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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Jan 27, 2003
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Jan 27 Notes

Busy day for me, hence the slow update .. Nothing much going on in Indian tennis anyway .. The Delhi juniors has started but it rained today and only 2 matches were done..  That's about it .. More news tomorrow.

Jan 26 Note-3

Leander's post game comments: "I grew up, my whole childhood, watching Martina play, create history winning those many Wimbledon titles. I never thought I'd be on the same side of the net as her .. Her zest for life, her passion for the game is mind-boggling. I'm going to be 30 this year and I felt I was getting old. Martina has kind of rejuvenated my spirit for the game. I'm very thankful for that."

Like what we were all saying all the time didn't matter, eh?  :-)  .. Hey, we fans were saying for a long time that you started talking about getting old way too early .. Thank you, Martina! .. Come on Lee, now get out there and do the stuff that we all know you can still do pretty much like you were always doing! ..

I am so so glad to see the spirited Leander back out there .. This week was wonderful.

By the way, Martina's comment when she heard Leander say the above - "Wow, that's the nicest thing I heard all day, all week!" .. She also said, "The spirit goes both ways. Leander makes it fun to be on the court with, spiritually and of course tennis-wise. We both know how to play doubles, and that's what really makes it fun. I'm there where I should be and he's there where he should be, playing the right shots. It's sort of tennis the way it should be played. That's the most fun part of it all .. She continued, "I thought we had a chance. You know, you need luck. I think my lucky thing was running into Leander, intercepting him on the way to the referee's office" .. Well, nice words from a legend.

Here is the postgame press conference transcript .. There are some interesting comments from Leander in there about how there are more singles players playing doubles lately due to the new ATP entry schemes, and how that is already changing the game of doubles a bit ..

Jan 26 Note-2

Here are some picture .. LP and Martina walking out,  LP to serve to stay in the second set at 5-4, Martina celebrating after winning the final point, LP unable to stop laughing (:-)), the speech "we couldn't have done it without all you fans, blah blah" (:-)) by LP, Woodbridge speaking with Daniilidou behind, etc .. We were wondering in the charoom - what's up with Lee's hair these days? .. I think he is back to the same hair style he had while winning the Wimbledon juniors! ..

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Jan 26 Note-1

Was there any doubt? .. You have Martina on a mission to get that one grand slam trophy she doesn't have, and you have Leander playing inspired tennis all week trying to help her get that .. Yes, it was against a doubles legend on the other side, but we knew LP-MN would find a way .. And they sure did .. [F] (wc) L.Paes/ M.Navratilova d. T.Woodbridge/ E.Daniilidou, 64 75 ..

Here is the summary .. Daniilidou and Martina were having serious problem winning points while serving to or recieving serve from Leander and Todd .. LP showed his grit saving 10 of the 11 break points on his serve .. Danii won only 4 points on her 20 serves and probably only about 7 or 8 points were won when she received serve too .. That was the difference .. Martina held serve only once in her first four service games but she came through serving the final game for the match! .. Had no doubt about it, knowing the champion in her .. Here is the break sequence - [set1: ED broken in games 3 and 7, TW in game 5; MN in games 4 and 8],  [set2: ED broken in games 3, 7 and 11; LP in game 6, MN in game 8] ..

Here are the details, as observed at the online scoreboard (no chance for ESPN to show this to us in the US) .. Set-1:  They were up quickly with a triple break point and a quick break of Danii to 3-1 .. Then Martina started a bit shaky, with 2 double faults and faced four AD out break points, finally getting broken .. They quickly had Todd down at 15-40 and broke him at the first chance .. Now LP was down facing triple break pt .. He fought back and saved one AD out break point also to go up 4-2! ..  Once again they jumped all over Daniilidou's serve and converted the triple break point at the first chance .. 5-2 .. Martina again had trouble with a 15-40 BP and dropped serve .. 5-3 .. After Woodbridge held, LP-MN wasted 2 set points .. At deuce Leander came up with his fastest serve (189 kph = 118 mph) to Todd and got another set point, this time converting it .. Set-2:  Woodbridge was immediately under pressure in the first game and faced a double BP, courtesy a double fault .. He held tough and saved one more BP there .. LP also faced three break pts but he saved them yet again .. Now Daniilidou, who had not won a point on her two service games was up again .. She did win two points, but thanks to two double faults, she was down 30-40 .. Martina did the job on the next serve and it was a 3rd break on Danii .. At 3-1, Todd faced another double BP but he held again ..  Now it was time for LP to face yet another triple break point .. Again he saved a couple (by when he had saved 9 break points in a row on his own serve!) .. He fell at 30-40 and we were all even at 3-3 .. Daniilidou, who seemed to be having a horrendous day, had two more double faults and was facing 15-40 again, getting immediately broken .. 4-3 .. But Martina was unable to save a 30-40 BP in the next game too, and we were all even at 4-4 .. Todd served an easy game .. 4-5 .. The chatroom was nervous but we predicted - "count on LP holding, Danii wilting and Martina coming through" .. Exactly what happened .. LP had the second ace of the match in the 10th game, but had to saved yet another break attempt to hold serve to 5-5 ..  Danii was again under massive pressure, double faulting once more (her 6th time) .. She was facing triple BP again and serving to Martina .. The old lady could smell blood and she pounced on it .. Break to go up 6-5!! .. Now it was all up to the champion to do the honors .. Up 40-15 .. Horror, she double faults .. Second match point .. Piece of cake .. Match over!

Stats:  LP-MN had 2 aces and 4 DFs .. TW-ED had no aces and 7 DFs, all but one by ED .. 6 of 12 in break chances by LP-MN, but only 4 of 17 by the other team (10 of 11 break points saved by LP on his serve!) .. 79 pts by LP-MN and 71 by TW-ED .. This was definitely not a walk in the park. An hour and 37 minutes for the match!

I will have some pictures soon.

Jan 25 Note-1

Lee and Martina play the Mixed Doubles finals Sunday (that is saturday afternoon for those in the US) against Woodbridge and Daniilidou .. The start time is 11 am (5.30 am India, 7 pm SAT New York) .. Come to our chatroom to cheer the team on!

At the grade-3 junior ITF in Kolkata, Sanaa Bhamri went down in the final in straight sets to Thassha Vitayaviroj of Thailand .. See the Kolkata juniors page for scores .. It's interesting that Sanaa seems to make a lot of players look simply silly, and then occasionally runs into someone, reportedly getting overpowered and running out of options a bit - probably because she is still very young at 14 and is learning how to handle some of these players .. By the way, I heard today that Kartiki, the top indian 15 year old skipped the ongoing Indian events because of board exams that the school wouldn't let her skip.  I guess that may be why Tushar Liberhan also skipped the circuit so far.

In other news, the US college tennis season is getting underway in seriousness from just about now in the US .. They have a few tournaments, etc, before december but the meat of the schedule is from mid-January to May .. Uzma Khan, in her final year at UC Santa Barbara started the year with a #99 fall preseason ranking and moved to #78 in last week's rankings with a 12-2 record including two top-50 wins; so she is beginning to play to potential, I think .. Prakash Amritraj, who was #42 in the pre-fall-season rankings in september, is currently unranked as he did not play in the fall season .. He has started playing this month again for USC .. Rohan Gajjar who just joined the University of Arkanasas has made the starting six at the #5 spot and he started his career with a 63 63 win in the U.Arkansas-vs-U.Nebraska tie yesterday .. I am hopeful of Rohan's future in college tennis .. Another recent top junior who has just started playing, is Amanjot Singh at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette .. I was hoping that he would get to a slightly better university, but UL-L is not too bad and they do play a pretty decent schedule against a few ranked teams .. Amanjot started with an impressive 62 75 win over #70 ranked Victor Romero of Tulane last week and was immediately promoted to the #2 spot in the team! - he went down to #23 Benjamin Becker this week, but things are looking up for Amanjot .. Akshay Vishal Rao has a 13-1 record this year at the Binghamton University, but he has not had a chance to play any top-100 players yet, which is a requirement before you can make the national college rank lists .. So far this year, one Indian who has made quite an impressive run in the tournaments is P.Ravishankar, at the Univ of Western Michigan .. Again not a top program and not in a top college conference, but they do have a few ranked teams on their schedule and he will get a chance to play some higher ranked players .. He played a lot of tournaments in the fall and has a 17-6 record so far this year with two top-100 wins .. Ravishankar has moved into #110 in the rankings last week, the first time he is ranked, and then celebrated it by upsetting a #47 ranked player last week ..  On the girls' side a new entry this year is Nischella reddy, who is a freshman at the Univ of Minnesota - she has had a quiet start so far .. Stephen Amritraj (USA) is at the Duke University, a highly ranked program .. He has a 6-5 record so far (1-2 against top-100) .. He did play the #6 spot for Duke U this week in a dual tie; That is, when one university plays another; unlike the fall tournaments, where the players play regular draws, the dual ties which dominate the season from now on have 6 singles matches (1 vs 1, 2 vs 2 etc .. 3 simultaneous singles matches after 3 simultaneous doubles matches is the format) .. I will periodically update here how everyone is doing, and will see if anybody starts to make the Harsh mankad kind of noises here .. Prakash in his second year might do that .. Rohan and Amanjot are candidates to do that in a year or two.

Jan 24 Note-3

Big news! .. The 3rd wildcard at the Hyderabad Indian Open has gone to world #13 Chanda Rubin! .. Wow! - how did you pull that off, Hesh? .. World #13 at a Tier-IV event? .. Not bad at all ..

At the Jorhat futures, Ajay Ramaswami and Mustafa Ghouse won the doubles title .. Ajay has won a truckload of futures doubles titles lately, and Mustafa has always had good succes in doubles too .. No Indian presence in the singles final tomorrow, sadly .. Febi Widhiyanto plays Orest Tereschuk .. See the Jorhat futures page.

At the Kolkata grade-3 juniors, 3rd seed Sanaa Bhambri (IND,160) easily upset the top seed Montinee Tangphong (THA,133) to reach the final against Tassha Vitayaviroj (THA) who beat Marutha Devi in the other semi .. Sanaa is only 14 .. See the Kolkata juniors page for scores; due to none of the newspaper correspondents covering this event and without much news at official sources, I have been having trouble compiling the results from there, but I think I have got all but a couple of scores so far ..  The next two weeks of junior events at Delhi and Chandigarh will be covered much better I am sure ..

The one thing I don't like is that a few of our top (100 to 250 ranked) younger players are skipping these events .. For years we were screaming that we needed better quality grade-3 type events in India .. It used to be grade-5 level events with just one or two grade-4s till even a couple of years back, with much fewer points and not enought to raise your rankings to grade-1 type entry levels .. I also know that AITA was having trouble convincing ITF that they should grant higher grade events to the subcontinent a few years back .. Now we have got 6 grade-3 events in the subcontinent with three in India and what do we see? -- there are still players not trying to rack up some points and move ahead to higher levels .. I am still not sure why Ankita Bhambri does not play more juniors .. Not that there is anybody in these tournaments to hold a candle to her; she would win these events without dropping a set I am sure (like Isha did last year) .. So she has nothing to really learn from these, but without points at these events, one cannot get into the grade-1 and grand slam type events which is where she should be playing for a year to compare her own improvement against the level of tennis that the next big names in the world are reaching, as opposed to playing against the older jouneywomen players in the 450-600 range in the satellites  (I am repating myself way too many times, I know) .. Her younger sister Sanaa has played a lot of juniors so far, so I guess her parents are trying both approaches - one moving up into the satellite levels early and the other taking the long junior route so far .. Kartiki and Tushar Liberhan are among the others I had hoped to see in these events .. Sometimes it's due to academic reasons (exams) etc, so I am not sure why they aren't playing .. Another young name I was interested in is J. Vishnu Vardhan, but he is 15 and still has a bit more time .. The point is that picking up points in India early in the year (and getting a slightly spurious high ranking too :-)) helps your chances for entry and seeding abroad later in the year .. If you miss the perfectly timed early year events in the subcontinent, you essentially lose one year in the ITF juniors, in my view .. The parents are not going to feel gutsy enough to take a chance abroad to see where the kid's development is, and you lose your argument for AITA support for foreign travel to East Asian events, etc .. Compared to how much trouble kids in Indonesias, Phillippines, Taiwan and even China have to get going in the junior tour, the Indian kids have the best little tour to start the year with, but I don't thing all of them realize that .. I have said these things many times, but I guess it doesn't hurt to repeat - and as always it's all just my opinions for you all to think about and disagree with .. As they all say, there is never really one correct way in junior development in tennis - it all depends on the particular contexts.

There is a reason why Sania Mirza showed up in Pakistan for her very first junior ITF event over three years back .. PAKISTAN, for crying out loud! .. That said something about doing these things with seriousness and determination .. I wrote about it then (Nov 16 1999) - about seeing Sania there - she may pick up some very nice points for taking the "bus-ride" to Lahore, where even the Pakistanis seem to be scared to go (or so it seems!) .. Once again, fortune favors the brave, right ? :-) .. But, it is a good sign that Indian kids (and parents) are showing the hunger to go out and play .. You know my 2-cents bit -- "play, play more, play anybody, and play to win always" .. Hey, I was a prophet, eh? :-) .. Thought I would throw it in there to show what it sometimes takes.

Jan 24 Note-2

The Australian Open website says, "In a closer contest than the scoreline would suggest each team made just four unforced errors the entire match. But Leander Paes' brilliant volleying was to prove the deciding factor, he and partner Navratilova scoring 69 clean winners, many of those volleys from the Indian's racquet." .. So LP was indeed playing some inspired tennis there like we guessed ..  By the way, if they can pull off a title that will be something historic for Martina for a reason that I only noticed now .. Mixed doubles at the Australian is the ONLY grand slam title she has never won .. She has singles, doubles and MxD titles, at least a couple each, at the other three grand slams! .. AO did not have MxD competition at all for several years during the peak of her career .. Martina's 54 GS titles split (S,D,M) as:   AO: 3,8,0 .. FO: 2,7,2 .. Wimb: 9, 7, 3 .. USO: 4, 7, 2 .. Her very first GS title, incidentally was in MxD, with Ivan Molina at the 1974 French Open.

Jan 24 Note-1

They keep on rolling .. Today the 5th seeds bit the dust (a lot of it, actually) in some good old-fashioned shellacking .. The 46 year old and her  young (!) dynamo partner are in a grand slam final! .. [SF] (wc) L.Paes/ M.Navratilova d. #5 K.Ullyett/ D.Hantuchova, 63 61 ..  The match started with our pair breaking Ullyett in the first game .. They had Daniela holding after deuces for 1-3 and Ullyett going through a 7-deuce, 3-BP stuggle to stay alive to 2-4  .. Then Martina got broken once in the 7th game to fall back on serve at 4-3 .. That was the end of it, as our pair won 8 of the next 9 games .. KU got broken in the next game and LP made no mistake in serving out the set, punching in an ace at set point to boot .. 6-3 .. In the second set they again had Kevin Ullyett dropping serve to fall to 0-1 .. DH held serve once but that was that, as LP-MN got KU for a 3rd time in the match to go up to 4-1 and then had DH down 15-40 at 1-5 .. They finished it at that first match pt .. LP kept on holding serve without much problem except for having to serve a couple of aces on a couple of break points on him .. LP had 6 aces in his 5 service games .. 5 of 10 in BPs by MB-MN and 1 of 5 for KU-DH  .. 68 points to 49 points (identical margin as in yesterday's match which also went pretty much like this with MB-MN running away from late in the first set) .. The match took an hour and 7 minutes .. Impressive stuff though .. LP-MN have not even dropped a set so far in beating some of the best doubles players in the business - Bhupathi, Knowles, Ullyett, Likhovtseva, Hantuchova (all are players with grand slam titles or at least finals) .. What I notice so far is how many times they have broken the male server so far, and they seem to keep the male server'sserve totally under pressure all the time .. Leander seems to be playing some inspired tennis so far with Martina .. Now they get Todd Woodbridge in the final on Sunday, partnering Eleni Daniilidou of Greece.

This is Leander's first grand slam final since the USO mixed doubles in 2001 .. Actually his first final dince Mallorca with Mahesh 9 months back .. And this is something like the 458th grand slam final for Martina :-) ..

At the $50K Fullerton challenger doubles first round yesterday, unseeded Nirupama and Mashona Washington (USA) lost a heartbreaker today against the top seeds Conchita Martinez-Granados and Alina Jidkova, 76(5) 57 36 .. This was Niru's first pro doubles match in some 14 months; that she was able to take a very good pair like that to three sets in the company of a new partner, shows that things are beginning to fall in place for Niru.

At the Kolkata juniors, Chatwinder Singh went down today, but Sanaa and Marutha reached the semis yesterday .. See the  Kolkata juniors page for scores.

Jan 23 Note-2

Jeez, this is embarassing .. At the $10K futures QFs at the Jorhat claycourts today, we had Ajay Ramaswamy going against the lowest ranked direct entry in the field and 7th seed Vijay Kannan playing a qualifier .. Both of them got upset by their Indonesian rivals in straight sets .. What can I say? .. If we don't have RB or HM out there, it gets distressing .. When they were not there, I thought the other Indians would have chance to do that much better, but not so .. Yes, the filed was quite strong still, with a few top-500 players etc, and Ajay did upset the top seed earlier .. But it hursts when you see two Indonesians ranked below 1000 playing a semi in India .. Oh well .. In doubles, Ajay and Mustafa reached the final - yet another final with yet another partner, for Ajay .. So, that keep the Indian interest there for one more day .. See the Jorhat futures page.

Jan 23 Note-1

Here is a woman who played with Margaret Court - yes, the same legend they even have one of the show courts at the AO named after! .. When Martina played her first grand slam and rached the QF in singles, way back in 1973 at the Roland Garros, Leander Paes, her doubles partner today, and her two opponents, Mahesh Bhupathi and Iroda Tulyagaova, weren't even born! .. Heck, she had over 10 grand slam titles already, by the time 20 year old Iroda was born .. And here she is, all of 46 years old and still among the fittest out there, reaching the semifinal one more time .. [QF] (wc) L.Paes/ M.Navratilova d. M.Bhupathi/ I.Tulyaganova, 64 63 .. Unbelievable.

I don't particularly enjoy rooting for LP or MB over the other, and I decided to go to sleep :-) .. So I didn't follow the match .. It turns out that LP-MN were behind a break early and then traded breaks to 2-4 in the first set .. They basically took over the match from there on, winning 9 of the next 12 games with three more breaks .. They converted 4 of 5 BPs, to 2 of 3 by MB-IT .. LP-MN won 68 points to 49 by MB-IT .. 3 aces and 1 DF by LP-MN, 1 and 3 by MB-IT .. The match took 1 hour and 5 minutes.

Paes-Navratilova face the 5th seeds Kevin Ullyett (ZIM) and Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) in a Rod Laver Arena match at about 5 pm tomorrow (11.30 am India, 1 am NY)

Jan 22 Note-4

If you missed the classic between Younes El-Aynaoui and Andy Roddick at the AO, here is Rohit Brijnath in the Times of India - "The last man standing wins the match" .. Is there a better writer in the whole tennis world than Rohit?  I doubt it.

At the Jorhat futures, where Mustafa Ghouse got upset today, Ajay Ramaswamy took out the top seed Michael Elgin in three sets .. Also reaching the QF is Vijay Kannan, who is the only seed left in the top half which has Ajay also .. Both face Indonesian opponents in the QFs .. I hope they will win and ensure an Indian passage to the final .. Good to see these two coming through in the absence of RB and HM to keep the Indian flag afloat there .. All four seeds are alive in the bottom half .. See the the Jorhat futures page.

At the ITF grade-3 Kolkata juniors, the top seed Chatwinder Singh is the only Indian boy alive in the quarterfinal .. To be fair, a lot of our boys playing there are way too young to face some of the 17 yr olds out there .. Hey, we need Karan and Somdev back from Australia for the next two weeks! .. On the girls' side as many as SIX girls reached the QFs, with Sanaa Bhambri leading the way [correction: only three Indian girls made QF it seems; initial UNI agency report all bogus - I was surprised at some of those reported results] .. Check out the the Kolkata juniors page .. By the way, Chatwinder moved into the top-100 junior rankings as of this week at #96, behind Karan and Somdev in the 60s .. Chatwinder is a talented player too, and he turned 17 last month (which means this is his last year in the juniors even though he was just 16 till recently).

In other news, the Indian Davis Cup team for the tie against Japan week after next was announced yesterday .. No surprises - LP, MB, RB, HM with SKS as the reserve .. There was an announcement today that ITF now requires the teams to wear the nations' colors .. Damn, no more of scary fashion statements from LP like he had in New Zealand! :-)

Jan 22 Note-3

Quick note .. We just had a surprise chat session in our chatroom with Mahesh Bhupathi (who was up during the LP match, trying to find out how tomorrow's schedule will be and when he would be playing the MxD against LP-MN - he was bored enough to come to the chatroom!) .. Got some scoop from him, that Elena Likhovtseva will get the second wildcard at Hyderabad .. CGK is to announce it to the press tomorrow but with Hesh' permission I thought I may as well steal his thunder :-)

Also in the chatroom was Sania Mirza who came in from Hyderabad... She says she is working hard, and that she expects to play the qualies at the Doha event after the Hyderabad WTA.

That's the scoop! ..

Jan 22 Note-2

Can't believe that they started LP's doubles match at 1.05 Thursday morning at AO just now, after Roddick won a 21-19 5th set on Aynaoui .. The atands are all empty but the doubles QF got underway! .. Past 1 am?? .. Isn't there some rule against that?

Anyway, nothing much to talk about .. LP/DR went down 36 36 to 16th seeds Etlis and Rodriguez .. This was a no-contest from the beginning .. Lp was down 15-40 in the first game and dropped serve after saving two BPs .. Went with serve till the 9th game when Lp dropped serve again .. They could hardly tough the other guys' serve .. Only 5 points off their first 35 serves till late in the second set when they finally broke Rodriguez .. By then LP had dropped serve twice more in the second set and they were down 1-5 .. Pulled it back to 3-5 and took a couple of points off Eltis in rthe final game .. That was that .. Basically it looked like LP-DR were totally cold .. The long wait may have harmed their chances more than the other guys'!

Jan 22 Note-1

LP-Rikl were to come up in a late night match at the AO on the Rod Laver arena at about 10 pm .. It is a pain when they schedule a match as the fetured night doubles match after the featured night singles match .. El-Aynaoui and Roddick are at 10-10 in the 5th set, as of 11.35 pm in a 3 hr 50 min match; so if they start the doubles QF it can't be earlier than 12 midnight ..  LP is supposed to play the MxD against MB tomorrow too, and the doubles SF if he advances today - so this is a hassle if the QF match gets postponed now ..  But it looks like that is what will happen .. Why don't they simply move it to another court and just play the damn game? .. It's not like the spectators are going to riot if they miss a midnight doubles match.

On Nirupama Sanjeev's 67(5) 67(3) loss yesterday at the $50K Fullerton challenger .. First of all I should say I was encouraged by her play .. She is not fully back and is still rusty, but all the shots seemed to be there, except for the accuracy on the backhand side .. Her court movement was never a strength, and this is one thing that got a bit worse by mid 2001 right after she was at the top of her game .. She has lost a bit of weight in recent training compared to when I saw her at the Stanford WTA in summer 2001, but she can still use a bit more of triming down .. The best thing I noticed was that she was serving with a lot of power, and perhaps better than I have ever seen in that department - now that shoulder pain is gone .. The first serve looks like a cannon actually, but she is not hitting it with accuracy yet .. Her forehand seemed to be fully back, but she doesn't seem to have accuracy and confidence in her slice backhand; she still has that stinger of a shot, especially the slice that comes back almost kissing the net .. It worked in brief periods very well but was totally on and off, with quite a few hitting the net .. Confidence in that shot and the first serve accuracy are the main things she needs to get back to get the rust off .. She said later that the backhand was always among her most confident shots, especially in doubles where she plays the AD court (she gets back into doubles from this week and expects to have that things clicking soon) .. She was also rusty on her forehand lunge volleys while in serve-and-volley mode, but I doubt she was ever that strong in that department, to some extent because of the slower court movement .. The big positive is that she is finally feeling no shoulder-neck pain at all after quite a few matches of hard serving .. I would say if she gets the serve accuracy back, watch out - she will be back with a bang .. She had four aces in the second set, one even on a second serve, with a few service winners too, and Amber Liu simply could not handle her first serve .. I don't remember AL winning any points when Niru hit the first serve .. The problem was that she had a really low first serve percentage .. Those are all causual observations from a non-expert.

As for the match itelf, I was a bit late (I have a day job you know! :-)) and the first set was just going to a tiebreaker when I got there ..  Niru was behind a minibreak and evened it at 4-4, when a really poor line call on a ball 2 inches out gave Amber Liu a chance and she made full use of it .. Amber is a very young player, playing the junior circuit till last year and just joining the Stanford college program if I am not mistaken .. Not a flashy player but very solid baseliner, and of course a big retriever like a lot of the East Asian girls (though she grew up in the US) .. She was helped by Niru's mistakes all along, but to be fair she did earn a win with her solid baseline play .. Niru was of course experimenting a lot, all through the match .. She tried low volleys, high bounces, lobs, some delectable drops, forehand missiles, backhand stingers, everything - and the girl kept running around and hitting everything back with top spin .. That was nice to see .. Niru went up a break to 2-0 immediataly in the second .. After holding serve with a 7-deuce game saving 2 break attempts, she was up 4-1 .. This is when her backhand was at its best .. Then it went away and Amber kept going to that side (Niru getting upset at one point and talking to herself "stupid, it is just not working") .. There she lost 4 games on the trot with 2 breaks and suddenly Amber was serving for the match, up 5-4 .. The young girl simply choked there with Niru coming up with a couple of straight forehand return winners that must have caused the young girl to think a bit .. Amber had two match points, but one return winner and a choked double fault fault later, Niru broke back .. She held serve to go 6-5 and now was dictating terms with two Ad-out set points too .. To AL's credit, she got her composure back just in the nick of time and forced NS again to backhand errors (netted balls) .. We were in a tiebreaker .. After trading minibreaks early, a series of mistakes by NS, mostly on volleying while moving to the net, caused her to fall behind .. It was quite a good workout for Niru, as the match took 2 hours and 10 minutes ..

After the match NS said that she can enter 5 more events on injury protected ranking (wildcards also count in the 5, but not the events where she plays qualies as a direct entry - but right now she still needs more points before making even qualies directly) .. She is ready to do it the hard way .. I admire her resolve to do it.

In other news, Somdev Dev Varman went down at the AO juniors second round in a thursday morning match, unable to upset Guy Thomas (GBR) .. H elost 06 26, which is an unusually lopsided loss by Somdev's standards .. Still a good trip to Australia for him, picking up his first grand slam junior win over a top-75 player and a couple of good wins in earlier tournaments .. He and Karan get back for the Delhi and Chandigarh grade-3 juniors ..

Jan 21 Note-4

Quick updates:  Niru lost a tough one 67(5) 67(3) to Amber Liu, but actually looked quite good except for rusty mistakes .. I was there .. Will type up some details later .. At the Jorhat futures, 6th seed Sunil Kumar went down in the singles and then gave a walkover on doubles (hope the shoulder is not troubling again) .. Mustafa pulled a comeback and advanced .. I had updated the results early in the day at the Jorhat futures page .. At the Kolkata grade-3, Punam Reddy pulled an upset on the second seed and Madura went down in a surpise .. See the Kolkata juniors page (will add doubles results from tuesday later) .. Later .. Gotta sleep.

Jan 21 Note-3

At the $50K Fullerton challenger, Nirupama Sanjeev got a relatively good first round match .. She faces a young wildcard, Amber Liu (USA,413), this afternoon (Tuesday) .. In doubles, Niru is playing with Mashona Washington (USA), but they have a tough first round on wednesday against the top seeds Conchita Martinez-Granados and Alina Jidkova .. This will be her first professional doubles match since late 2001.

In one of the evening matches at the AO, our young boys made a valiant comeback against the 5th seeds but fell in the end .. [R1] K.Rastogi/ S.K.D.Varman l. #5 Andis Juska (LAT)/ Michael Zverev (GER), 16 61 46 .. The first two sets were mirror images with the roles reversed, as they traded 6-1 sets, with 51 total points each, as they went to the 3rd set .. It was impressive to see how our boys got a grip in the match so fast in the second set with three breaks, after dropping serve three times in the first .. Karan Rastogi served his first ace while behind at 0-30 in the first game of the 3rd set to show that they still meant business .. It went on serve till 3-3 .. Somdev faced two break points in the 3rd game which he saved, but he dropped serve with a double fault at 30-40 in the 7th, to fall to 3-4 .. That seemed to be the first and only mistake our boys made since the start of the second set, and they paid the price for that .. Our boys seemed to get a bit deflated there, allowing a love game to the others .. Karan did slam down another ace in the 9th game and made it 4-5, and then they saved one match point in the 10th game, but it was over .. Again, a pretty good match against a top seed, like Karan's singles match earlier, but no cigar ..  Somdev will be back tomorrow for his singles R2.

Jan 21 Note-2

I thought the old lady and her Indian partner would at least have to sweat a bit to get past the 3rd seeds .. As it turned out, if they were sweating it was only because of the summer heat out there, as the match became a no-contest, once again making us wonder if the old lady is ever going to get old! :-) .. [R2] (wc) L.Paes/ M.Navratilova d. #3 M.Knowles/ E.Likhovtseva, 62 64 to reach the QFs .. The match took just 58 minutes .. LP-MN broke Knowles in the 1st and 5th games in the first set, and once again in the 5th game of the second .. That was the match, as all a frustrated Knowles could do was to send a paltry ace, his first, past Martina while looking at defeat at 26 35! ..  LP-MN never really had much trouble on their serves except in the very first game from LP - after which it seems like most of his service games were won at love .. LP-MN won 61 points to 43 by the others .. 3 of 6 in break chances by our guys, 0 for 4 by the others ..LP had a couple of aces and his fastest serve at 115 mph came while serving for the match at love .. How about that? .. I think LP really wanted that quarterfinal date with his old buddy Mahesh :-)

Somdev and Karan come up in boys' doubles at about 4 pm there (10.30 am India)

Jan 21 Note-1

At the Australian Open, LP-Navratilova have just started playing at 2.10 pm (8.40 am India) .. Come to the chatroom to follow the match ..  Somdev-Karan come up later in boys' doubles ..

In the junior draws at the AO this morning, Karan Rastogi went down fighting in a very good R2 match against the world #5 Mathieu Montcourt (FRA), the fourth seed, 46 57 .. This was a completely even match till very late in the second set - when Karan had won 66 points and Mathieu 67 and was up a break, before the French boy made a late charge to a win .. That it took an hour and 40 minutes to complete a two-setter, shows the kind of fight in the match with many games going really long .. Karan's biggest problem was converting break chances, as he had them in all but a couple of service games from Montcourt .. He converted only 4 of 16, compared to 6 of 12 by MM .. In the second set, Karan wad down on serve at 3-4 at 15-40 and showed good poise to stay in the match, hitting a couple of winners to hold serve .. He then went on a minor run broeaking MM at ADout in the next game and going ahead 5-4 .. This is when MM stepped it up a notch to win the last three games and take the match .. The play did not seem pretty, in that both kids made over 30 unforced errors each to go with less than 20 winners each .. One stat that I noticed is the best serve speed Karan had, 170 kph (106 mph) which is pretty good for someone who just turned 16 .. Actually he had a better fastest serve than Moncourt, though a lower first serve speed average - KR must have been cleaner in his serves too, as he only made two double faults to MM's 10 .. Anyway, overall I am not too unhappy at how Karan did .. Having stayed in the match till the very end against a very talented top junior can only help Karan's confidence .. He may still need to learn to let loose at key points in the match, but things seem to be coming around nicely now .. Go kid, go.

As for yesterday's matches, there was some nice coverage by Nirmal Sekhar in The Hindu in his article from the AO today .. I know I complain about Nirmal all the time for not caring for doubles (rarely covering much of it), but we have to give him props for being true to his principles and sticking to his guns, after all this is where world tennis is going .. He was out there covering all details of the singles matches for the two boys - here is what he said, At long last there was some success for Indians in singles here, and it came in the boys championship on Monday. Somdev Dev Varman and Karan Rastogi won their first round matches in contrasting styles on adjacent courts in the "outback". Dev Varman fought back with courage and skills for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the chunky Rick Schmidt of Germany even as Rastogi made short work of the Australian Lachlan Ferguson 6-2, 6-2. After losing a close first set, Dev Varman broke Schmidt's serve in the eighth game of the second but lost his own service game when serving for the set, positioning himself rather poorly for a smash on a crucial point. But the boy from Chennai went on to break the German's serve in the next game to take the set and then came back from an early break down in the decider to win five games in a row, three of them on his opponent's serve. Hitting superb winners with his double-handed backhand and calling the shots from the baseline, Rastogi was in command from the start. There was the brief hint of challenge from the Australian early in the second set but the Indian broke to 4-2 and never looked back .. Thank you, Nirmal, for going to the outer courts and covering our boys' matches in detail!

I have added the results from the "Pepsodent-ONGC" ITF Grade-3 juniors on the DKS courts, in the Kolkata juniors page .. No surprises Monday, except for the 6th seeded Thai kid falling in the boys' side .. Chatwinder, Rupesh, Sanaa, etc, moved on ..

Jan 20 Note-2

The India F3 futures started in Jorhat today on claycourts .. This one has Indian Oil Corp. as the title sponsors, I believe .. A little bit of a bummer that Harsh and Rohan decided to skip the event - probably because the Davis Cup is on grass and they chose not to get on to clay just for just a week .. Sunil Kumar, Vijay Kannan, Ajay Ramaswamy, Manoj Mahadevan and Mustafa Ghouse will lead the Indian charge in Assam .. Half of the first round got done today with Vishal Uppal falling to a Swedish qualifier and with Vijay Kannan getting past Vishal Punna 75 75 .. See the Jorhat futures page for all the scores.

Also starting today is the grade-3 ITF junior international in Kolkata, at the DKS courts .. I have not seen the results from today yet .. There was an interesting item in the newspapers yesterday about the qualies, that I wanted to mention .. Ramesh Krishnan is there with his 13 year old daughter, Gayatri Krishnan .. As The Hindu said, RK could have easily got a wildcard for his daughter but he chose not to do that, rather asking Gayatri to play the qualies .. I am not sure but this could be her first ITF event, and it is commendable that RK decided that it was better to play the qualies and see how it goes than to jump in and take wildcards and all that .. The sad thing was that Gayatri lost 46 46 in the final qualifying round to 15 yr old Asha Nandakumar .. Worst still, there were three lucky loser spots into the main draw which they decided by lot from among the four final Q losers .. Guess who misses out - Gayatri! .. Hope the little girl has taken it well - things aren't going to be that bad always; you know fortune will eventually favor the brave .. By the way, Gayatri is ranked 5th in the AITA u14 rankings .. She is talented but it's fair to say that she has not had earthshattering results yet but she has been doing very well in a lot of junior zonal events etc .. But having the national Davis Cup captain, a former top-25 player, as a traveling coach has to help her down the line! .. 13 yr old E.Ashmita, #3 in the u14 rankings and #1 in the u16, was one who qualified in with a nice 3-set win over a Russian girl .. See the Kolkata juniors page I have started .. Will add more later there.

Jan 20 Note-1

An excellent day at the Australian Open, as all four matches with Indians ended in wins for our guys .. As I was out, I don't have any match reports today, except some stats off the AO site .. First the AO updates .. All the rest of the news, on the Jorhat futures, Kolkata grade-3 juniors, etc, coming soon today.

Leander and David Rikl advanced in a 1 hour 40 minutes match against James Blake (USA) and Mark Merklein (BAH) .. [R3] #9 L.Paes/ D.Rikl d. J.Blake/ M.Merklein, 64 46 62 .. LP-DR seem to have served quite well in the match, with 6 aces and service speeds up to 201 kmph, which is a bit unexpected - both of them being not known as hard servers .. They also had no double faults .. JB-MM had 4 aces and 4 DFs .. Converting 4 of 6 break points and staying tough saving 5 of 6 BPs in the first and 3rd sets, was the key for our guys .. For the match, LP-DR were 5 of 10 in BPs, while the other guys were 3 of 8 .. Somewhat of a close match with 85 points won by LP-DR to 73 by JB-MM, but our guys seem to have played more solid tennis with just 1 unforced error to 8 by the other guys .. DFs and UEs seem to be the primary difference in there .. Good to see LP-DR startung off their partnership with a QF in the first grand slam together .. 250 points for them so far - and they both can use all the points right now .. In the QF, they face the 16th seeded pair from Argentina, Gaston Etlis and Martin Rodriguez .. The second seeds Bryans and the 5th seeds Damm/Suk fell and the 6th seeds Black-Ullyett got upsets in the PQFs, but top seeds Knowles-Nestor and 3rd seeds Johnson-Palmer are in the QFs .. Actually LP-DR is the 3rd highest ranked team left now.

Mahesh seems to have a good new partner in mixed doubles, in Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan .. They reached the QF today with a super-tiebreaker win .. [R2] M.Bhupathi/ I.Tulyaganova d. Nathan Healey (AUS)/ Evie Dominikovic, 76(6) 16 (10-3) .. The stats in this match were all quite well skewed in favor of the other team .. MB-IT had 1 ace, 4 DFs and 12 DEs to the other team's 6, 4 and 8 by NH-ED .. 76 points by our team to 82 by the other team .. 1 break out of 3 chances by MB-IT, 3 of 7 by the others! .. But the super-tiebreaker was a different story, as Hesh and Iroda came up big when it counted winning all 7 of their service points and winning three minibreaks on the others' 6 serves .. Though it worked out for Mahesh today and I am happy for that, those stats show why super-tiebreakers should not be used in tennis .. A team that had lost the first set 50 points to 52, and won the second set 29 to 14, should not have to lose because of a couple of good second serve returns from across the net in a supertiebreaker! .. The set tiebreakers are not a bad idea at all, and it was introduced some decades back with some good thinking by some smart people who knew what they were doing .. Supertiebreakers is just crap; it has no place in top-level tennis .. OK, it's only mixed doubles and I can probably live with AO using it just for MxD .. MB-IT could have Leander-Martina in the Quarterfinals, if LP-MN can upset the 3rd seeds Knowles-Likhovtseva in the R2 .. Mahesh will definitely see a former partner across the net in the QF :-)

Talking of super-tiebreakers, there was another R2 match where Joshua Eagle and Barbara Schett lost a match in similar fashion, 46 61 (7-10) .. Lost the first set 25-31, dominated the second set 26-14 and lost on just two unforced errors in the supertiebreak .. I have mentioned many times how the total points won in a match is almost never in favor of the losing team .. You could check some 50 matches and you will be hard-press to find even one or two with such results, even in games involving final set tibreakers or many tiebreakers .. That is the beauty of set tiebreakers which almost never causes unfair results .. That is not at all the case with supertiebreakers .. The two examples I gave are not exceptions but rather the rule .. So far at the AO, there have been 6 supertiebreaker matches, and 5 of them have gone to teams winning fewer points .. It is just wrong ..

Anyway, back to results -- and very nice win by #72 Somdev Dev Varman in the very first grand slam juniors he has played .. [R1] S.K.D.Varman d. Rick Schmidt (GER,71), 57 64 62 .. Schmidt is quite a talented kid, though only 15 years old .. Somdev next faces 18 yr old Guy Thomas (GBR,52) who upset the 9th seed Scott Oudsema (USA,17), 63 62 .. That will be a tougher match .. #63 Karan had an easier first round - [R1] Karan Rastogi d. (wc) Lachlan Ferguson (AUS,214), 62 62 .. He has a much tougher second round match against the 4th seed, Mathieu Montcourt (FRA,5) .. On the girls's side I had hoped that Isha would be playing .. But she is not there .. As I had reported earlier, Sania is in a training stint right now and skipped the AO .. But it's good to see both the Indian boys advancing to the second round in a grand slam.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Jan 20 ..

I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.