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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Jan 28, 2002
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2001)

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Jan 28 Note-1

Rohan Bopanna easily qualified into the main draw at the $15K Abu Dhabi F2 futures, with a 62 63 win over Alexander Jakupovic (GRE,824) today .. Vishal Punna went down 26 67(3) to Wijnmalen of Nederlands, but it was still a very promising outing for unranked Vishal to reach the final round of qualies with wins over those like Laurence Tieleman .. Bopanna took the spot of the original 7th seed Jarislaw Levinsky who withdrew due to injury after the qualies started, the spot thus going to a qualifier .. He plays #308 Filippo Messori (ITA) who is the highest ranked unseeded player though, tomorrow at 10.30 am .. In doubles, Rohan is in the main draw with the talented Taiwanese youngster, Yen-Hsun Lu, and they play the 3rd seeds Leonardo Azzaro (ITA) and Marco Chiudinelli (SUI).

If you are wondering what our women players are up to - none of them have started playing much in the pro events this year yet, except for Manisha who was in a qualies in New Zealand a couple of weeks back .. I don't think anyone is playing this week but I will confirm that later.

Jan 27 Note-2

Had a phone call with Harsh Mankad .. He says he is not sure if the wrist problem that kept him away from today's college tie is a repeat of a wrist tendinitis he had after playing a few weeks of pro events last summer, which had returned a few times during the fall but did not bother him much .. During practice yesterday he suddenly felt a sharp pain on his wrist while returning a hard-hit ball .. He was in a good bit of pain today and the trainers decided to rest him .. He will see the doctor tomorrow and we will know what's up.

Good news from Abu Dhabi .. Rohan Bopanna and Vishal Punna have reached the final round of qualies for the $15K futures .. Rohan, seeded 2nd in the qualies beat Sunil Kumar, 62 61 in the second round .. Vishal Punna is turning into a bit of a story .. He was the only Indian to get to second round last week, and turned a great performance yesterday to upset Laurence Tieleman .. The 17 yr old Vishal is unranked in ATP (he had stopped playing junior ITF events since turning 16 in mid-2000 and has only played a few of the pro satellites and domestic events since then) .. He came up with another good win today - against Febi Widhiyanto (INA, 997), 75 46 63 .. Vijayendra Laad went down to Pavel Ivanov (RUS,82) today .. In the final qualies, Rohan plays Alexander Jakupovic (GRE,824) and Vishal plays Boy Wijnmalen (NED,1110) ..

The grade-4 ITF junior international starting in Chandigarh on Monday .. According to the Chandigarh Tribune, in an interesting twist in the draw, last week's finalists Saurabh Singh and Tushar Liberhan will meet in the first round .. Amanjot Singh is the top seed in the boys' draw and he has drawn Chatwinder Singh, last week's semifinalist .. I don't like these guys having to play in the first round itself .. Tushar gets a chance for revenge and Amanjot better watch out against Chatwinder Singh .. Megha Vakharia joins on the girls' side as the top seed .. The qualifiers from today are, for boys: Lior Barbash (ISR), VM Ranjeet (IND), Asif Choea (ISR) and Edwin Gerad (USA), and for girls: Asha Nandakumar (IND), Rui Du (CHN), Sun Sheng (CHN) and Isha Toor (IND).

Jan 27 Note-1

The U of Minnesota website says that Harsh Mankad has a wrist injury and had to be on the sidelines and watch the university's tie today against the U of William & Mary .. Will need to find out what is up - let us hope it is not anything serious .. With Davis Cup in 12 days and Mahesh nursing a hip problem, we don't need more bad news.

Jan 26 Note-2

The Abu Dhabi $15K F2 futures qualies started today .. Rohan Bopanna is there, and is the second seed with a Q1 bye in the 3-round qualies .. I had complained last week about how few Indians had gone there - it turns out that Rohan could not get a visa on time to go last week .. Good news today from Indians -- Big win for young Vishal Punna who upset Laurence Tieleman (who was in the top-100 just a couple of years back and a qualifier last week in the F1 there) by a score of 75 63!! .. Sunil Kumar moved to Q2 with a 63 30 (retd) win over Jimsher Enukidze of Georgia .. Vijayendra Laad beat local guy Nader Mohammed from UAE easily, 62 61 .. Md Yasser Arafat from Hyderabad lost to Hendri Pramono (INA,1141), 26 36 .. In the Q2 round, Sunil Kumar plays #2 Bopanna (cool match!), Laad plays Pavel Ivanov (RUS,820) and Vishal plays Febi Widhiyanto (INA,997) .. Thanks go to the anonymous friend transmitting the news from there.

Harsh Mankad, ranked #2 in singles in the US colleges, started the spring college tennis season last night with a tough two-set win over the #88 college player, to help the 32nd ranked Univ of Minnesota, upset the #7 ranked Notre Dame Univ .. His record for the year is 13-1 and this is the 10th or 11th win over a top-100 college player for him .. Harsh had to pull off a 76 64 win late at night to break a 3-3 tie between the teams after the earlier matches ..  Unranked Mankad/Haug had already upset the #6 ranked doubles team to win the doubles point after a 1-1 tie in doubles as well .. In college tennis, winning two out of three doubles matches count for one point, there being 6 singles matches, #1 vs #1, #2 vs #2 etc on either side with each of the singles win counting for one point .. Mankad played continuously for 3.5 hours last night, and said he was rather surprised that he was feeling unusually strong even at the end .. Actually he had told me last month that one of the advices from Ramesh Krishnan was to play longer periods continuously every day to build up on reserves and be ready for the 5-set kind of matches needed in Davis Cup .. Harsh had said that he was going to do that during the December break and it seems like he has been doing just that (and I also think he took it personally that he cramped up in the 5th match against Japan and lost it in three sets after being up a set and a break over top-200 Motomura, though I think it may have been because of all the standing up and clapping and cheering during LP's barnburner 5 set comeback upset of Suzuki) .. He will play one more college tie before taking off to Lebanon for Davis Cup next weekend - Anyway, it is good that he is getting a bit of match practice before getting to Lebanon - it would be worrying for him to get there without having played matches for a couple of months altogether.

Back to junior news - from the ITF grade-3 last week in Delhi (see all the results here):

Saurabh Singh ended Tushar Liberhan's run in the final at the grade-3 junior ITF event in Delhi yesterday, by a 62 62 score .. Tushar had looked good all week with his "no-nonsense tennis" as one newspaper correspondent said (actually another newspaper friend wrote to me recently after watching him at the DSCL that Tushar has the Harsh Mankad style of solid game and temperament) - he has reportedly improved a lot in the last few months and has improved in accurate ground strokes .. Saurabh on the other hand had beaten in the semis, by an almost-shocking 61 61 score, Dor Wertheimer (ISR) who had beaten top seed Jaco Mathew and 6th seed Somdev Dev Varman in straight sets earlier .. Saurabh did not let Tushar get going in the final.

I have watched Saurabh Singh from when he appeared in the ITF rankings as a 14 year old three years back, but he has moved up only rather slowly in the rankings .. This is really the first "big splash" title from him - and it is a big one! .. His best before this were grade-3 QF appearances in Malaysia and Thailand last October and a grade-4 Semi last January in Delhi .. He played a few events around the world last year, and seems to have got battle-hardened a bit .. The newspaper reports talk about his serving accuracy (he is a big server) to have improved, as well as about some work he has been putting in on physical development under  the direction of coach Kawaljeet Singh in Chandigarh .. His 6-best point total goes from 115 to 165 and he will shoot up from #158 to inside the top-85 with this win .. That will place Saurabh as the #2 Indian behind Amanjot Singh (also a Kawaljeet Singh product, as was Sunil Kumar - though Amanjot seems to have stalled a bit over the last year or so) .. Saurabh was only 16 till a month back, but this will be his last year in the u18 juniors, as the age on Jan 1st is what determines the junior eligibility in a year .. The runner up, 15 yr old Tushar Liberhan is also from Chandigarh and seems to be among the ones to watch for the next two years in the juniors with Karan Rastogi being the other .. He increases his points from 50 to 95 and should go up from #291 to around #175 with his Delhi results .. The 3rd Indian in the semifinals, Chatwinder Singh (yet another CLTA find from Chandigarh, who if I am not mistaken, had moved to BAT in Chennai) moves up nearly 150 points to near top-250 .. He has one year left in the juniors after 2002 - and he is also one to watch carefully ..

On the girls side, what can one say about 16 yr old Isha Lakhani? .. She has only played four ITF junior events in the last one year (the Chennai and Mumbai grade-4 in September and the Asian Closed in Delhi in December), winning three titles and reaching the QF at the Asian juniors .. A 16-1 record .. Actually before that she had played only two ITF events which were in Sep of 2000 in India when she reached QFs both times (a three-set loss to Sania Mirza remains in my mind) .. A 20-3 record in the ITF junior career is something special .. Her only loss was at Asian juniors; a three-set loss due to an injury problem to Pichaya Laosirichon of Thailand, whom she had beaten flatly 62 60 two months earlier .. Her point total goes up to 180 from 120 and that places her as the #2 Indian behind Sania Mirza, ahead of Megha Vakharia .. She is 16 and has one year left after this - hopefully she will get to play all seven grand slam juniors from now on .. She will need to pick up another 60 to 80 points more from a couple of good showings soon, to move into the top-50 and qualify for that .. I don't know what is going on with her situation, regarding foreign travel, etc, though .. Then there is 14 yr old Kartiki Bhat - she will now move up about 300 spots from #576 after having played only two ITF u18 events, starting with the grade-4 in Sri Lanka last week when she made the semi .. She is 3 months younger than Sania and has three years remaining in the juniors .. Her upset of the second seed Sanaa in the semis was a significant result, and she gave Isha a run for the money in a 46 64 46 match .. Kartiki is *good* !

It may look like I am reading too much into these kids' rankings and results, but I am not -- there has indeed been a significant upgrade in the quality of our 14-16 age group kids .. Two years back when we hardly had anybody playing in grand slam draws, I was very concerned about where Indian tennis was going .. The point is not for the "glory" of seeing Indians listed in the draw - it is because those are the rare kind of tournaments where they would get to play the top-25 quality junior players and gauge exactly where they stand and how much of work they need to put in .. But we are doing alright now, and rest assured that we will have 3 or 4 kids appearing in grand slam juniors regularly for the foreseeable future - and given time, we will see some of them turn into world-class pros .. But it will also require some modern coaching, which on the other hand remains as an issue of deep concern - but that is a long discussion for another time .. I better ease up for now - I have bad-mouthed Indian coaches too much already, which is really not fair, as I am sitting here in the US not seeing their work, and I don't even know much of tennis to judge their coaching .. If any of the coaches read my ramblings, they would probably want to kill me for stereotyping them all to be old-fashioned in their tennis coaching ideas! -- but that is fine with me; I would be happy if I can, in my own small way, light a fire under anybody's bottom to produce better results .. And really, results is all I complain about! .. Perhaps we will hear more in the future about Indian coaches doing better motivational work and in teaching the mental toughness aspects, about them doing stop-frame film studies, about them measuring their ward's muscle sizes, stop-watch timing their running speeds, and making them hit groundies for hours on end to fixed points in courts, etc, etc .. And hopefully we will soon stop hearing of the back-hand slice being taught as a "weapon" rather than as a junk shot to be very judiciously used, at least in modern tennis (well, there I go again, acting like a tennis expert :-)) ..

Anyway, for now, our players are getting to play better quality tennis against each other and occasionally against quality foreign players - and there seems to be some seriousness out there among the players and their parents (and OK, from some coaches too :-)) about setting higher goals in tennis and in believing that they *can* get somewhere in tennis .. AITA has also been playing their role, with those like their junior development officer (and coach) Sunil Yejaman taking a lot of interest in what the juniors are up to, I believe .. Sending teams of players to East Asian circuits is one of the good things AITA has done, along with bringing higher-grade junior events to India like the Asian Open .. They have said that they will try to get the dates adjusted next year for the grade-3 delhi event to avoid schedule conflict with the Australian Open which caused Megha, Rohan, Amanjot, etc to miss the Indian events ..

Jan 26 Note-1

Sorry for being away, traveling, for another couple of days .. Here is the update from the last two days.

Things seem to be moving fast in Bangalore for the ATP World Doubles Challenge Cup starting next Tuesday, the 29th ..  The website has come up too -- and I expect it to be good like last time, with ball-by-ball score updates, etc .. Check out http://www.worlddoubles.com ..

Australian Open news -- Bhupathi-Likhovtseva went down in the MxD semifinal, 63 46 s6-10 to Kevin Ullyett and Daniela Hantuchova [super tiebreak for 3rd set 6-10] .. Daniela is a young upcoming player with great doubles abilities as well (she was in the women's doubles final with Sanchez) .. The match stats seem to show our pair to have done better in almost all categories (including the one stat which correlates most with win-loss, which is the total number of points won), but somehow MB-EL lost in the end, it seems .. Well, if it is any consolation, LP and MB can say that they only lost to the finalists .. The other MxD finalists are Eltis and Suarez who beat LP-Oremans in R2 .. Llodra-Santoro who beat LP-MB in the doubles R2 finished runners-up to 9th seeds Knowles-Nestor as well .. Capriati did the title job over Hingis and Safin plays Johansson in the men's final tomorrow, as you would know by now.

In the AO juniors, Sania Mirza went down in the second round of doubles and singles .. In singles, she could not do much against Samantha Stosur, a WTA #258 player -- 16 26 score .. The scoreline disappointed me a bit, though I fully expected it to be some sort of a miracle for her to beat somebody that older and experienced .. Only the near top-10 quality junior players can usually beat top-250 caliber WTA players (though Stosur got beaten by a 14 yr old who seems to be the next huge "phenom" from Bollitieri's academy, Maria Sharapova of RUS .. Watch out for her; actually write the name down -- you will here a hell of a lot about her soon!) .. It will take some time and a lot of hard work work for Sania to move up from the near #30 ranking to inside the top-15 - I am sure she will get there later, but it may also be time for her to get help in taking the "proverbial next step" and that may require some serious top-quality coaching (possibly aborad) .. I don't know much details on Sania's current plans, but I hope all help is provided to her .. We are talking top world-class junior talent here, and whoever can loosen purse-strings should do so without any concerns - and the time is more than ripe .. She has done her part in showing her hunger and attitude .. She has shown he has tremendous talent too .. She has steadily improved playing wherever and whenever she could get good competition .. She does not have to travel to every other small event to pick up points and stay ranked highly to play higher-grade events and get such quality matches, now .. And she can take time off to really improve her overall game and take the next step .. Let us get some serious coaching done .. In fact, (and I know I will sound unintentionally harsh and critical here - but you know what I mean), I am quite sure that she will have trouble moving up much from her current ranking for a while -- and it will really not be because of Sania and it is certainly not a knock on her current coaches either, as they have done a fantastic job with her so far .. But this is the cut-throat world of tennis now, and let's face it, Indian coaches have never produced a top-100 woman player (or really even a top-300 player, as Niru improved in Europe) .. If we all mess this thing up with Sania, we will regret it for ever .. Again, I don't know the details of her stuation now - and I am writing this more from having seen past mistakes in Indian sports.

Also in doubles, Sania and Da-Jung Hong lost 26 46 to the top seeds Kuznetsova-Mezak, who were way too tough and have reached the doubles final without dropping a set there so far .. Tope seeds in the boys doubles, Stephen Amritraj and Luka Gegorc retired in the 3rd set of their QF match .. Not sure why - I hope Stephen is OK ..

At the Delhi juniors Saurabh Singh, in a bit of a surprise to me, beat Tushar Liberhan in the finals, announcing that he has finally taken the "next step" .. Isha Lakhani continued her splendid run in the juniors by beating kartiki Bhat in the final, but 14 yr old Kartiki showed a lot, in taking her to three sets! .. Comments on the Delhi event later.

Jan 23 Note-4

At the Delhi ITF grade-3 juniors, today was a good day for Indians .. The one I have been hyping all week, 15 yr old Tushar Liberhan of Chandigarh, followed his upset of the 4th seed with another upset of the 5th seed, Immanuel Prabowo of Indonesia (#257) .. Saurabh Singh, Chatwinder Singh, Isha Lakhani, Sanaa Bhambri etc also had good wins to advance to the semis (which gives 30 points each - as good as winning a grade-5 event) .. Kartiki Bhat, about to turn 15 and #2 in AITA's domestic u14 ranks, beat 13 yr old Sandri Gangotri (#1 in u14) by a score of 60 60 .. Kartiki is very talented, but 2nd seed Sanaa Bhambri will be a tough test for her in the semi .. Sania, Isha, Sanaa, Kartiki etc form a prertty solid group of under-16 girls for the future for India .. Same on the boys side with Karan, Tushar, Vishnu Vardhan, etc .. Things are looking up .. See the Delhi juniors page.

Jan 23 Note-3

Did not follow MB's mixed doubles match - because, we could be sure that they would easily win :-) .. [QF] #2 M.Bhupathi/ E.Likhovtseva d. Petr Pala (CZE)/ Kveta Hrdlickova (CZE), 61 62 .. I guess they kept breaking the Czechs - 4 out of 5 break points converted hile facing just one break attempt in a match that took just 49 minutes ..  So it is yet anther MxD semifinal .. They get the day off tomorrow and face the winners of Kevin Ullyett/ Daniela Hantuchova vs Bob Bryan/ Katarina Srebotnik (tomorrow) in Friday's SF ..

Sania Mirza plays the first match of the day tomorrow (thursday) on court 3 against Samantha Stosur of Australia .. Though she is only ranked #102, Samantha, who is about to turn 18, is one of the top-rated Australian juniors .. She has only been playing pro events and has a low ITF ranking only because she has not played junior events since last June .. She is already ranked #258 in the WTA, which is higher than the ranking for any Indian pro player except Niru .. She was also in the junior world top-30 last year and was an Asian Open finalist in 2000 .. Sania has played her once before - a 26 26 loss at the grade-2 UK event last May .. This would be a really good match to win for Sania .. If she advances to PQF, she will have to come back and play the 5th seed Myriam Casanova (SUI) or Maria Sharapova (RUS) who also play their R2 match tomorrow .. Sania's R2 doubles match is also scheduled for the late evening (against #1 Kuztensova-Mezak) - so heavy work tomorrow for her, especially if she wins the singles R2 .. In the last first round doubles match for Indians today, Megha Vakharia and Sasha Abraham went down to Gabrielle Baker and Adriana Szili of Australia, 36 26 .. They had started well at 3-3 in the first set, having broken the Australians twice to keep it event, but that was the end of resistence from the Indians girls as they lost 9 of the next 11 games ..

Safin-Haas and Novak-Johansson matches in the singles semis .. I doubt if anyone predicted those when AO started .. Always good to see a top doubles player like Novak doing so well in singles .. Llodra-Santoro, who beat LP-MB in the second round upset the 8th seeds Ferreira-Leach as well, and are in the semis of doubles against unseeded Clement-Boutter .. The other doubles semi is between #2 Johnson-Palmer (who look even stronger this year) and the 9th seeds Knowles-Nestor, the comeback team from the past.

Jan 23 Note-2

Sania winning a match at a junior grand slam is no longer a big story I guess (:-)) .. She and Da-Jung Hong just won the first round of doubles in a comeback ..  [R1] Sania Mirza/ Da-Jung Hong (KOR) d. Nicole Pitts (USA)/ Sunitha Rao (USA), 64 61 61 .. Here are the details -- SM-DH were broken off DH's serve in the 3rd game .. They immediately broke Nicole Pitts to even it at 2-2 .. Sania then saved 3 break points and held serve after 8 deuces .. They had double break chances against Pitts in the 8th game that they could not convert .. Sania dropped serve in the 9th game to fall behind 4-5 .. Then Sunitha after serving at triple set point at 40-0, lost 4 points (with 2 DFs in there) to face a break attempt .. After 5 deuces she won the set at 6-4 .. In the second set our pair broke Rao and Pitts in succession to win 4 games in a row to go to 5-1 .. Sania saved a break point and served off the set ... They broke Sunitha again to start the 3rd set .. Sania again faced 2 break points but again held tough, with the help of an ace, to make it 2-0 .. Then it turned into a genuine rout of the Americans, as our pair went up to 5-0, having won 10 games in a row .. The Americans finally made a last-ditch fight taking a game off Sania's serve and saving two set points on Pitt's serve, but the Asian pair was just too good to get past for them on the 3rd match point .. 88 minute match .. 8 of 16 in break chances by our team, and 4 of 10 by the others .. Sania and Da-Jung now get the top seeds in doubles, Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)/ Matea Mezak (CRO) .. Wonderful to see Sania getting to play all these top players consistently these days.

Rohan Gajjar and Amanjot Singh started their double match with 4 aces in the first 6 points they won, but it all went downhill from there for them against the 4th seeds Brian Baker (USA)/ Frank Dancevic (CAN) who beat them 62 62 in the first round .. I think their first serve percentage was in the 30s, which wasn't going to do it against the 4th seeds .. As I type, Sasha Abraham and Megha Vakharia are playing a good match at 3-3 in the first set against Adriana Szili and Gabrielle Baker of Australia.

Jan 23 Note-1

At the Australian Open juniors, after Megha Vakharia could not do much in the restarted match against the 2nd seed Marion Bartoli, losing it 26 36, Sania Mirza advanced without a whole lot of trouble to the second round .. [R1] #12 S.Mirza d. Ivana Jovanovich (NZL,152), 62 64 .. Sania made quite a few unforced errors, but seemed to be in control throughout the match .. They traded breaks early in the first set and then Sania broke Ivana in succession to wrap up the first set .. She seemed to hit a few serves over 150 kmph (the fastest being at 156 kph - 98 mph, which is pretty good for a 15 yr old) .. Her serve speed seemed to vary all the time, however, and she made 6 double faults also in the first set, while making only 43% of her first serves .. In the second set, she had only one double fault and hit 55% in first serves .. She was ahead at 2-0 in the second, but dropped serve twice to fall behind 3-4 .. She must have raised her game a bit there, as she broke Ivana in the 8th and 10th game to finish off the match, which took 57 minutes ..  She comes back for doubles first round with Da-Jung Hong in the evening again .. Megha and Sasha also play doubles later today .. Also playing later is Rohan Gajjar and Amanjot Singh in the doubles first round .. .. Sunitha Rao (USA) won her R1 match and Stephen Amritraj (USA) won his doubles R1 as well.

Mahesh's Mixed doubles match is scheduled for late night at 10 pm (4.30 pm India .. 6 am New York) - the featured latenight match at the Rod Laver arena ..

At the Delhi ITF grade-3 juniors, Tushar Liberhan upset the 3rd seed Ivan Kokurin (UZB) to reach the QF - almost like I called it yesterday (:-)) .. Top seed Jaco Mathew went down in R2 .. On the girls side, Isha beat Ankita Bhambri, and three youngsters, Kartiki Bhat, Sandri Gangotri and Vandana Murali, all between 13 and 14 years of age had nice wins to reach the QF .. A couple of Taiwanese girls look tough, but Isha, Sanaa, etc, are doing fine so far .. See the Delhi juniors page.

Jan 22 Note-3

LP's trip to the Australian Open ended without a whole lot of success, I guess .. LP and Miriam Oremans' did fight hard till the end, before falling in the second round of MxD, though -- L.Paes/ M.Oremans l. G.Etlis (ARG)/ Paola Suarez (ARG), 46 76(0) 5-10 ..  (the 5-10 is for the supertiebreak - ATP simply writes 7-6 for the supertiebreaker, which is very misleading, but ATP is never known to lead "right" are they?) .. Anyway, they looked quite out of sorts at first, with Oremans dropping serve twice in game 3 and 7 to fall to 2-5.  They got one break back from Suarez in the 8th game, but the set was over soon. Our pair seemed to play much better in the second set, breaking Suarez to go up to 3-1.  However, at 5-3, LP served a 185 kph ace, and then missed on the next couple of first serves, losing the points and dropping serve.  Then they messed up on a set pt at 30-40 off Etlis, as well .. The mistakes didn't hurt our pair, as they took the set on a tiebreaker, anyway .. Our pair went up 3-0 at first, taking two points off Etlis, and cruised easily .. Now there was yet another tiebreaker (the super-tiebreaker), as they were even with one set each .. This one did not go like the last one, unfortunately .. They traded minibreaks on Etlis' and LP's serve.  One more minibreak on Oremans' serve and it was 2-4 down. After Etlis served two, it was 3-6 .. LP served two and made it 5-6, and Suarez made it 5-8.  They took the next two points off Oremans' serve .. Super tiebreak was done at 5-10 .. I don't know whay LP and Lisa Raymond parted ways this time .. After all they were runners up in the last grand slam .. Lisa and Mike Bryan (seeded 6th) also went down today in the MxD second round.

Also losing this evening was Amanjot Singh to wildcard Robert Smeets (AUS), 36 36 .. The story of this match was the number of unforced errors from Amanjot .. Actually between the players they had about 80 unforced errors, but Amanjot made about 12 more than the other guy (who I don't think was the toughest possible opponent, considering that it is a grand slam junior draw) .. They traded breaks early and then Amanjot dropped serve in games 7 and 9 to lose the first set .. Again he was behind at 2-4, came back with break in the 7th game, followed by a drop of serve to lose the second set ..

The rains are back .. As the rain delay started at 9 pm, Megha Vakharia is behind 2-6 2-3 to the 2nd seed Marion Bartoli .. That scoreline is a bit deceptive .. She has been playing better than I expected against the world #2 player, having broken her a couple of times and going pretty close in the number of winners, etc .. Anyway, it think it is fini for today - which means Sania will play the first round only tomorrow.

Jan 22 Note-2

The second round match turned out to be really easy for Mahesh and Elena, as they finished it off in 54 minutes .. [R2] #2 Mahesh Bhupathi / Elena Likhovtseva (RUS) d. Sandon Stolle (AUS)/ Annabel Ellwood (AUS), 63 62 .. They converted their second break chance off Ellwood in the 4th game to go ahead to 3-1 .. They had another couple of break chances in the 8th game off Annabel, but she held .. Mahesh served a love game and finished off the set .. In the second set, the pattern continued and the match was over fast .. MB had a couple of aces in the second set (116 mph maximum serve speed today for him), and MB-EL converted both the break points they got in the second set .. They won nearly 80% of their service points both on first and second serves - which is a strong performance .. Their quarterfinal opponents are yet to be determined.

LP's MxD match is scheduled on the Vodfone arena (also a covered court - and so the schedule is not affected) .. LP's match should be at around 7.30 pm there (3.30 am NY .. 2 pm India) .. The rain has stopped and after a 5 hour delay, they have started play on the outer courts.

I had just commented yesterday about Indian players not going to the Abu Dhabi futures .. It turns out that there was an earlier qualifying round before the round of 16 results I saw ..  Sunil Kumar did indeed go there .. He went down 26 26 to Igor Levine (RUS,1202) in the first round of qualies .. Good to see Sunil making the trip .. On the other hand, his loss is disappointing - I have suspected for a while, based on his results, that Sunil has a bit of Leander in him, in that the smaller stage does not bring out his best .. If so, it needs to change, and he needs to play at his top ability day in and day out - No way but to psych oneself up to play the tough qualies away from the limelight, to come up in the pro tour .. I am sure Sunil will start doing that soon - after all, he is only starting out on the big journey .. Vijendra Laad also went to UAE, but lost in Q1 to Motaz Abou El Khair (EGY) 46 57 .. Vishal Punna beat Mahmoud Nader (UAE) 63 62 before going down in the second round.

I have started the Delhi ITF juniors results page.

Jan 22 Note-1

Rain came again at the Australian Open after an hour of play today (Tuesday) .. MB's match has just started, at 3.45 pm (10.15 am India), as it is in the covered Rod Laver arena .. Everything else is on stand still for now andthe schedule is all messed up for juniors and MxD ..

Jan 21 Note-2

The qualies are underway at the $15K UAE F1 futures in Abu Dhabi .. I had hoped to see Rohan Bopanna and Vijay Kannan going there, possibly on the way to Lebanon for the Davis Cup (both were listed in the alternate entry list earlier, along with Mustafa and Ajay as well) .. None of them went there it seems .. The qualifying top seed was Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE,543) which means Rohan at #588 did not make the main draw - and he was not in the qualies either .. Unranked Vishal Punna was the only Indian, but he went down in the first round of the 2-round qualies, 26 67 to Paul Logtens (NED,924) .. So, I think Indians missed out on a good-quality futures nearby .. That is unfortunate - one has to go to whichever event, wherever, however one can, to get quality competition to move up in modern tennis - there is just no other way .. I saw LaurenceTieleman, now ranked 700+ (remember him near top-100, and losing to LP in the semis at Newport in 1998?), playing in the qualies trying to still make a comeback in singles .. Hey, that's the spirit! .. I also see Florian Mayer of Germany (ranked #10 in the world when Sunil Kumar upset him at the wimbledon juniors last year) in the qualies .. I had hoped Sunil would be one to go down there too .. Oh well, that's how it goes .. I don't want to sound like I am criticizing anybody in particular, and I am sure the Indian players all have their own problems in terms of travel money, etc .. On the other hand, I still do not see proper tour planning from ANY of our players and this bugs me to no end .. Indians should not be missing out on chances to play in Thailand and UAE, two of the places closest to India where good quality pro events are held .. You have to be breathing tennis all the time, and you've got to grab whatever tour opportunities there are.

At the Australian Open, MB's mixed doubles match against the Aussies, Sandon Stolle and Annabel Ellwood, is scheduled for the center court Tuesday night.  LP's MxD is also on schedule, as are the singles R1 for Sania, Amanjot and Megha .. The junior doubles draw came out .. Sania' partner at the Victorian juniors title-run, Linda Smolenakova is playing with country-mate Kristina Czaficova and they are seeded 7th .. Sania has a talented partner, however, in Da-Jung Hong (KOR) .. They are unseeded and face Nicole Pitts and Sunitha Rao of USA .. If they advance, they may run right into the top seeds Kuznetsova-Mezak, though .. Sasha Abraham and Megha Vakharia also made the draw, and they play Gabrielle Baker and Adriana Szili of AUS .. Adriana is one of the most promising australian youngsters, actually .. In the boys' doubles draw, Amanjot Singh and Rohan Gajjar have a tough first round against the 4th seeds, Brian Baker (USA) and Frank Dancevic (CAN) .. It's a 5-round draw for doubles and action starts on wednesday.

The grade-3 Delhi ITF juniors started today .. It was sad to see us once again not getting the kind of quality foreign participation expected for a grade-3 event, though it is rather better than in the past with some decent Israeli players showing up (I mentioned the messed up scheduling of this grade-3 event - and that was the problem) .. On the girls' side, they didn't even have 32 players to fill up the draw! .. A pity .. Edwin Gerard (USA) upset the 8th seed Ivan Kovalev (KAZ) .. Saurabh Kohli gave the 5th seed Prabowo of Indonesia a run for the money before falling 63 67(6) 57 .. Tushar Liberhan, the one that I am watching for, advanced with an easy 62 62 win over Miki Lasser (ISR) .. Top seed Jaco Matthew had a tough time against the qualifier VM Ranjeeth in a 76(4) 36 63 win .. The top 5 seeds had first round byes in the girls' draw and the 8th seed Sandra Sashidharan got upset by Yung Jan Chan (TPE) .. The draw brings up a very interesting second round match between top seed isha Lakhani and Ankita Bhambri .. The match between the very young Kartiki Bhat against Olexandra Verkhnyatska (UZB) should be interesting too .. AITA has put up the Monday scores at their website which is getting regularly updated these days .. That's good, as it makes the job easier for me to hunt around for scores .. I will continue to archive the results at this web site as well, as we have been doing for the last 4-5 years.

Jan 21 Note-1

Rains came down today after a couple of hours of play and most matches got postponed at the Australian Open .. LP's MxD match on Monday is potponed, as are the matches for Amanjot Singh, Megha Vakharia, etc.  Stephen Amritraj (USA) lost 26 16 to the 6th seed Luka Gregorc (SLO,9) .. That's it.

Here are the seeds at the ITF grade-3 junior event in Delhi that starts today -- Boys: 1. Jaco T. Mathew, 2. Rishi Behl, 3. Saurabh Singh, 4. Ivan Kokurin (UZB), 5. Prabowo Immanuel (INA), 6. Somdev Dev Varman, 7. Nihal  Advani, 8. Ivan Kovalev (KAZ) .. Girls: 1. Isha Lakhani, 2. Sanaa Bhambri, 3. Krushmi Chheda, 4. Nidhi Shah,  5. I-Husan Hwang (TPE), 6. Elina Arutyunova (UZB), 7. Nivedita Venkatesh,  8. Sandra Sashidharan .. Qualifying final: N. Kiran Kumar d. L. S. Ananth Bhaskar 36 63 62 .. V. M. Ranjeeth d. Jitin Bishnoi 62 64 .. Asaf Cohen (ISR) d. Anish Narang 61 61.. Lior Barbash (ISR) d. Tushar Garg 62 62 ...  I will start a page for results soon.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Jan 21 ..

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.