Notes for week ending on Jan 19, 1998

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Jan 19 Note-2

Nirupama Vaidyanathan's win in the first round at the AO is the first time that any Indian woman has won a round at a Grand Slam event. It's about time Indians recognized what Nirupama is all about. Heard yesterday that the total endorsement income she has, despite becoming the first Indian woman to crack into the world top-150 in ages, is a grand total of ZERO even now. What she needs desperately is a travelling coach. David O'Meara in Florida (also coached Leander earlier; was at the Brittania-Amritraj Tennis center, if I am not mistaken) is who she likes to have around as coach, but travel costs money and she has financial problems in buying her own ticket to tournaments (she only made about $15-20K last year, and that's not enough for even buying racquets). Time for somebody to wake up and find the marketability in this woman. She has only turned 21 in december, and has several good years and unlimited potential ahead of her. Once again, if anybody who is reading this has any ideas on sponsorship/support, drop me (R. Jayakrishnan) a line (email).. A few of us are trying to help (she does not even have an agent representing her, as of now).

The new ATP rankings are out, and there is no big change in LP's and MB's rankings. LP is at #124 in singles, MB is at #223. Doubles rankings remain the same. Prahlad Srinath has come up to #566 and Syed Fazaluddin has come up (from being previously unranked) to #801 in singles. They are the 3rd and 4th highest ranked Indian players.

The South Indian Tennis championships have started in Chennai. Marcus Hilpert is the top-seed (that dude does not want to leave India, huh ?). Prahlad just pulled out of it (that's fine.. no ATP points there). On the women's side, Uzma Khan has won the first round easily. I will occasionally post some notes here on that tournament.

The AO doubles draw is not out still.

Jan 19 Note-1

It is 1 am out here in California.. why am I up ? .. 'cause I wanted to get some good news after that Leander match .. and sure, there is !

Nirupama Vaidyanathan didn't disappoint. She just pulled off the biggest win of her career !!.. Defeated #89 Gloria Pizzichini .. Just cut her down to Pizza and Fettuccini .. 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 .. How about that ? .. Nirupama was in trouble after allowing a break in the 12th game and losing the first set 5-7, and then falling behind 0-2 in the second. Well, she broke back, and really never looked back, in winning 12 of the next 16 games. She now gets some 32 points, and will get her ranking back up inside the top-160. Yeah, Go Niru ! .. Her next round opponent will be Magdalena Grzybowska who beat Cataline Cristea, 6-3, 6-2 easily.

Jan 18 Note-2

Can't figure out what happened to Leander today .. LP lost very badly to Tillstrom, 3-6, 2-6, 2-6 .. One break in the first set and 2 breaks each in the next two. Not sure what the reason is for such a listless performance, but the lack of match experience in singles couldn't have helped .. Sometimes it may be better not to get wildcards but to play through the qualifying rounds and get used to the surface etc .. Anyway, it's all pretty disappointing, as he will lose 20 more points that he had from AO last year and drop even more in the rankings. Leander really needs to buckle down and do something about his singles record. He is much better than how he has looked since that 4th set against Pioline at the US Open .. At least we have doubles to look forward to .. The doubles draw is not out yet, as of Monday afternoon in Melbourne.

Anyway, just to lift the spirit of the LP fans reading this, I just added a new picture of LP and MB in the Pictures Page, from Doha a week back. The difference is that they are wearing the brand-new Adidas outfits after the big contract with them over the December break. (photo courtesy: Asian Age. My thanks to Arunava Chaudhuri for spotting the photo).

Nirupama is playing an evening match at the AO. Will report the score here later.

Here is something to look at: #186 Sebastien Lareau just defeated #22 Magnus Norman 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (8-6), 6-7(4-7), 7-5 in a marathon. That means Leander would have played Lareau instead of Norman in the second round (but then again, as I said in the last update, Lareau is not exactly an easy opponent, as Magnus found today). Spilt milk.

Jan 18 Note-1

The Leander Paes first round match is scheduled for 10 am, Monday, on Court 19 at the Aus Open. That would be 3 pm PST (6 pm EST) today (Sunday) in the US. .. In India, that would be 4.30 am IST, Monday .. We will be at the chatroom updating scores, and partying after the win ;-) .. So come on over !

The qualifier in Leander's 1/16th draw is Sebastien Lareau (#186). That completes the draw as:

Mikael Tillstrom (SWE)     [ 87]   \
WC-Leander Paes (IND)      [122]   /   \
Sebastien Lareau (CAN)     [186]   \   /  \
Magnus Norman (SWE)        [ 22]   /       \
Richard Fromberg (AUS)     [ 73]   \       /
WC-Todd Larkham (AUS)      [198]   /   \  /
WC-Peter Tramacchi (AUS)   [173]   \   /
7-Carlos Moya (ESP)        [  8]   /

Lareau is not exactly chopped liver. He has been ranked closer to top-100 very often in the past and is one whose ranking is a bit low primarily because of having had to play a lot of doubles (very successfully) last year .. Norman, however, has not lost to anybody outside the top-100 in quite a while (#89 Jan Kroslak is the lowest ranked player he lost to last year, I believe); so Leander, if he moves on, should still expect Norman.. Norman has a win over Sampras last year (Magnus Larsson had two last year .. by the way, am I the only one who gets confused with all these "Magni" ? .. Norman, Larsson, Gustafsson .. :-)) .. but anyway, let us not look ahead .. Time to crush the first swede, Tillstrom !! .. Go Leeeeeeee !!..

Jan 17 Notes

Not much news today. It will take a day or two more for the doubles draw to be announced at the Aus Open. Bhupathi and Paes should be the second seed behind the Woodies there, since Eltingh will not have Haarhuis to play with (he is injured) and Kafelnikov/Vacek will probably not be playing together (reportedly.. not sure).

The Woodies won the Sydney International finals. This brings them up to the top part of the quickly evolving doubles team rankings, but they shouldn't be going above LP/MB as they get about 175 points to add to the 45 they have now (LP/MB have 242 points). It's very, very, early to talk about team rankings, but next week's rankings should look like, #1 Eagle/Florent, #2 Bhupathi/Paes, #3 Woodbridge/Woodforde, and #4 Galbraith/Steven. Galbraith and Steven are looking good, and won the BellSouth tournament in NewZealand this week. They had won one round last week too. That's it for now.

Jan 16 Note-2

Here is the skinny on 87th ranked Mikael Tillstrom, whom Leander plays in the first round at AO. He has had a very strange year in 1997. He won the Chennai Open title in India in April, and then went into a huge tailspin (actually he was not winning much even before Chennai), losing in the first rounds in *every* darn tournament for almost 6 months, till he put together a few wins at Singapore in October. Most of his points come from these two tournaments last year.  He lost a couple more first round matches to finsh the year. He has only played one match this year, which is this week at Adelaide (where he did very well last year), and he lost to Michael Sell, who was a qualifier with a #159 ranking. That is good news for Leander, who is also playing only his first singles match in 6 weeks at the AO. Here is the most important stat for 1997 :- Tillstrom lost in the first round of all four grand slams; Leander moved on in 3 of the 4 grand slams (Wimbledon being the only direct exit), and had a 4-4 record in grand slams with 3 upsets of top-75 players (Grant Stafford, Carlos Costa and Arnaud Boetsch). If you count the 1996 US Open, LP has a 5-5 record in the last 5 grand slams (..and one more mild upset, of Marcos Ondruska). What does it all mean ? ... well, basically nothing much ! .. On any given day, anything can happen, to use a cliche ....

Jan 16 Note-1

Bad news from Aus O. Mahesh Bhupathi lost to #132 Marzio Martelli in the 2nd round of the singles qualifiers, 6-3, 6-3 .. Well, what can I say ? He will get 5 points or something for that first round win. Now he will focus on doubles and mized doubles.

Leander and Norwal lost a very hard-fought match at Sydney to Kempers and Oosting, 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (2-7), 4-6 .. I am actually not too sad about this. Gives one extra day for Leander to get down to the Aus O and get adjusted there. He desperately needs to get some singles practice there. Sydney was not that great an idea anyway. His coach, "Nails" Carmichael was at Sydney though.

As for Leander's first round opponent, Tillstrom, .. they have not played each other in at least 2 years. LP and MB did beat Tillstrom in a doubles match at Singapore a few months back. His possible 2nd round opponent, Magnus Norman, has beaten him twice last year (one in straight sets, one of which was a tiebreaker, at the Tokyo Open; and then in 4 sets at the French Open). Certainly not an easy pair of Swedes to beat.

Andrew Reub won the singles at the ITF Futures (satellites) at Indore today, beating Todd Meringoff. He and Ali Hamadeh (hey, there's Mahesh's old doubles pal from Ole Miss Univeristy!) won the doubles also. Hamadeh basically got a bunch of doubles points from India but just 1 point for singles, I think.

Jan 15 Note-3

The draw just came out a couple of hours back, for the Aussie Open. Here it is, for the first 3 rounds (the last 8 spots of the top 64 in the draw.. I have added the ATP ranks of the players in the brackets .. Moya is seeded 7th):

Mikael Tillstrom (SWE)     [ 87]   \
WC-Leander Paes (IND)      [122]   /   \
Qualifier                  [   ]   \   /  \
Magnus Norman (SWE)        [ 22]   /       \
Richard Fromberg (AUS)     [ 73]   \       /
WC-Todd Larkham (AUS)      [198]   /   \  /
WC-Peter Tramacchi (AUS)   [173]   \   /
7-Carlos Moya (ESP)        [  8]   /

There are three wildcards bunched together here, with a qualifier to boot. That sounds good, but LP isn't playing any qualifiers. He can certainly beat Tillstrom, and he then gets a chance to pull a couple of upsets of his life, possibly over Norman and Moya.  Go for it, Leander !!! .. shoot for that matchup with Pete in the semis ! .. Go for it !!

Here is the draw for Nirupama Vaidyanathan, on the women's side (again with WTA rankings in brackets):

16-Ai Sugiyama (JPN)       [ 20]   \
Maria A. S. Lorenzo (ESP)  [ 53]   /   \
Mana Endo (JPN)            [116]   \   /  \
Miho Saeki (JPN)           [ 79]   /       \
Magdalena Grzybowska (POL) [ 41]   \       /
Catalina Cristea (ROM)     [ 88]   /   \  /
WC-Niru Vaidyanathan (IND) [196]   \   /
Gloria Pizzichini (ITA)    [ 89]   /

Surprisingly nice draw, actually. She does have a chance to pull an upset or two here. Hope she does.

Jan 15 Note-2

Leander and Piet Norwal did not play that match scheduled for late night on Thursday at the Adidas Sydney International. The other three quarterfinal matches are complete with the Woodies, Eltingh/Nestor and DeJager/Koenig advancing to the semis. LP/Norwal are scheduled to play at 11 am on Friday and if they win, are scheduled to play the Woodies at about 5 pm in the semis. Not an easy task.. As I write, they must be playing the quarterfinal already there.

Just like the All-Indian final in the seond leg at Chandigarh, the 3rd leg has an All-USA final at the Indore ITF Futures satellite.. Todd Meringoff vs Andrew Reub. 7th seeded Andrew pulled off an upset of first seed vadim Kutsenko and Todd Meringoff (a qualifier in the last legs, but an unseeded direct entry here) had a shock win over the second seed James Delgado in the semis.

Jan 15 Note-1

Mahesh won the first round of the Aus-Open singles qualifiers today against an easy opponent, Wynn Criswell of USA (ATP #477.. how did he manage to get into the quals??..), 7-5, 6-3 .. Mahesh now faces a much tougher opponent in round 2, Marzio Martelli of Italy (ATP #132, seeded 11th in the quals). This could be a good chance to gauge a player who could be in the Italian Davis Cup team when India plays them in April. Martelly is an interesting story. He is 26 yrs old, but turned pro only in 1996, reaching as high as ATP #97 last year. If Mahesh wins this round, he will get a pretty winnable 3rd (and final) round match against Lior Mor (Israel, ATP #328, he was in India last 2 weeks at the ITF circuits) or Alex Reichel (USA, ATP #268, Mahesh had lost to him at the Granby Challenger in Canada last July, but LP had beaten him at Beijing last year). GO Mahesh !

In other news, 7th seeded Prahlad Srinath lost in the quarterfinals against 2nd seed James delgado of Britain at the 3rd and final leg of the ITF Futures (satellites) at Indore. That ends the Indian challenge in the singles there. The Kirtane cousins, and Vijay Kannan & Vishal Uppal are alive in the quarterfinals of the doubles. As for Prahlad, the Indian circuits was not great, but he did manage to get about 13 points. Since he is still hurting a bit from the stomach injury, this was not bad. Vijay Kannan did finally manage to get into the main draw in this 3rd leg, but lost in the first round after a tough fight. In any event, the kids Vijay and Vishal got some good experience against foreign competition. The one who disappointed in this circuit is really Harsh Mankad, who did not win a first round match in any of the 3 legs he got wildcard entries into. He will also hpefully learn from all this. Here are the results from Indore.

Jan 14 Note-2

Great news from Australia ! .. Leander Paes and Nirupama Vaidyanathan have both received wildcard entries into the singles main draw. Leander's WC was well-expected, but Nirupama's entry is just plain terrific news. We should have noticed that she is the highest ranked Asian player (at about WTA #190) from a country not represented already in the direct entry (Japan, Indonesia and Thailand and Korea have players already in the direct entry list). This is exactly what the Asian wildcard, as agreed upon by the A-Open and the Asian Tennis federation, is supposed to do - that is, to encourage a player who is deserving and is in dire need of support. This fan club had just started (as of this week, in fact) discussing what can be done to provide some support to Nirupama. We are only a bunch of fans who would like to see Indian tennis players do well, and there is only so much we can do (which is probably not much!). The sponsors in India and outside need to take a look at the talent and potential that Nirupama has... and I am personally still sad about AITA not coming up with some funds to support Nirupama's request last year .. reportedly, her family has sold most of their land to come up with funds for her tennis career and are at a dead-end at this point.. It's absolutely incredible that a country of 930 million people cannot find a way to support the only woman tennis player to crack into the world top-150 in anybody's recent memory. Well, at least the Australians are helping ! .. Anyway, I will stop now on that, but you bet I will keep bringing this issue back, here. (If anyone who is reading this has an idea or two on sponsorship/support for Nirupama, please write to me (email).. and I also should mention our fan club member, S.Kannan of Hindustan Times who has been trying to do what he can on this matter, and has directed the fanclub's attention towards this. Kamesh Srinivasan of The Hindu is another who had talked earlier to me about this).

Jan 14 Note-1

Great to have two good friends of the fan club out there in Sydney at the $315K Adidas International. Here are our own Bill and Merle Benkavich reporting on the doubles match that LP and Piet Norwal won against Eagle/Florent just a few hours earlier: ".. Terrific doubles match today. Leander and P Norval beat J Eagle and A Florent 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (3). A well played match by all players. In the tiebreaker, LP hit some shots that turned the match .. Hesh is playing in the Aussie Open qualifying starting tomorrow (Thursday). LP had a long trip from Qatar via Bombay and Singapore as airline connections were difficult. He got to the hotel last night after 9pm and had to play his match at 12noon today. LP is still waiting for the "official" wildcard for the Australian although he has been told unofficially".. I think Bill & Merle will be leaving for Melbourne now, but we will get some onsite reports from them at the Aussie Open next week. Thanks guys!

So, Mahesh is playing the first round qualifier on Thursday. Go Mahesh.

Eagle/Florent edged out LP/MB by a few points in the first-week team rankings this year (they reset and start with a new slate every year, on team rankings). Though Adelaide had fewer touirnament points than at Doha, E/F got some 60 odd bonus points for two upsets, including one over the #1 Woodies. These team rankings will certainly change a lot in a few weeks. They don't mean much till at least till end of May or June. LP and MB are tied at #7 in ATP earning so far this year too (:-)). That will also change. Mahesh is ranked at #222 in singles.

LP's singles rankings are going to drop quite a bit soon, and basically he needs to win 3 rounds at AO to even stay at around the #125 range by month end (100 points to defend this month out of the 382 he has). He will be at 4 challengers next month, along with Mahesh, and that is where he can pick up a few points. He will.. So, don't be too sad if his rankings are at #145 by Jan end. He has hardly anything to defend till June after this month.

Prahlad Srinath continues his winning form. He has won the first two rounds and is in the quarterfinals of the 3rd leg of the ITF Futures (satellites) at Indore. All the other Indians are out. Syed Fazaluddin had to go back to the US to finish his final semester at the Temple university and is not playing here. The ATP rankings show Srinath at #605 this week with 31 points, but I think this does not include the Indian ITF circuit results (Fazaluddin the #4 Indian team should be at around 800 with 12 points, but does not show up yet), which they will add in only after all three legs are completed. There are some other interesting developements from AITA. They will reduce or eliminate most of the Indian ranking tounraments and make the international satellites with ATP points. This will help players to get more international exposure. Also, they may start selecting the Davis Cup team based on the ATP rankings rather than their own trials. WAY TO GO ! .. anyway, looks like LP, MB, Srinath and Fazal could be our team for Italy. I will comment more on this later, and compile the ongoing Indore satellite's results and post it here (soon). Here are the results from Indore.

Jan 11 Note-2

OK, the report is that LP and MB have jetted out from Qatar to Australia. LP is supposed to play doubles at the Adidas Sydney Tournament with eithr Piet Norwal or Ellis Ferreira. We will see if he somehow gets into the singles draw (probably not, as he couldn't play the qualifiers there..).

LP/MB got $75,000 to share. Nice way to start the cash flow in 98 !

Jan 11 Note-1

Ajay Verma of the fan club just reported that LP/MB defeated Delaitre/Santoro 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win the title at Doha. I am out of town, and have not checked other news reports etc. Anyway, GREAT START TO THE YEAR !! Congrats to Leander and Mahesh. At least for now they are the #1 team (unless Eagle/Florent has won the Adelaide title.. they got some 50 bonus points for beating the Woodies there..). Nothing else for now; no news on where LP is this coming week. An email from Sydney says he is certainly not in the draw there for this week (at the Adidas Sydney international tournament). I will update as and when I can find time..