascione netted a forehand. Prakash walloped a forehand down-the-line winner for advantage, and he took the set when Ascione fired a forehand long. .... "Six months ago I would have lost this match 6-2 6-2," said Prakash, who served three aces, four less than Ascione.

S. Kannan observes in the article in the Hindustan Times - Prakash made a good start making frequent sorties to the net and executing volleys in the first set. But as the match progressed, Ascoine nicely settled into the groove, started hitting the groundies with amazing feel and did not let Prakash do much ..... It seemed as if Ascoine had planned Prakash's ouster by making sure he would not let the Indian execute those volley winners at will. In the end, whichever way one looked at, there was no doubt that Prakash, for all the improvement he had made in the last seven months, needed to get even more solid. And a lot of it, as his coach Nandan Bal observed, had to do with him getting more consistent from the back court and read what strategy the opponent was adopting

Anyway, not a bad show by Prakash today, and he learned a bit more about playing the guys who can counter the serve and volley .. Keep doing it and the wins will come.  Nandan Bal's comment about getting more consistent from the backcoourt seems reasonable .. That will happen in due course of time . Prakash now goes to Australia to play in the qualifying rounds for the A.Open .. His #280 ranking will quite safely put him in the draw among the last few spots .. Let us look for a good show from him next week there.

In other news, Sania Mirza is in the entry list for the $10K Boca Raton ITF event starting on the 19th .. She is currently 14th in the qualifying list in a very tough event with initial main draw cut at #330 (which is higher than the cut at many Asian challengers!) .. Sania decided to got o the US and play rather than play the Hyderbad and Delhi $10K events the next two weeks .. I like the idea .. Though the chances for more wins and points are in the Indian events, that is not as important for the time being .. Playing tougher competition and improving, are important .. She only have very few quality players like Isha in the Indian events, where as she might find quite a few more good ones to play against and hit with, in Florida .. Also, it would be good to get a sense of how much improvement is there after the recent coaching trip to Bob Brett's Italian Academy, so that they can plan the rest of the year and more trips for coaching, etc ..

Harsh Mankad left India on wednesday, back to Florida .. He will be at the $10K futures next week at Tampa .. That also is a very tough field with the entry cut at #447 .. Mankiad will ojnly be the 5th seed, which is urprising for a $\#340 player at a $10K event .. But that is how the US futures are .. Hopefully Harsh can pick up some good wins and points .. He is expected at the three futures in Florida - at Tampa, Kissimmee, and Key Biscayne .. He will then go to New Zealand for Davis Cup.

A few Indians were at the grade-4 ITF juniors in Dhaka, Bangladesh this week - Navdeep Singh, Anshuman Dutta, Kinshuk Sharma, Punam Reddy, Sandri Gangotri, etc .. Navdeep and Punam are top seeds in the draws and they have reached the finals, according to  the Daily Star, Dhaka .. Navdeep Singh faces Faris Khatabi (GBR) .. Navdeep had an easy 61 62  win over Chang Huai-En Chang (TPE) in the SF .. Punam Reddy beat Hae-Youm Bae (KOR) 61 63 to make the final against Soon Mi Seo (KOR) .. I have not seen all the scores yet .. Good job, Navdeep and Punam - Let's sweep the titles!..

Jan 7 Notes

Had a busy day today - so this update is a bit late .. Anyway, only bad news from Chennai .. First the Amritraj cousins lost their doubles match in a three-setter - apparently, though they had some momentum after winning a second set tiebreaker, they quickly lost it after there was a stoppage of play due to  bad voltage and a lights problem .. Then, MB and Dmitri Tursunov lost their first round as well in a 46 16 match .. Had a break chance in the 7th game, till when both MB and DT managed to hold serve -- they could not convert the chance, and basically got broken in most games from that point onwards .. Oh well .. Now PA's singles match is all that remains for Indians .. Scheduled for 5 pm tomorrow on center court against Ascione .. I may be in the chatroom if I get up early enough in the morning in the US - hopefully we will have some score updates in the chatroom .. See all the scores from the Tata Open at the Chennai Open page.  No other important news for now... more later.

Jan 6 Note-2

First, AITA announced today that Nandan Bal will be the Davis Cup coach from now on, helping Leander Paes, who will be the playing captain.  During the Ramesh Krishnan years, he did both the coach and non-playing captain duties.  That is difficult for a "playing" captain like Leander to do.  So this is a good idea, and takes a lot of work off Leander.  Nandan Bal is well-respected for his tennis knowledge and is a good pick for the job.  AITA did not mention it, but I assume that Leander gave his input in the selection as well.  We have some tough work to do in about four weeks when we face New Zealand in the first round of the regionals, indoors at Stadium Southland, Invercargill, NZL (Feb 6-8) .. If you happen to be unsure of the Davis Cup format, here is my annual refresher.  We are playing this year to qualify for the world group final-16 of 2005 ..  We are in the next lower level to the world group (Group-1 in the Asia-Oceania regionals).  After two regional rounds, the eight winners (two from Asia-Oceania) that emerge in three regionals around the world after two rounds in group-1 will play a playoff in October to qualify for the 2005 world group-16.  The playoffs will include the 8 regional winners and the 8 losers from next month's 2004 world group first round (the eight WG winners next month are automatically in the 2005 WG final-16).  For four years in a row, we have reached the playoff, only to lose a to a top team (SWE, USA, AUS, NED in a row - all on the road) and failing to make it to the world group.  With Prakash and Rohan emerging, Harsh providing good experienced backup, and Leander still keeping his Davis Cup fire burning, this could be the year when we could finally get a decent playoff opponent, hopefully at home in October. But first we need to beat New Zealand and then the winner of the Japan-Indonesia tie .. If we win and it is Japan next, then we travel yet again, and so it could turn out to be a tough year in the regionals for us (unlike last year when it was pretty much a cakewalk at home).   Anyway, good to see us getting all set, with Nandan Bal.  Wish we had the Kodava Bomber, Bofors Bopanna with us for NZL .. With Harsh Mankad having done well indoors, and Leander hopefully ready to play at least one singles match along with doubles, we will be fine.  Prakash being injury free right now and in good form, is great! .. More later on the New Zeland team, etc.

At the Tata Open today, Karan Rastogi had a good start and played experienced Julian Knowle, ranked a 1000 spots above him, very closely for a while. Then the inexperience showed in the second set from Karan who turned 17 only a couple of months back.  K.Rastogi l. J.Knowle (AUT,164), 46 16 .. Here is the exceprt on the match from the Hindustan Times article by S.Kannan, who speaks positively of Karan's play - "Rastogi versus Knowle was a study in contrast. Karan is 17, considered to be promising, while Knowle has been on the road for 12 years and turns 30 in April. It could have been tempting to think Knowle, who lives in Hard, Austria would blow the Indian off the court ..... Well, nothing like that happened, as Karan hung in well in the first set and did not look under pressure at all. Karan's ability to play fluently from the fore-court was impressive as the teenager unleashed some smart winners with his forehand. It was as if he was just playing with the sole purpose of doing as well as he could" ... Prajwal Hegde says in her Deccan Herald article, "Karan Rastogi’s serve lacks in pace, precision and power but on a starless Chennai night his all-court play served notice just fine. The teenager from Mumbai may have lost to Austrian Julian Knowle in the first round of the Tata Open but in his 73 minutes on court he did enough to show that he has the talent and temperament to make a statement in the years to come .... Knowle, a qualifier here, known more for his doubles success, is a mean singles player. Like all those who compete regularly on the doubles tour he uses the court splendidly. He is good at the net and consistent if not dangerous from the back of the court. He has an awkward style, a backhand that looks like a woodcutter at work, and is difficult to read. And yet, for a while, Rastogi, 17, India’s and Asia’s number one junior, matched Knowle shot for shot. For all the craft that Knowle came up with Rastogi replied with precision shots.  He played close to the lines and chased down as many balls as he could. With the score level at 4-4 in the first set it looked like anyone’s match. It was Knowle’s greater experience that told at this stage. Rastogi, a wildcard entrant and a first-timer at this level, went for more and the Austrian took control, breaking in the ninth game and closing the set in the tenth.  Rastogi went back to the basics in the second set but lost out in a long-drawn opening game where Knowle came up with the sharper replies. Thereafter it was all downhill for the Indian". ... All in all, not bad from the youngster.

Of course, the sad thing was that they placed his match on the 3rd outer court and there was hardly 100 spectators to watch our future hope. Oh well, what can I say? .. They should have announced his wildcard a little earlier, given some time for newspaper folks to perhaps interview and write some articles, should have got some people interested in seeing the talented youngster, put him on center court if possible, so that he could be seen on TV, etc, etc --- but no, none of those things happened, it shouldn't surprise us anyway.

As for other matches, the first seven seeds who played all won, as Moya, Srichaphan, Schalken, Robredo, etc all advanced .. In the late night match, the young 7th seed Rafael Nadal (big talent but on some sort of a losing streak going back to late last season I believe) was upset by the perhaps-equally talented Thierry Ascione (FRA), who will next play Prakash Amritraj on Thursday .. See our Chennai Open page for scores and tomorrow's schedule .. Prakash and Stephen start it off with doubles on the center court tomorrow and Mahesh follows in the 3rd match there in doubles .. By the way, Mahesh's partner Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) looked quite good in the match against 4th seed Robredo in a 57 76(2) 46 loss .. He has a pretty big serve and I have a feeling he will do well with Mahesh .. Let us see!

Oh by the way, found this note in K.Keerthivasan's article in The Hindu -  "AITA clarified that IMG confirmed a wild card to Harsh Mankad only at 8.25 a.m on Saturday, January 3, following which its office informed him immediately. AITA also expressed its unhappiness that Harsh Mankad was not received at the airport upon his arrival at Chennai and no accommodation was arranged for him. As Harsh was not in a state to play on Monday, it would have definitely been more convenient for him if his match was scheduled on Tuesday. However, AITA expressed its happiness that all three wild cards were issued to promising Indian Players. AITA said it was grateful to TATAs and IMG for the conduct of the event in India".

I guess that is the final nail in the coffin for the IMG gentleman's line that Harsh was informed "well in advance" through AITA.  AITA's timeline matches precisely with what I wrote below on what happened.  I don't think AITA had to come out and clarify anything, as they did their job very well .. And good job by Hindu and Keerthivasan in the clean reporting of it!

Jan 6 Note-1  

Hey, good news -- the Chennai Open website has started reporting the score updates - about 4 days since action started, but better late than never! .. In the first match of the day, the scratch combination Mankad and Ghouse went down in a fight, to Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, 46 63 36 ..  Second seed, defending champion and Chennai crowd favorite Paradorn Redshirt Srichaphan (THA) had an easy time, 61 63 over  Montanes .. Karan Rastogi's match is underway.

Jan 5 Note-4

Karan Rastogi is drawn to face the quialifier Julian Knowle (AUT,164), who ended Vishal Punna's run in the final qualies at 64 62 today .. Still a great show by Vishal to reach that far .. Karan's match against Knowle is scheduled on the outer court 2 right after the Ghouse-Mankad doubles match at 4 pm gets done there .. We will be in the chatroom during the matches, hopefully with socre updates ..

Jan 5 Note-3

Here are the newspaper articles on Monday's events at Chennai -- K.Keerthivasan's article in The Hindu, S.Kannan's article in The Hindustan Times, Akshay Sawai's article in the Times of India,  and Prajwal Hegde's article in the Deccan Herald .. Lots of good comments on how far Prakash Amritraj has come .. Kannan says, "There is no doubt, Prakash is playing with poise and purpose these days. If coach Nandan Bal was talking of the 20-year-old possessing a proper work ethic and ready to win matches, it was evident the way Prakash played on Monday. Beating Harsh is no easy job, even if he happens to be jet-lagged .. Harsh may not have a shot which can hurt, but when it comes to playing the cerebral, he is the master .... Prakash is perhaps one of the few left on the Tour who still believe the serve-and-volley style can win you matches. Prakash did not just excel in that area but also showed he was solid from the back court and could rally ... To match Harsh, even on a day when he is error-prone, is a tall order. Prakash showed pluck and poise, and was not in a hurry to get through with his shots. While serving, he was quite confident, though his stretch up to whacking the ball looks a bit jerky. But it worked, as he was not broken even once ... One area where Prakash seems to have improved is the return of serve. Harsh usually serves slow, but even when the Davis Cupper was trying to crank it up, Prakash returned very effectively" .. Wonderful to see about Prakash continuing to make strides .. Didn't know that Nandan Bal has also started coaching him (of course daddy Vijay will always be there too) .. I do believe that sky is the limit for Prakash with all his talent, positive attitude and work ethic.

The PTI article today also said that Prakash was "consistently serving at 190 km and touching 201 km on his fastest serve" .. (120 to 125 mph) ..That is about 10 kph more than what he used to do even last year, if I am not mistaken .. That is pretty good heat to survive on the ATP tour.

As for what the tournament did to Mankad (what Kannan calls the "harsh" treatment), all correspondents had something to say .. Kannan says, "You had to feel sorry for Harsh Mankad. It's not every day that the Mumbaikar gets a wild card in an ATP Tour event. And when he did, the organisers of the Tata Open decided to give him a harsh treatment, putting him on court less than seven hours after a long flight from Florida to this southern metropolis" .. Akshay says, "Prakash, 20, looked the more vigorous player from the beginning, but mention has to be made of Harsh's itinerary over the weekend. Told only on Friday that he was getting a wild card, the 24-year-old, who was training at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in the United States , reached Mumbai in the early hours of Monday. A few hours on he resumed his journey and landed in Chennai at 11.30" ...

Prajwal says, "The 20-year-old (Prakash), whose family home is only a five-minute drive from the Nungambakkam Stadium here, came in rested and ready. He knew about the wildcard for the season-opener a month-and-a-half in advance. Mankad, training in Florida, heard about his wildcard only on Friday. He then took that tedious 40-hour flight, arriving in Chennai on Monday noon. Seven hours later he was on court for the biggest match of his young life .. There wasn’t even a hotel room ready for him. He stacked his bags at the stadium, pulled out his Wilsons and buckled down for battle. The scoreline will say Amritraj won 63 64 but Mankad deserves every praise for the dignity with which he handled an ugly situation. He is certainly not the first player to get on court within hours of getting off an airplane. But it is a shame that it happened to him in the only ATP Tour event his country hosts. Typically, he didn’t lay into the situation, only going so far as calling it “difficult” .. “There were some variables involved. It’s colder in Florida. I am not used to the lights,” Mankad explained. “It never occurred to me to turn down the wildcard. I saw it as an opportunity. I never turn down opportunities. I take them as a challenge.” ... I cannot believe that they did not even show the courtesy of making sure of a hotel room for him - clearly they had no intention of helping HM in any way.

According to Keerthivasan, Harsh said, "I tried my best. He (Prakash) served well but I was not returning well, which is my strength. I got the call from AITA on Saturday morning (IST). It was at the last minute. But I have to thank the IMG for giving me the opportunity."  ... Hey, very classy of Harsh to speak like that .. Actually no complaints from him, but we have all complained on his behalf ..

The Hindu articled continues, "Many felt that it was not fair on the part of the organisers to have scheduled it the way it was done. The general feeling was that Harsh, being the highest ranked Indian after Prakash, should have been given a better deal. But Ravi Krishnan, Managing Director, India and South Asia, IMG-TWI, justified the decision saying that Harsh was informed well in advance through the All India Tennis Association, and that as a professional he had to take it in his stride." .. 

You don't expect me to to let that last line go without a comment, I am sure .. Have you no shame, sir? .. Quit talking, please, and stop making it worse .. Every time I decide to cut the tournament some slack and let it go, more misrepresentations come from there .. "Well in advance" ? .. Huh? .. I do know what was going on .. As of thursday evening in the US, just a few hours before the qualifying sign-in when the wildcards are required to be set, Harsh had not been told by anybody about anything .. Harsh talked to me then to find out if I had heard anything, and told me to forward a personal request for wildcard to Chennai on his behalf, as he did not have an internet connection at the house he was at in Flroida (that was just to make sure that they would not say he didn't request and also to make sure they knew how to contact him) .. I forwarded his message to the tournament director and two other people listed in the ATP fact sheet, also giving Harsh's US cellphone and mobile numbers, politely informing them that if he doesn't leave immediatly he cannot make it, and requesting the tournament to please inform him if there was something .. We did not even get an acknowledgement from Tata Open for the email sent on HM's behalf .. On Friday morning in the US, immediately after I saw the evening news release from Chennai where they announced Karan's wildcard, I screamed (Jan 2 Note-1 below) .. There was NO earthly reason for them not to announce HM's wildcard other than to simply make life difficult for him .. Then, HM called me Friday afternoon in the US that he had had a late night call from AITA that he *may be getting one* .. This came via a 3rd source who had heard that they would announce HM's wildcard only on Saturday .. Then HM asked for a confirmation from AITA before plonking down money on an airticket (would you blame him? - by then I am sure he was not ready to put anything past the tournamnt organizers) .. Then finally on Friday late night (Staurday morning in India) Sunil Yajaman (God bless him) from AITA told HM that he had confirmed from Tata Open about the wildcard .. I really have no doubt that they expected him not to show up .. But HM took it in positive spirit .. He got lucky with a cheaper plane fare and was gone to India within a few hours .. All this while, having known that he was going to be given a wildcad at least a day before when my email got to Chennai, the people at Chennai didn't think of giving him a call at the numbers we had given ..

And now this gentleman talks of having informed Harsh "well in advance" ??? ..  Oh spare us this crap .. It is amazing that for years this tournament has continued to think that Indian tennis players, fans and media are all gullible fools .. Enough! .. Put a lid on it, please!!! ..  Or better still, just go away and take the tournament with you and shove it up some place where the sun doesn't shine.

All of these are my own personal comments .. Nothing from Harsh, and I haven't talked to him after he reached Chennai .. He would just like to be left alone to play tennis and is not the type who wants to get into all this ..  But some of us are different, and I certainly do not let people get away with attempts to fool the public.

Jan 5 Note-2

.. If anybody from the Chennai Tournament happens to be reading this, could you please, please, update some scores at your website? ... I am getting bombarded, so to say, with emails asking for scores, and there are many from abroad coming to our forum page, asking for scores .. The TataOpen.Com website has turned out to be the worst web page in the whole ATP tour .. Please, at least place a draw up there and take out last year's draw .. Oh, how frustrating!! .. [edited later -- they started the score updates on Tuesday, the 6th!]

Monday afternoon, the web site put up a news release on the scores for the first round of qualies on Saturday - embarrassing for all of us Indians to see the foreigners complainng about what a joke the tournament is .. And this is the tournament that was among the first couple of tournamnents, way back in 98 or 99 to give live ball-by-ball updates from the courts when all other ATP websites except grand slams and some super-9s did not have that ability .. Come on, what does it take to just put a few lines of scores somewhere at that web site? .. And I am told there is no TV coverage in India (not sure of that); anyway, but for help from PKB watching TV in Singapore, we would be totally in the dark.

Jan 5 Note-1

The #1 Indian vs the #2 Indian matchup turned out just as the rankings predicted, proving once again that Prakash Amritraj is here to stay .. [R1] (wc) P.Amritraj d. (wc) H.Mankad, 63 64 .. We had score updates from Singapore, off the Star sports TV coverage, by our fanclub member PK Basu (thanks!) .. Prakash broke Harsh once each late in both the sets (8th game of the first set and 7th in the second) .. Both players had a lot of break points, and Prakash's serve bailed him out a few times .. Good match .. Prakash was quite gracious in his post-match comments - he said it was tough to go up against somebody who is a good friend like Harsh, and said he was proud to have his dad as his coach ..  The win gives Prakash 15 points, raising his points total to 135 and his ranking from 280 to about 260 !! .. WOW..

Up next for Prakash is the winner of the Nadal vs Ascione match .. Both are very talented players .. By the way, here is what ATP gave yesterday for a preview on the Chennai Open -- "The four players who made the biggest ranking jumps in 2003 are all competing in Chennai: France's Thierry Ascione (who moved 455 places to end 2003 with an ATP entry ranking of No. 89), Russia's Dmitry Tursunov (moved 233 places to No. 98), Igor Andreev (moved 196 places to No. 90) and Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal (moved 188 places to No. 47)" .. That shows exactly what the tournament has got a reputation for - as the place where a lot of young talents show up .. While complaining that there is no "great men" like Becker coming anymore, I wish the press (and the tournament press releases themself, which try to sugarcoat things with talk of supporting Indians and all that gas) would recognize the true identity of the Chennai Open in this regard .. Back to the "Light Amritraj" (no, I certainly don't mean he is a light weight; just translating his name :)), he has a tough second round on wednesday - but he is showing all indications that he is ready to take on the world .. Go Kash!

In early matches today, David Ferrer (yet another Spaniard who has made huge strides up the rankings not too long ago) won, as did the last direct entry, Harel Levy who beat Portas.

We had some technical difficulties with the chatroom today, and so I have put up the old chatroom for use during this week whenever Indians' matches are on at Chennai .. I will update the scores as and wehn they become known at our Chennai Open page ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Jan 05 ..

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.