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

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Feb 7 Notes

Wayne Black is not playing doubles at Dubai (perhaps because he is a bit tired after playing three long matches in that tough 2-3 loss to US in Zimbabwe?), and so LP made a change of plans .. He will be playing with Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador .. As Lapentti is ranked #121 in doubles, they are unseeded .. Don't let that bother you, as Lapentti is a pretty darn good doubles player, and this is a very promising team .. Lapentti was Kuerten's partner last year when they started the year winning the Adelaide title and then reaching the QF at Australian Open .. Lapentti has three tour doubles titles under his belt, though he didn't have a good doubles year in 1999, which was really his breakthrough year when he came finished the year at #8, coming up from #92 at the end of 1998 .. He 23 years old and 6 ft 2 inches tall .. He has not played any doubles this year though, and I don't know how serious he is about doubles at Dubai .. We will see ..  Anyway, it's interesting to see LP unseeded in doubles after a long time - they run into the 3rd seeds Novak/ Rikl of Czech Repulic .. Here are the draws for singles and doubles at Dubai for LP -

7 Hicham Arazi (MAR)     vs   Rainer Schuttler (GER) \
  Jiri Novak (CZE)       vs Q Qualifier              / \ __ SF
  Fernando Vicente (ESP) vs   Leander Paes (IND)     \ /
2 Magnus Norman (SWE)    vs   Karim Alami (MAR)      /

1 B.Black/ J.Tarango  vs   A.Kitinov/ D.Vacek   \
  J.Eagle/ A.Florent  vs W F.Mantilla/ A.Martin / \ __ F
3 J.Novak/ D.Rikl     vs   N.Lapentti/ L.Paes   \ /
  A.Pavel/ T.VanHoudt vs   D.Johnson/ P.Norval  /
In singles, I think Vicente is not a bad opponent for LP to go after, if he has regained his 1997 form - I am unsure if LP has done that even though he has had some pretty good results so far .. Anyway, LP he sounds much more confident in singles now, and seems to be in better physical shape than he was in all of 1999 .. Vicente is a lean 5-11 long-haired Spaniard, a quintessential "clay monster" .. He started last year 3-7 in the hardcourt season, before going on a good run on clay courts, winning the title at Merano (clay) and finishing runner-up at two more clay events (Casablanca an Kitzbuhel) .. He plays at non-clay events only when he cannot find a claycourt event anywhere .. He had a 19-16 record on clay, but only a 4-11 record on hardcourts, though most of those losses were against top-50 caliber players .. This year he lost to Vacek and Rosset in Doha and Auckland, but then beat Berasategui and Todd Martin at the Australian before losing to Arazi - so it's not like he can win only on clay .. They have only scheduled two main draw singles matches for today, and I believe may have a couple of first round matches as late as Wednesday, with some of the Davis Cup players only reaching there late .. LP may be playing on Tuesday - the schedule is not out yet.

As for the final two Davis Cup matches, the newspaper reports say that LP simply played a marvellous 4th match and really did not give any chance to Zaatini till the middle of the 3rd set when he let Zaatini break for a 4-2 lead - but even that was a momentary lapse, as LP quickly regained momentum and won the next 4 games .. Once we heard that the courts had got wet on Saturday, we had to know that Zaatini did not stand a chance .. Not too many on the tour can beat LP on a soft low-bounce grasscourt .. He pulled out his whole reportoire of shots - running forehands, drops, dink volleys, lobs .. everything! .. As for Fazal, it's very curious that over the last year or so Fazal has played so many hot-and-cold matches .. If he starts hot, he cools down later and if he starts cold, he often fights back even if he loses .. In the 5th tie, he was also all over Hamadeh, winning the first set 6-2 and then going up a break in the second set too .. Then he started making way too many unforced errors and his game just simply disintegrated .. I hope Fazal puts a stop to this inconsistent play .. Steady, man! .. But then again, he had won 9 of the first 10 sets of singles he had played in Davis Cup (straight set wins against China and a 4 set win against Zaatini here) before having a letdown in a dead-rubber match .. I thought I would add that, as the press has been less than kind to Fazal for his show in this Davis Cup!

The April 7-9 tie against Korea is all set for New Delhi on grasscourts at the RK Khanna stadium .. Let us recapture some of that magic we had out there the last time we played there, when Mahesh pulled a rabbit out of his hat, coming back from 2 sets down to win that 5th tie, and then running around holding the Indian flag with Leander after beating Rios's Chileans to stay in the world group .. Unfortunately, it's doubtful if Hesh would have started hitting the ball much by then - we will need someone else to step up, at least for the doubles with LP.

Here are the winners of the world group ties - USA, CZE, ESP, RUS, SVK, BRA, GER, AUS in the draw order .. The losers were, ZIM, GBR, ITA, BEL, AUT, FRA, NED, SUI .. Of those losing teams who will be playing later to stay in the worldgroup fo 2001, India has homecourt advantage against  5 teams (GBR, ITA, BEL, AUT, FRA) and don't have that against two (NED, SUI) .. Against ZIM, I think a coin toss will determine the homecourt advantage, as we have never played them .. So, there are at least 5 or 6 teams there against whom we have a good chance to win a world group playoff, once Mahesh is healthy .. In other words, we better do anything we can to somehow win a 3rd match - doubles would be just fine - against Korea (I am counting on LP to be able to pretty easily win two singles matches against Koreans on grass at Delhi) and play a world group playoff ..  It is no fun being in the regional group.

Feb 6 Note-4

The PTI reports that India will take on Korea in Delhi, in April .. I don't know if the venue had already been decided earlier, or if they made the decision that quickly .. Delhi isn't bad, as a big crowd would certainly help (but, when are we going to see a Davis Cup in the south, though ?? ..  Perhaps somebody should make a grasscourt stadium at Thiruvananthapuram or somewhere) ..

Anyway,  Fazal lost the dead-rubber tie, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 .. Seeing Hamadeh's record of winning dead-rubber ties, I am not that surprised that he made a never-say-die comeback on Fazal .. At the same time, Fazal has probably not been at his best in this tie, though .. He is still 3 out of 4 in singles in Davis Cup matches, and he shouldn't lose confidence .. As I said below, we may need him again in April .. Ramesh Krishnan said today that in the absence of Mahesh, it's doubles that is an area of concern for that tie ..  He is right - Korea may come in as favorites to Delhi, and if we drop the doubles match like yesterday and Fazal or Srinath is unable to get a win against the top-250 caliber players Korea will bring, India will be in trouble .. If doubles can be counted on, then Leander can single-handedly move us into the world group playoff for which we will have Hesh back.

Davis Cup is fun though -- Can you believe that world champions Australia is 1-2 behind Switzerland after Federer and Manta beat Stolle and Arthurs in doubles .. How did they pull that doubles upset ? .. Boggles my mind .. Federer and Bastl will find it tough against Lleyton and Philippoussis today though.  In other world group ties, US is fighting at 2-2, with Woodruff tied one set apiece against Wayne Black in the 5th match ! .. Britain lost to Czech Rep. 1-3, Italy lost to Sapain 1-3, Belgium lost to Russia 1-4, Austria lost to Slovakia 0-3, France lost to Brazil 1-3 .. Netherlands and Germany are tied 2-2 as of now ..  Keep an eye on those first round losers .. If India can move past Korea next, we will face one of them in the playoff for next year's world group .. Good to see some teams there against whom we have homecourt advantage.

Feb 6 Note-3

No further hiccups --  Paes d. Zaatini, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4  (score from a phone call to Lucknow -- I will cross-confirm later) .. As we did not have live commentary from India, I have no details on the match - it looks like an easy day at the offcie for Leander .. So, India is 3-1 over Lebanon and has advanced to the Group-I second round, which will be against Korea in India in April .. Not bad.

Fazal was up 4-2 in the first set when we checked last, in the dead-rubber 5th match.  Will post the final score a few hours later. I guess RK decided not to check out Sunil .. Actually, it's perhaps better to give Fazal yet another match to build his confidence .. We will need him on grass in April once again, most probably.

And we start looking ahead -- Leander Paes plays Fernando Vicente (ESP) in the first round at Dubai .. Vicente is 48 in entry ranking and 41 in race ranking .. I have not seen the draw itself yet.

Feb 6 Note-2

LP's match should be starting an hour late, at 11.30 am - that's what I heard from the Avadh Gymkhana at 10.30 am ..

Hot news -- South Korea beat Japan just now in reverse singles, and have advanced to the next round to face the winner of Lebanon-India (I just saw a wire-news ticker headline from Japan - haven't seen the scores from there today) .. So, if LP can win the 4th match, we will get Korea in India in April ! .. Come on LP, let's do it !

Feb 6 Note-1

The 4th match at Lucknow is scheduled in a few hours, at 10.30 am Sunday (6 am London .. 9 pm PST Saturday, USA) .. Paes vs Zaatini .. Whether it would start on time, depends on whether the courts need more drying after the rains last evening .. We will have our chatroom open for score updates .. Since our press friend may not be available today for commentary, it would be nice if some of you from India seeing it on TV could come in and give some score updates .. Please send me an email if you can do that - after all it's Sunday and you won't be at work [the match will be shown live on Doordarshan Sports channel] .. Otherwise, we would have to try to contact the Avadh Gymkhana a few times during the match .. Please check the Leander page's grey banner for any updated start time I may post, if I come to know of it -- I was hoping that we wouldn't be having to worry about Sunday, but all of a sudden this tie has become quite interesting.

By the way, we had Zeeshan Ali from Dubai in the chatroom at the end of yesterday's match .. He is doing well over there as the coach of UAE, and said he had fun practising and playing with Fazal last week in the Nations Cup tournament that they won out there beating Netherlands in the semis and Philippines in the final .. By the way, the kid, Omar Behroozian who is touring India in the ITF junior international series, is coached by Zeeshan .. Omar won the Chandigarh title this week, and is top seeded for the Calcutta ITF junior international starting Monday ..

About the doubles match we lost, the newspaper reporters are that the Lebanese surprised the Indians with a rather quick strategy change in late 4th set, when they decided to exclusively attack Fazal .. Every return was going straight to Fazal .. Though Fazal adjusted by the 2nd game of the next set, two breaks had happened and it was too late .. Under incessant pressure, Fazal made quite a few unforced errors, the worst being at a golden break chance they got in the 8th game when Zaatini double faulted at deuce - Fazal missed a regulation volley .. It came just when there was a slight momentum shift with even the normally quiet Srinath leading the cheers with Ramesh Krishnan clapping and slapping his thighs -- and LP and Fazal had just chest-butted after taking Zaatini to deuce .. Unfortunate .. To Fazal's credit, he hung in there and fought off three match points to hold serve in the 9th game, though that only prolonged the match .. According to all reports, Leander played very well throughout, though he could only watch in agony in the end as the Lebanese were superb in staying completely away from him - Leander is really really missing Mahesh at this point.

News from Dubai - the Gulf-News reports that Paes and Wayne Black will be teaming up in doubles .. They will be the top seeds there .. It's a promising team, actually .. Wayne is a better fit for LP than his brother Byron, in my opinion .. The singles draw must have just been made .. We will know later today whom LP will be playing in the first round (which can't be earlier than Tuesday).

Jan 5 Note-5

It rained heavily after the doubles match yesterday, and the courts got some puddles and all that before it could be covered .. Now there is real possibility that there may not be any play on Sunday and the reverse singles may have to be pushed to Sunday .. I had a brief chat with Leander at night there, and he said it would be late afternoon on Sunday if at all, before they would get to play .. The team is staying relaxed, and were actually having a nice game of cards when I called .. Lee did not sound worried about the reverse singles, and is confident there will be no problem finishing the tie withy no further hiccups .. LP said that the Lebanese really played well in the final sets of doubles, and that wasted break points was the key in the match (actually India was something like 1 of 12 in break chances, in as many as 4 different games during the match).

USA is behind Zimbabwe 1-2 after doubles today .. W.Black/Ullyett beat O'Brien/Leach in a 5-setter, winning the final two sets .. US may be in serious trouble, and would need Woodruff to pull off a win over Wayne Black in the 5th match .. Thailand did unexpectedly poorly in New Zealand, with Srichaphan losing to Alistair Hunt in a big surprise,the Udonchoke losing to Mark Nielsen, and then Samrej-Ekkarin losing the doubles also today (did the Thais just threw in the towel - why would they not play Paradorn and Danai in doubles?) .. It will be New Zealand and Uzbekistan (who are 3-0 over China)  in the other regional bracket - they will meet in April to advance to world group playoff from Asia.

In the bottom bracket with India and Lebanon,  Korea won the doubles and leads Japan 2-1 in Japan right now .. Japan is on the run.

Feb 5 Note-4

Well,   Paes and Fazal lost 7-6(3), 6-7(2), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6 to Hamadeh and Zaatini .. The 8 minutes stretch when LP and Fazal were broken in succession (unfortunately at the end of 4th set and beginning of 5th) made the difference .. That's the beauty of Davis Cup .. Great equalizer, to use the cliche .. LP will have to come out at 10.30 am tomorrow and play Zaatini to put this tie behind .. Go India!

Feb 5 Note-3

It's getting very interesting out there .. After the rain, and I am sure after some advice from RK, Fazal came back and held serve for 2-3 .. Then LP held serve for 3-4 and our boys made a run at Lebanon, as we took them to deuce (with a chest butt between LP and Fazal too) .. After a double fault, Zaatini held though, to go 5-3 up .. Then, Fazal was taken to FIVE deuces and three match points by the Lebanese, but he held and we are at 4-5 .. India needs to force a break though .. Tough task ..  Lebanese serving for match.

Feb 5 Note-2

Holy Lucknowee Biryani !! .. India is in some soup right now in doubles .. 7-6(3), 6-7(2), 6-4, 3-6, 1-3, India is behind as light showers stopped play .. The Lebanese are incredible fighters, who never seem to give up .. Not a single brek in the first two sets, though India lety some golden chances go in the second set, with 5 break points in a row in game 4, and then three set point in game 10 .. Somehow Hamadeh and Zaatini wriggled out of those tight spots .. And we were soon tied a set apiece .. Then, after an hour and 40 minutes of play, we finally had the first break of the match in game 3 of the 4th set, and LP and Fazal made it stand up .. It continued to go with serves well into the 4th set, when out of the blue, in game 8 LP dropped serve after two deuces .. Hamadeh held serve for the set, and immediately they broke Fazal at love in the 5th set .. So, over an 8 minute period, India, who was cruising, was down in the decider .. LP held serve in game 3, and then at 1-3, Fazal was again at deuce, when rain came down .. Is it a sign from the heavens ? .. A way for RK to intervene and get us going again ?? .. We will see soon .. Light showers, so it will start soon .. Hold on..

Feb 5 Note-1

The doubles match starts in a couple of hours -- Check the Leander page as usual for occasional score updates, but come to the chatrom for more frequent info.

I should make a couple of corrections in the break sequences on yesterday's matches (we were talking too much in the chatroom during the game, and missed a couple of them, etc)  -- Here are the corrected ones, just for the record:

[Match-2, Fri., 3.47 pm] F.Syed d. J.Zaatini, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(3) .. [set1: JZ broken in game 7] [set2: FS broken in game 4] [set3: JZ broken in game 6 and 12, FS in 9] [set4: JZ broken in game 6 and 12, FS in 9 and 11]
[Match-1, Fri., 1.03 pm] L.Paes d. A.Hamadeh, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6(3)  ..  [set1: AH broken in games 1 and 3, LP in game 6] [set2: AH broken in game 11] [set3: AH broken in game 1, LP in game 8]

Fazal said that Ramesh Krishnan was the big reasn why he got his act together at the end of the 4th set when he made way too many mistakes after serving for the match at 5-3 .. RK asked him during the changeover to just look at each game as just another one and relax .. It worked in the tiebreaker .. LP said that RK's experience in Davis Cup was very helpful - "It was like having an extra player and playing two on one," he said ..

Interesting news from Dubai .. The Gulf-News reports that Bjorkman was actually offered a wildcard, but that his agent forgot to tell him (funny!) and so Jonas is going to the Marseilles tournament .. I was hoping that LP would play with Jonas in doubles there .. Apparently they are giving the WC now to Wayne Black, who could be a good partner for LP too.

Feb 4 Note-3

The doubles match, Leander-Fazal vs Hamadeh-Zaatini, starts at 12 noon Saturday at Lucknow (7.30 am London .. 10.30 pm PST Friday, USA) .. We will have score updates in our chatroom - Come on in; we had a lot of fun during the two singles matches!

The newspaper reports on the two matches are basially saying that the two Lebanese players surprised everyone with the way they hung in there and fought till the very end .. Both Leander and Fazal were ready for it though, and showed that they had the edge by winning the matches... Hey, I wasn't kidding when I said in my Jan 29 preview that we should win, but that it would not be a cakewalk (which was based on how those two have played in Davis Cup in the past) - actually it seems like Ramesh Krishnan was the only other who has been saying that so far .. The Indian team members were gushing in their praise of RK for the kind of preparation he put them through .. That's great to hear.

By the way, Korea and Japan are tied 1-1 apiece after the first day in Japan .. Ishii lost in a marathon to Hyung-Taik Lee and Motomura won a marathon against Yong-Il Yoon .. I think Lee-Yoon may have the edge in doubles against Takada-Iwabuchi - let us see if the Koreans can pull it off.

At Chandigarh, Radhika lost in the final to the Chinese girl, Peng, who is on a 2-title streak in India and has been basically unbeatable, though Radhika took her to three sets .. By the way, I am still trying to find out who won the girls doubles .. The Agency news reports said the Chinese pair won, but the Chandigarh Tribune said Radhika-Liza pair won it .. I may have to wait till next week for the ITF confirmation .. See the Chandigarh juniors page .. They all move to Calcutta next week.

Feb 4 Note-2

India is 2-0 up on Lebanon!! .. Fazaluddin Syed d. Hisham Zaatini, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(3) .. The 2 hour 32 minutes match just got over, and once again we were able to follow the progress at our chatline, thanks to our press friend .. Fazal got the break in game 7 of the first set and served it off .. Then in the second set, Zaatini got the break in game 3 and it went with serve after that .. At one set apiece, in the 3rd set, Fazal went up a break first in game 6 and was serving for the set at 5-3 when he got broken back and it was 5-5 .. Then Fazal went after Zaatini once more for a timely break in game 12 to finish off the set .. In the 4th set, Fazal again went up on top 4-2 with a break in game 6, but once again got broken back .. In the tiebreaker, Fazal started serve going 1-0 and then went 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3, 6-3, 7-3 .. And India went on top by two wins .. The Lebanese, though they lost two matches today, fought till the very end, in each and every set .. An enjoyable day of tennis for the fans at Lucknow, I would think.

Feb 4 Note-1

India is 1-0 up on Lebanon .. Leander Paes d. Ali Hamadeh, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6(3) .. LP was up a break after the first game of the match .. He was up 4-1 with another break in game 5 .. He was then broken once in game 6, but held on for the set, though Hamdeh took him to a couple of deuces in the final game! .. In the second set, Hamdeh held serve every time till the 11th game, when Leander got the timely break to go up 6-5 and then serve it for the 2-set advantage .. In the 3rd set LP got the first game break again to lead 2-0, but gave the break back in the 8th game and then faced set points at 4-5 too .. Lp was dow 15-40, but served an ace and won 4 points in a row to avoid trouble .. In the tiebreaker, LP broke AH to go up 1-0, but AH got the minibreak back for 1-1 .. Then it was 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3, 6-3, and 7-3 .. Thanks go to our press friend who was giving score updates in the chatroom! .. It appears that Hamadeh played very well and made it close, but one felt that Leander was anyway going to win it, however well Hamadeh fought .. The match took 2 hours and 18 minutes .. Fazal's match starts soon.

Feb 3 Notes

It all starts in a few hours at Lucknow .. DAVIS CUP !!! .. Yeah!! .. Ok, Ok, I know .. you say, so what ? - It's only Lebanon .. I don't care, though .. It's Davis Cup, and I get excited .. I remember the last tie at those Avadh Gymkhana courts, back in early 1975 .. I was a 12 year old, and could not believe that Vijay lost to Onny Parun of New Zealand and that we lost in the very next tie, after being in the world group final (which we decided not to play - as it was againt South Africa in 1974) .. That is the only tie from the mid 70s that I remember though - I don't know why .. Here I was, thinking India was really the best in the world, and there we were losing to New Zealand .. That stayed in my memory .. After a couple of decades when Lucknow completely slipped out from the Indian tennis scene, the activity has started again in the city of nawabs (quite a few events there last year) and we have those grasscourts hosting a Davis Cup tie again - yeah, it's Lebanon, and we should beat them, but it's still exciting ..

The draw is a good one .. LP plays their #2 Ali Hamadeh, followed by Fazal meeting Zaatini, their #1 .. LP/Fazal play Zaatini/Hamadeh on Saturday .. The reverse singles will be LP vs Zaatini and Fazal vs Hamadeh, but ITF now allows the captains to change players for the reverse singles (without giving any medical justification, etc, which was always a joke in the past anyway!).

The first match starts at 10.30 am there (9 pm PST Thursday, USA .. 6 am London) .. We will have the chatroom open .. Still not sure if anybody will be there to give us commentary, but we should be at least getting some email score updates .. Come on in!

According to the newspaper reports, the Indian team is showing very good team chemistry and the communication with Ramesh seemed to be very good, with everyone in a relaxed mood .. Ramesh had been making the team sweat it out for long hours the last few days, but today they reportedly played a single-wicket cricket match .. Prahlad was doing his Javagal impersonation -- nobody could stop Srinath from hitting everybody out of the park all the time .. Sunil Kumar is OK now, though he was down with a viral flu and missed a couple of days of practice .. It would be nice to see if the 16 yr old would get a chance to play a dead-rubber 5th match .. Hopefully India can finish it off in 4 matches and Sunil could get a chance, but one can never say anything in Davis Cup .. Again, it may be Lebanon, but strange things can happen in Davis Cup.

At Chandigarh, Radhika Tulpule reached the girls final, but both Kamala Kannan and Parantap Chaturvedi lost in the semis - Kamala played his 4th three-setter in a row though .. Radhika's win over the Chinese girl Xie is a good one - though she is not highly ranked, that girl has been everybody so far .. Now Radhika plays the top seed Peng in the final (and Peng has looked absolutely unbeatable so far too) .. See the ITF Chandigarh juniors page.

Feb 2 Notes

Ramesh Krishnan apparently said this today - "It is going to be Leander (Paes) and (Syed) Fazaluddin for both the singles and doubles," according to Robin Bose in Thursday's Statesman, Calcutta - somehow, I don't think I saw that reported in other online newspapers .. Anyway, it's not a surprise, as the grasscourts suit fazal at home, and it would probably be Srinath if it were a tie on clay abroad .. The other news was that Sunil Kumar couldn't practice today as he is down with a cold or a viral problem .. Should be fine by tomorrow, they say.

By the way, I am still waiting for a volunteer to give us score updates from India during the Davis Cup .. I wonder - does anybody read this page from India ??? -- drop me a note, please.

Not much else .. Kamala Kannan continued his run of upsetting the seeds at the ITF Chandigarh juniors international - he beat Amanjot in three sets today to reach the semi .. Radhika Tulpule is in the semis of girls .. See the Chandigarh juniors page.

Feb 1 Notes

Good news from Dubai - Leander has been given a singles wildcard for the $1 Million Dubai Duty-free Open tournament next week, according to the Gulf-News .. Bjorkman has also received one, and they are waiting to hear if Hewitt would come ith a 3rd wildcard .. Not sure who Leander will be playing doubles with, there .. Bjorkman would be nice as a partner.

Leander is placed #122 in ESP with 326 points from 52 weeks .. ESP is ATP's new acronym for "Entry System Placement", which we know is the "real ranking"  .. He is #52 in the race rankings, with 13 race points (65 entry points) in the calendar year so far .. In doubles rankings which still uses the 52 week points, Leander is at #1, but Mahesh has fallen to #7 .. Here's the doubles list - 1 Paes, Leander/ IND 2985 .. 2 Ferreira, Ellis/ RSA 2843 .. 3 Leach, Rick/ USA 2731.. 4 Palmer, Jared/ USA 2684 .. 5 O'Brien, Alex/ USA 2615 .. 6 Black, Wayne/ ZIM 2547 .. 7 Bhupathi, Mahesh/ IND 2523 ..  8 Woodbridge, Todd/ AUS 2491 .. 9 Woodforde, Mark/ AUS 2470 .. 10 Lareau, Sebastien/ CAN 2369 ..  11 Stolle, Sandon/ AUS 2349 .. 12 Bjorkman, Jonas/ SWE 2218 .. 13 Haarhuis, Paul/ NED 2141.. 14 Kratzmann, Andrew/ AUS 2119 .. 15 Black, Byron/ ZIM 2102 .. I had expected Mahesh to stay in the top-5, but due to ATP's messed up calculations which reduced last year's points by 80%, he is behind - see my notes on Jan 26th .. He should be having 2700 points from FO, Wimbledon and USO itself, and should easily still be in the top-3 if the current points table is correctly applied for last year .. But noooo, because ATP has a whole bunch of idiots running the show.

Davis Cup preparations are underway in Lucknow .. The Lebanese captain, Raymond Kattoura today said that it was 70 to 30 for India to win the tie .. It starts on Friday .. An early note to those of you in India .. I assume the tie will be telecast live on Doordarshan .. For once, for a change, would some of you folks with a computer and internet at home be willing to kindly come in and give us score updates in our chatroom ?? .. We have NEVER had any of you do that from India .. Normally, some of us get together in the chatroom, and take turns calling India to get score updates .. I know that this is not a high-tension Davis Cup tie, but we would like to start doing this for events from India .. Send me an email if you would consider doing that .. Thank you!

The ITF junior international started with no big upsets, yesterday .. BAT's Jacco Mathew, who is q ualifier, upset the 6th seed Vivek Jhaveri .. See the Chandigarh juniors page.

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.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Jan 31st ..

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.