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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Feb 7, 2000

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Jan 31 Notes

Not many tournaments this week .. The Grade-4 ITF junior international starts today at Chandigarh .. Chatwinder Singh and Jacco Matthew, both BAT trainees, have qualified into the main draw, along with Gursharan Singh of Jalandhar and Nikesh Kumar of Malaysia .. The top seed among boys is Omar Nahrroozian of UAE .. The girls' top seed is Radhika Tulpule, who has just returned from the Australian Open juniors [source: Tribune, Chandigarh] ..

No info on Nirupama's injury situation and when she returns to the tour .. I have not noticed Manisha, Sai etc playing anywhere yet this year.

The Indian and Lebanese teams have reached Lucknow for the final preparations for Davis Cup starting on Friday .. The draw will be on Thursday, to decide the playing order .. Apparently, LP has had some practice in playing doubles with Sunil Kumar, as RK is trying out various things before deciding on who plays .. I believe LP will end up playing doubles with Fazal though, since they have had a good bit of experience playing together .. No serious injury concerns, though Srinath has been a bit banged up for a while ..

And, some wedding news .. Former Davis Cupper and Asian gold medallist Gaurav Natekar married former tennis national champion, Arti Ponnappa, at Bangalore yesterday .. Let us congratulate them, for finding permanent "doubles partners", as Indian Express reported it :-) .. We will watch out for some future Davis Cuppers from that family!

Jan 30 Note-2

Did a bit more research to find out the story on the 23 year old Lebanese #1 Hisham Zaatini .. It is true that he was actually based in Venezuela  - I was wondering why I saw him playing quite a few events in South America .. In fact, he was considered one of the promising young Venezuelans ..  I saw a Spanish Venzuelan newspaper story which talked about how his improvement was slow, but steady -  they were looking at him as one of the future prospects as Nicolas Pereira, their #1 player then, was on the way down due to injuries .. He was called for their Davis Cup camp in 97 too .. I don't think Hisham was ever in their camp - perhaps because he had by then decided to play for his ancestral country, Lebanon .. Being from Spanish-speaking Venezuela explains how his name "Hisham" ended up being often written as "Jicham" which is actually how ATP lists his name .. Anyway, if he was in South America, that says one thing - the only grass he has ever seen is in farms, eaten by cows, if we believe Marcelo Rios .. Advantage, India! .. I also found that he has had a loss to Ashley Fisher and Nitin Kirtane at the Boca Raton (Florida) futures in 98 .. He and Alejandro Aramburu of Peru were the top seeds when Fisher-Kirtane upset them - this was in one of my notes long back.

Jan 30 Note-1

The Indian team got assembled at Delhi yesterday for the Davis Cup training camp - LP, Sri, Fazal, Sunil and practice doubles players Ghouse and Uppal .. RK said, "this really isn't a camp, it is more an opportunity for the boys to get together" .. Continuing on the Davis Cup preview, here is the draw for Davis Cup in the Asia-Oceania zone Group-I this year:

Uzbekistan at China     \_____(Apr 7-9) _______ to World-Group playoff
Thailand at New Zealand /
Lebanon at India        \_____(Apr 7-9) _______ to World-Group playoff
Korea at Japan          /
The losers of the first round now, will play relegation rounds (to avoid falling to the lower tier, Group-2) at the same time in April when the winners play to advance to the world group playoff .. The world group playoff (I believe it is scheduled for Jul 14-16 or 21-23rd) will be against opponents who will be trying to stay in the world group, after losing the first round next week, similar to what India did in 97 and 98 .. Those who advance then, will be in the elite world group of  16 teams next year .. India was last in the world group in 1998 when we lost to Italy in the first round, and then were displaced from the world group by Britian in the playoff later in the year .. The loss to Korea in the first round last year thwarted our hopes to get back in it for this year .. Right now Australia is the only team from the Asia-Oceania zone in the world group - though actually nobody ever remembers that the world champions Australia is in the same zone, because they have not been relegated to the zonal group-I for a long time! .. India has been the only other country from Asia-Oceania who have made it into the world group in the last 15 years or more that I can remember, and we have been in there quite a few times, thanks to RK, LP and MB .. Others such as Uzbekistan, Korea, New Zealand and Japan etc have reached the world group playoffs a few times but have not been able to beat the big boys to crack into the world-16 ..  Anyway, if India advances past Lebanon, we may be in a better shape if we have to face Korea, as we would have the homecourt advantage and can throw some grass at them .. With Mahesh Bhupathi out in April as well, we will be in trouble if it is Japan, especially since that tie would be in Japan  (I wouldn't want to see our wonderful 15-tie winning streak over Japan going back to 1930 end, either! - I would much rather get revenge on those Koreans for beating us in Seogwipo last year) .. In any case, perhaps we shouldn't look ahead - we need to beat Lebanon first .. But we should keep an eye on how Korea does against Japan next weekend.

Andy Ram won the double crown at the Chennai futures with a very good win over top seed Svarc .. See the Chennai futures page.

Jan 29 Notes

The Australian Open doubles title went to Rick Leach and Ellis ferreira after an incredible final where they beat Wayne Black and Andrew Kratzmann, 6-4 3-6 6-3 3-6 18-16 with the final set itself taking over 2 hours! .. Leach had won the AO title in 88 and 89 with Jim Pugh .. It's incredible that this man is still playing doubles at the very highest level .. As I had felt, this team has been due for a title for a long time - it's the first title for Ellis Ferreira .. Both were in tears by the end, while thanking the fans who sat through the wonderful marathon .. This was the first grand slam final for Black and Kratzmann (Black has been in three semis and Kratzmann in a QF before) ..

I read that the Indian Davis Cup team is a bit lost about what the heck Lebanon is, in Davis Cup -- RK said that he didn't know much except that Hamadeh was Mahesh's partner in the US college title run .. RK was waiting to see the practices to start to learn more about the Lebanese team, but he expected that grass should give us a clear advantage .. Anyway, I went and did some research on Lebanon .. Here is my Davis Cup preview.

Based on some information I have from last month [source: Lebanon Online] the Lebanese team for the Davis Cup is as follows: Hisham Zaatini (ranked 577 in Singles and 402 in doubles), Ali Hamadeh (ranked 213 in Doubles, unranked in singles now, but was around 800 in singles a couple of years back), Ibrahim Kahil, Patrick Shukri and Karim Alayli .. Australian-based Shaun Karam was expected to probably join them in India too .. Former Lebanese national champion Raymond Kattoura is the captain .. I expect only Zaatini and Hamadeh to see action against India.

Ever since Ali Hamadeh joined the Lebanese team in March 1996, and Hisham Zaatini in 97 (his name is offically written as Jicham sometimes), they have had a charmed run, moving up and staying in the Asia-Oceania group-I which they shouldn't be doing, considering the ranking of the players they have .. Hamadeh is a good player, who was pretty well off and mostly based in the US, till he visited Lebanon a few years back and fell in love with the place - it's true that despite the wars that left Beirut and the country in shambles, Lebanon is one of the most beautiful places on earth .. In fact, Leabanon did not even play Davis Cup from 1975 till 1992 due to the war, till the current captain Kattoura played their first match in 17 years, in the Asian group-III .. After Hamdeh joined them, they moved up to Group-II in 1997 .. Then they had their biggest win, when Hamadeh and another new member, Hisham Zaatini, inflicted a 5-0 loss on Thailand (with some pretty good players - Narathorn Srichaphan and Vittaya Samrej) in April 1997 that placed them in a September playoff for moving to Asian Group-I  for 1998 -- they won that too, and Lebanon had come out of nowhere into the elite group of 8 teams in the Asian zone for 1998 ..  In 1998, they lost a close one 2-3 to New Zealand in the Group-I first round (Hamdeh beat a good James Greenhalgh), but they stayed in the group for 1999 with a win in the relegation round against yet another decent team - Indonesia (Hamadeh had a straight sets win over Andrian Raturandang, who some may remember had beaten Mahesh Bhupathi at the Asia Cup a few months back!) .. Then, last year they again lost the first round in group-I in February, with Hamadeh once again showing something, getting their only win there, over a very  good Satoshi Iwabuchi, now #277 .. For a 2rd year in a row, they won the relegation round tie against Pakistan last April .. The best Pakistani player, Aisam Qureshi, did not play that event - probably due to a miscalculation that PAK could handle the unknown players from Lebanon -- well, Pakistan lost 1-4 in Lebanon which kept Lebanon in Group-I and relegated Pakistan to group-II (basically a lost year after they had done so well last year in round 1, with Aisam almost pushing Pakistan past Paradorn's Thailand in the first round - now they need to play the nobodies in Group-II and take an extra year to get back to Group-I, thanks to Lebanon) .. Hamdeh has racked up a pretty impressive 14-2 record in Davis Cup singles matches with wins over Narathorn Srichaphan, Greenhalgh, Raturandang, Iwabuchi etc - his only losses were against Alistair Hunt (NZL) and Goichi Motomura (JPN) ..

Though Hamadeh has done very well in Davis Cup, their #1 player is Hisham Zaatini, who isn't too bad either - he was ranked as high as #502 in ATP singles in 1998 as a 21 year old .. He has an 8-3 record in Davis Cup with losses only to Alistair Hunt, Goichi Motomura and Satoshi Iwabuchi, and wins over decent Asian players like Thankorn Srichaphan, Febi Widhiyanto,  Wittaya Samrej, etc .. Most of his ATP tour activities have been in Suth America on clay and hardcourts (I am not sure if he is based somewhere there) .. He has qualified into three or four challengers in South America, though I believe he has not won any rounds at the challenger level .. In doubles, he has played with some pretty talented south Americans like Kepler Orellana and Hermes Gamonal and Rodolfo Rake a well-rated junior player from the US .. Just last November he played with Younes El-Aynaoui in doubles at the Caracas challenger and advanced a round .. He has a couple of challenger semis to his credit too .. Looking at the players who have played with him, he has to be considered a pretty good player .. At the Chennai futures this week, Zaatini was seeded 4th in doubles with Donovan September, though they retired in the first round against Bopanna/Sridhar due to some injury or heat-exhaustion (which forced Zaatini to withdraw from singles too) ..

In summary, though I thought at first that it was a bit of a stretch when Leander said last month that he was looking at having to play well all three days at this Davis Cup, I now think he was probably right .. I would not take the chance of assuming that Srinath and Fazal would have cake-walk wins over these guys .. Both Sri and Fazal are better players, and they certainly can and should beat them though .. And grass should give us some very good advantage, as usual .. So there is my preview for Davis Cup .. It all starts on the coming Friday at the Avadh Gymkhana courts at the city of Nawabs, Lucknow.

Jan 28 Note-2

Sorry - this update couldn't be posted due to some technical difficulties yesterday -- the saturday news coming soon ..

Captain Ramesh Krishnan got together with Leander Paes to start off the Davis Cup preparations today at Delhi .. Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse were also there to hit with Leander .. They will start practice on grass tomorrow, with Fazal, Srinath and the team-baby Sunil Kumar joining them .. Reports say that renewed and heightened enthusiasm was very evident in Leander .. Cool.

There are some Leander comments also in the newspaper reports .. LP said today that he has decided that he will not shift to deuce court and will only play with partners who play left court, till Mahesh gets back (he said that French Open is still where they expect to get going well again) .. He said that due to scheduling reasons, Lareau may not be there for all that many weeks to play with, and he will be finding new partners on a tournament-by-tournament basis .. Take a look at the schedule I have posted for Leander (it's rather tentative, based on what Leander said a few weeks back to me, but I don't think there will be substantial changes) .. Other than at Dubai, he won't be playing doubles for a while anyway, and we can expect Lareau would be there for Indian Wells and Key Biscayne later .. Lareau is not listed for Dubai, and Leander said today that it may be with somebody like Wayne Black at Dubai .. No news yet on the singles situation for Dubai, as LP won't make the draw and can't get there for qualifying rounds due to Davis Cup next weekend .. There's good prize money (total $1M) at Dubai, and it's worth playing doubles at, though .. Leander has said clearly that singles is his priority for a while, and he wants to do well .. There aren't any useful challengers available during the Dubai week (week after next) to play singles at .. Following the Dubai week, the Calcutta grass challenger follows .. There is also a Times of India report today with tournament director Dr. Vece Paes announcing that the entries are expected to be better than last year at the Calcutta challenger .. He said 3 of the 4 wildcards would go to Indians - probably Srinath, Fazal and Sunil Kumar .. The newspapers are reporting that Leander is the 18th ranked player in the entry list .. It has to be wrong information .. I don't know how 18 players ranked above 137 would show up for a $25K grass challenger in Calcutta .. Since it is part of a series of challengers, I am sure there will be some pretty good players though - Ogorodov, Ketola, Behr etc are in the list.

In the boys' final at the Delhi ITF juniors, Sunil Kumar had a slow start (actually Parantap had a fast start, where he ripped winners past Sunil a couple of times) and fell behind 2-4 .. But he coolly raised his level and had a choke hold on Parantap, winning 11 of the next 13 games for a 7-5 6-4 score ..  Sunil has won his second ITF title in a row for 40 more points, raising his total to 120 points from three titles in a year in 3 events .. It takes his ranking from 150 to just arund top-100 in world juniors (he has 40 points dropping off for last years' Delhi title, and may be down to 150 again after a week) .. He may be playing the grade-5 event in Calcutta the week after Davis Cup, but should be skipping the grade-4 in Bangladesh the week after that due to the Calcutta challenger, and then will be playing the grade-3 event in Bangladesh the following week .. He is right on schedule .. It's really a drag for him to be playing these grade-4 events and he may not get much out of it, but he needs the points for now and has to go through it .. Hopefully after the Bangladesh swing, he will be nicely placed with around 160 total points from four titles, and a top-75 junior ranking .. This may be the last series of ITF tournaments he plays in India if he keeps going up as expected, unless we bring in higher-grade events .. It would be nice to see him going to the tougher tournaments abroad (grade-3 or better) and mixing it with some challengers and futures .. The girls title went to the top seed Peng from China after a high quality final between two Chinese .. See the results at the Delhi ITF juniors page.

At the Chennai futures, the Indian challenge ended with Rishi Sridhar and Rohan Bopanna losing in the doubles semis to the 2nd seeds Andy Ram and Nir Welgreen in a good three-setter, where the Indians showed some spunk in winning a close second set tiebreaker 9-7 to push it to a 3rd set, before running out of gas .. The singles final on Saturday is between Svarc and Ram .. See the Chennai futures page.

Jan 28 Notes

I was wondering if Fazaluddin was doing alright - since he has withdrawn from this week's and last week's futures due to shoulder trouble .. We have a Davis Cup to play next weekend you know! .. Good to find out that he is alright .. Just found out that he was out there in Dubai, playing the 11th Nations Cup Tennis tournament, with some decent players playing in it .. Basically expatriots and some current players of various countries .. India (actually an unofficial "Indian" team, I believe) reached the final there, beating Netherlands 2-1 yesterday .. Fazal was playing for India! .. and I am sure you can guess who his partner was - that's right, Zeeshan Ali, our former davis Cupper who can still play some pretty mean tennis and is based in Dubai these days .. Actually I don't think there is anybody anywhere near Dubai who has ever beaten Zeeshan in a tennis match for years -- he virtually wins every tournament out there! .. Anyway, today, Netherlands was represented by Bart Engel and Sander Groen .. Zeeshan beat Engel easily 61 63, Fazal lost to Groen, 1-6, 6-7(5) .. Zeeshan and Fazal won the doubles 75 61 over Groen/Antonioli to push India into the final against Philippines tomorrow .. Fazal reportedly said that he is using this to get some rust off for davis Cup next week .. It showed in the first set today against the unorthodox play of Groen (ranked 770 now, but a former top-200 player and a current top-200 doubles player) .. Fazal was down a break in the second set by the time he figured out how to tame Groen and started putting good top spin into his shots to keep the flat returns higher .. He broke back and took Groen to the tiebreaker which he lost closely [report from Gulf News] .. Lebanon was also in the draw there, but I am not sure if Ali Hamadeh and party were there - probably were, because there are only so many Lebanese tennis players out there, you know :-) .. By the way, Ali Hamdeh, who was Mahesh's partner when they won the US collegiate doubles title in 95, is not as easy a foe as people may expect .. More on our upcoming tie against Lebanon soon ..

By the way, what the heck has Zeeshan been doing out there in Dubai ? .. The dude can probably still play Davis Cup for India .. He is only just about 30 even now .. Why not an Agenor-style comeback ? .. Zeeshan stays in good shape and still plays a lot of tennis .. Don't forget that he had such a fast climb up to ATP #126 back in 88-89 when he was so young, though he fell off the radar in a couple of years too ..

Jan 27 Note-1

First, let us all take a moment to mourne the passing of one of the greatest ever .. Don Budge passed away yesterday .. He was the first to win all four majors in one year - actually the term "grand slam" was coined only after he did it .. Only one other (Rod Laver) has ever done it again (in 62 and 68) .. Many believe that Budge, had he not turned pro, would certainly have repeated it too .. It's incredible to think that he brought out 17000 people to watch him play pro tennis at Madison Square Gardens in New York in 1939 ! .. The "red-headed Californian with the best backhand ever" will be remembered for ever by all tennis fans .. He was 84 and had not been doing well ever since a car accident a couple of months back in Pennsylvania.

Well, all my calculations about the chance for LP not to keep his #1 ranking was unnecessary, I guess .. The doubles semifinals at the AO produced one upset and another result that many wouldn't have expected - The Woodies lost 64 36 46 to the 5th seeds Ferreira/Leach .. I wouldn't call it an upset - I had written yesterday that Ferreira-Leach have been "due" - they have been playing together for two years and had been knocking on the door in grand slam semis a few times too .. What was rather surprising was that the Woodies were 4-1 in the 3rd set before letting Ferreira/Leach pull the comeback on them .. The other semifinal did produce an upset, as #8 seeds Wayne Black and Andrew Kratzmann upset #4 Jared Palmer and Alex O'Brien in the semis ! .. Who would have thought that the only Aussie in the final out there would be #26 Andrew Kratzmann, and not others like Woodies, Eagle, Florent, Stolle, etc, etc! ..

At the Chennai futures yesterday, all three Indians in the second round (the Kirtanes and Vinod Sridhar) failed to reach quarterfinal .. The most distressing result was for sandeep Kirtane, who was up 5-1 in the second set and had as many as six match points over 5th seeded Nir Welgreen before he inexplicably fell apart completely and did not win a game afterwards, dropping that set and then the next set at love ("just played horrible tennis" is all the newspapers reports said - I have to believe that something was bothering Sandeep) .. Both Nitin and Vinod were up against the 8th seed and 4th seeds - Vinod did play a tough tiebreaker set against 4th seed Donovan September, though .. For the Indian players, the story never seems to change much .. I am sure they are gaining experience from playing the good foreign players coming to India for all the internationals, though they have not been winning .. I still agree with those who say that we are still doing the right thing by bringing the international events .. It may not help a lot of players in the current second line to move up a whole lot, but it certainly improves them and whatever little prize money they earn, even $100 or 200 in these events helps them all to keep playing .. The upcoming 15-17 year olds would produce better results in the long run, both from playing the foreigners as well as our current second line who get slowly toughened up this way .. One doubles team, Rishi Sridhar and Rohan Bopanna, reached semifinals yesterday .. Saurav with his temporary new partner Sandeep, got upset in the quarterfinals .. See Chennai results .. I will add Thursday results later today when they become available.

At Delhi today, Sunil Kumar reached the boys final after an easy 61 62 semi over qualifier Uros Kuhar (SLO) .. He faces Parantap Chaturvedi who has been in fine form there .. He beat P Vishal .. In the girls semis, Samrita Shekhar lost to the top seed Peng from China .. Unfortunately, 2nd seed Liza Pereira was upset 46 57 by a Chinese player too .. So all-Indian boys final and all-Chinese girls final tomorrow .. See the Delhi ITF juniors page ..

Jan 26 Note-2

The semis at the AO will be between the #2 Woodies vs #5 Ferreira/Leach, and #4 O'Brien-Palmer vs #8 W.Black/ A.Kratzmann .. Interesting, as there are two players still alove who could take away Leander's number 1 ranking ..  It won't be fair - absolutely - and it might happen purely due to ATP's incompetence and thoughtlessness in the transition scheme they came up with to the new system.

I have just updated the doubles points page for LP and MB as well as the singles points page for LP .. I had not looked closely enough at the doubles points and forgot the fact that ATP had multiplied last year's by 0.8 in the case of doubles too .. A totally irrational thing to do and they did not do what they promised to do (which was to recalculate the 1999 points using the new ranking tables -- of course, they finalized the ranking tables way too late in November, and messed it all up once they figured out they had no time to do the right thing, and the entries had to be closed for Chennai/Doha/Adelaide -- so what did they do ? .. they multiplied everything from last year by 0.8, on a mistaken notion that the new ranking tables give less points because of lack of bonuses -- it was all wrong, because the new points table numbers match last year's numbers pretty well .. In summary, 1999 really counts only 80% for all players) ..

Anyway, as far as LP and MB are concerned, they only have to defend 526 points for their final last year at AO (though they got 658 points then) .. What that means is that LP and MB will have 3485-526+1 = 2960 pts and 3048-526+1=2523 points respectively next week .. The bad thing is that the new points tables give 1000 pts for a title and 700 for a Final .. That means Palmer, who has 2272 pts this week and has 35 to defend from AO last year, can go above LP with a title, which does not make any sense .. A final will place him at 2937, behind LP though .. A title will push him to #1 .. Todd Woodbridge, if the Woodies win the title, will have 2361-320+1000 = 3041 (Woodies have 320 to defend for SF last year) .. Woodforde will be about 20 pts behind him at #2 .. LP will not fall below #3 though, and MB should stay inside top-5 too ..

The unfair part is that ATP has completely messed this up, and we might see somebody like a Palmer ending up as #1 in the ranks over LP who has just had one of the very best seasons ever by anybody in doubles .. If ATP had calculated last year's points according to the new table (which is the only fair way to do it!), LP would have 2700 points just from the  FO, Wimb and USO and would have 525 from the three other titles, for a total near 3750 points, and nobody would catch him till after French Open, as should be the case .. I still can't figure out why they chose not to do that calculation correctly, after promising to do it - I also believe this was the agreement with the players council and ATP did not stick to it, though the players seem to be confused about it and don't seem to understand what ATP has done .. A friend of mine (I withhold the name but you can guess), the best number-cruncher out there who figures out everything ATP is up to, said it rightly, that ATP stats guys must have got drunk at a Christmas party before coming up with that adhoc point adjustment scheme for last year on a cocktail napkin .. And mind you, there was absolutely no discussion with anybody on this (after the entry lists for the first week of 2000 was used in late november, we took a full month before somehow finding out from inside sources how they made that bogus list!) .. We can fully understand why McEnroe said a few weeks back that there are "three communist organizations out there - China, Cuba and ATP" (something like that).

Anyway, the bottom line is that, ATP has royally messed up Leander's rightful claim to stay at #1, with their ineptitude.  Let us hope that at least the Woodies would reclaim the #1 -- I could perhaps live with that .. Palmer is a very good doubles player, but I find it hard to agree that he is the best doubles player out there and that he has shown enough for that spot at this time, even if Palmer-O'Brien win the title.  Of course, Ferreira/Leach may or even Black/Kratzmann can do it and none of the above scenarios may happen .. F/L are actually due for a title.

At Delhi, Sunil Kumar reached the semifinal today and will play a qualifier in the semi tomorrow .. Parantap (he is hot right now) and P.Vishal in the other semi .. Liza and Samrita are in the semis of girls too  .. Check out the Delhi ITF juniors page.

Jan 26 Note-1

The Indian presence at the Australian Open officially is over as of today, as Sonal Phadke went down in the second round to the 3rd seed Lubomira Kurhajcova (Slovak Rep., #11 in the world), 1-6, 1-6 .. The match was almost the exact reverse of the R1 match Sonal played .. This time she made 29 unforced errors (she had just 11 in the first round) and had just 5 winners .. Sonal, who hit 100% in first serve for the first 15 in the previous match, started serving today in game 2 with a double fault .. That set the tone, as she made one unforced error after another and dropped that game and many more later .. Though Lubomira also made some errors in the 3rd game to give the break back, that was the last time she would be broken .. Sonal, on the other hand, would get broken 6 out of the 7 games she served .. The only game where she held serve was in the first game of the second set when she suddenly showed life and won the game at love with 3 winners in a row .. She also had Lubomira facing deuces in the second game of the second set .. Once she held serve, it seemed to deflate Sonal's hopes for any comeback and thereafter it was a cruise to the finish for Lubomira who broke Sonal in games 2, 4 and 6 of the first set and in games 3, 5, and 7 in the second .. The match took only 41 minutes .. Though she had a decent 69% in first serves, Sonal only won about 50% of those points, and almost nothing off her second serve - that means she was on the run all day .. That and the unforced error total were the key stats .. Of course, some of the unforced errors may be actually "forced" indirectly by the opponent though - when you feel you have to play low-percentage shots to take points off somebody, mistakes start happening - those are actually forced mistakes! ..

Well, at least she advanced a round! .. Though it was a much lower ranked wildcard player that she beat in the first round, it was good to see her make use of the opportunity .. But really, it has been embarassing to see no Indian junior ever advancing past a round or a very rare second round .. It has been years since we have seen anything better .. Oh well .. Incidentally, the Indian Express today reported something strange - they said Sonal was congratulated by Sampras, Hingis, Arantxa and Chanda Rubin!! .. Huh ?? .. I have no idea where that came from -- why would they congratulate her for her first round win, especially when it was over a wildcard player ? .. Who knows! .. It has to be some wrong info - those players don't even walk anwywhere near the outer courts where some of the earlier junior rounds are held .. Anyway, all the best for Sonal to keep going .. She would hopefully keep her ranking in the juniors or improve it - and perhaps she could use this experience for better results at Wimbledon and US Open juniors later in the year.

At the Chennai futures, all the Indians who played today lost .. Mustafa's on-again, off-again results was off today .. He went down to a qualifier .. His doubles partner Vishal Uppal as usual played a tough match before losing though - a three-setter loss, also to a qualifier .. Manoj Mahadevan lost to 8th seeded Miles MacLagan .. Three Indians who won on monday, are playing in the second round today though - Vinod Sridhar and the Kirtanes .. See the Chennai futures page.

At the ITF Junior international in Delhi, it was upset day today, as Punna Vishal upset top seed AV Rao, Vinod Sewa upset the 6th seed Karan Doctor, and CS Mohanty upset 6th seed P.Ravikrishna .. Actually, none of them are really upsets ..  Vishal, Vinod and Mohanty are very talented players (this group of 15-17 year olds are not too bad) and the three beaten seeds have all been rather inconsistent in their results too .. The "real-thing", 8th seeded Sunil Kumar, easily beat 15 yr old Amanjyot Singh, who was unfortunate to run into Sunil in the second round itself .. Sunil and 2nd seeded Omar from UAE are the only seeds left .. 5 of the 8 QF players are Indian kids - one unseeded Indian is assured to reach the final, from the top half ..  In the girls section, C Nandita apparently looked a bit jaded after 6 wins in a row including a title last week, and was beaten by Samrita Sekhar, quite talented herself .. 2nd seed Liza Pereira meets Geeta Manohar in the QFs .. 7th seed Sania Mirza will need to pull a big upset over the top seed from China .. Four Indian girls are in the QFs .. See the Delhi ITF juniors page.

Jan 25 Note-2

I had forgotten that I had got the year-2000 AITA calendar from Cdr. PF Montes of AITA a few days back .. I have html-ized it and put it up at our site .. See our Tournament page for the links to the calendar .. Quite a busy schedule, and AITA is right their claim that India has now become one of the top four or five destinations in the International calendar -- as it should be! .. The women's and men's summer satellites dates seem to have been flipped .. The women's satellites are now in May and the Men's satellites are now in April .. The most significant addition is that they have reserved three extra weeks of ITF circuit for $10K women's futures - in March (in addition to the two weeks of futures before the $25K Delhi challenger in October ) .. Hallelujah! .. But then again, we have to wait till it actually happens, to be sure .. Except the 4-week June satellite circuit (which will be at Indore and then three weeks at Mumbai), and the Delhi challenger, all the women's internationals are at "venues to be determined", which means things are not cast in stone [that is, 5 weeks of futures and also the 4-week August women's satellite series] .. The general complaint has been that sponsors have been tough to find, especially for women's events .. It is ludicrous that there aren't companies sponsoring these events - after all India is the only country where you get national TV coverage for even the satellites and futures, not to mention all the national newspapers that follow the events so closely every day giving it publicity .. (I underline that, because I wonder if this piece of info is used in selling the events -- I am not joking .. There is NOT a place anywhere else in the world where smaller tennis events create so much publicity nationally!) .. Why is it so difficult to convince some company to put up some $5K or 10K  for an event ?? ..  Either the companies' marketing folks are dumb, or the tennis people aren't realizing what they can sell to the companies.

Back to the schedule -- the men's cricuit is strong as usual, with 3 challenger in march (Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad) and two in december (Jaipur, Lucknow), along with 3 weeks of futures in Feb (ongoing - Hyderbad, Bangalore, Mumbai), three more in June (Chandigarh, Delhi, Lucknow) and two 4-week satellite circuits .. The great thing is that the two satellite circuits don't require traveling, with the 4 weeks in May being all at Delhi and 4 weeks in November being all at Mumbai .. That makes it 20 weeks of men's international events, including the Gold Flake Open, in India ..  For women, if it all works out, it will be 5 futures, 8 weeks of satellites and the Delhi challenger - though realistically it would be grerat if even 10 weeks of events materailize ..  On the junior side, there is one extra ITF international this year for 5 total  .. There are two new ITF junior events in September, instead of the normal one in November .. It remains to be seen if the latter-year events could be of grade-2 or at least grade-3 .. It is high time we conducted some higher grade junior events too - our kids would learn a lot more from that  (the three weeks starting now are grade-4,  4 and 5)

The Adidas u14/u16 series is continuing strongly with a whole bunch of regional tournaments .. For u18, there are 6 Adidas AITA ranking events (Chandigarh, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi,  Mumbai, and Delhi, at various times during the year) and the Rajan Pillai Trophy ranking at Thiruvananthapuram in Jan, to go with the 5 weeks of ITF events, the claycourt nationals at Chennai and hardcourt nationals at Delhi .. 14 weeks for u18 - quite a bit better than before .. By the way, are we going to have grasscourt nationals for u18 juniors ever again ?? .. At least for the seniors, the Bengal Tennis Association agreed to conduct it in Kolkata .. It would have been nice if Chandigarh or Lucknow came forward for junior grasscourt nationals .. Not there in this year's calendar, as was the case last year too .. Three men's challengers (Kolkata, Lucknow, Jaipur) and two futures (Lucknow and Chandigarh) are on grass for men .. I think we should never lose that little advantage we have with grass - there are are only very few players around the world who know how to play on grass - and the Indian grasscourts with the uneven bounces, have always been a nightmare for non-Indians! .. While I think we should have a few more clay events too, as that is what "real" tennis is for a lot of people in the world, it is always helpful for our kids to keep some experience on grass.

All in all, a pretty well laid-out and packed domestic schedule from AITA .. They have generally delivered all but a few of the events they have listed in the past calendars, and so we can expect them to continue to do that - especially with the state associations looking at added political clout from conducting events (more votes, based on total prize money of events conducted - according to the decision taken at the special AITA meeting a few months back!), we are in good shape and things seem to be on track .. Now, where is the traveling coach for Indian players, better marketing of events locally, etc, etc ?? .. There is always more to do for AITA  :-)

Jan 25 Note-1

Some good news from Australia - #59 Sonal Phadke beat 354th ranked Australian, Linda Fallon, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the girls' draw today .. Sonal seemed to be playing a very good match today, making very few mistakes, and making full use of a ton of mistakes made by her opponent .. Sonal started serving very well, actually hitting every one of her first 15 serves, and finishing the first set with 15 of 17 first serves! .. She actually lost just two points on her serve in the first set .. She broke Linda in the 5th and 7th games of the first set and wrapped it up in 20 minutes .. Sonal continued to play without many mistakes - only 12 unfirced errors in the whole match against 40 by Fallon .. In the second set, she broke Fallon in the first game itself .. Though she had a momentary lapse in the second game and had he only doubles fault of the match to get broken back, she quickly regained the advantage by forcing a break in the 3rd game, and then putting the nail into the coffin with a break in the 7th game .. Sonal served out the last game at love, including 3 of her 11 winners in the final game .. The most impressive thing was her first serve percentage of 80 .. She also won 75% of the points where the first serve was good .. The same percentage off second serve as well .. She went 5 of 11 in break chances, and the match took 43 minutes .. The key stat was her opponent's 40 errors, though .. Sonal gets credit for calmly making use of that, while playing a clean game of her own! ..  Sonal gets a much tougher opponent in the second round though - the 3rd seeded Lubomira Kurhajcova of Slovak Republic (ranked 11th in the world), who beat Pakistan's Nida Waseem (#115), 61 62 today .. In doubles, there was bad news though - as Radhika Tulpule, playing with Nida Waseem, lost to the 5th seeded Australian pair, Monique Adamczak and Samantha Stosur, 62, 61 .. This was actually not much of a contest, as the Indo-Pak team seemed to be getting broken often in both sets .. Radhika was unlucky to run up against high seeds in both singles and doubles.

By the way, the 4th seeds Palmer and O'Brien have reached the semifinals (with a scorching 61 63 win over 11th seeds Novak/Rikl!) .. They face 8th seeds W.Black/ Kratzmann in the semi .. The other two semifinalists not decided yet .. The Woodies reached the QF today with a good win over W.Ferreira/ Kafelnikov .. They play Marquez/ VanHoudt, which should not be much trouble, in the QF .. 5th seeds Ferreira/Leach against the comeback team playing very well - Eagle/Florent, in the other QF .. It looks a lot like Woodies vs Palmer-O'Brien in the final, though .. Woodforde may be putting everything he has into this - he has announced his retirement at the end of the year, and this is the last time he is at the home grand slam .. I have this feeling that this year could be special for the Woodies -- sort of like what Eltingh did with Haarhuis in 1998 after he announced retirement .. I wouldn't mind it, as long as the special year does not include an Olympics medal repeat :-)

Uppal-Ghouse have been called up for doubles practice for LP and Fazal for Davis Cup .. I believe they will have some practice at Delhi soon, before moving to Lucknow next week .. Srinath-Panja have not been taken seriously by everybody, I guess ? ..  :-)

Jan 24 Note-2

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

It was a good day for Indian kids at the Delhi ITF junior internationals too .. 12 of the 16 boys who made it to second round are Indians .. 4th seed Shivang Mishra was the only notable loss .. The upset belonged to Parantap Chaturvedi, who upset the 3rd seed, 157th ranked Raymond Benc .. Curiously, Benc has been reported as a Swedish player in all the Indian newspapers for the last two days, though I find ITF to list him to be a Filippino ..  Sunil Kumar had an easy first round win ..  On the girls' side, Nandita Chandrasekhar had the big upset, over the 3rd seed  Aibika Kalasrieva of Uzbekistan .. Three seeded Thai girls had not arrived and their matches are postponed to Tuesday - otherwise the other seeds, including the two seeded Indian girls, #2 Liza Pereira and #7 Sania Mirza, have advanced .. 5 other Indian girls have also reached final-16 beating unseeded opponents .. See the Delhi ITF juniors page ..

By the way, Sunil has come up from near #275 to #150 in the ITF rankings with his title last week, but would need another title to keep this ranking, as he has the Delhi ITF junior title from last year to defend now .. The other big jump in the rankings was by C Nandita who came up from near 700s to inside 300 in this week's ranking with the title at Colombo .. She is now the 5th ranked Indian junior, behind Sonal, Radhika, Liza and Sania ..

Jan 24 Note-1

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

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

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

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

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

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Jan 24th ..

I am getting some enquiries 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 enquiring 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 enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.