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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Feb 2, 2004
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Feb 2 Notes

Quick updates (busy day for me) -- Big win by Sania yesterday at the $10K event in Boca Raton .. [F] S.Mirza (IND,461) d. (3) Cory Ann Avants (USA,282), 62 63 .. Wow! .. That is the highest ranked player Sania has ever beaten, I think .. She is in great form, since returning from Bob Brett's academy .. 9 points this week .. Enough to put her back in the top-400 in a week ..

The Delhi grade-2 has started .. No big surprises today, but Navdeep had a good 64 61 win over last week's giant killer Xiao-Peng Lai .. Will add the draws/results later today.

Davis Cup news, etc, coming ..

Feb 1 Note-2

At the $10K Boca Raton $10K, Sania Mirza (IND,461) reached the final upsetting Channelle Scheepers (RSA,461), 62 76(3) this morning in the SF .. That is a very good win, because 19 year old Scheepers was ranked as high as #161 last year .. You might remember Sania losing to her 16 36 in the RSA grade-1 junior semis in summer 2001; Scheepers was a top-40 junior .. Scheepers had a terrific run in late 2002 and shot up to WTA 161 early last year within 18 months of turning pro after her last junior event which is where she beat Sania .. I don't know what happened to her in 2003 which caused her to go into a tail spin with a losing streak, with her rank plummeting to below 400 .. Anyway, she seemed to be playing well this week again, and had upset the 4th seed #302 Julie Ditty in the first round .. So it looks like Sania pulled off a good quality upset win today .. The other semifinal there (Avants vs Balsamo) was still going on as I talked to tournament desk -- looks like Sania's final will be past 4 pm there .. 6 WTA points so far for Sania here (including two bonus) .. A title would give her 3 more and would be enough to bring her back into the WTA top-400 .. Added to 3.25 last week, the points are very timely, because she has some 14 of her current 31 points falling off by March (Africa titles last year) and it makes sense to keep that ranking up in a comfortable place for challenger qualifying entries etc .. Sania missed the qualifying sign-in for the coming week's $25K challenger in the US because she is still in Boca Raton .. So she will be taking a few days off now, after this evening's final .. Hopefully she will make the qualifying list for the $75K challenger by next weekend ..

Feb 1 Note-1

OK, not a good day for Leander and Martina .. After umpteen wins in a row going back to Wimbledon, they were due for that I guess -- so, no swansong at her last Australian Open for Martina and the return from layoff didn't have a true fairy tale ending for Leander .. But congrats go to them for what they did this week .. [F] (4) L.Paes/ M.Navratilova l. N.Zimonjic/ E.Bovina, 16 67(3) .. Unfortunately, I had to be away today and could not follow the match to give you details ...

Gael Monfils (FRA) who beat Karan yesterday at the AO, went on to win the boys final 60 63 over country-mate Josselin Ouanna, if it is any consolation for us still mourning Karan's loss yesterday .. Ouanna has mostly been playing pros lately and is already ranked right around 500 - he is as hard a server as Monfils and has beaten him recently too .. Just the way Monfils beat him today shows what kind of form he has had this weekend at the AO .. Anyway, it looks like Karan with 686.5 points will be ranked 4th on Monday behind Monfils (FRA) at #1, Reischik (GER), and Zverev (GER); actually just one point behind Zverev -- all of that if my quick mental calculations are correct ...

There was a total rain-out at the Boca Raton $10K on Saturday, and so Sania is yet to play the semis.

Jan 31 Note-2

Karan Rastogi's fantastic run at the Australian Open was followed by immediate rewards, as Karan has now become a member of the Davis Cup squad today! .. That is tremendous for a guy who is just 17 years and 2 months old .. Technically this is after the team nominations were sent to ITF (LP,MB,Harsh, P.Vishal) .. But the Davis Cup regulations allow for up to two of the nominations to be changed up to one hour before the draw, which will be on the coming wednesday .. Great job by captain Leander, AITA's Davis Cup selection committee to move fast and get him in the team before he left to India for the grade-2 in Delhi .. Now it will be an easy trip to New Zealand with the team for Karan .. He will benefit a lot by playing with the team, and this gives Leander an additional option in singles, after the practice sessions .. By the way,  Harsh Mankad is on his way to New Zealand - I actually met him at the LAX airport last night before he took off; he is in good health and spirits after a week of indoors practice in Minnesota.

More good news from the junior ranks -- Rupesh Roy won a double crwon at the grade-3 ITF juniors in Kolkata today, winning the singles over Xaio-Peng Lai (HKG), and winning the doubles title with Anshuman Dutta .. The girls singles title went to I-Hsuan Huang (TPE) who beat Pichittra Thongdach (THA) .. See the Kolkata juniors page .. Rupesh had won a double crown last week at the ITF grade-3 in Dhaka as well, and this shoots him up the ranks even more .. The 60 points from singles and 50 from doubles increases his  best-six total by 40 in singles and 30 in doubles -- so add 47.5 more to the combined ranking points, which goes up to 280 .. His rank will move up to around #65 next week .. That means Rupesh also joins the plans for the Grand Slam junior team for the rest of the year.  Terrific.  The interesting thing in reports of his matches over the last two weeks is that he has a tendency to get broken on his serve but he calmly keeps breaking the opponents and pretty much wins in straight sets every time .. It is wonderful to see the focus from the young boy to win back to back double crowns, which is really a very tough thing to do .. Go Rupesh!

Tara Iyer went down in the QF of the grade-2 in Ecuador yesterday to the 5th seed Elizabeth Plotkin (USA,115), 63 36 26 .. IElizabeth was her doubles partner too, but I think they lost in the QF - but not sure.

Jan 31 Note-1
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Karan's fabulous run ended today at the Australian Open against a talented, powerful and athletic French 18 year old .. Having known about Monfils, I had expected to call it an upset by Karan had he managed to beat him, despite his lower rank .. It didn't happen .. [SF] (4) K.Rastogi l. (8) G.Monfils (FRA), 26 26 .. This is how the match went .. [Set-1] It started as a no contest with Karan only hitting one of his first 6 first serves .. Got broken at 30-40 in the first game .. Monfils started with a 209 kph (130 mph) ace, and I thought, holy crap! .. Then Karan was again down 15-40, getting broken for a second time to fall to 0-3 .. He got a little help from Monfils in the next game as he missed all his first serves, Karan coming up with 2 winners to get one break back .. He held serve to bring it closer to 2-3 .. Karan however just could not seem to get his first serves to fall in .. At 2-4 he was down 15-40 and double faulted to fall to 2-5 again .. Now Monfils was ready to nail the set down -- three aces from him in the next game, one of them at 200 kph .. Set over at 2-6 .. "Ouch" is all I could think of -- man, that French dude is tough .. [Set-2] Karan held serve well, hitting most of his first serves for a change ..  In the next game, Monfils served his 5th ace, a 206 kph bomb .. If he kept that up, it was clear that there was nothing much Karan could do, especially when he was not playing error-free tennis .. KR again dropped serve next game at 0-40 and it was 1-2 .. It was another break in the 5th game for a 1-4 score .. Then at 1-5 Karan held serve with an ace and started putting up some last-gasp fight .. In the next game, Monfils fired three aces in a row to get triple match pts .. Then he missed the next three first serves and Karan made it a deuce, saving three match pts .. He even had an AD out break pt .. A 204 kph service winner gave Monfils a 4th match pt, and again Karan forced deuce .. But there was only so much he could do against the cannon ball server and it was over soon .. It was nice to see that brief fight from Karan, but this was a losing battle right from the first point ace from Monfils .. The guy had 10 aces to one by Karan .. He won 55 points to 32 by Karan .. I feel that KR had to play a totally mistake-free match, which he couldn't, as he made 25 unforced errrs (16 by Monfils) .. 5 winners from Karan to 8 (excluding aces) .. The match took 51 minutes .. Basically, we had a guy who is about a year older and with more pro experience playing Karan here .. By the way,Karan's fastest serve speed was 182 kph (113 mph), which is not too bad for someone who only recently turned 17 .. I am sure he will add at least another 10 kph more to it (120 mph) which is more than sufficient to win in the pro levels later, with his kind of talent in the other aspects of the game .. Despite the loss today, it was really an incredible run by Karan, beating all the top-35 players he beat in straight sets .. Despite there being tons of Asians in the draws this time (19 of them), Karan was the only Asian to make even the final 8 of either junior singles draws at the "Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific" as the Australian Open calls itself now .. I truly believe that there are only about 3 or 4 players in the juniors who are as good or better than Karan and I had thought that Monfils might be one of them (especially when he serves hot and plays accurately like he did today) .. Next grand slam, Karan! .. I think KR might move up to #3 or #4 from #8 in the world junior ranks, but I have not calculated the numbers yet.

<I think he will be flying into Delhi to play at the grade-2 there next week .. I don't think he has too much to gain by way of points unless he wins it, but just because it is in India, he might be playing -- and it helps to have highly-ranked players like him in the event, as we look to upgrade the Indian events to even higher grades in the near future.

Jan 30 Note-2

.. Morning update from Florida -- Sania Mirza reached the $10K semifinal with a 75 63 win over Afinogenova!

At the Australian Open, the Saturday action starts with the big junior semifinal for Karan Rastogi against Gael Monfils (FRA,12), at the big Margaret Court Arena .. How about that? .. Come on into the chatroom (5.30 am SAT India .. 7 pm FRI New York) .. Go Karan "Bombay Bomber" Rastogi !! ..

Here is the Australian Open's article on Leander Paes .. Exceprts - There is a great deal of affection between the two veterans on court and Paes said the opportunity to play with Navratilova in her last year on the circuit - and to play in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens - gave him the motivation to return to playing at the age of 30 .... "Being out here trying to help Martina win her 169th title … is fantastic," Paes said. "(But) the main reason I actually came back was to play at my fourth Olympics ..... I'm 30 now and I've been doing this for the last 18 years. I'm back on court as hungry as ever. I'm actually chasing every ball. I'm out there and I want more." .... Navratilova said that Paes had returned with a sense of purpose in his tennis and believes he is capable of regaining top form. ... "His intensity is phenomenal," Navratilova said. "You know, he wants it. I mean his heart - he's got a big heart, and that's how he plays." ...  Well said, again, Martina.

At the $10K ITF circuit event in Boca Raton, Florida, Sania Mirza had an easy second round against qualifier Tetiana Luzhanska (BLR, 991) 62 60 yesterday to reach the QF where she will meet Ekaterina Afinogenova (RUS,678) who upset the second seed Yan-Ze Xie in the PQF .. Second seeded Sania and Dziamidzenka had an easy 61 61 win as well, against Americans, Beau Jones and Shikha Uberoi (USA) .. They meet the 3rd seeds Nicole Melch (AUT)/ Vladmira Uhlirova (CZE) in the semifinals.

At the grade-2 ITF juniors in Cuenca, Ecuador, the 3rd seed Tara Iyer beat the 13th seed Marina Cossou (FRA), 63 61 according to El Mercurio, Cuenco .. Not sure whom she is playing in the QF.

There is of course yet another highly talented Indian kid doing well .. At the Kolkata ITF grade-3 juniors, Rupesh Roy continued his terrific run, as he beat the 3rd seed Martin Sayer (HKG), 64 64 to make his second successive grade-3 final .. He faces the giant-killer "new kid in the block", Xiao-Peng Lai of Hong Kong in the final .. Lai upset the top seed Navdeep .. On the girls' side, Kartiki Bhat went doiwn to the strong 3rd seed I-Hsuan Huang (TPE) .. See the Kolkata juniors page.

Jan 30 Note-2

"Czech Inde Mail" keeps on going .. ANOTHER FINAL! .. [SF] (4) L.Paes/ M.Navratilova d. Jonathan Erlich (ISR)/ Liezel Huber (RSA), 64 64 .. They quickly had a triple break point in the very first game itself, but could not convert the three chances .. Leander started in style, hitting a 175 kph ace on his very first serve! .. He held serve easily and then our pair again had a trilple break point, this time against Liezel .. This time they converted the second break chance to go ahead 2-1 .. Martina faced a break point in the next game, but she saved it .. LP-MN had two more chances (set points) at 5-3 but Erlich held on .. Then Leander served for the set, starting with his second ace .. They lost two set points but at 40-30, Leander, who has a flair for picking the right moments for aces, served another one to pocket the set .. No big drama in the second set, except for LP serving two more aces in the second game .. Then the classic stuff started in the 7th game .. Liezel had to manage to stop Leander from teeing up on her serve, and she had to hit first serves to him ..  Three times she missed first serves to the deuce court and three points to our pair .. She then double faulted while serving to Martina and LP-MN were up 4-3 .. Then at 5-4, LP had his adrenaline going, as he cranked up four serves at 187, 187, 191 and 187 kph (a couple of them were faults, but good to see that his serve speeds is all back) to take care of the set.

Up next for LP-MN in the final will be Nenad Zimonjic (SER) and Elena Bovina (RUS) .. Go Lee and Martina ..

Jan 30 Note-1

Hello grand slam singles semifinal!! .. I know I am probably not the only one who had lost hope over the last decade or so that we would ever see an Indian in a grand slam singles semifinal - I believe Leander was the last one to do it, way back in 1991 .. Well, rekindle the hopes, people -- Karan Rastogi is arriving faster than you think! .. [QF] (4) K.Rastogi d. Fabio Fognini (ITA,23), 61 75 at the Australian Open juniors .. Here is how the match went - [Set-1] Karan started with an unforced error but followed that with an ace, avoiding trouble .. Helped by two double faults from Fognini, he had two break points in the next game and he converted the second one .. In the 6th game he again saw Fognini serving a double fault, one a point at the net and converted the first break chance. 5-1 .. Fognini managed to save two set points and take Karan to a deuce in the next game but KR slammed the door firmly shut with the next two points .. Just four unforced errors by Karan against 15 by Fognini was the real difference in the match ... [Set-2] Karan lost a chance to go ahead quickly in the second set, as Fognini hit only one of six first serves, but KR who had only 4 unforced errors in all of the first set made four in a row and let the Italian boy off the hook .. Another unforced error in the next game gave Fognini a break point .. Karan had to save two break points to avoid trouble there .. Then again in the 4th game, KR had three more unforced errors including a DF, and he was again facing break points, but again he saved two BPs .. Gritty hold again by Karan .. 2-2 .. That must have disheartened Fabio, who made four errors in the next game and fell at the 3rd break point to Karan .. But he didn't give up and had Karan again at 15-40 .. Finally he converted the 6th break chance he got in the match, to even it 3-3 .. Karan wasn't done - he got himself a triple break point and converted the first chance itself to go up again, to 4-3 .. But the breakfest wasn't over .. KR was down 0-40 and getting broken on our straight points .. The Italian seemed to have got a second wind .. He held serve to lead 5-4 .. Now, just at thr right time, after having lost 7 points in a row on his serve and having served decues or BPs for five service games in a row, Karan steadied himself marvellously and held serve well .. 5-5 .. What is more, he must have put serious pressure on the Italian boy, who committed three unforced errors to drop serve at 15-40 in the next game .. Fognini then choked and made three more errors in the next game with Karan hitting a winner to earn triple match points and finish the job !!! YES!

Up next for Karan is the 8th seed Gael Monfils (FRA,12), a powerful and talented 18 year old who looks ready for the pros these days - he was the runner-up at last week's Australian Hardcourts and is certainly in great form so far at the AO .. He had a win over Karan at the Victyorian grade-2 QFs a year back too .. Time for big revenge Karan!

LP and Martina should be coming up by about 5 pm there (11.30 am India .. 1 am NY) .. Come on into the chatroom ..

Jan 29 Note-2

Pretty impressive match from Tushar Liberhan and Weeraput Doakmaiklee, considering that they were facing a very experienced top seede pair - [R2] T.Liberhan/ W.Doakmaiklee (THA) l. (1) Brendan Evans (USA)/ Scott Oudesma (USA), 57 57 .. I only followed the first set, as the second set was played after a long rain delay and I went to sleep .. At 1-2, Tushar dropped serve after a double fault, but they quickly had the top seeds at double break point .. Our guys broke them back, though Oudsema, a very hard server, banged down a 128 mph ace (hmm, that is hard stuff for the junior levels! -- by the way, this is the first match with an Indian kid that was played on a good court with a speed gun; Tushar went just over 100 for max, but Weeraput crossed 110 mph) .. 2-3 .. Then at 5-6 with Tushar serving at deuce, the rain started .. On return he lost a point to face their second break point, and fell after saving one  set point .. They won 35 to 39 points by the top seeds in that set, showing how closely our guys played the match .. In the second set, it looks like the breaks went back and forth with our guys getting broken three times and thge winners two times .. That is a pretty high quality fight from Tushar and his Thai buddy, but a loss.

Karan plays the QF tomorrow at 2 pm (8.30 am FRI India .. 10 pm THU New York) .. LP-MN mixed doubles semi folows at about 4 pm.

At the $10K Boca Roton II ITF event, [R1] (2) Sania Mirza/ Natallia Dziamidzenka (BLR) d. (WC) Jenni-Lee Heinser/ Jennifer Stevens (USA) 61 60 .. Up next for them in the QF are Beau Jones and Shikha Uberoi of USA .. In singles, Sania plays the R2 today, against qualifier Tetiana Luzhanska (BLR, 991) who upset the 5th seed Tessy Van De Ven (Ned, 315) yesterday.

At the $10K Bahrain futures doubles Karim Maamoun and Mohammed Maamoun of Egypt upset the top seeds (1) Mustafa Ghouse/ Aslam Qureshi (PAK), 76(2) 75 .. Though Yordan Kanev (BUL)/ Sunil Kumar Sipaeya had a walkover in the first round over Stian Boretti (ITA)/ Alexander Hartman (SWE), they went down to the Maamoun pair yesterday in the QF, 57 62 36.

At the Grade-2 ITF juniors in Cuenca, Ecuador, 3rd seed Tara Iyer, who had an R1 bye, beat Lara Fakhoury (GBR,292), 64 26 64 .. She plays (13) Marina Cossou (FRA) in the PQF .. Seeded 2nd in doubles with Elizabeth Plotkin (USA), she also won the doubles R2 (after a bye), 63 64 over Maria Teresa Salame (ECU) and Jessica Sweeting (BAH), 63 64 yesterday ..

At the Kolkata grade-3 ITF juniors, three Indians reached the semifinals -- Rupesh Roy (so what is new? :)), Navdeep Singh and Kartiki Bhat .. Top seed Madura Ranganathan got upset in the QF today .. A new unseeded player from Hong Kong, Xiao-Peng Lai, has been creating havoc out there, having beaten Sanam Singh, last week's runner up and 4th seed Khatib (GBR) and 6th seed Jeevan today .. Sandhya and Vandana also fell today, the latter to the very talented 3rd seed I-Husan Hwang, who will be more than a handfuil for Kartiki tomorrow .. Rupesh and Anshuman are in the doubles final once again, by the way .. See the Kolkata juniors page.

Jan 29 Note-1

YEAH!! .. Karan Rastogi is in the Quarterfinal of the Australin Open Juniors .. [PQF] (4) K.Rastogi (IND) d. Chu-Huan Yi (TPE,33), 61 76(1) .. Sweet revenge over the Taiwanese boy who had upset him at the Asian Juniors last month .. Karan was not going to take this as an easy match .. He was all over Yi in the first set, breaking him three times while getting broken once .. In the second set it got a bit tighter as both got broken once each .. At 4-5, with Karan serving at 30-15, down came the rain causing a 2 hour delay ..  I was really worried, because there have been a few occasions in his career when such breaks have made him lost focus and lose the match .. It is a testemanet to how he has improved on every little concerns we have had along the way, that he came back and slammed down an ace and won three points without losing a beat from the rain interruption .. In the tiebreaker, Chu-Huan did not stand a chance as Karan nailed the matchd down to make his maiden QF of a grand slam .. This is only the second time in memory (perhaps since Leander times I guess) that an Indian is reaching a grand slam QF .. Sunil Kumar did that at Wimbledon, but he was a year older than Karan is now .. It is great to see KR living up to his ranking .. With the top seed having been upset, KR is the highest rank in the upper half of the draw - but that doesn;t mean much, as the remaining players are all pretty damn good .. He will face either 5th seed Scott Oudsema (USA) or Fabio Fognini (ITA), who are tied at one set apiece right now .. Go Karan!!! ..

Jan 28 Note-5

At the Australian Open, the Thursday matches have started and Karan Rastogi is ahead 61 45 (on serve), against Chu-Huan Yi in the PQF, but there is a play stoppage of some sort going on, as of 1 pm (7.30 am India, 9 pm WED New York) .. Later, Tushar and Weeraput come up against the top seeds Scott Oudsema and Brandon Evans (USA) at about 3 pm or later (depending on the stoppage) .. Come ot the chatroom during the matches .. LP-MN are off today, and should be playing the MxD semis on Friday.

At the $10K in Boca Raton, Florida, Sania dvanced to the second round with a good 63 64 win over Chantal Coombs (GBR,466) yesterday .. She runs into either the 5th seed Tessy Van De Ven (Ned, 315) vs (Q) Tetiana Luzhanska (BLR, 991) next.

At the grade-3 ITF in Kolkata, 4th seed Punam Reddy went down today to Sandhya Nagraj, but otherwise no big surprises .. See the Kolkata juniors page.

Jan 28 Note-4

Three more doubles scores .. First, LP-MN continued their winning streak there, reaching the semifinal !! .. [QF] (4) L.Paes/ M.Navratilova d. Paul Hanley (AUS)/ Trudy Musgrave (AUS), 63 36 (10-7) .. Close match all through, but our guys hung tough .. They broke Musgrave in the 8th game to finish off the set .. Then Martina was broken in similar fashion in the second set .. IN the supertiebreak, they won about 5 points in a row to take an 8-4 lead and then Leander won it on the second match point from 9-6 .. Up next for them are Jonathan Erlich (ISR)/ Liezel Huber (RSA) in the semi .. Those two upset the top seeds Knowles-RuanoPascal in a supertiebreaker as well ..

In the junior doubles matches, [R1] Tushar Liberhan/ Weerapat Doakmaiklee (THA) d. Luis Diaz-Barriga (MEX)/ Maciej Sykut (USA), 16 76(4) 64 ... [R1] Sanaa Bhambri/ Ayu Fani Damayanti INA l. (3) Marina Erakovic (NZL)/ Ekaterina Kosminskaya (RUS), 26 06 .. Tushar and Weeraput must have had a nervous start, as they looked totally out of it in the first set, with Tushar dropping serve both times .. In the second set they started playing better, but this time Weeraput dropped serve and they were behind in the 2nd game .. They evened it at the right time in the 10th game and did the job in the tiebreaker .. They went up 4-2 and stayed ahead in the 3rd set for a nice comeback win .. As for Sanaa's match, well, the 3rd seeds were way too strong for the Indian-Indon pair ..

And then in the junior match that finished last in the day, Karan and Divij simply seemed to let a another match slip through their hands (just like last week, when they were again way ahead of the opponents till late in the second set and totally lost their way afterwards) .. [R1] (7) Divij Sharan/ Karan Rastogi l. Thomas Liversage (RSA)/ Tonci Peric (CRO), 64 57 06 .. They were up at 5-4 with Karan serving for the match in the second set .. Two points away from a win there, then the other guys turned it around .. And our guys looked like they gave up way too fast in the 3rd set .. by the way, it was the same Thomas Liversage who did it to them last week at the Australian Hardcourts with another partner! .. To say this was disappointing is an understatement, especially as this same thing happened twice in a row .. I hope the boys are not injured or anything; at the beginning of the 3rd set there was a long break, which looked like a break for trainer or bathroom .. Oh damn .. OK, forget this one Karan, and do your thing in singles tomorrow!

In other news, Sania Mirza is drawn to face Chantal Coombs (GBR,466) in the first round of the Boca raton $10K ITF this week .. In doubles, second seeded Sania and Natallia Dziamidzenka (BLR) plays the wildcards, Jenni-Lee Heinser/ Jennifer Stevens (USA) .. At the Bahrain $15K, Karim Maamoun and Mohammed Maamoun of Egypt upset the top seeds, Mustafa Ghouse and Aslam Qureshi (PAK), 76(2) 75 .. The Egyptian pair now run into Sunil Kumar Sipaeya and Yordan Kanev of Bulgaria, who got a walkover from Stian Boretti (ITA)/ Alexander Hartman (SWE) ..

At the grade-2 ITF juniors in Cuenca, Ecuador, Tara Iyer is seeded 3rd and has a first round bye .. She plays either Julia Cirne Lima (BRA) or Lara Fakhoury (GBR) in the round of 32.

Jan 28 Note-3

One more down .. [R2] S.Bhambri l. (8) Sheng-Nan sun (CHN,18), 06 57 .. The match started and before we blinked Sanaa had lost the set  .. She dropped serve every time and was down 0-6 .. She held serve for the first time in the second set, but now she started playing much better .. She broke Sun to go ahead 3-2 (after 8 break points and 10 decues!), but got broken back immediately to 3-3 .. Once again she broke Sun to go ahead to 4-3, and once agin she was broken (this time Sanaa saving 4 break points before falling) - 4-4 .. The breakfest continued, as Sanaa showed her fighting spirit with a 3rd break in a row to go ahead 5-4 .. Actually the match didn't seem to be of the highest quality, with unforced errors mounting to ridiculous numbers on both sides .. Now Sanaa had to hold serve for a change to even the sets .. But her serve was just not helping Sanaa as she was for the umpteenth time facing break points, 0-40 .. 5-5 .. Finally Shen-Nan held serve for a 6-5 lead and Sanaa was broken for the 7th time in her 9 service games .. Match over .. Sheng-Nan made enough errors (35 of them) to give Sanaa a chance, but SB made 36 unforced errors, including 9 double faults .. 53 pts to Sanaa, 78 to Sheng-Nan .. Sun did have 21 winners while Sanaa only had 10 .. Oh well, not a great day for our girl  -- OK, next time, Sanaa .. Nice to see you win a round in your first Australian Open!

Jan 28 Note-2

Karan Rastogi showed the kind of game that top seeds are expected to play .. [R2] (4) K.Rastogi d. Miles Kasiri (GBR,34), 61 63 .. After 1-1 in the first set, it was basically a romp for Karan, who kept breaking Miles, and was up 6-1 1-0 in about 25 minutes .. He had 5 aces on his serves too by then .. Thereafter Milese played a little better and KR did not have any more aces .. Actually his first serve percentage was quite bad at around 45% till he brought it up over 50 late in the second set when he had to serve accurately against a suddenly resurgent Kasiri .. After breaking MK in the 6th game of the second set to go up 4-2, Karan had to save one BP in the 7th game and two more in the 9th game before closing out the match .. Karan won 59 points to 36 by Miles, which shows the kind of domination KR had in the match -- Impressive to see that kind of a win over a top-35 junior player in the world .. 4 of 6 in break chances for KR, 0 of 4 for MK .. Up next for him is Chu-Huan Yi (CHN,33) a really talented 16 yr old from China, who had beaten Karan 76 75 in the semifinal at the Asian Juniors before losing to Arun Prakash 46 46 in the final ..  The Sanaa Bhambri match is on right now, but it doesn't look good early for her ..

At the Kolkata grade-3, there were no surprises yesterday, as the first round got all done .. Top two seeds Navdeep and Rupesh advanced on the boys' side .. See the Kolkata juniors page.

Tara Iyer has a first round bye at the grade-2 junior event in Cuenca, Ecuador .. Her first round may be only on Wednesday, and the opponent is TBD.

Jan 28 Note-1

Karan Rastogi has started off today's action at 10 am (4.30 am India .. 6 pm Tuesday New Yoprk) at the Australian Open, and is leading 61 10 on Miles Kasiri (GBR,34) as I type .. Come to the chatroom to follow an action-packed day for us .. Sanaa's singles R2 follows Karan's match on the same court .. Divij and Doakmaiklee play doubles at abourt 1.30 pm followed on the same court by Divij and Karan in R1 doubles (about 3.30 pm) as well .. The day ends with Leander-Martina playing the MxD QF at about 6 pm .. It should be a fun day!

Unfortunately, MadMax went down last night in the doubles QF against the tough French pair .. [QF] (2) M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi l. (5) Michael Llodra (FRA)/ Fabrice Santoro (FRA), 36 46 .. The match started at 11.30 pm and finished past 12.30 at night .. I have no details, excpet that our pair got broken once in each set and could not convert the only break point they had in the whole match .. They were really not much in the match, based on the stats .. Oh well.

Jan 27 Note-1

At the Australian Open juniors, Sanaa advanced to the second round with a good win - [R1] Sanaa Bhambri (IND,38) d. Jennifer Elie (USA,84), 64 63 .. I don't have much details on the match .. I did see that Sanaa warded off a last-gasp attempt from Elie .. While serving for the match, Sanaa was down 15-40 ,.. From there she saved three break points before clinching the win .. Next up for Sanaa is a tough one - the eighth seed Sheng-Nan Sun (CHN,18) ..  The matches are all delayed by a couple of hours today - not sure if all the doubles matches will get done today.

Sunil Kumar Sipaeya went down in the first round yesterday at the Bahrain $15K futures against the top seed Uros Vico (ITA,291), 36 26 ..

At the ITF "ONGC" junior grade-3 at Kolkata, there were two good upsets by Indians .. GK Shwetha took care of the 5th seed Elina Arutyunova (UZB,149) by a 76(3) 6 score .. On the boys' side, wildcard Tejaswi Rao upset the 8th seed Yuriy Akatov (KAZ) as well .. M.Jeevan, R.Madura, Kartiki Bhat etc advanced .. One bad news was that Sanam K. Singh lost to Lai Xiao-Peng (HKG) .. Pretty decent foreign competition in the event .. The seeds are all inside about top-175 and the cuts are not much below 225 in the draws .. The monday results are all at the Kolkata juniors page .. The rest of the first round contiunues on Tuesday.

Awaiting infor on Sania's draw in Boca Raton and Tara's draw in Ecuador.

Jan 26 Note-2

It turns out that Lee and Martina are through to the QF of mixed doubles, as they got a walkover from Lucas Arnold (ARG) and Angelique Widjaja (INA) - actually this match was never scheduled, the walkover being given even before that .. Now, LP-MN play the Aussie pair, Paule Hanley and Trudy Musgrave .. The match should be on wednesday .. MB and Mirnyi will be playing their doubles QF against 5th seeds Llodra-Santoro on Tuesday late night at the Rod Laver arena (Tuesday early morning in the US, about 4 pm in India)

The junior doubles draws are out at the AO -- [R1] Tushar Liberhan/ Weerapat Doakmaiklee (THA) vs Luis Diaz-Barriga (MEX)/ Maciej Sykut (USA) .. [R1] (7) Divij Sharan/ Karan Rastogi vs Thomas Liversage (RSA)/ Tonci Peric (CRO) .. [R1] Sanaa Bhambri/ Ayu Fani Damayanti INA vs (3) Marina Erakovic (NZL)/ Ekaterina Kosminskaya (RUS) .. All three matches are scheduled for Tuesday afternoon there.

Today's ITF junior ranks show Rupesh Roy moving up big to #81 among world juniors .. Congratulations to the kid! .. The girls' ranks are not out yet but 15 year old #131 Madura  Ranganathan also shoiuld be moving up by about 15 spots, after her runner-up finish ar the Bangladesh grade-3 (she had a semi there last year and had some points to defend) .. The whole caravan has moved to Kolkata for the grade-3 event starting the three-week series in India .. The qualies are done at the DKS courts  (Manu Bajpai, Asha Nandakumar, Sanjana Kapur and Prerna Mythri are the Indians qho qualified in) .. Haven't seen the draws yet.

I just found out that that Tara Iyer, our junior #3 behind Sania and Sanaa, will be at the grade-2 ITF juniors in Ecuador this week .. Due to important school exams last week, she couldn't go to the Australin Open - it would be a waste of time to go down there for this week without even the grade-1 preparation event last week, and so it makes sense that she skipped it and decided to play two weeks now in Ecuador .. She will also be also at the subsequent grade-2 in Ecuador next week.

A little tid-bit ---- Did you know that Tara Iyer is the first Indian, male, female or junior to play in ANY event in the south american continent, since 1995 when Leander Paes played the clay challenger in Medellin, Colombia (June 1995) ?? .. None of our players stepped on the south american soil in nearly 9 years .. Look it up; I am quite sure of this stat, incredible as it seems.

Jan 26 Note-1

LP and MB are off for Monday .. At the Australian, the junior events have started and only Karan advanced today, though both Divij and Tushar put up really good fights in their losses .. (4) Karan Rastogi (IND,4) d. Sunu Trijati (INA,53), 62 62 .. Tushar Liberhan (IND,48) l. (13) Scoville Jenkins (USA,19) 46 63 16 .. Divij Sharan (IND,38) l. Andrew Coelho (AUS,170), 75 67(6) 46 .. I was out and could not follow the matches today .. Up next for the 4th seed Karan Rastogi is Miles Kasiri (GBR,35) .. Sanaa Bhambri plays the R1 on Tuesday.

At the Bahrain $15K futures, Sunil Kumar was the top seed in the qualies with a first round bye .. He beat Rishi Behl in the second round and made the main draw, but runs into the top seed Uros Vico (ITA,291) in the R1 .. 6th seed Mustafa fell in the Q1, as did Nishank Mishra ..

In other news, Harsh Mankad has withdrawn from the USA F3 futures this week .. Not feeling great physically, but no major problems ..  Decided to not risk anything and just prepare indoors for the Davis Cup ..  By the way, for consolation, just like Brian Baker last week, the one who upset Harsh, Frederico Luzzi, went on to win the title today .. At a second $10K event, also in Boca Raton, Florida, Sania Mirza is in the main draw for this week .. She made the draw just before the qualies started, due to withdrawals .. Main draw awaited.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Jan 26 ..

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.