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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Jan 24, 2000

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Jan 24 Note-1

In the ITF futures at Chennai, only 5 singles matches were on schedule today, along with 7 first round doubles matches, and it has been a good day for Indians .. Vinod Sridhar got a good win over Andrei Youzhnyi of Russia, and Nitin and Sandeep Kirtanes also advanced .. Nitin did a nice comeback on Anton Kokurin of Uzbekistan for a three set win .. The disappointing match was Vijay Kannan's, though .. Vijay, after dropping the first set, reportedly played excellent tennis for a set and half, and had the 6th seed radim Zitco down a break .. He was serving for a 4-1 lead in the 3rd set at 40-15 and somehow let it slip away - precisely the way he has lost a lot of matches over the last year - surprising as pulling off wins in matches like this was a strong point for him during his junior days a couple of years back .. In doubles, Bopanna and Rishi Sridhar upset the 4th seeds September and Zaatini, as the seeds conceded the match at 5-7 1-3 .. In Srinath's absence, Saurav Panja has teamed up with Sandeep Kirtane - they are the top seeds and have advanced to the second round .. See the scores in the Chennai futures page.

It was a good day for Indian kids at the Delhi ITF junior internationals too .. 12 of the 16 boys who made it to second round are Indians .. 4th seed Shivang Mishra was the only notable loss .. The upset belonged to Parantap Chaturvedi, who upset 157th ranked Raymond Benc .. Curiously, Benc has been reported as a Swedish player in all the Indian newspapers for the last two days, though I find ITF to list him to be a Filippino ..  Sunil Kumar had an easy first round win (by the way, Sunil has come yup from near #275 to #150 in the ITF rankings with his title last week, but would need one more title to keep this ranking, as he has a title from last year to defend) ..  On the girls' side, Nandita Chandrashekar had the big upset, over

Radhika Tulpule lost her first round singles match today at the AO junior draw to the 8th seed Melissa Dowse (world junior #21) of Australia, 2-6, 1-6 just now .. Though I expected this to be a tough match, Radhika just did not have a good match and made way too many errors .. She was broken right off the bat in both sets in the first game .. She was also broken in game 5 of the first set and games 5 and 7 of the second set .. In most of the service games she dropped, the problem was actually her own errors .. Though she served 4 aces to 2 by Melissa, she also made 6 double faults and countless unforced errors throughout the match .. 10 winners to 22 unf-errors (it appeared that a good chunk of them were in the 5 games where she was broken) .. Melissa had 15 winners and 15 UEs (no doubles faults) .. MD converted 5 of the 10 break chances she had, while RT had no break chances .. The match took 41 minutes .. Looking at the stats and the progress of the match, it would appear that Radhika was a bit overmatched -- that is normally what happens to our kids who rarely get the experience of playing anybody in the top-50 in the lower-grade ITF junior events they usually play, before slowly getting their ranking up high enough, ending up in grand slams only in their final year of juniors ..  Then they find it tough to advance even a round .. Remember, Radhika is quite talented and was good enough to win a pro satellite leg last year .. This is why I always argue that the higher grade junior events are not anything to be sneezed at ..  If Radhika had been sent to the grade-1 and grade-2 events last year when she was already inside the top-150, I would hazard a guess that she would be having a better match than this now (when will AITA really start doing this ? - we keep hearing promises, but I never see any Indian kids really showing up abroad for tournaments with a coach) .. Sonal Phadke should be playing tomorrow, and actually has a beatable opponent.

The qualifying rounds are all done and Rishi Sridhar and S. Ganesh have qualified in, along with 6 foreign players, at the Chennai futures, which is starting at the Numgambakkam stadium where the Gold Flake open is held ..  Since Srinath and Fazal are both out - with elbow and shoulder injuries, the interest is considerably lessened .. See the Chennai futures page.

I have not heard much about Srinath's and Fazal's injuries .. These two are to play Davis Cup in about 10 days ..  Let us hope they are OK, and just decided not to take any chances and aggravate any injury playing this future event.

Also, the Delhi ITF junior international starts today .. Here is a preview in The Hindu .. Sunil Kumar is the 8th seed - misleading as usual, as it's only because he has not played too much ITF events yet .. He will be the one to beat, it would seem ..

According to The Hindu, Nandita Chandrashekar, won the grade-4 ITF junior event in Colombo on Saturday, beating Sania Mirza ..  I believe who just turned 16 this month .. She had won quite a few domestic junior events, but had not played much ITF events yet (only one last year) .. This is a terrific result for her, and she will come up from around #750 in ITF juniors to near #275 .. By the way, Sania herself is only about 14, I believe and has been doing very well.

Jan 23 Notes

In doubles at the Australian Open, Eagle/Florent produced another upset, over 14th seeds Damm-Mirnyi to reach a quarterfinal against 5th seed Ferreira/Leach or 12th seed Kulti-Tillstrom .. Hewitt/Stolle lost to 8th seeds W.Black and A.Kratzmann .. I am a bit interested in the progress, as there is a chance for LP to lose his #1 ranking, if teams like 4th seeds Palmer/O'Brien or Woodies win the title .. I have not done careful calculations, but I believe only Palmer and the Woodies have a chance, now that Stolle and Bjorkman are out.

The Indian Express reports that Sunil Kumar won the ITF Grade-4 junior International in Colombo on Saturday, beating Amanjyot Singh, 75 62 in the final ! .. That is the only news I have got about that tournament (damn the Sri Lankan newspapers! :-)) .. That is good .. The 40 points he has will raise his ranking from #245 to inside top140 in the juniors (but that is based on titles in the only two ITF u18 junior events he has played in a year -- the other one was the title at Delhi last year which he will be defending in a couple of weeks .. He should be playing the grade-4 Delhi ITF event starting tomorrow .. He should win that too (:-)) and thus keep a top-150 ranking .. He will be at the Davis Cup, the week after.

The juniors singles draw is out at the AO, and some first round matches start today (Monday there) .. There are two Indians in the draw as expected - Sonal Phadke and Radhika Tulpule, both in their final year of junior elgibility .. 86th ranked Radhika Tulpule has a tough match in the first round, against the 8th seed, 21st ranked Melissa Dowse of Australia .. 57th ranked Sonal Phadkeis a bit luckier, getting possibly a wildcard player, 354th ranked  Linda Fallon of Australia .. 115th ranked Nida Waseem of Pakistan is also in the draw, facing 3rd seed Lubomira Kurhajcova (SVK,11) .. Suchanan Viratprasert of Thailand (ranked 35) is seeded 11th (there seems to be no end to the continuing production of junior players in Thailand!)  .. There are two Thais, two Japanese and two Koreans also in the draw .. At least there are two Indians in the draw for a change .. 14 year old phenom from the US, Sunitha Rao, who is now ranked #63 in the world, is not playing .. On the boys' side, the Asian representation is a bit worse than usual .. 14 year old Taiwanese Phenom, Yeu-Tsuoo Wang of Taiwan (ranked 29th) is seeded 11th, but the only other Asian players are the 18 yr-old Thai twins, Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana, who don't appear to have been the roaring succes that the other recent Thai kids like Paradorn Srichaphan and Danai Udomchoke .. No Indians in the boys draw, as usual, as we have nobody ranked high-enough, though 111th ranked AV Rao may have had an outside chance.

Radhika is scheduled to play today (4th match on court 8) at about 3.30 pm there (6.30 am India .. 5 pm PST, Sunday, USA)

Jan 22 Note-2

Now it appears that it wouldn't have been a bad idea for LP to have entered for the Hawaii challenger starting Monday - he could have played .. The last time he got out this early from a grand slam was at the 1996 US Open, when he managed to go down toAruba for a challenger during the next week .. He may not have ever imagined to be out of all three draws this early, though .. I assume he will be heading to India, if so .. We will find out.

At Bangalore today, there was an Israeli sweep of both titles .. The Israelis (Okun, Mor, Behr, Hadad, Erlich, Sela, Motevassel, Ran, Ram, Ziv, Welgreen, etc) have been one of the largest contingent of players coming to India for the tournaments, but despite many of them having very good success in terms of reaching the semifinal and final stages, they have generally not been successful in pulling off titles (except for a couple of rare cases) .. That was not the case today, as the singles and doubles titles were swept on the claycourts at the century club today by Israelis .. Kobi Ziv beat Viktor Bruthans for (I believe) his first title - 62 76(4) .. Then the 4th seeds Andy Ram and Nir Welgreen won the doubles title in three sets over 3rd seeds Miles MacLagan and Aisam Qureshi .. Incidentally, I forgot to mention yesterday that 2nd seeds Kirtanes had lost to MM-AQ in the semis, as did our "double-SP" team which finally fell  to AR-NW yesterday ending a 6 match win streak (I believe Srinath's elbow injury may have contribued to their loss - they were in line for a comeback, being up 4-1 in the second set, but lost 5 straight  games after that) .. See the Bangalore futurespage.

Talking of Srinath, bad news again .. He has just withdrawn from next week's futures at Chennai due to the elbow injury -- Sri can never seem to get anything going, stricken by one injury after another - it is so difficult to judge his quality vis-a-vis the international caliber players either, as he never seems to be getting to these tournaments in good-enough shape - it's been a while since he has had a good quality win in the futures .. I am not sure if Fazal, who had withdrawn from the Bangalore futures this week will be playing in Chennai either .. With Aisam Qureshi going back this week to Pakistan to prepare for Davis Cup, the field is a bit weaker at Chennai (Aisam actually planned to be in India only for the Hyderabad and Bangalore futures, but apparently couldn't get to Hyderabad last week due to visa problems -- so all he has is a doubles final and a first round singles loss for his trip to India) ..  But then again, based on the firt two legs of this futures series, there are awhole bunch of quality players out there, who have all been regularly upsetting the seeds .. In my view this set of futures have actually had better quality players than the earlier ones .. Even the qualifying rounds have had a lot of decent players in the 800-1000 ranking range .. The qualies have started at Chennai - see the Chennai futures page for today's results.

The qualies are also starting at Delhi for the grade-4 ITF junior interenational - the main draw tarts monday .. Sunil Kumar is expected to play this event .. *Still* no news from Sri Lanka on the ITF junior international at Colombo this week -- the sports pages in the two online newspapers out there only has cricket news .. yikes.

Jan 22 Note-1

Leander is done with the Australian Open in a hurry -- In mixed doubles, D.Adams - K.Boogert d. L.Paes - L.Raymond, 7-6(7), 6-2 just now .. The match started 4 hours late, due to rain delays during the day .. When I started following the match, it was already 5-5 in the firt set .. LP-LR took DA-KB to deuces at 6-5, but did not have any break chances, and they held serve .. In the tiebreaker, LP-LR fell behind by a minibreak at 2-3 and was soon 2-5 .. They caught up to 7-7 but then lost a minibreak to dropped the set .. In the second set, it appeared to be rather even till 2-3, when suddenly LP-LR appeared to be not taking too many points .. Both Leander and Lisa got broken in succession in the 6th and 8th game, and the match was over ..

So, Leander, after a long time, returns from a grand slam with a good portion of his earnings from singles! .. What's this, he starts playing somehwat better in singles and his doubles results take a dive .. :-)  .. It's been a long time since he lost both doubles and mixed doubles in the first round .. Leander gets a good break for about 10 days before starting all the practice for Davis Cup .. Next action should be on Feb 5th Friday at Lucknow, against Lebanon.

Jan 21 Notes

LP and Lisa Raymond play their first round mixed doubles match today (Saturday down under) against David Adams (RSA) and Kristie Boogert (NED) .. The match is teh second one on court 13 with the first match starting at noon .. The LP-LR match should be starting at around 2 pm there (8.30 am India .. 4 am London .. 7 pm PST, Friday, USA) .. Our chatroom will be open as usual.

In doubles -- 3rd seeds Bjorkman/Black got upset by that good Aussie team that got back together -- Eagle/Florent, and so the bottom half is a bit cleaner now for the Woodies, though 5th seeds Ferreira/Leach have reached final-16 there .. Hewitt and Stolle are in the final-16 round after upsetting 10th seeds Norval/Ullyett, and since the top seeds are already out, they may end up in the semifinal - or even keep going (6th seeds Adams/DeJager in the upper half of the draw are also out after 2 rounds) and perhaps face the Woodies in the final!  .. The 2nd seeds Woodies have gone one round, and should be playing 15th seed Ferreira/Kafelnikov in final-16 ..

Here is the article from Nirmal Shekar in The Hindu on the happenings at AO yesterday, but as is usual for Nirmal, he writes just about a couple of lines on the doubles match -- he reports singles matches in great detail and is one of the best at it, but doesn't care two hoot for doubles matches .. No insights from him on how the top seeds got upset .. In the doubles event, Paes and Lareau could never have been accused of giving up. Playing together for the first time in six years, the Indo-Canadian pair looked to have set the house in order as they fought back to win the second set and opened up a 4-1 lead in the decider ... But, just when it appeared that the top seeds would cruise home, Jack Waite and Geoff Grant raised their own game to a rather unexpected level. Twice in succession, the American pair broke Lareau's serve before Waite confidently served out the match ... "We thought we had the match. But Waite couldn't miss a thing in the end. It is very disappointing,'' said Paes .. And that was all Nirmal wrote! .. He didn't even mention whether LP played the AD court or not, or whether it had any effect .. I found an article earlier in the week, Sébastien finds a top seed as partner for doubles, by Tom Tebbut of Toronto Globe & Mail (somebody that the Canadians always complain about, as one who doesn't ever report on the Canadians!) .. He wrote (excerpts) : Paes, currently No. 1 in the individual doubles ranking, could fairly be described as the Jaromir Jagr of doubles players. Any time he is on the court, fans are guaranteed sensational shotmaking. He has exceptional speed and racquetwork, as well as boundless tennis creativity .. The story has it that Swede Jonas Bjorkman, No. 3 in the ranking, was eager to play with Paes .. Lareau, No. 4, could hardly have found a better partner in a pinch. The Montrealer is the type of player whose game is mostly in counterpoint to the flash and dash of Paes. He's methodical and solid as granite ... The only glitch for Lareau and Paes is that they are both right-court players. When they teamed in 1993, Paes switched to the left or backhand side .. This time it's Lareau, with his deadly two-handed backhand on his left flank, who will make the shift .. That last bit is different than what we have haerd earlier - that LP would be making the awitch .. So, what is it ? .. Did he or didn't he ? .. Nirmal mentions nothing in his article .. It's all moot as they lost, but it's good news if he didn't switch - I wouldn't want to see him do the switch back when MB gets back, especially if it's only for 2 or 3 events before Olympics (hopefully it will be much earlier) .. I may have to get hold of Leander and find out. [ By the way, Jaromir Jagr is an exciting ice hockey player, for those who don't follow that sport -- that is a new for LP, to be compared to Jagr of all people!]

Nitin Kirtane lost in the quarterfinals yesterday at the Bangalore futures .. The doubles semifinals with the double-SP were today, and I haven't seen the score yet -- check the Bangalore futures page for updates later.

Manisha Malhotra was supposed tobe in the US for some tournaments .. There are two staellites in Boca Raton, Florida (last week and this week) .. Lindsay Lee won the singles event last week, but I can't find all the scores anywhere to confirm if Manisha is/was there.

Also, absolutely no news reported in the two online Sri Lankan newspapers (The Island, and Times) on the ITF junior international there .. Will keep looking out for any results coming my way.

Jan 20 Notes

Absolute shocker, in a way .. But then again, it wasn't totally unexpected either .. For two guys to join together after 4-5 years and just start playing top seed quality doubles was going to be tough, especially with one moving to the backhand court, etc .. The way this match ended was the real shocker to me, actually -- anyway,  G.Grant - J.Waite d. #1 S.Lareau - L.Paes, 7-6(2) 2-6, 7-5 in round 1 .. Here is how the match went (since online real-time stats are not available for doubles matches at the offical site, less details than normal):

Set 1:  This looked like a totally eventless set .. It was like Paes and Lareau were content to hold serve rather easily and let the other guys hold serve too .. It went with 40-15 type games from both sides, all the way to a tiebreaker .. In the tiebreaker, Waite started serve (0-1),  Lareau served for two points (2-1), and then Grant did two (2-3), but Leander lost the next two points on his serve (2-5) .. Waite served for two points (2-7) to push the top seeds down by a set ..

Set 2:  Now it looked like Paes and Lareau had decided to attack the other guys' serve much more .. This they did relentlessly, and every service game seemed to be a struggle for Waite and Grant, with our guys holding serve easily at love or 15 .. Jack Waite was down 15-40 in game 4 and was broken at 30-40 .. Later, at 5-2  in game 8, JW was up 30-0 but then lost 4 point in a row .. Our guys had converted the first set point they got, and it was all tied a set apiece .. In the whole set, Grant and waite may have won only 10 or 12 points .. I was feeling very good about the top seeds.

Set 3:  The domination continued from our pair .. They forced the break in game 2 off Grant, and then LP held serve for a 3-0 lead .. Then, at 4-1, it looked as though we would see our pair wrapping it up fast once again, as they had Grant facing a break point again at AD out .. He held after 2 deuces .. It was 4-2 for our guys still, but there was an incredible turnaround here .. Something changed, and Lareau seemed to be having all kinds of trouble on his serve (I feel that more of the points lost were when he was serving from the deuce side - some sudden problems for LP on the AD side ? -- not at all sure about this though) .. He was down 0-30 and then 15-40 .. The other guys converted the point at 30-40 and the set was suddenly back on serve agan at 4-3 .. GG-JW must have got a sudden infusion of confidence ..  JW, LP and GG held serve and at 5-5, it was once again trouble as Lareau came up to serve .. 0-15, 15-15, 15-30, 15-40 .. Broken again .. Then, before we blinked Waite served it off at 40-15 and the match was over .. The unseeded pair had pulled the rug from under the top seeds, just like that!

What was puzzling was the way the trouble started when our pair was absolutely dominating the other guys .. Lareau had served 7 games before that with no apparent trouble till dropping serve twice .. What happened ? .. We will have to wait and find out.

I have a numb feeling from this loss .. Leander loses the 658 points from the last Australian Open final, and has a realistic chance to lose his top rank depending on who wins the title and how much they have to defend from last year .. #3 Bjorkman can overtake LP only by defending his title (with Rafter last year) .. The Woodies can do that, but again only with a title .. I believe #8 Jared Palmer can do that with a title or even a final .. Perhaps, so can #7 Stolle (who is playing with Hewitt) .. I have to look more closely at the numbers, but I am pretty sure those are the only guys who could over take LP .. We will wait and see what happens .. LP will remain within the top-4 in any event though, and MB will be in the top 5-6 too ..  If anybody were to take over the coveted #1 position, my preference would be for the Woodies to get it back, or for Bjorkman to finally get that #1 spot ..

Leander gets a day off tomorrow (Friday there) according to the schedule that has just been posted .. Now mixed doubles remains for him.

Damn, what a wretched night, this!

Jan 19 Note-2

Leander and Lareau play their first round doubles match TODAY against the American pair, Geoff Grant (141) and Jack Waite (67) .. 4th match on Show court 2, after 3 singles matches .. It should start by 5 pm there (11.30 am India .. 7 am London .. 10 pm PST Wednesday, USA) .. Come to the chatroom during the match!

Here are some notes from onsite fanclub member Naresh Holla who saw LP's match yesterday - The match started at around noon time.  The Swedes had come in huge numbers with their war paints and uniform shirts. They are really vociferous in this tournament (the Dutch are the 2nd biggest non-aussie group).  There were quite a few Indians here and there.  Leander's girl friend was also there.  The most interesting thing I found was that there were quite a few Australians who were huge supporters of leander.  I was pretty surprised by this and asked one lady whether she likes Leander.  She said Leander was her neighbour some time back here in Australia. So all his neighbours follow Leander regularly and cheer him .... Leander played well at the start.  He even broke vinci and was leading 5/4 and serving for the set when the Swede broke leander. The swede had done his homework well. Leander came to the nets couple of times and vinci came with some beautiful lobs which left Lee stranded at the net.  After few shots like that Leander stopped coming to nets for a long time as late as 3rd set. The Swedish crowd was cheering Vinci a lot for all points and he was quite pumped up. By 3rd set Vinci's confidence was very high and he was maing very few mistakes. But Leander was not so consistent.  In the 3rd set after LP was broken he started coming to nets but Vinci hit some good passing shots ....  The best shots of the match would be the 2 lobs from Vinci. LPs strength is at the net.  When he couldn't do that Vinci had won half the match .... I have been a huge Leander fan from the time he started playing Davis cup.  The best thing I liked about him was the way he treats his fans.  He came across as a very humble guy even though he has become a star.  On saturday after his qualifying round of matches he came and spoke to us which was a nice gesture.  The Australian crowd who come to cheer him also confirms this  ..  Nice report -- thanks Naresh!

There was an AFP news agency article in the Indian newspaper today with some comments from Leander, .. Here are some excerpts: .. The amiable Paes was not too upset at being ousted. He said it is early days yet as he works on lifting his singles ranking after outstanding doubles success last year ..  "I'm not so disappointed," he said after his loss to Vinciguerra. "In the first set I did everything but win. I was serving for the set 5-4 and serving well and suddenly I throw in one double fault, allow a couple to get past me and I've got my back against the wall ... I thought the match was really close with just a few points here and there but I'm pretty happy with my singles performance so far." .. Also, here is an article from Nirmal Shekar in The Hindu - Nirmal seems to be somewhat wishy-washy on LP's singles form still -- he says, To be sure, Paes did not play anywhere near his potential; but that - not playing at his best when he needs to peak - has become the norm these days. This, not so much because of want of effort, for that is one thing you can never accuse him of. It is largely because in this age of specialisation, Paes, with the kind of success he had in doubles last year, seems to have lost the edge when it comes to singles, although the modest successes of the recent weeks have contributed to his level of confidence ..  Nirmal probably sounds more gloomy about it than he perhaps wanted! .. I see no reason to say that LP has lost his proverbial "edge" for ever in singles .. If he wants it and works at it, he can certainly get to where he was before and move somewhat further too.  A bit more weight training and a lot of hitting are needed though .. Nirmal mentions that his volleying did not have the customary firmness (a keen observation) and that his backhand slice was misbehaving .. If you ask me, he should can the backhand slice (or at least cut it down) and go a bit more often to that decent top spin backhand he has .. He might need a bit more strength training and hitting practice before he will bring back that shot which is mostly missing since 1998 summer which was probably the only time he used it to any noticable extent .. [Just 2 cents from me -- trying to sound like a tennis analyst! :-)] .. In any event, I won't be gloomy about anybody who has come up from #205 to inside #120 in four tournaments flat .. Any of you tennis experts who have seen him play lately and can compare things and comment ? -- Sound off in the newly added Discussion Forum.

Panja and Prahlad continue their run .. They beat the good pair of Mustafa and Vishaal today in three sets and reached the semifinal at the Bangalore .. See all the results in the Bangalore futures page.

Jan 19 Note-1

I have added a discussion forum to the site now .. Take a look! .. It's much better than the guestbook page for carrying out discussions (you can create threads of topics, reply to discussion threads, or select the topics to read -- unlike the guestbook page, where you have to scroll through all the posts) .. The guestbook page will be left there, and will be the only one where the messages will be archived .. So, if you have comments on the site, things of long term interest, messages to players, or announcements, leave them at the old guestbook page .. The discussion forum has a 150-post limit and hence the articles will disappear after a few weeks .. I may cut-paste and archive some of the more interesting posts if needed, later, but there is no easy way for me to download all the discussion posts and archive them .. There is no need for a lot of the contentious discussions, etc, to be archived anyway .. In other words, the new discussion forum will have a more of a free style, and should be an easier environment to read ..

I had a note from a close associate of Vinciguerra in Sweden .. Vinci's coach said that it was "a very tough match against a very tough guy" .. He said some of Vinci's lobs and passes worked and that kept him out of trouble and kept Leander from attacking too much .. But that is how people win matches, right ? :-)

At Bangalore today, Nitin once again reached the quarterfinal and is the only Indian player in the QF this week as well .. Once again he ended up with an Indian in the second round though .. He beat Mustafa in three sets .. Mustafa started well, and then faded in the second set due to lack of concentration and then got tired in the 3rd .. Consistency has been Mustafa's problem for a while -- he is talented, and let us hope he toughens up on that count soon .. I have not seen the other results from today, yet, except that Golovonov won and will be facing Nitin next.

Jan 18 Note-3

Leander certainly learned first-hand what about eleven  top-100 players have known in the last few months -- 18 year old Vinci is something special and is not an easy one to beat - Andreas Vinciguerra d. Leander Paes, 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-3 in what appeared to be a good match where Leander seemed to be not giving up till the end .. here is how the match went:

Set 1:  LP started well once again, holding serve at love including an ace in the first game .. Then Vinci made three unforced errors to face a break attempt at 30-40, but he held .. Then in game 3, LP made two unforced errors, two at the net, and faced a break point at 30-40 as well, but he too held .. LP seemed to be serving very well, as he had 75% in first serves after three
games, with three aces too .. Then three winners on net approaches by Leander in game 6 forced the break on the first break chance there .. LP was up 4-2 .. He served the next game strongly at love, with Ace #4, and had it up to 5-2 .. Vinci did not seem to be holding serve all that comfortably either at this poiont .. At 5-3 however, he got his act together just at the right time and got LP down 0-30 on serve .. After it became 30-40, a double fault from LP made it a break point .. LP then lost a point at the net and it was on serve at 5-4 .. After starting the set 16 of 21 in first serves, LP only had 4 in the next 12, and now there was the problem .. He however served ace #5 and held on for 6-5 .. Then AV served two aces and held to send it to a tiebreaker ..
Again, a solid show from Vinci who had started with aa few unforced errors, but was not making any now .. The tiebreaker went with serve till 3-4 when LP lost two points on his serve, both at the net and then Vinci finished it off for a 6-7(3) set .. Basically, LP who had won 7 of 11 net approaches at first, had now gone 4 of next 13 in that stat -- it sure looked like AV had got a good measure of LP's game, and was beginning to pass him enough times to nullify his net-game ..  That did not look like a good scenario, and something had to change .. Primarily, LP's first serve percentage had to go up above 70 again ..  That did not happen other than for brief periods though .. [Actually I had followed Vinci's R1 match against #62 Gumy where also he was down a break in the first set before winning a tiebreaker and then completely taking Gumy apart for 61 61 in the next two sets -- naturally I was worried! .. As it turned out, LP hung in there better!]

Set 2:  LP served well in the beginning of the second set, but ran into some trouble facing a break point at 30-40 in game 5 .. Two aces from LP evened it at 3-3 .. He again faced a break point in game 8, but held again .. It was clearly a question of LP hitting his first serves and doing the job at the net, because Vinci was not making a mistake anywhere .. 13 winners and
just one unforced error from him in the second set, which was quite an incredible stat ! .. It was a matter of time when LP would falter on a serve or miss a volley somewhere .. Vinci forced the break at 30-40 in the 10th game and finished it 6-7(3), 4-6 ..
When an 18 year old can step it up at the right time in two sets in a row against a veteran who normally knows when not to allow it (one who seemed to be playing rather well, that too), you have to tip your hat and congratulate him .. Vinci is going to be something else .. A few months from now, this loss by LP may not look as bad as it looks now.

Set 3:  Vinci started making a couple of unforced errors for a change and LP had two break points in game 3, but again AV did what was needed to stay out of trouble .. The kid held serve, and turned the tables on Leander in the very next game with break chances at 15-40 .. He broke LP for the 3rd time in the match, at 30-40 .. To his credit, Leander kept trying and did not fold -- but it was now only a matter of time ..  It went with serve for 4 more games and AV served off the final game at love to win the match ..

Break Sequence:  [set1: AV broken in game 6, LP in game 9] [set2: LP broken in game 10] [set3: LP broken in game 4]

Here are some stats -- The match took an hour and 45 minutes .. 10 aces by each player .. 4 double faults by LP, to 3 by AV .. 35 winners by both .. 39 unforced errors by LP (at least 10-15 more than acceptable against somebody like AV) and 10 by Vinci (are you kidding me ? .. for the whole match! .. Solid stuff) .. I have to believe that AV not making mistakes was forcing LP to try for the lower percentage shots -- that is how a player can "force" the unforced error .. Points won, 38 by LP and 40 by AV in the first set, 26 to 33 in the second and 22 to 30 in the 3rd .. A decent 61% in first serves by LP (again it should have been near or above 70 for him to win this one) to 67% by Andreas  .. 33 points won out of 67 net approaches by LP, which is not a bad stat, but about 6 or 7 more points there could have actually turned the match around .. AV only went up to the net 15 times and won 11 out of those, which is basic baseliner tennis .. 1 of 4 in break chances by LP and 3 of 6 by Vinci .. AV won 17 more points than LP with 103 points to LP's 86 points in the match .. LP needed some 10 extra points somewhere and this is why Vinci cutting down his unforced errors to just 10 made the difference .. My impression is that LP played a good match, though with a few more mistakes than he would have liked, but Vinci was just too solid for him to pull an upset today .. We will await any eye-witness reports from Melbourne.

All in all, a rather unexpected 50 points for LP at the AO that should place him somewhere in the #115-120 range soon - something that would have looked like an impossibility just a few weeks back .. He is playing fine, and has started the year on a good note so far .. LP has shown that he *wants* to win some singles matches badly .. If he keeps it up, he shouldn't have too much problems getting back up near top-75 in the next few months - then, who knows! .. At least, it feels so much nicer to see LP playing competitively and it gives us all something  more to look forward to, this year.

Jan 18 Note-2

LP's second round match today is the second one on court 19, following the Boogert-Carlsson singles match which starts at 10 am .. Leander's match will start at about 12 noon wednesday (6.30 am India .. 2 am London .. 5pm PST Tuesday, USA).

18 year old Andreas Vinciguerra has had one of the most phenomenal one-year rises in recent memory .. He was at #627 at this time last year .. He crossed 500 in march, and then crossed 400 in April after winning a round at Chennai and 2 rounds at the Delhi challenger .. He jumped from 390 to 205 in the second week of July when he reached the final at Bastaad beating four top-100 players in a row ..  Then he kept moving up, winning the $100K Polish challenger and doing well at Shanghai (hardcourt) and Stockholm (carpet) .. At Stockholm, he took a #7 ranked Enqvist to a 3rd set after winning a tiebreaker in the second .. He had a win over #24 Hrbati also .. By then he had racked up 10 wins over top-100 players in roughly 4 months .. Vinci crossed the top-100 to #96 in the week before the year-end ranking on Nov 15 .. I am sure we all remember that he needed a wildcard into Chennai in April - now he has entered directly for this Australian Open .. All I can say is, Wow! ..  He is 5-10 and left-handed .. Small and quick .. Excellent groundies and passing shots .. Leander will have his hands fiull today, and may have to find some way to outsmart the kid, who many expect will soon become the next great Swedish player .. To some extent, Vinci is precisely the kind of player who can give Lee trouble .. The kind who are quick enough to get to his angles, and pass him when he charges the net .. It will be interesting, as Leander has a habit of finding ways to beat people when he is focussed enough .. I expect this to be a fantastic match to see .. By the way, the claycourters are all complaining big-time that the courts are about as fast as Wimbledon this year .. They are also using balls which are inflated to the maximum allowed pressure and they are flying .. Supposedly it was all done very deliberately to help the Australians like Philippoussis .. If it isn't too bouncy, it is certainly to Leander's advantage to have quicker courts.

Bad news from Bangalore -- Once again Srinath went out in the first round, losing to Sander Groen of Nethderlands in straight sets .. It was bad news for all three top seeds .. #1 seed Aisam Qureshi lost to qualifier Markus Kanellos (AUT) in straight sets, and 3rd seed and last week's winner Svarc lost to Dennis Golovonov, the same guy he beat in the final on Saturday .. The big news is that Mustafa Ghouse, who has pulled off a nice 3-set upset win (a "quality win"), over 6th seed Nir Welgreen (ISR,402) .. I guess that is the highest-ranked player Mustafa "Pete" Ghouse has ever beaten .. Just two days back I was wondering if it was justified to have him as Davis Cup reserve, the way he had lost a string of matches ever since the DSCL nationals final .. Great to see him coming through here (he had to qualify in this time, after getting quite a few wildcards) .. I will add more results later at the Bangalore futures page.

Some news on the two Indian juniors who are in Australia - Radhika Tulpule and Sonal Phadke .. Both have made the direct entry into the main draw for the Australian Open juniors next week .. This week they were both at the Australian Hardcourt junior championships at Glen Waverly - unfortunately both have lost in the first round though .. 86th ranked Radhika lost to 267th ranked qualifier Da-Jung Hong of Korea, 57 26 and 55th ranked Sonal lost to 84th ranked Samantha Stosur of Australia by a surprisingly poor score of  16 16 .. Very disappointing show by both, who are the first Indian juniors to get into grand slams after a bad 1999 when none of our juniors got anywhere near that (though Sheetal Gautam had an outside chance for US Open, till she went down with wrist injury) ..  Radhika and Sonal are both in the doubles draw as well for this week's hardcourt juniors, but they are playing with different partners .. #66 Radhika played with #90 Nida Waseem of Pakistan and lost in the firt round to 8th seeds Hannah Collin (GBR,53) and Zuzana Kucova (SVK,79), 46 57 .. #111 Sonal is playing with Annat Elazaari (#56) of Israel - I have not seen the result of their first round match .. I don't know why Radhika and Sonal didn't just partner each other ..

Of course, none of our boys are anywhere near qualifying into tournaments like the Asutralian hardcourts (It's a Grade-A ITF junior event, one level below grand slams)  .. 14 year old Yeuoo-Tzoo Wang of Taiwan is seeded - can you believe that ? .. This boy is #29 in the world and he turns 15 only next month! .. Also 16 year old Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan is now #19 in the ITF world juniors [for comparison, no Indian boy has been in the top-30 in many many years] .. 18 year old Thai twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana are also in the draw .. 17 yr old AV Rao at 110 is the only Indian in the ITF top-150 .. Sunil Kumar is the 6th highest ranked Indian in the ITF list at #244, but I expect that to change very soon - he is reportedly planning to hit a lot of junior events, though he is running a year or two late - on the other hand he has picked up a lot of experience in the upper tiers of the pro tour by now.

Jan 18 Note-1

Here is the mixed doubles draw (bottom half of the 32-team draw):

 5 Mark Woodforde AUS/ Natasha Zvereva BLR  vs Rick Leach USA/ Amanda Coetzer RSA    \
   Donald Johnson USA/ Kimberly Po USA      vs Wayne Arthurs AUS/ Debbie Graham USA  / \_
   D. MacPherson AUS/ Karina Habsudova SVK  vs Sandon Stolle AUS/ Alicia Molik AUS   \ / |
 4 T. Woodbridge AUS/ Arantxa S Vicario ESP vs Cyril Suk CZE/ Kveta Hrdlickova CZE   /   |_ F
 7 John-L. DeJager RSA/ Caroline Vis NED    vs Wayne Black ZIM/ Irina Seljutina KAZ  \   |
   Martin Garcia ARG/ Paola Suarez ARG      vs Mariano Hood ARG/ Florencia Labat ARG / \_|
   Aleksandar Kitinov MAC/ Tina Krizan SLO  vs B. Haygarth RSA/ Katie Schlukebir USA \ /
 2 Leander Paes IND/ Lisa Raymond USA       vs David Adams RSA/ Kristie Boogert NED  /
In the upper half the seeds are, 1) Bjorkman-Kournikova, 6) Tarango-Likhovtseva, 3) Palmer-Stubbs, and 8) Olhovskiy-Tatarkova .. Leach-Koetzer and Woodbridge-Arantxa are interesting teams .. Actually Lleyton Hewitt is playing with his sister Jaslyn Hewitt (given a wildcard, I believe) .. Here is one name playing after a long time -- the great Yayuk Basuki of Indonesia ! .. She  retired from singles and doubles a year back, but is playing mixed doubles here with Daniel Orsanic .. The Williams sisters, Mirjana Lucic, Gimelstob, Mirnyi, etc are some of the good mixed doubles payers missing in this draw [some of them stopped playing doubles once their singles became serious, I guess] .. Leander is with his regular partner, American Lisa Raymond (ranked #5) .. It would be fun to see a repeat of the Wimbledon mixed doubles final between LP-LR and Bjorkman-Kournikova .. These two teams have the same sum-rank, as Anna is the #1 women's doubles player now (Jonas is #5 in men's doubles) -they must have thrown a coin to make one of the teams the top seed  ..

Jan 17 Note-3

Here is the doubles draw at the Australian Open (upper 1/4th):

 1 Sebastien Lareau CAN/ Leander Paes IND vs Geoff Grant USA/ Jack Waite USA       \
   Alb. Martin ESP/ Martin Rodriguez ARG  vs Marius Barnard RSA/ Chris Haggard RSA / \_
   Luke Jensen USA/ Murphy Jensen USA     vs Dominik Hrbaty SVK/ Eric Taino USA    \ / |
16 David MacPherson AUS/ Peter Nyborg SWE vs Neil Broad GBR/ Roger Federer SUI     /   |_ SF
10 Piet Norval RSA/ Kevin Ullyett ZIM     vs Wayne Arthurs AUS/ Juan Balcells ESP  \   |
   Pat. Galbraith USA/ Brian MacPhie USA  vs Lleyton Hewitt AUS/ Sandon Stolle AUS / \_|
   Chris Rae AUS/ Sebastien Swierk AUS    vs Michael Hill AUS/ Marcos Ondruska RSA \ /
 8 Wayne Black ZIM/ Andrew Kratzmann AUS  vs F. Meligeni BRA/ Cristiano Testa BRA  /
The seeds in the bottom quartile of the upper half are #4 O'Brien/Palmer and #6 Adams/DeJager .. In the bottom half, the potential QF matchups are between #5 Ferreira/Leach vs #3 Bjorkman/Black and  #7 Tarango/Vacek vs #2 Woodbridge/Woodforde - of course, there will be upsets and it never works out that way! .. Rafter was supposed to play just doubles but decided yesterday to withdraw .. So his partner Wayne Arthurs is paying with Juan Balcells ..  I don't see too many interesting unseeded teams in the whole draw that I could call as dark horses .. Josh Eagle and Andrew Florent are back together, but are unseeded - they could probably get back to their old tricks .. Kafelnikov is playing with Wayne Ferreira and they're seeded 15th .. Damm is playing with Mirnyi (14th seeds)

Jan 17 Note-2

Forgot to report earlier -- Nirupama's injury in the 3rd round qualifying match was to her foot .. Unfortunately, in the 3rd set at 1-1 against Kerry-Anne Guse, Niru's foot got in the drain when she went back to return .. She twisted it badly .. I believe they taped her up and they played one point .. She could not even walk and had to be wheelchaired out .. She sent an email and wanted to clarify that  (after she was all over Kerry to break her thrice to win the first set 6-3) the 0-6 loss of the second set was just Kerry outplaying her, not due to injury, as we thought .. Ligament damage was suspected in the foot and she was to see the doctor yesterday .. We will await more information on how bad the injury is .. Most unfortunate.

Here is the report from Australia by Nirmal Shekhar, in The Hindu - Paes opts for tough road to second round .. My general impressions of the match from following it online, seem to have been right -- Leander did not have a great match, and indeed went walkabout for a while till late in the second set when he turned things around again, pumping himself up .. Good article .. In my opinion, nobody else reports the vagaries and unusual patterns in Leander's matches better than the veteran correspondent, Nirmal Shekhar [but then again, he is the only Indian newspaper correspondent who regularly gets to go and cover the grand slams and Davis Cups and cover Leander] .. I believe Nirmal is the only Indian reporter at the Australian Open .. It's time the Indian newspapers started spending some money and sending correspondents abroad to tennis events too - after all, they seem to have no trouble finding money to send people to wherever that big group of cricket celebrities go -- you know, that group of primadonnas who consider it their birth right to disgrace India whenever they step out of India [I am a closet cricket fan and am still fuming at what is turning out to be the worst series since 1974 in England, perhaps - but I digress] .. There are some very good tennis correspondents in India who I wish would be sent to at least the grand slams - the last time I remember Kamesh Sreenivasan reporting from abroad was Hartford 97, for instance .. Same for Sharda Ugra, S.Kannan, Kunal Pradhan, Amitava Das Gupta, Arun Janardhan, Uma Vasudev, SK John etc who go abroad only very rarely, if at all .. Deccan Herald normally sends a good one to Davis Cups - Prajwal Hegde .. Otherwise Nirmal Shekhar is just about it (good as he is, he normally doesn't get too excited about doubles, and this has been my complaint for a long time) .. It is perhaps just a peripheral matter to most readers here, but something I wanted to talk about for a while.

By the way, we do have a couple of fanclub members out there in Melbourne, and we would hopefully get some insightful reports from them too.

There was only a light singles schedule of 5 matches at the $10K ITF "Warehouse" Bangalore futures .. Vinod Sridhar lost to 5th seed Andy Ram (ISR,374), Vijay Kannan lost to Kobi Ziv (ISR,533) and Sandeep Kirtane lost to Viktor Bruthans (SVK,574) .. I guess our players are generally unable to pull upsets over these top-600 players .. Nitin Kirtane advanced, beating Vishal Uppal, 6-4, 6-4 .. Six doubles matches were also completed, with that good doubles team from Karnataka that we haven't seen for a while (Nirmit Shetty and Ravikiran Bhat, who won a national junior u18 claycourt doubles tile in Chennai in August 99) coming up with a good doubles win over Markus Kanellos (AUT) and Arne Kreitz (GER) .. I believe Shetty/Bhat are a wildcard into the doubles draw .. After their Chennai title, I have not seen them playing anywhere - they have just graduated from the juniors and this would give Nirmit his first ATP point .. Ghouse-Uppal also won their first round match at Bangalore today, as did the second seeds Kirtanes .. The top seeds at Bangalore are of course "double SP", Saurav Panja and Srinath Prahlad ..  Last week's ranks were used for the seeding and so the big points from Chennai Goldflake made them the top seeds (they were unseeded in last week's futures which they won) .. See the Bangalore futures page - as usual, I update that page first with the scores every day.

There must be quite a few Indian juniors at the ITF junior Grade-4 tournament in Colombo, Sri Lanka this week .. Sunil Kumar has gone there .. No news yet about any matches on Monday.

Talking of Sri Lanka, they sent some 17 junior players to the Krishnan Tennis Center in Chennai for some exposure to modern tennis, etc ("evaluation and fact-finding", they called it) .. Here is a very interesting article in the Sunday Observer (Colombo) about how Sri Lanka has become totally isolated in tennis - actually this week's ITF junior event may be the only international event in Sri Lanka .. The article seems to be almost educational in nature - telling the island readers about how the pro circuit works, etc .. There was a time when top Indian players used to go to Sri Lanka for some tournaments .. A lot of those things stopped after ATP emerged .. While India has firmly established itself in the international scene, a lot of countries like Sri Lanka have got isolated from the tennis world.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Jan 17th ..