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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Feb 2, 1998
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Feb 2 Note-1
The Telepgrah (Calcutta) is reporting today that Mahesh has had interest from at least half a dozen top women stars to partner him in mixed doubles at the French Open. The newspaper reports seem to be based on some comments by his coach, Enrico Piperno. Mahesh may be considering either Serena Williams or Mirjana Lucic as a potential partner at the FO, and both have shown interest. Apparently the reason why he did not partner with Rika Hiraki is that she, despite being a very good player, is a bit too short and he had to cover a lot of ground. "Caroline Vis is a good player too, but Mahesh may opt for Lucic or Serena", Rico is quoted to have said. The newspaper says MB will play the qualifiers at Dubai later this week, but that LP has applied for a wildcard (..not sure if it is confirmed that he won't play the qualifiers there.. possibly he may opt for 3 or 4 days more of rest to heal the stomach muscle injury, before getting there for doubles.. VERY doubtful if he would get a wildcard. The earlier reports were that he won't).
Leander's ranking is about to nosedive. The 20 points from AO last year fell off last week, so he should be down to 359 as of today, which will place him at around 130. The 80 points from Shanghai last year fall off Feb 2nd, that is today, but I understand that it will show up on the rankings only next week. Then his point total will be down to 280, the lowest he has had in a year and half (last time he was that low was in the weeks right after the 96 Olympics). That means his rank will be around 160 next week. Will wait and see if ATP drops those 80 points this week itself. He needs to get his injuries healed and make his run in the four challengers that follow Dubai, and I am sure he will !
Feb 1 Note-2
The scores from the Bangalore AITA ranking tournament are: Men's Singles Final: Prahlad Srinath d. Marcus Hilpert (Ger), 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 .. Women's Singles Final: Sai Jailakshmi d. Archana Venkatraman, 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 7-6 (8-6). Prahlad had to again pull out a comeback act, after being down a set and a break in the second set. Interestingly, two Indian newspapers (Deccan Herald and The Hindu) have erroneously reported that this is Marcus Hilpert's first loss against an Indian during his recent Indian trip where he played 7 tournaments: The 3 ITF Futures at Delhi, Chandigarh and Indore, the West Bengal championship, the National Grasscourts championship, The South Indian championship, and this AITA ranking tournament. Well, the newspapers are wrong on this. Our own Syed Fazaluddin beat him lock-stock-and-barrel, 6-2, 6-2 in the Chandigarh Futures semifinals. Still, a very good win by Prahlad over an ATP-400 caliber player. The several comebacks Prahlad has made recently shows the fighter in him, and his ability to adjust. Prahlad made Rs 20K for the win. The Hindu is also reporting that Prahlad got 20 ATP points. I think that must be a mistake. This is only an AITA event and one only gets the AITA points for this (even the $10,000 ITF futures title, worth about Rs 50K gets you only 12 ATP points. The Hindu must have got mixed up on this).
Mahesh is in India now. MB said in an interview with The Hindu that he has a wildcard to the Singapore challenger, starting on Feb 16th, the week after the Dubai tournament. That's good assurance, but I wouldn't think he would need a wildcard to enter that challenger; with his #223 ranking, he should be in the direct entry (his current ranking should move up a couple of spots with the 5 points he got from the qualifier first round win at the AO.. His next points to fall off are on Feb 23rd, some 44 at the Tokyo challenger last year, but that will happen only after the Singapore week, and the Vietnam challenger week that follows.. will check on that..). Also, apparently Leander is still in Australia, getting some massage therapy etc to get rid of the stomach muscle scar tissue problem, before proceeding to India or Dubai.
Feb 1 Note-1
Second seed Prahlad Srinath upset first seed Marcus Hilpert at the 6th All Indian Open Ranking tournament in Bangalore today, in a 3 set comeback, to win the singles title .. Sai Jailakshmi (#2 seed) won the women's final, over Archana Venkataraman, in a tough 3 setter with 2 tiebreaker sets .. By the way, Vijay Kannan and Uzma Khan didn't play at Bangalore because both are at Colombo, SriLanka, for the International Junior tournament there (Vijay lost in the singles semis, but Uzma is in the final of both singles and doubles, as of yesterday) .. More later..
Jan 31 Notes
Couldn't you have guessed ?.. Just as at the US Open, the ones who beat Leander/Mahesh in the semis went on to win the doubles championship. Bjorkman/Eltingh won over Woodbridge/Woodforde 6-2, 5-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 .. At the US Open, it was Kafelnikov/Vacek who beat our guys in two tiebreakers, who went on to win the final in easier straight sets over Bjorkman/Kulti .. The one telling statistics of how close these teams are (really the only stat on the stats-sheets that normally has the highest correlation to who played better overall), is the number of points won. In LP/MB's semifinal loss, Bjorkman/Eltingh won 152 points to our guys' 150. In a slightly easier 5-set final, B/E won 136 points to the Woodies' 130 .. Draw your own conclusions on all these .. By the way, Bhupathi/Paes are the only team to reach the semifinals of the last two grand slam tournaments. Bjorkman is the only other player to do so. Well, I think it won't be too long before our guys get the right breaks in the semis to move on and win a GS championship.
The All-India Ranking Tennis Tournament (Century Club, Bangalore) finals are set. Marcus Hilpert (#1 seed) will face Prahlad Srinath (#2 seed) on the men's side, and Sai Jayalakshmi (#2 seed) will play Archana Venkataraman (#3 seed) on the women's side. Gaurav Natekar had a forgettable outing against Marcus Hilpert, but Vasudev Reddy did fight hard against Prahlad. The results are: Men`s Singles (SF): Marcus Hilpert (Ger) bt Gaurav Natekar 6-2, 6-1; Prahlad Srinath bt Vasudev Reddy 6-4, 6-4. Women`s Singles (SF): Archana Venkatraman bt Sadia Patan 6-4, 6-3; Sai Jailakshmi bt Aparna Srinivasan 7-6 (7-1), 6-1. Men`s Doubles Final: Marcus Hilpert and Gaurav Natekar bt Prahlad Srinath and Vasudev Reddy 6-7 (0-7), 6-3, 6-2. Women`s doubles final: Arati Ponnappa and Sai Jailakshmi (#1 seed) bt Archana Venkataraman and Arathi Venkataraman 6-1, 6-1.
Jan 30 Notes
Mahesh and Caroline lost yesterday in the semis, to #5 seeds Suk and Sukova. Close match, 2-6, 6-3, 6-7 (3-7).. So, Mahesh's run ended with two semifinals and an 8-3 record in the matches in Melbourne including the singles qualifiers. By the way, did you all notice who was in the singles semifinals ? .. Nicolas "the dude" Escude .. He was the one who made us sad by beating Mahesh in the second round of the US Open qualifiers in 3 sets. He was then #127, but now that loss looks more acceptable. Escude will move way up in the rankings.
Not much news today, except some report in Economic Times about MB and LP being chased by United Breweries of McDowell fame, to be their counter to Kingfisher's "Two-Much" pair of cricketers Ganguli and Jadeja. Apparently LP and MB are concerned about endorsing liquor companies, but the company expects to get them on-board when they are in India next week before going to Dubai (Thanks, Prakash Hemdev, for spotting that news item).
Speaking of the $1040K Dubai Open (starting Feb 9th), every top player and his uncle seems to be in the draw there with the closing cut-off still reported to be #49. Becker, Ivanisevic, Bjorkman, Moya, Rios, Corretja, A.Costa, Bruguera, Muster, Kiefer, Tarango .. so on. That is incredible .. Could they be throwing some oil money around as apperance fees ? LP/MB should be the top seed there in doubles. Mahesh is expected to leave by Wednesday to Dubai, and try out the qualifiers over the weekend. If the stomach muscle problem needs only a week's rest, LP should also be in the qualifier draw (he had a wildcard there last year, but doesn't look like he will get one this year).
The AITA Ranking Tournament at Bangalore has gone without any surprises on the men's side, so far. On the women's side, the only surprise was #1 seed Arti Ponnappa losing to Sadia Pathan in round 2 (...who ?.. she is from Belgaum, Karnataka, and has pulled another upset in the quarterfinal) .. Prahlad Srinath had to come back from 2-5 deficits in both sets to win against Rishi Sridhar. Prahlad said, ''I can't remember when I played this badly last .. 'The balls were flying and I couldn't control it. Also I wasn't concentrating at all".... Here are the results: Men's singles (quarterfinals): 1-Marcus Hilpert (Ger) bt G Bharatraj 6-1, 6-4; 2-Prahlad Srinath bt 8-Rishi Sridhar 7-5, 7-5; 3-Gaurav Natekar bt Rohan Wadhera 6-1, 3-6, 6-0; 4-Vasudeva Reddy bt 7-Anand Radhakrishnan 6-7 (11-9), 7-6 (7-2), 6-4. Women's singles (quarterfinals): 2-Sai Jayalakshmi bt Jutika Choksi 6-4, 6-2; 3-Archana Venkataraman bt Ritu Sethi 6-2, 6-3; 4-Aparna Srinivas bt Arathi Venkataraman 2-6, 6-4, 6-3; Sadia Pathan bt 7-SK Tara 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). Girls U-16 (final): T Yamin bt Nandita Chandrashekar 6-4, 6-2. Girls' Under-14 (final): Maithri Jagannath bt Iciri Rai 6-3, 6-1.
Jan 29 Note-2
Forgot to say this in the last note. Guess who Mahesh Bhupathi and Rika Hiraki defeated in the semifinal of the Frech Open last June ? .. yep. The same team, Suk and Sukova, whom Bhupathi/Vis face in the semis today.. Had them 6-4, 6-4, then. It's time for an encore ! ..
Jan 29 Note-1
Hey, good news always follows bad news (though, it's traditionally assumed the other way around ..:-)) .. Mahesh Bhupathi and Caroline Vis made a comeback to win the late night match against Kerry-Ann Guse and Andrew Kratzmann, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 and move into the semifinals !! Had to go to sleep after the first set, and couldn't watch the scoreboard and progress of the match; but our trusted friend Kim Das of the fanclub who is now in Singapore, did stay up (easy for him; it was only afternoon for him..:-)) and here's what he says: We lost the first set 4-6 having been down a break early in the set. The second set was very tight and the only break came at 8-7 in the tiebraker with our guys winning 9-7. The third set was a different story though, they cruised through 6-2 against a very exhausted opponent. Interestingly, MB's serve just came alive (HEEAATTT!!) in the third set. I have no idea where he got the afterburners but they sure kicked in .. I don't know how Kim saw Mahesh's heaaatt on the Java scoreboard, but I guess MB was not giving up any points on his serve in the 3rd .. Basically, Caroline Vis dropped her serve right at the beginning of the match and they were 1-3 behind, and from then on, they did their job, with Mahesh as usual coming through on adrenaline in the end. .. Mahesh played 8 sets of tennis in the day and was still bringing it ?.. Impressive ! .. 4th seeded MB/V now play 5th seeded Cyril Suk and Helena Sukova, on Friday at 12.30 pm on court 1 (Thursday 3.30 pm PST in the US). So Mahesh will hardly get much time to recharge the batteries before going out on court again.
A little tidbit: Kerry-Ann Guse and David MacPherson were the team who defeated Paes and Dragomir at the US Open first round. Mahesh got to pull a little revenge on Karry-Anne for his buddy's sake last night !
In other news, what looked as promising response from some agencies and sponsors for Nirupama does not look as promising now, based on the latest resports I have got .. Talk is cheap, committing substance is not.. All of us still need to do the best we can, in supporting her. So I continue my earlier call to those who have ideas on sponsorship/support to write to me (email) .. The response from fans has not been stellar so far.
Jan 28 Note-3
They lost 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6 .. I have no spirit to type anything. Except that they kept fighting till the end, after a brief period at the end of the 2nd set and the beginning of the 3rd. They were cruising and serving at 5-3 in the 2nd, when LP dropped his serve, and MB dropped his in the next game (still trying to find out what happened there.. any injury flare-ups?).. They lost the second set 5-7. They looked listless, and not getting many points off the opponents service at all in the 3rd. Then they roared back in the 4th with a quick break to go up 2-0.. Held serve to win that set, and things looked fine, when at 2-3, LP fell behind 0-30.. Took that one to deuce but Eltingh/Haarhuis converted the one breakpoint they got, to go up 3-4. That was the match. LP/MB fought hard and took the next game off Eltingh to AD, but couldn't convert the break opportunity. At 3-5, Bjorkman served the match out.
Looking at the stats, they had 14 unforced errors and 8 double faults (to 5 and 1 for B/E). Looking at them set by set, however, it doesn't appear as though these were bunched up in the sets they lost. LP/MB had a first serve % of 68 to 61 by B/E. First serve winning % of 76 to 71 by B/E. Second serve winning % of 44 to 57 by B/E. Total points won: LP/MB had 150, B/E had 152. It was a pretty even match that slipped away, probably due to missed big points.
Well, it's another missed opportunity for big money, big points, and a grand slam final. But then again, these two are playing only in their 4th grand slam together, and their second grand slam semi, against two experienced guys who have been doing it for so long (Bjorkman was in a #1 team with Apell a few years back, and Eltingh, of course has been #2 with Haarhuis for ever).. They will learn from this. There are three more grandslams to go this year, and I will go ahead and make a prediction that our guys will win one of those at least ! .. Congrats to LP/MB for getting this far, and for their 8 match win streak before this close loss. Onward to Dubai !!
As of next week, our guys will be at least #3 (The Woodies and Bjorkman/Eltingh should be #1 and #2; or vice versa) Their individual ranks also should move up a couple of spots each.. Have you noticed how, after each heartbreaking loss, their rankings are always going up ?..
MB comes back in a couple of hours to play his mixed doubles match.. Hope he wins that one to raise our spirits.
Jan 28 Note-2
A note on points. LP/MB have 4 bonus points in the first round, 6 in second, 0 in final-16 and 6 in the QF giving them 16 to add to the 325 tournament points for reaching the semis. A total of 341 points. A win today will be huge, as Bjorkman/Eltingh have a sum-rank of 21 and so the bonus points will be 48, to add to tournament points of 537 for reaching the finals. That would be 537 + 48 + 16 = 601 points. So, a win today is worth 260 points. The maximum points LP/MB can get is if they win today and beat the Woodies in the finals. That would be 100 more bonus points as the Woodies have a sum-rank of 2, and the total will be 750 + 16 + 48 + 100 = 964 points ! ... well, we can dream, right ?
Anyway, yesterday's win brings Mahesh to #6 and Paes to #7, according to my calculations, behind the Woodies, Vacek, Kafelnikov and Eltingh (.. Haarhuis loses all of the 650+ points from the AO finals last year and falls just behind). A win today could get them up to #5 and #6 behind The Woodies, Vacek and Kafelnikov. Win the whole enchilada, and they will be #3 and #4 behind the Woodies .. OK, now I am dreaming even more !
Jan 28 Note-1
LP/MB play doubles today (thursday 12 pm, court 3; .. wed. 5 pm PST in the US) .. MB will come back to play mixed doubles with Vis on court 3 later in the day (about 4.30 pm, .. 9.30 pm PST). Unfortunately, court 3 does not have Netcam, I believe, and so we cannot get pictures of the matches today, again.
The men's doubles semifinalists are set, and the quarterfinalists are decided in Women's doubles and Mixed doubles. Mahesh Bhupathi is the only player remaining in both doubles and mixed doubles on the men's side. #1 ranked Natasha Zvereva and #11 ranked Lisa Raymond are the only women remaining in both their draws.
The draw now for the men is:
Todd Woodbridge (AUS) [ 1] & Mark Woodforde (AUS) [ 2] (1) \ David MacPherson (USA) [ 43] & David Wheaton (USA)  / \ Jonas Bjorkman (SWE) [ 18] & Jacco Eltingh (NED) [ 3] (5) \ / Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) [ 8] & Leander Paes (IND) [ 10] (2) /
The draw now for the mixed doubles is:
Max Mirnyi (BLR) [ 94] & Elena Likhovtseva (RUS) [ 20] \ Andrew Florent (AUS) [ 51] & Natasha Zvereva (BLR) [ 1] / \ Patrick Galbraith (USA) [ 11] & Lisa Raymond (USA) [ 11] (3) \ / \ Justin Gimelstob (USA) [ 70] & Venus Williams(USA)  / \ Andrew Kratzmann (AUS) [ 59] & Kerry-Anne Guse (AUS) [ 41] \ / Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) [ 8] & Caroline Vis (NED) [ 15] (4) / \ / Cyril Suk (CZE) [ 22] & Helena Sukova (CZE) [ 10] (5) \ / Aleksandar Kitinov (MKD) [ 47] & Eva Melicharova (CZE) [ 53] /
Mahesh will only get a couple of hours rest before returning to play his mixed doubles quarterfinals this evening. Hope the doubles semifinal will get done without too much energy expenditure, but Bjorkman/Eltingh are really tough customers. Today is gonna be a fun day ! ..
By the way, here is what Nirmal Shekhar reported in The Hindu about Mahesh's final-16 mixed doubles match: In the mixed doubles competition, India's Mahesh Bhupathi, playing alongside Cariline Vis of the Netherlands, battled back in style to beat Kent Kinnear and Nana Miayagi 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. .. One line, saying nothing more than what we know. And this is in a long article talking about Korda, Kucera, and Sampras' loss, on which every press agency has reported long cliche-filled articles already anyway. Disappointing is all I can say. Come on Nirmal, we are dying to know about the Indian guys' matches. The other stuff we can find in every other damn newspaper. No other Indian newspaper seem to have anybody reporting from Melbourne, and you ought to do better than what you are doing (sorry to come down hard, and I have liked Nirmal's articles in the past, but I hate when the newspapers act like nothing other than singles matter in tennis). Where is Kamesh, when we need him ? ..
Jan 27 Note-2
Yes !! They are in another grandslam semifinal ! Took care of the giant-killers, unseeded Gimelstob/MacPhie, whose giant-killing act lasted for, oh, 2 games this time .. score: 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, 6-2 .. The match didn't start well for Leander/Mahesh as they got broken rightaway and found themselves behind 0-2. Then broke back at 2-1 and held serve to take the set to tiebreaker. They went up 6-1 and closed it out at 7-2. Then it was the same old story of domination. They now face 5th seeds Bjorkman/Eltingh in the semis. The other semifinal is between the Woodies and unseeded MacPherson - Wheaton.
In other news, Canadian Indian, Kavita Krishnamurthi lost her second round matches in both the junior doubles and junior singles today ..
Jan 27 Note-1
Wow ! That was anything but a cakewalk ! .. MB and Vis beat Kinnear/Miyagi, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 just now. The match got started finally at 7.30 pm there after Miyagi had a quick loss in her doubles match. MB/V were in trouble, down a break at the beginning of the second set. They came back and got two breaks to tie it up at one set each. Then the long final set. MB/V tried hard for a break in the 4th game, taking it to a couple of deuces, but failed. Then MB/V got broken at 3-4 and were behind 3-5. They held serve for 4-5 and the fireworks started. K/M were serving at 40-15, at matchpoint. MB/V fought back to force deuce. It went from there to deuce to match point to deuce.. for ever. Finally MB/V got the break to tie it up at 5-5. Then the next game went to deuce, but MB/V held. The final game off K/M also went to deuce. K/M fought off a matchpoint against them there, but finally our pair took the match home with a break. The match took about an hour and 45 minutes. MB is now in the quarterfinals of men's doubles and mixed doubles !
In the meanwhile, The Woodies are in the semifinals with a 3-set win over Lobo/Sanchez. Their opponents will be the Davids (MacPherson and Wheaton). By the way, Galbraith and MacPherson were right back out there playing a mixed doubles match after that marathon doubles match against each other for 5 1/2 hours ! This time MacPherson lost in the MX-D, and Galbraith won his MX-D (..and he had *another* tiebreaker in that 2 setter.. make it 4 tiebreakers and one 13-11 set in 6 sets in a row.. Is there a Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Tennis players ?.. :-)).
The LP/MB doubles quarterfinals against Gimelstob/MacPhie is today (Wednesday at AO, Tuesday evening in the US).
If you haven't seen it, check out the links to fanclub member Prakash Hemdev's site for pictures captured from NetCam at the LP/MB final-16 match against Hewitt/Smith. Click here.
Jan 26 Note-2
Mahesh's match is delayed because Nana Miyagi, the female half of his opponents, has only just started playing her doubles match. So, the start of his match will probably be delayed a good 2 to 3 hours (if at all it is played Tuesday night there at the AO). Why was Nana's match delayed ? Because, a classic doubles war was going on for close to six hours on that court !!! .. David MacPherson and David Wheaton against Patrick Galbraith and Brett Steven. The final score of this match just finished, is 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (3-7), 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 13-11, the Davids won it over Goliath.. oops.. Galbraith's team who were 12th seeded. .. Total time - 5 hours 34 minutes.. (They play 5 setters from quarterfinals onwards at the AO). How about that ?.. Anyway, all the schedules are a bit messed up due to this.
Here is the report in The Hindu (by Nirmal Shekhar, the only Indian reporter down in Melbourne) on yesterday's LP/MB match against Hewitt/Smith : The 16-year old Hewitt, who won the Adelaide tournament earlier this month to become the newest Aussie prodigy, is quite a popular star and there was a good crowd in court No.2 for the match .. The fans had little to cheer about in the first set but both Hewitt and Smith started serving better in the second set and came very, very close to taking the match into a decider .. Serving to stay in the set in the 10th game, Bhupathi was down 15-40 but the Indians confidently fended off the two setpoints to hold to 5-5 and dominated the tiebreak where they led 6-1, allowed the Aussies a service point and finally closed out the match on the next point.
Jan 26 Note-1
Mahesh plays the final-16 mixed doubles tonight at the AO.
In case you didn't see the score from the front pages, Leander/Mahesh took care of the Aussie kids, Hewitt and Smith, 6-0, 7-6 (7-2) last night. Easy. Stroll in the park, till the kids showed some resistance in the second set. Anyway, the Dynamic Duo is now in the quarterfinals. They play Gimelstob and MacPhie.
Bad news today, again, for Manoj Mahadevan. He lost the junior doubles too, with Eugenij Cariov (LTU), 6-2, 6-2, to Michael Llodra (FRA) and Andy Ram (ISR), seeded 5th .. The kid keeps running into seeds. Tough luck for him.
Good news for Nirupama, as the AITA, the Delhi Tennis Association, and the Tamil nadu Tennis Association have each announced Rs 2 lakhs each for her. That is a good $15K to go with $12K or so she made at the AO. Good to see the indian tennis organizations waking up. I have received some good reports on the sponsorship and agency fronts too. Will report if anything substantial develops that is not confidential.