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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Jan 25, 1999
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Jan 25 Note-1
Had a quick chat with Leander yesterday - he said he is feeling fine - neither the heel nor the stomach is getting worse after playing 4-5 matches - he still has to be a bit careful while serving, about the stomach muscle, and the heel hurts only a bit .. They have had some good practice so far, and are beginning to get that rhythm back .. LP thanked the fanclub but mentioned that we should keep our fingers crossed, as the matches from tomorrow on are going to be 5-setters .. There was a report yesterday that both Bob Carmichael (LP's coach) and Rico Piperno (MB's coach) were upset about the troubles in the second round match that they had an extensive supervised practice session before the 3rd round - and the results showed in the last match.
Today, MB and Mirjana Lucic lost a close match in the PQF againat Don Johnson and Kimberly Po .. Score - 7-6(3), 6-2, 7-6(1) .. The breaks were as follows - [set-1: Lucic broken in game 4 and 12; Po broken in games 7 and 11], [set-2: MB broken in game 1, Lucic broken in game 3], [set-3: MB broken in game 5; Po broken in game 8] .. In the first set, the services woes continued from last match for Mirjana, but MB looked solid in his games .. In the second set, however, something seemed to change and MB dropped serve easily in the first game with Lucic following, and they were down 0-4 .. From that point onwards, Lucic's service games seemed to be mostly of the 40-15 variety, but MB seeemed to start having close service games (after having held serve 11 of 11 times in two mixed doubles matches, and only one dropped game in his three doubles matches - he had been rock-solid) .. The dropped 5th game in set-3 almost proved too costly, but as had become normal for MB and Miki, they seemed to get a late infusion of spirit as they jumped all over Po's serve in game 8 to force a tie .. Thier best chance was in Po's serve in game 12, as they had 15-0 and 30-15 leads and then had them at two deuces - but the opponenets held for 6-6 .. We could sense that the way Don Johnson was holding his end, it would be tough in the tiebreaker and it turned out to be so - MB gave one minibreak in his 2 serves and Miki gave two minibreaks off her serve, and we were finished at 1-7 .. They fought till the end, but something just didn't seem right, from the second set onwards .. Hope MB's arm is not too tired after 5 sets on Sunday and 3 more Monday - the big doubles matches start on tuesday, and we need him to be in good health for the 5-set matches.
The news from Mumbai on the India F3 futures is just simply incredible - people have come down from everywhere to play in India, and now we have a main draw going from #213 to #460 (source: Sharda Ugra in The Hindu) !! .. I cannot believe this - it's a $10K futures with 18 points maximum, for crying out loud! .. Predicting the draws of tournaments in India have been the toughest things to do, because of the timing of our tournaments .. In November, for the 4-week $20K satellites, we had just 4 or 5 players in the top-700 and had direct entries down close to #1000 .. Right now there is nothing much else going on around the world, the three weeks of Challengers (Calcutta, Lucknow, Bangalore) are starting next week, and so a few more top players took a flight a week earlier to India .. Anyway, I have no doubt that Mumbai now will have the highest rated draw EVER in the history of $10K ITF/ATP futures .. To put it in perspective, the $15K futures in the US circuit last summer - perhaps the toughest circuit last year - had main draws closing at around 700 .. Heck, the $75K Vadodara challenger last April had a draw that closed at about #450 .. This also means that we are going to see some really top draws at the three-week challenger circuit organized by the Paes en Sport, the sports event management firm of Dr. Vece Paes, starting next week.
Only Srinath from India would have made the direct entry, but he has skipped this week to rest his injury that never seems to go away (some heel injuries are like that) .. The qualifying round the last two days have been so tough that no Indian even made it to the 3rd round - only Nitin, Mustafa and Rohan Bopanna made even the second round .. Aisam Qureshi is in the final round qualies, which will be today .. There may be some main draw doubles matches today, but the singles matches start only on Tuesday .. We have four wildcards in the main draw - Fazal, Harsh, Vijay and Vinod, but three of them have very tough first round matches too - Vinod Sridhar gets the #2 seed Gregory Carraz (#233, FRA), Vijay Kannan gets Boris Borgula (#353, SVK), the winner of the Ahmedabad futures and Harsh Mankad gets Amir Hadad (#379, ISR), the winner of the Chadigarh futures (damnit - can it get any worse?? - what, we can't even rig a damn draw ? - kidding :-)) .. Well, none of the three can complain about AITA not giving them chances through wildcards, etc, anymore - and it is time for them to start showing some top results .. But realistically, it is perhaps still too much to expect the youngsters to pull off wins against this kind of competition, and we should be elated if any of the three pull one off (Go guys! - you have nothing to lose!) .. Fazal is relatively luckier, and has a qualifier in the first round - but that doesn't mean much, what with the competition in the qualy rounds .. For instance, the top seed in the qualies, Arvind Parmar of Britain (#463) got knocked out in the very first round! .. Anyway, see the qualy results, etc, at the Mumbai futures page.
Jan 24 Note-3
The junior boys' and girls' draws came out at the AO today - as we knew, no Indians in either draw .. Actually, ever since Vikrant Chadha was seeded at the AO about 4 years back, we have not had any regulars in the grand slam junior draws .. Manoj Mahadevan got in a couple of times; Harsh Mankad, Vijay Kannan and Uzma Khan squeezed into one or two grand slams each right before leaving the junior ranks at age 18 .. That is a very poor record of producing top junior players in the last 3-4 years, and it does not bode well for India .. Remember, as I mentioned a while back, that we have almost never had anybody (with the possible exception of perhaps Srinath) who broke into the upper areas of ATP ranking, without being very highly ranked as a junior (as in Ramesh Krishnan's and Leander Paes' cases) .. Many foreign countries routinely produce players who bloom after age 18, but Indians have typically only fallen further and further behind since their top-75 type rankings in the under-19 age group .. In other words, to keep hope, we may just have to find some who are of top-10 junior quality .. That doesn't mean I am giving up on the Kannans, Mahadevans, Mankads, and Sridhars of the world - just that we could have felt a bit more reassured if we at least knew that they reached the kind of junior ITF rankings they probably deserved, to have a sense of where they could reach later in their career with proper coaching .. Now I am talking about another related issue - on whether our players get the proper exposure in the junior circuit, like the Thai, Indonesian, and even the Pakistani players do these days .. The main problem the last few years has been that India has not held top-level ITF junior events, and the Grade-2 and Grade-3 events in Asia have all been in SouthEast Asia .. Our kids have rarely gone there, which meant they have not got the exposure to top junior competition - neither have they had a chance to pick up enough points to move into the top-20 of ITF rankings, even if they had it in them .. Thus we found Vijay and Uzma winning all the grade-5 events in the subcontinent by their final junior year, but struggling to still squeeze into the ITF top-75 ..
See also my comments at the end of the Dec 10 Notes (here's the link) .. If we want to see our 16 to 18 year olds playing in next year's grand slam and other top junior events, we better start doing something right now .. I am talking about those like Sunil Kumar, Akshay Vishal Rao, Anant Sitaram, Parantap Chaturvedi, Shruti Dhawan, Sheetal Goutham, Radhika Tulpule, Nandita Chandrashekhar etc .. Those are just some names that came to mind - not exhaustive - I will soon post the complete list of Indian juniors, their age and current ITF ranks, which I am compiling right now .. This year's junior schedule in the subcontinent (three Grade-5 events and 2 Grade-4 events) is not much better than in the previous years, though AITA mentioned last year that they will work on this .. the 5-week sequence starts Monday at Colombo .. The real action is 5 weeks later when we have the Brunei- Jakarta- KualaLumpur- Singapore- Bangkok sequence of Grade-3 and Grade-2 events .. I would hope that some Indian kids would consider going through that, if they can qualify for the events .. I have no idea if AITA or somebody would show the foresight to spend the money to send a couple of kids on that circuit, the closest and cheapest places to go to (the European, North American and South American circuits are even stronger, but those are too far away for our kids) .. Without that, there may not be much of a chance we would see some of our kids next year in the top-25 .. Typically, our kids' junior exposure to world competition has been very late in their junior period, normally only through the magnanimity of the International Tennis Federation who have taken Harsh, Vijay, Uzma, etc on developmental squads to Europe, after they all got stuck at near top-60 ranks .. We need to do better ..
Then comes another tough issue .. I heard recently that Shruti Dhawan is going to focus on studies right now (board exams etc), just as I believe Manoj Mahadevan did last year .. So have many kids at that age in India .. I can't complain about stressing academics (I am a univ professor, after all :-)), but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and decide to jump into the waters - the sky doesn't fall if one loses a year or two, though that argument is very hard for Indian parents to buy .. I am reminded of Mr. Bhupathi Sr telling me recently, about the trouble he has had in convincing the parents of some top-notch 14-15 yr old kids he had identified for coaching, about this .. Many foreign kids good at tennis routinely do this, but the peer and societal pressures that an Indian kid or parent gets for even thinking of putting sports ahead of studies, even if temporarily, is too much .. Well, those are our attitudes and I am sure many would disagree with my comments too - but these are facts .. Hey, if you are doing something, go all-out ! .. That should be the motto (that is one reason why fans like me keep going with this kind of website work and I type these things ad-nauseum) .. We will keep going back on these issues every now and then - nobody can accuse me of non-repititiveness .. As always, my opinions are to be taken with your own pinches of salt .. Sorry for the length of this piece .. I am in a good mood this morning after the two AO wins, and had a bit of time.
Anyway, back to the AO junior draws - the Asians on the boys' side are Wayne Wang of Hong Kong and Rameez Junaid of Pakistan .. Wynne Prakusya of Indonesia is 3rd seeded in the girls' draw .. Suchanan Viratprasert and Pichaya Laosirichorn of Thailand, and Remi Uda, Kaori Aoyama, Kumiko Iljima of Japan are the other Asians on the girls' side .. Keep an eye on the Canadian-Indian girl, Kavitha Krishnamurthi, the top Candian teenage player - she has a tough draw though right near the top seed.
Jan 24 Note-2
If MB and LP like living dangerously occasionally, it is a lifestyle when Mirjana and Mahesh get together .. As they have done many a time in the previous grand slams, they again did a high-wire act and pulled out a 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 win just now over Martin Damm and Karen Kschwendt .. The story of the match was how MB-ML just couldn't hold anything when Mirjana was serving .. Got borken in games 4 and 8 and the first set was over in a hurry .. In the second set, in game 3, Kschwendt was broken, but Miki obliged by giving it right back for a 2-2 tie .. Then in game 7, Kschwendt was broken again, and Miki once again dropped serve to keep it tied - at 4-4 (Mirjana by this time had dropped serve in her first four service games) .. Then MB-ML got a break off Kschwendt's serve for a 3rd time in a row to go up 6-5, and this time Miki sensed that the set was theirs for the taking - in typical style, she held, and it was one set apiece .. Then, they broke Damm immediately in the first game of the 3rd set .. Mirjana couldn't withstand prosperity and she gave the break back in the 8th game .. But just when it counted, MB-ML broke Kschwendt once again in game 11 to go up 6-5, and as usual Mirjana held at crunch time to win the 3rd set 7-5 .. The cardiac pair moves on .. This looked like a match where MB and ML found a way to win .. So, MB played 5 sets today and got 2 wins .. Not bad.
Jan 24 Note-1
Relatively easier win today for LP-MB, and they are in yet another grand slam quarterfinals .. I did not follow the match progress at the website, but Ajay Verma of the fanclub sent me (thanks!) the update on the match - Basically, LP's service games which looked oh-so-shaky in the last round, wasn't a problem today at all .. In the first set, LP-MB got a break in the 5th game to go up 3-2, and then cruised to 6-4 .. In the second set, LP-MB were up a break by 3-2 again .. Then in game 10, MB was serving for the match at 40-15 with double match points .. Did not finish it there and it was deuce, had a match point again at AD and once again fell a bit short .. Then they dropped serve, and all of a sudden it was 5-5 .. Soon it was a tiebreaker .. They traded two minibreaks each at first, but after it was 4-4, it looked as though our dudes decided enough was enough, and won the next three points to finish the match off .. 6-4, 7-6(4) was the final score .. The match took an hour and 29 minutes .. The others to win and reach QF today are the 2nd seeds Woodies, who won easily over the 15th seed Black/Stolle, #10 Kfelnikov/Vacek, who won a tough three-setter against Arnold/Vizner, and Reneberg/Stark (one of my dangerous floaters) who upset the 7th seeds Delaitre/Santoro .. LP-MB face Reneberg/Stark next .. Expect a good match! .. The other 4 final-16 matches should be tomorrow.
MB and Lucic should be coming out soon for their first round mixed doubles ..
Jan 23 Note-2
I have added a bunch of pictures, including one of MB and Fazal at the Davis Cup, and one of Srinath from the Asiad, at the pictures page .. Take a look at that and the pictures page-2 ..
LP-MB play their 3rd round doubles against David Adams and John Lafnie DeJager Sunday at about 2.30 pm - the 3rd match on court 2 .. That is 9 am Sunday, India .. 7.30 pm PST, Saturday night, USA .. Come on over to the chatroom during the match .. MB comes back after a couple of hours to play the 5th match on that court, with Mirjana Lucic against Damm/Kschwendt ..
16th seed David Adams (#34, RSA) and John-Lafnie DeJager (#35, RSA) are a good team .. They played together a bit last year and ended the year as the #75 team (DeJager's normal partner was Robbie Koenig, and they finished as #18 .. Adams played with several partners like Brett Stevens, Wayne Ferreira, Pavel Vizner, etc) .. After a couple of early losses this year, they have looked good so far at the AO .. Their win over Palmer and Tarango in the second round indicates that they are playing well .. LP-MB have 92 points (including 10 bonus) so far, and can take it up to 197 points with a win today .. Reports today quote LP to be saying after the mixed doubles loss that having to play only doubles from now on would not be a bad idea, as he is still bothered a bit by the stomach muscle and the left heel injuries.
At Ahmedabad, 3rd seed Boris Borgula (#353, SVK) beat fellow countryman Fillip Kascak (#967) in the final .. Cascak was a qualifier here, but don't let his low ranking fool you .. He was a junior top-5 player and was later in the top-350 as an 18-year old, before taking a break from the pro circuit .. He is still only 24 years old .. The two finalists play in the same Bratislava club, and this is reportedly the first win by Borgula (who turns 22 next week) over Kascak ! .. The experienced Indian travellers, Andrew Rueb and Todd Meringoff of the USA won the doubles title .. See all the results at the Ahmedabad futures page ..
The qualifying rounds must have started at the Mumbai futures today - No news yet .. There was a report this week that Srinath was thinking of skipping the Mumbai futures, as his achilles tendon still hurts .. After the QF loss at Ahmedabad, he felt that a week of rest before the three-week challenger sequence wouln't be a bad idea .. Not sure if he has already withdrawn from Mumbai.
Jan 23 Note-1
Not much to write about LP's mixed doubles match today .. LP and Katrina Adams were down a break quickly in the first set to Haggard/Callens, but they got it back to even it up at 3-3 .. Then it went with serve till the tiebreak which was over quickly at 7-2 .. In the second set, they dropped the second game and found themelves down 0-3 .. the best chance may have been at 2-4 when they had their opponenet to deuces, but Haggard/Callens held for a 5-2 lead, and it was soon over at 3-6 .. It semed to be a reasonably close match, but a straight sets loss nonetheless .. Final score - 6-7(2), 3-6 .. the good thing is that LP can now focus on just the doubles, and not get tired playing a lot of tennis.
Jan 22 Note-3
LP plays his mixed doubles match with Katrina Adams against Chris Haggard (RSA) and Els Callens (BEL) soon at the AO .. It is the 4th match on court 10 and should be starting by about 4.30 pm there (11 am Saturday, India .. 9.30 pm PST, Friday night, USA) .. Things seem to be running a bit late today though ..
There were a couple of nice UNI and AP agency reports today from Melbourne on the LP-MB second round match - the UNI report was in the the Hindustan times and Indian Express - here is the link .. The AP story appeared in the Times of India - here is the link .. Well, it looks as though there is no injury problems or anything that is bothering our pair much; we were all concerned why LP dropped serve so many times - looks like they just didn't play well, especially in returns and net-play at first, till the "magical play" at the end both at the net and behind as reported.
The AP story also writes, The pair also said their success has meant that there are more Indian journalists now covering tennis, and the public are really starting to get into it ... "I spoke to my dad in India yesterday and he said that our first- round result was reported in the paper and also people are getting excited by the fact that we are the number one seeds.'' .. Yeah! .. It is nice to see such coverage in the middle of all the never-ending cricket hooplah .. Tennis deserves, we fans demand it (:-)), and our newspapers are nicely obliging.
It gets better - here is a very nice article, Manisha: Good for Asian Games but not for Fed Cup ? , by S.Kannan in Saturday's Hindustan Times, exposing the mistakes in the team selection for Fed Cup (see also my comments in Jan 20 Note-1 below - Kannan seems to agree with the sentiments) .. Kannan has also revealed some insights into why they included Manisha in the team in the last minute for Asiad - I was wondering what made them change their minds .. The question is - will all this (well-deserved) criticism make them change their minds once more and include Manisha ? - Let us hope they do the right thing!
Jan 22 Note-2
I hate to complain about our newspaper friends, as I do believe that Indian press has been doing a great job of covering tennis lately. I fail to understand, though, why Nirmal Shekhar, one of the well-respected tennis writers in the world, gives such low importance to the matches played by Indians at the grandslams he covers .. He has an article in Saturday's The Hindu, which seems to literally cover every move by Enqvist and Rafter, but gives only a small account at the bottom with nothing much insightful about our Duo's hard-fought win today .. Here is what he had to say, "(Paes-Bhupathi) won on sheer guts rather than by virtue of any sort of glorious tennis. The pair, still a touch rusty - especially in service returns and at the net - staged a courageous rally late in the match to deny the Americans who twice served for the match" .. He says nothing about whether LP is being bothered by the injuries, if he is still using his altered service motion (something Nirmal referred to a couple of days back) - why he was having so much trouble holding serve, etc .. Nothing - only a few dispassionate comments on the match .. We know it's very rare that LP-MB play tennis below their standards, unless some injuries are bothering them, but no comments in the article about any of that .. I must say I get irritated seeing these screaming headlines about "Enqvist, Rosset Advance", etc .. Shouldn't Indian news reporters focus on Indian players a bit more (after all, they are seeded #1 - not just some small fries out there) ? .. Nobody else around the world writes screaming headlines on our players ! .. But then, I guess that's the reporter's prerogative .. All other newspapers get the stories on these "featured match-ups" from agency wire services .. What is the point in having one Indian correspondent out there (often Nirmal is the only one at some of these events) if we cannot get anything more than what AFP or Reuter wire story bits tell us in all other newspapers .. By the way, I have had a couple of folks write to me asking me to comment on Nirmal's lack of attention to Indian players (hmmm .. this page is now a mouthpiece for the tennis fans' opinions ? .. I guess.. Why not?..) I resisted commenting for a while, but just had to do it today! .. Having said that, I am sure most will agree that Nirmal writes very good articles on tennis.
At Ahmedabad, qualifier Filip Cascak and 3rd seed Boris Borgula are in the final, which will be tomorrow .. All the results are at the Ahmedabad futures page ..
Jan 22 Note-1
Man, what a fight .. This match came down to the wire, and LP-MB had to summon everything they had in the end to win a match that they seemed to have lost so many times .. I guess that's what champions do - when the going gets tough, the tough gets going ..
4-6, 6-4, 8-6 was the score in the three set comeback win against a spunky pair, Doug Flach and Marke Merklein .. For most of the match it looked as though LP-MB were playing Flach and Seguso, though .. Throughout the match, except for a couple of service games, our pair seemed to be in trouble when LP was serving - not sure if LP's serve or MB's net game was the problem .. In the first set, the trouble started when LP dropped serve in the 3rd game .. They tied it up with a break in game 6, only to find LP dropping serve once again in game 7.. They had several break chances in game 8, but couldn't force the issue and lost the set, even though DF-MM were not serving so hot, based on their first serve percentage near 50 (LP-MB hovered around 50 to 54% throughout the game, which is not that good) .. Our guys weren't ready to fold and forced a break immediately to go up 2-0 in the second set .. Now, it looked like DF-FM started playing even better, getting in close to 80% of their first serves .. And then, in the 7th game, LP dropped serve once again and we were tied at 4-4 soon .. After a hold from MB, the champions ganged up on their opponents in a sudden flurry to force a break and wrap up the set and tie it up at one set each .. LP seemed to start serving better at this point, and the 3rd set went with serve all the way to game 8, though a couple of times our guys wasted some break opportunities (6 of 17 in break chances in the match was a key stat for them .. their opponenets had a very efficient 5 of 7) .. Then the drama started, as MB, who had had 8 solid service games in the match till then, was down 15-40 in a hurry at 4-4 and dropped serve at the most unexpected and inopportune time .. The indian Express had dug themselves a huge hole, with their opponenets serving for the match .. Out came their fighting spirit - and there was the break, to even it at 5-5 .. The adventure didn't end there, as Leander who had held serve in his previous 2 service games (after being broken in 3 of the first 4 times in the match) had the bugaboo hit him again .. So, we were back to square one (that is, a huge hole once again), facing elimination with DF-MM serving at 6-5 .. the Dynamic Duo wasn't done yet - they broke them for a second time in a row to make it 6-6, by which time 4 games in a row had been breaks .. No tiebreaker in the 3rd set at AO, and somebody had to hold serve .. An ace from Mahesh clinched the issue and we were finally not facing defeat at 7-6 .. Our guys were smelling blood, went for a 3rd break in a row, jumping to a 40-0 triple match point lead .. After a few anxious moments, and giving away a couple of points, the Indian Express romped home with a hard-fought win which took 2 hours 20 minutes and left the fans all drained .. They had 6 aces to the opponenets 1, and had 9 winners to the opponents 2 .. LP-MB won 112 points to DF-MM's 108 .. Very close.
We will wait for reports from Melbourne on whether LP's troubling stomach muscle is bothering him again .. He is scheduled to come out Saturday for his mixed doubles match .. MB doe not play Saturday .. I expect the final-16 doubles match for LP-MB to be on Sunday, with the opponenets to be determined tomorrow.
Jan 21 Note-2
LP-MB are scheduled to play Flach and Merklein in the second round, Friday evening at about 4.30 pm at the AO (that is 11 am Friday, India and 9.30 pm PST, Thursday night, USA) .. Come to the chatroom during the natch for ball-by-bll updates .. MB and LP are not playing their mixed doubles first round matches today - those should be on Saturday there.
LP has a couple of scores to settle with his opponenets - the last time he played Flach (who was in Sandon Stolle's company), he lost at the Newport HOF tournament, where Peter Tramachi was LP's partner .. Then, of course, two weeks back LP-MB lost their first round match at Doha to Grant and Merklein .. It would be nice to beat them both.
The Woodies did manage a three-set comeback win in R1 at the AO ..
Got an email from a press friend (thanks!) with agency news from the Ahmedabad futures today .. Srinath Prahlad lost in the QFs in straight sets, to Filip Kascak of Slovak republic .. Sri was reportedly still bothered by the achilles tendon injury, and a few more days of rest till the first round next week at Mumbai might help .. He got broken once but broke back rightaway in the 5th and 6th games of the first set, but lost the tiebreaker with three double faults .. After trading breaks early in the second set, he started missing his shots by inches, and could not get back into it .. Not his day, I guess .. He does get three more points for reaching QF here, though .. In the semifinals tomorrow, top seed Messori (ITA) plays qualifier Kascak (SVK), and 3rd seed Borgula (SVK) plays 7th seed Hadad (ISR) .. Doubles news etc will be updated at the Ahmedabad futures page, once the newspapers come online.
Jan 21 Note-1
Big relief to see the Dynamic Duo winning a match in style, against a reasonable pair of opponents - LP-MB beat Kempes-Wessels 6-4, 6-2 in just 53 minutes to advance to the second round and face Doug Flach and Mark Merklein .. Today's match did not present our pair with any problems, though K-W played them closely in the first set, holding serve easily in their first 4 sevice games .. Both LP and MB seemed not to give any points on their own service either .. Then, at the right time, they ganged up on K-W to force a break in the 10th game to win the first set .. In the second set, MB started serve a bit shakily, and was taken to deuce once, but he held serve, and that was basically the last bit of resistence they faced .. After it was 2-2, LP-MB won the next 4 games in a row, forcing two breaks, to win the match..
One more of my dangerous floaters picks pulled an upset today - Kuerten-Lapentti beat the 13th seeds Norval/Ullyett .. 8th seeds Lareau/O'Brien losing in straight sets to Arnold/Vizner is one we couldn't have guessed (L/O have been in the final a couple of times at the AO) .. Seeds 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, are gone now .. Some of the high seeds such as Ferreira/Leach, Galbraith/Haarhuis, Knowles/Nestor, and Bjorkman/Rafter have had easy wins .. Delaitre/Santoro and Kafelnikov/Vacek were taken to three sets (see Jan 18 Note-1 for the draw info) .. As I type, the Woodies, finger injury and all is struggling, 2-5 down in the first set against a totally unknown pair - Dinu Pescariu and Nenad Zimonjic - but it's early and I hope the Woodies get back into it ..
Big upset in singles - Paul Goldstein, upcoming US player (came out of college last year, I believe) upset 8th seed Greg Rusedski, 6-4, 6-7(9), 7-6(5), 6-2 ..
Jan 20 Note-3
LP-MB will be playing their first round doubles match today as the last match on court 18 - it should be starting at around 5 pm there (11.30 am Friday, India .. 10 pm Wednesday, PST, USA) .. If they advance, their second round opponents will be Doug Flach and Mark Merklein (they beat Roig/Sanchez, 6-4, 7-6(6)) .. The reports are that LP is feeling much better after practice sessions yesterday - the first round doubles match won't be easy, but let's hope for the best .. Apparently, our pair was not so overjoyed about being seeded #1 (they are officially the #1 team in the world too, based on the individual ranks of the players, now that Eltingh has retired) .. MB said, "so we are seeded 1 .. but we are on a 4 match losing streak - it would be nice to get that first win under the belt" .. Frankly, our pair are champions who won't consider themselves to have reached the top till they win that elusive grand slam title, which is just a matter of time. It is the first time that an Indian pair is seeded #1 at a grand slam in history, though (LP and Neiland were #1 seeds in mixed doubles once last year, and LP-MB were #2 seeds once last year too).
There have been some upsets in doubles at the AO, mostly by the "dangerous floaters" mentioned in the Jan 18 Note-1 below .. Reneberg- Stark upset the 9th seeds Damm-Suk .. Mirnyi-Olhovskiy upset the 11th seeds Eagle-Grabb .. All of our dangerous floaters who played so far have also won, the others being Palmer-Tarango, Arthurs-Tramacchi, Novak/Rikl and Goellner-Prinosil .. Should we start a betting service for doubles ? :-) .. the only surprise so far has been the 12th seed Johnson-Montana losing to Grant Doyle and Ben Ellwood ..
Leander was also quoted in agency reports to be hinting that doubles is now his first priority .. I hope that doesn't mean giving up on singles .. Despite the nagging injuries that never seem to allow him to play his best tennis for any reasonable length of time, he is such a tremendous singles player when he is on .. Too early for him to put it in the backburner .. Knowing him, I am sure he has no such serious plans to drastically change his career and become a doubles-only specialist .. For the time being though, they both seem to be eager to establish themselves as the very best in doubles, and that has become the prioity.
Jan 20 Note-2
Good news from Ahmedabad - 4th seed Srinath Prahlad had a huge fighting comeback and made it into the quarterfinal with a win over Jocelyn Robichaud (Canada's best young hope - coached, by the way, by Dave O'Meara, formerly at BAT, and till recently Nirupama's off-and-on coach) .. After winning the first set 6-4, Srinath lost 9 games in a row and was 0-3 down in the 3rd set, when he decided to make a comeback, and won 6 of the next 7 games to advance .. Srinath has been showing this never-give-up fighting mentalty a lot these days and that is a sure sign of a winner - Our youngsters should watch Sri and develop that winning attitude .. Sharda Ugra of The Hindu says, "Flowerly language would call it `another arrow in the quiver' or an `extra string to the bow'. But the bald truth is that Prahlad Srinath has learnt how to win ugly" .. Sandeep Dwivedi says in the Indian Express, "Prahlad Srinath needs to file his nails ... First he dug a deep hole for himself with his own hands but then he amazingly clawed out of it" .. :-) .. The fact is that Srinath has really become a top-300 caliber player over the last few months and seem ready to firmly establish himself and move up even further .. The first seed Filippo Messori was too strong for Nitin Kirtane to overcome, and so Srinath is the only Indian in the final 8 .. No Indians remain in the doubles draw either, as Harsh Mankad and Fazal Syed lost today, with their foreign partners .. See the results at the Ahmedabad Futures page.
Also, I must add to my comments yesterday about Vijay Kannan's sixth first round loss in a row, that most of his losses were against higher ranked players .. He played well in all but a couple of those matches (the best match being the three-setter against Anthony Dupuis and the one disappointing loss being the one at the Islamabad futures to a qualifier Pakistani kid) - I had a note from a press friend who follows him closely that there is nothing wrong with his tennis and that he has all the requisite tools .. Just need to get mentally strong and "break out" one of these days .. I am sure he will.
Jan 20 Note-1
According to the Times of India, the AITA selection committee announced the Davis Cup team for next month against Korea in Korea .. No change, and it will be LP, MB, SP, FS, with Vijay Kannan as the reserve .. No suprise there.
On the women's side, the Fed Cup team for next month has NV, Uzma Khan, Sai Jayalakshmi and Shruti Dhawan, with Manisha as the reserve .. This I don't like - I see NO justification for not including WTA #506 and our #3 ranked player, Manisha, in the team .. Manisha is experienced (top-20 in US collegiate singles for 2 years and near top-5 in doubles last summer when she finished at Tennessee) and has shown a lot by making the biggest ranking jump of *any* Indian player last year to get right near the top-500, from just TWO tournaments - What more should she do to be in the team ? .. She didn't get a wildcard at the Delhi challenger, upset a top-400 player while qualifying in, and then won a main draw round too .. (BTW, Shruti would have benefitted from the match practice in the qualies, and giving her the main-draw wildcard didn't help her in the end, though it was a nice gesture to give her one .. The point is, this is professional tennis - the idea should be to improve our players, and it shouldn't be too difficult to explain it to our kids, though admittedly communication is not the forte of any Indian sports organization). Before that, in the only other tournament she played, Manisha reached THE FINAL of the UK futures, beating a couple of top-500 players. What more do we need, to consider her a PLAYER ??? .. All we are doing is trotting out the "crown jewel" of our junior program, Shruti .. The 16 yr old (oh-so-talented) is not yet ready for Fed Cup .. We certainly don't expect her to play, do we ? - then shouldn't we have Manisha instead of her in the team ?
If the idea is to win matches, Manisha is the one who should be there .. I would even make the argument that Uzma is not ready for the Fed Cup regional competition .. She has a great Fed Cup record the last 2 years, though in the lower group. But this is different, as we play the biggies in Asia in Group-I .. Uzma has scant experience in the higher-level competition .. In my (perhaps uneducated, as always) opinion, it was clear at the Asiad singles matches, that Uzma still needs coaching and exposure to top-competition (she has only played top-level competition in one futures and one challenger in her career - and she did not play the satellites in India either) .. After all, Uzma moved out of the junior rank only just now, and I am looking forward to seeing her get better in the US colleges soon - what I say is certainly not a knock on her, or her potential .. She should be in the team, no doubt, but I am not sure she should be our number #2 singles player, at this level of Fed Cup.
There is no doubt that Manisha, Sai and Archana have had the best results and experience from higher-level competition. Manisha should be playing .. At least in doubles with Niru .. Once again, Niru can beat most Asian players in singles, and our best bet to win any tie is to have the right partner for her in doubles, and no Indian is better than Manisha as Niru's partner (neither has anybody else played with her in doubles either). We should be going to the Fed Cup to win, not to give a boost to our young players, for which there are other opportunities .. I am all for Shruti - but if AITA cares for her, they should be sending her to many more junior competitions and coaching camps abroad, and should be bringing more women's futures tournaments where youngsters like Shruti and Sheetal can play .. Or, just shell out the dough and send her to Fed Cup as a fifth member, which is perhaps not against the rule .. Now, Asiad, which comes once in four years, was a place where we should have sent Shruti - and from all I know, nobody came up with the money, once IOC wouldn't pay to send her. We need to be professional about it - teams are made for winning, not for personal aggrandizement, or even to be nice to players .. I hope they would change their mind and include Manisha in the team .. I would go so far as to say that we are in bad shape otherwise in Fed Cup .. All just my opinions - indeed no offense meant to anybody .. I cannot claim to know anything more than the selection committee about where the players stand, and if the selection is based on that and not on other considerations such as giving Shruti a chance to watch Fed Cup and improve, I stand corrected on my opinions. I just do not see how Manisha is not in the team, simple. (How come every time I think I will no longer do this self-styled, armchair pontification, something that perhaps upsets people which I would like to avoid, I am forced to do it again?)
They have also announced the junior/subjunior probables .. The probables for the NEC World Youth Cup (16-and-under) are, Boys: Sunil Kumar, Benjamin Xavier, Anant Sitaram, Pratim Parekh, C. S. Mohanty, Vinod K. Sewa, Parantap Chaturvedi and P. Ravi Krishna .. Girls:T. Yamini, Liza Pereira, Mega Vakharia, Nandita Chandrashkhar, Y. Laxmi Reddy, Jitisha Shelarka, Samrita Sekhar and Geeta Manohar .. The probables for the World Junior Competition (14-and-under) are, Boys: Vikrant Sane, R. Arun Prakash, Devendra Singh Bhusari, Chatwinder Singh, V. Vignesh, D. Rohit, K. Raju, Wrik Ganguly .. Girls: Isha Lakhani, Sasha Abraham, Sania Mirza, Lata Assudani, Ankita Bhambari, Sharanya Pattabhi .. I like all four groups and can't think of any glaring omissions (may be Nandini Perumal or someone?) ..
Jan 19 Note-3
Pretty disappointing day at the Ahmedabad futures for our young guns - Harsh Mankad, Vijay Kannan, Vishal Uppal and Vinod Sridhar lost .. Vijay had the lowest ranked opponent and did play well, though he picked up his 6th first round loss in a row (Calcutta and Islamabad futures, 2 challengers, and now two futures) .. I keep waiting for somebody from that group (plus a few others like Saurav Panja, Mustafa Ghouse, Manoj Mahadevan, etc) to make a move up, but so far it has been pretty bleak .. They are getting tough match practice for sure, and one of these days - if we are lucky - we will see something .. But it's getting pretty hard to be excited about our 17-22 age group players' results right now, though it's not as bad as to lose all hope yet .. They all need more coaching, more confidence and more support.. We need to be patient, I guess, but sports fans are always an impatient lot :-) .. This season, starting from October, has clearly shown that we have several players who are firmly in the ATP 600-900 range, who rarely lose to those below that ranking, but none has emerged, as Fazal did last year (though he has not had a chance to crack the top-500 yet .. The most promising one from the subcontinent right now is still Aisamul-Haq Qureshi from Pakistan, who had a win over a qualifier in the first round and meets another qualifier now (Scott Barron who upset the 2nd seed Luke Milligan) .. Five of the eight qualifiers have advanced to the second round.
The good news is that Srinath and Nitin Kirtane won - the bad news is that Fazal has again had a first round loss .. Hope Fazal keeps his spirit up - he missed the 4-week Indian satellite due to an injury-related technicality, and now hasn't got any points from two weeks of futures - it would be really nice to see him do something in the last futures, next week .. Srinath beat Vinod Sridhar and Nitin beat Vishal .. See all the results at the Ahmedabad Futures page ..
Jan 19 Note-2
Oh great ! .. The ITF newsletter from yesterday says that the 4-week $20K Indian women's satellite circuit meant for next month has been cancelled .. In other words, AITA did not get the job done .. No luck in converting them to $10K futures events either .. Now we ask the question - what the heck are they doing about tournaments for women ?? .. The domestic circuit is supposedly canned, and now there won't be any tournaments for the women or what ? .. Much as I complained about the 4-week circuit and how one-week events with more WTA points were preferred, it had Rs 9 lakhs in prize money, would have given the women a chance at some match practice, and was better than nothing .. Now we have neither the satellites, nor any futures .. I know they will talk about the $50K challenger in late March, but that is getting done because of the sponsor, Flash-Sports .. Plus, it does not help most Indian women players as even the qualifiers will be pretty tough affairs .. We had 2 weeks of $10K futures last February, and have held no futures after that - now the season will be over by April, and the women players will lose several months with no match practice ? .. What are the plans for the Manishas, Sais, Rushmis, Archanas and Shrutis of the world ? .. Hello? - Earth to AITA !! .. Come in please ! .. WHAT THE HECK IS UP ??
Jan 19 Note-1
LP-MB are not playing doubles on Wednesday .. they should be playing on Thursday (tomorrow for those in the US) ..
Here is the AO mixed doubles draw that came out today - Leander has a new partner, Katrina Adams of USA:
1-P.Haarhuis(NED)/ C.Vis(NED) vs P.Albano(ARG)/ M.Bollegraf(NED) \ F.Montana(USA)/ K.Kunce(AUS) vs P.Tramacchi(AUS)/ A.Sugiyama(JPN) / \ D.Roditi(MEX)/ L.Wild(USA) vs N.Broad(GBR)/ A.Coetzer(RSA) \ / \ 8-P.Galbraith(USA)/ L.Raymond(USA) vs N.Kulti(SWE)/ M.Oremans(NED) / \_ 3-J.Grabb(USA)/ R.Stubbs(AUS) vs M.Mirnyi(BLR)/ S.Williams(USA) \ / | D.Orsanic(ARG)/ F.Labat(ARG) vs J.Tarango(USA)/ E.Likhovtseva(RUS) / \ / | T.Woodbridge(AUS)/ L.McShea(AUS) vs T.Kempers(NED)/ Y.Basuki(INA) \ / | 6-L.Paes(IND)/ K.Adams(USA) vs C.Haggard(RSA)/ E.Callens(BEL) / |_ 5-R.Leach(USA)/ L.Neiland(LAT) vs W.Arthurs(AUS)/ K-A.Guse(AUS) \ | E.Ferreira(RSA)/ D.Graham(USA) vs M.Hood(ARG)/ P.Suarez(ARG) / \ | A.Florent(AUS)/ C.Barclay(AUS) vs D.Johnson(USA)/ K.Po(USA) \ / \ | 4-M.Bhupathi(IND)/ M.Lucic(CRO) vs M.Damm(CZE)/ K.Kschwendt(AUT) / \_| 7-C.Suk(CZE)/ E.Tatarkova(UKR) vs J.Eagle(AUS)/ A.Molik(AUS) \ / J.DeJager(RSA)/ P.Tarabini(ARG) vs D.Adams(RSA)/ M.DeSwardt(RSA) / \ / K.Ullyett(RSA)/ N.Pratt(AUS) vs M.Tebbutt(AUS)/ J.Dokic(AUS) \ / 2-M.Knowles(BAH)/ A.Kournikova(RUS) vs D.MacPherson(AUS)/ R.McQuillan(AUS)/
Katrina Adams is a 30 yr old veteran with 20 doubles titles .. She is a good friend of Larissa Neiland's who has played doubles with her in 98 - also I believe both play for the same World Team Tennis team, the Springfield Lasers, in their spare time .. Katrina is ranked #25 in WTA doubles and was a long-time doubles partner for Zina Garrison-Jackson, and also for Manon Bollegraf .. She is the winner of the US national collegiate doubles championship for the Northwestern Univ in 1988 (which makes her the second NCAA champion to partner LP - Mahesh being the other) .. She is well-liked and respected by other players on the tour, and should be a good partner for LP ..
Mahesh is playing with Mirjana Lucic (ranked #20 in WTA doubles) again, which was expected after the success they have had in the past together, reaching the Wimbledon doubles final and the US Open semifinal last year .. Power tennis is what they will bring .. Miki has had a terrible start at the AO, though, losing 1-6, 2-6 to Emily Loit in the first round .. Check out our friends' (Mark & Prip) Mirjana Lucic homepage for an update on her .. As for the draw itself, the team that is suprisingly missing is Justin Gimelstob and Venus Williams who had grandslam titles together last year .. But the team that won the title at Wimbledon and at the US Open is there though - Serena Williams and Max Mirnyi, the pair who beat MB-ML at both Wimbledon and US Open .. By the way, MB-ML and LP-KA can meet in the final ! .. Galbraith and Raymond is another team to watch out for .. Knowles/Kournikova is an interesting team, but it's unknown how they will play together .. the mixed doubles action also starts in a day or two.
Jan 18 Note-2
Here is the little note from Nirmal Shekhar's article in The Hindu (exceprts): Leander Paes was a parody of the player who, last summer in the United States, won his first Tour event at Newport and then beat Pete Sampras at New Haven. Fighting all sorts of injuries - bone spur in his left heel, stomach muscle tear and what-have-you - the Indian Davis Cup hero was hardly ready for battle as he faced Sanguinetti ... As well as the Italian played - he hit some superb passes and returned very well right through the match - Paes was in no shape to challenge him, losing serve in the fifth and ninth games of the first and second sets, respectively, before throwing in the towel in the third ... The top ranked Indian had no rhythm on his serve - he had to change his service motion because of the stomach muscle injury - and his groundstrokes and netgame were unflattering as he played his first singles match in over two months .. Now, those are troubling observations by Nirmal, especially the part about LP having to change his service motion due to the stomach muscle injury .. I will try to talk to him and get the details .. He had talked about his hip/ groin/ stomach not hurting but needing more strength rehab a couple of weeks back - I didn't think it was that serious .. Oh boy!
At Ahmedabad today, two of the three Indians in the final round of the $10K futures qualies played each other and Nitin Kirtane beat Saurav Panja to move to the main draw .. The other remaining player was Sandeep Kirtane, who lost to Aisam Qureshi (Pakistan) in a three-setters .. Aisam continues to impress people .. the 18 yr old has endeared himself to the press so far with his good humor, not to mention his immense talent, despite all the worries about traveling in India with all the unnecessary anti-Pakistani brouhaha around in connection with the cricket series .. According to Sharda Ugra (The Hindu) he is a bit worried about going to Bombay next week but he says people have been very nice to him [but who cares about what the "real people" feel in India ? - but I digress] .. His grandfather Khwaja Iftekhar Ahmed played Davis Cup for India before partition, after all .. The main draw singles matches start Tuesday, and a couple of the Indians have tough opponents .. Fazal gets 5th seed Michel Kratochvil (SUI, 358) .. Wildcards Harsh Mankad faces the 3rd seed Boris Borgula (#355, Slovak Rep.) and Vijay Kannan faces talented Simon Aspelin (#573, SWE) .. Vishal Uppal plays Nitin Kirtane, and 4th seed Srinath gets wildcard Vinod Sridhar .. So we should have at least two Indians in the final-16, but hopefully a couple more .. A few first round doubles matches were done today - Sandeep and Nitin Kirtane lost to the 2nd seeds Hadad/Erlich .. Wildcards Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse also lost .. Fazal and Cedric Kauffman have a wildcard, and are staying together after their runner-up performance last week .. Sharda has some harsh words for AITA for granting a wildcard to a foreign pair, though of Indian origin - Bobby Mahal (CAN) and Sunu Thomas (USA) - over deserving Indians like Vijay Kannan and Rishi Sridhar .. "Mahal was scratched from the qualifiers for failing to sign up after paying his entry fee. However, to hand out wild cards on compassionate grounds is ludicrous especially since the AITA maintains that the ``internationalisation'' of the national circuit is supposed to benefit home players," says the Hindu correspondent .. I have no comments on that since I don't know the details .. I have heard good things about both Bobby and Sunu, though .. At least they didn't give one to some totally unheard-of foreigners .. Always nice to see the press getting to the bottom of things and keeping our sports authorities from getting away with anything :-) .. See the Ahmedabad futures page ..
Jan 18 Note-1
The doubles draw at the Australian Open came out today - here is the top-quarter draw till the semifinal (the Jan 18 individual rankings shown in brackets - I have also shown the year-end ranking of each team in 98, if they placed inside the top-400):
1-Mahesh Bhupathi [IND, 3] / Leander Paes [IND, 4] ( 2) \ Edwin Kempes [NED, 92] / Peter Wessels [NED,113] ( 37) / \ Francisco Roig [ESP, 42] / Javier Sanchez [ESP, 33] (---) \ / \ Doug Flach [USA,101] / Mark Merklein [USA, 84] (---) / \_ Jared Palmer [USA, 61] / Jeff Tarango [USA, 53] ( 56) \ / | Jamie Holmes [AUS,154] / Todd Larkham [AUS,169] (---) / \ / | Byron Talbot [RSA,126] / Slava Dosedel [CZE,160] (---) \ / | 16-David Adams [RSA, 34] / John De Jager [RSA, 35] ( 75) / |_ to SF 9-Martin Damm [CZE, 22] / Cyril Suk [CZE, 11] (130) \ | Richey Reneberg [USA, 37] / Jonathan Stark [USA, 43] ( 47) / \ | Menno Oosting [NED, 68] / Laurence Tieleman [ITA,135] (---) \ / \ | Lan Bale [RSA, 80] / Andrew Kratzmann [AUS, 64] (---) / \_| Fernando Meligeni [BRA, 88] / Andre Sa [BRA,132] (---) \ / Wayne Arthurs [AUS, 55] / Peter Tramacchi [AUS, 54] ( 36) / \ / Neil Broad [GBR, 33] / Andrew Richardson [GBR,201] (---) \ / 7-Olivier Delaitre [FRA, 12] / Fabrice Santoro [FRA, 20] ( 8) /
The good news is that the draw till the semifinal is not exactly a very difficult one - the bad news is that the first round match is not all that easy - that match is very important, as LP-MB needs to get a win under their belt after 4 losses in a row in previous matches with injury problems .. The year-end team rankings give an indication of whether they have played together much, and Kempes/Wessels have indeed played a lot of doubles together (with 400 odd points last year) - those kinds of teams can trouble you if you are not 100% .. I would have liked an easier team at first .. But I believe LP-MB are fine, and none of this is a concern.
The other seeds in the upper half are 4-Ferreira/Leach, 14-Florent/MacPherson, 11-Eagle-Grabb, 6-Galbraith/Haarhuis in that order .. the bottom half has [5-Bjorkman/Rafter, 12-Johnson/Montana, 13-Norval/Ullyett, 3-Knowles/Nestor] in quarter 3 and [8-Lareau/OBrien, 10-Kafelnikov/Vacek, 15-Black/Stolle, 2-Woodbridge/Woodforde] in quarter 4 .. Certainly, our guys have the easiest quarter on paper ..
There are some so-called "dangerous floaters" - Kempes/Wessel, Palmer/Tarango, Reneberg/Stark, Arthurs/Tramacchi in Quarter 1, Mirnyi/Olhovskiy in Quarter 2, Goellner/Prinosil, Kuerten/Lapentti, Gimelstob/MacPhie in quarter 3, and Novak/Rikl in Quarter 4 .. Watch out for them.
There is the sophisticated (:-)) arm-chair analysis of the doubles draw .. We keep getting better at this .. Of course, no group of fans in the world follow the doubles scene more closely than the Indian Express fans, right ?
The doubles qualifiers have all been completed, I presume, though I have not seen the results .. Nirupama did not make it to the women's draw .. Also, the mixed doubles draw is not out yet - it should be out in a day or two.
Jan 17 Note-2
Leander lost his match to Davide Sanguinetti (ITA, #49), 4-6, 4-6, 1-6 .. We followed the match closely, with the constantly updated stats page at the official website .. Basically Leander seemed to be a bit rusty on his serve at first and made 5 double faults in the first 3 service games - it was a somewhat close set, but DS broke him in the 5th game and served it off at 6-4 .. LP had close to 20 unforced errors in the first set itself .. LP seemed to play better at the beginning of the second set, till he served two double faults in the 7th game to fall back one break and then lose the set .. He took Sanguinetti to a deuce in the 8th game, but he held and took the second set at 6-4 too .. At this point, it seemed as though Sanguinetti, who himself had been making a lot of unforced errors himself to cut down on the errors and start hitting a few more winners .. He broke LP in the first game of the 3rd set and it was basically over at that point .. Despite the 1-6 scoreline in the 3rd set, LP did win quite a few points off DS, had only one double fault and did not seem to be falling apart due to any effect from the old injuries or anything .. For the match, LP won about 70 points to DS' 90+ points, which indicates it wasn't a blowout .. I am not sure if we should be encouraged by this performance - but I feel that he may be fine now for doubles play .. A Leander who is not near 100% has often lost even worse than this in the past - so I take it as a positive that he did play a reasonable match, after a 9 week injury period (he hadn't touched the racquet till 12 days back! - though I didn't say it here, I fully expected a loss) .. I am hopeful of doubles .. If you want to feel better, remember that LP lost 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to a not-so-hot Tillstrom last year at AO, when he was not coming off such a long layoff from singles! .. We will wait for any details from Nirmal Shekhar's report in The Hindu tomorrow.
The doubles draw is still not out.
The Asian challenge ended on the men's side, with the Asian wildcard Takeo Suzuki (Jpn, #115) going down after a huge 5-setter fight with 2nd seed Corretja .. He was even serving for the match in the 4th set when Corretja broke him back to take it to a tiebreaker and then pulled it off in the 5th .. Pretty impressive of the 22 yr-old Suzuki to be playing his first grand slam match on the center court against the #2 seed to pull up the curtains at the AO, and to do that much .. LP has a worthy one chasing him for the Asian #1 spot .. He plays in a similar style as LP too (according to LP) .. In this match he won 90+ points off 168 net approaches ! .. That style of play is not dead just yet.
.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Jan 18 ..