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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Feb 8, 1999

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Feb 8 Note-1

The $50K+H Lucknow Challenger (grass) draw has come out .. It starts Monday .. The qualifying rounds got done Sunday, and only Nitin and Sandeep Kirtane reached even the second round among Indians (by the way, I wish one of them had got a wildcard instead of Whitehouse .. Oh well..) .. Wildcard Vijay Kannan once again gets a seeded player, 8th seed Oren Motevassel (ISR,234) .. Srinath gets the Italian, Igor Gaudi (ITA,275) and Fazal gets Noam Behr (ISR,266) .. [source: Times of India] .. See the qualifier results and the main draw at the Lucknow challenger page ..

Feb 7 Note-2

For the $1,150K Dubai Open, Leander is placed in the upper quarter of the draw .. Here is the upper half of the singles draw with Feb 1 rankings:

 1-Alex Corretja     (ESP,  2) vs   Andrew Ilie        (AUS, 54) \
   Younes El-Aynaoui (MOR, 36) vs   Peter Korda        (CZE, 76) / \
WC-Leander Paes      (IND, 94) vs Q-Johan Van Herck    (BEL,116) \ / \
 8-Gustavo Kuerten   (BRA, 21) vs   Juan Antonio Marin (CRC, 73) /    \
 4-Greg Rusedski     (GBR, 10) vs   Sjeng Schalken     (NED, 46) \    /
   Wayne Ferreira    (RSA, 25) vs   Francisco Clavet   (ESP, 29) / \ /
   Nicolas Escude    (FRA,107) vs   Nicholas Kiefer    (GER, 39) \ /
 6-Albert Costa      (ESP, 16) vs   Hicham Arazi       (MOR, 41) /

Not bad .. Magnus Norman (50), Wayne Black (88), Johan Van Herck (116), and Stephane Huet (179) were the four qualifiers, and so, Leander has got the second lowest ranked player as his opponent .. In the main draw, 73rd ranked Marin of Costa Rica (wasn't he in Spain ? .. moved to CRC ? .. Not sure) was the last direct entry .. If I were bold, I would predict Leander playing Aynaoui in the QF and Arazi in the SF, in an upset-ridden upper half - but I am not sure I am that bold .. :-) ..

In doubles, here is the upper half of the draw:

 1-M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes      vs   Qualifier/ Qualifier \
   J.Eagle/ A.Florent      vs   M.Tebbut/ C.Suk      / \
   T.Carbonell/ C.Haggard  vs   W.Black/ S.Stolle    \ /
 4-P.Norval/ K.Ullyett     vs   W.Arthurs/ N.Broad   /

The 2nd seeds are Delaitre/Santoro and the 3rd seeds are Johnson/Montana .. We will know by late MOnday who the qualifiers facing our dudes will be ..

The wildcards for the Lucknow challenger have gone to Srinath, Fazal, Vijay Kannan and Wesley Whitehouse (South Africa) .. Former Wimbledon junior champion Wesley has got so much of goodwill from India - this is the 3rd wildcard in a year for him (Chennai ATP, Vadodara challenger and now Lucknow challenger) .. I am sure some Indian players would be less than happy about it, but then again, nobody other than perhaps Nitin Kirtane, Harsh Mankad and Vinod Sridhar has shown that they deserve such a wildcard offer, though .. Harsh is probably skipping the challenger anyway, to finish off some exams etc ..

Feb 7 Note-1

Leander has indeed got a wildcard for the $1,150K Dubai Open, probably the most competitive World series event out there .. Schalken was originally given the wildcard, but made the direct entry (he is ranked in the top-50, and it shows how tough the field is!) after Kafelnikov withdrew with tendinities, and then Tommy Haas also followed .. So, a wildcard was freed up and Leander was the obvious choice ..

The good (or bad) news is the Leander faces a qualifier in the first round .. The good thing about a qualifier is that he will be a bit lower ranked (though at Dubai, you can expect it to be somebody in the top-75 or 100), and the bad news is that it is a player who has just had good match practice on the surface there .. Leander had not expected to be there for singles, and so will get there only on Monday - hopefully he will get some practice in before Tuesday when he is scheduled to play the yet- to-be- determinded qualifier .. In the second round he is drawn to meet possibly Gustavo Kuerten .. Hmm.. Did you know that Leander is 2-0 over Kuerten in the past (though they were about a couple of years before Guga forced his way into the limelight with the 97 French Open title) .. But first things first - LP will need to get past a qualifier .. Leander is in good form, and playing on grass has helped his heel injury .. That's a good thing about grass .. it gives, rather than grip the foot down as synthetic surfaces do, which is the reason why many professional football and baseball teams in the USA are moving away from the yukky artificial turf to grass these day (but in LP's case, he often picks up some upper body injury with all the acrobatics on grass .. No news of any new injuries at Calcutta though!) .. Leander and Mahesh are the top seeds in doubles at Dubai - both the doubles and singles draws are yet to be posted .. I got the info from our media friend in Dubai and the Gulf-News newspaper which had a couple of articles on Paes and the Indian Express over the last two weeks.

I should add a correction on something I said below, about Leander becoming a seed at Chennai, with a ranking around 85 .. That's not correct .. Even though the entries for Chennai close in a couple of weeks, the seeding is based on the ranking in the last week of March, by which time LP has 114 points to defend (Bangkok challenger title, etc) .. So, unless he picks up some 100 points by then, he will be around #100 in ranking .. I forgot that when I typed it.

Absolutely no info in any Indian newspapers about the Lucknow qualifiers .. Since my fax machine is down, nothing much I can do either .. Let's wait.

Feb 6 Note-2

One of our press friends was kind enough to send their report going up online soon - it appears that both LP and MB played somewhat substandard tennis today .. MB's shoulder was bothering him a bit - he did dominate the first set and most of the second set, but lost a bit of steam after that and left a crack in the door for Leander to get back into the game .. LP took full advantage, despite having problems in his own game .. LP was broken early in the first service game and MB held the rest of the way .. In the second set, in the 10th game, Leander had a great return winner to set up the set point off MB's serve .. Mahesh, reeling a bit with trouble in motivating himself and with the arm causing a bit of problem, dropped serve in the 2nd game of the 3rd set and LP was soon up 3-0 and cruising to a victory .. Behr and Ran won the doubles final in three sets .. See all the results in the Calcutta Challenger page.

A piece of news item - It seems that Leander got a wildcard to the Dubai tournament singles today .. I will have to confirm this. I had seen yesterday that Schalken, Muster and Becker were the wildcards .. Great if something changed and they gave one to LP .. Let's wait for confirmation.

Feb 6 Note-1

The $50K+H Indian Oil Servo Calcutta Challenger Final: Once again LP and MB played a three-setter, and this time also Paes managed to come out the comeback winner 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 .. I have no other info, and since our Fax machine is down, I will not be able to see the match report fax from the South Club either .. We will have to wait till the newspapers come up online later, to know the details of the match (and also on who won the doubles title) .. LP will get $7600 and MB about half of that (with 71 and 50 ATP points respectively).

The Lucknow challenger starts monday, and the qualifiers must have started today .. Hopefully we will see some newspaper report with the scores from there too .. LP and MB will be skipping that challenger, to play doubles at the $1,150K Dubai ATP tournament next week .. The wildcards at Dubai went to Muster, Schalken and Becker .. That tournament has one of the toughest draws outside of Super 9s (it closed at arouond #60 or something) .. LP has now missed the qualies there, but I don't think he planned to play singles there anyway .. LP-MB are the defending doubles champs.. Anyway, at Lucknow, I assume Srinath and Fazal will have wildcards .. Not sure who will get the other two .. Aisam will be leaving India to play the Davis Cup for Pakistan this week.

Feb 5 Note-3

The newspaper reports on today's semifinals at Calcutta are all talking about how well Leander was serving in his match against Mose Navarra - LP had 15 aces in the two-set match, which is a whole lot! .. Prajwal Hegde reports in the Deccan Herald: "We know each other's game like the back of our hands and that should make it an interesting final," Paes said. "I think it's going to be a mental match. No one has really tested Mahesh so far in this tournament, so for sure I'll take the fight to him tomorrow." ... Mahesh said, "I will rely on my serves and return of serves. I have nothing to lose, the pressure will be on him." Then came the warning. "I have matured a lot since we last met in Ahmedabad." ... I love it! .. This will certainly be a good final! .. Doordarshan normally shows Challenger finals, based on an agreement with AITA, if it's on a saturday .. The match is set to start at 2.30 pm IST, but I am not sure if it will be on TV (the cricket test will be going on at the same time) .. If it is on TV, hopefully some of you folks in India can come to the chatroom and update us all about the match progress ..

LP will move up to about #85 now, which is somewhat significant, because that ranking could possibly be enough to get him a top-8 seeding at the Chennai ATP tournament, for which the entry closes in about 2 or 3 weeks .. Last year #85 was the 5th seed, but hopefully they will get a couple more top-75 players than that this year (and they would hopefully not have to send out foreign exchange in $ 5-figures for top players, as the grapevine said last year) ..

I said watch out for the kid, and the kid got his first big international title today! .. 15 yr-old Sunil Kumar (will turn 16 in 3 months) beat the top seed Kedar Tembe for the title at the ITF World Junior (18-and-under) ranking tournament at Delhi, 6-4, 6-3, and "faced no problems in the match", according to the UNI report in the Hindustan Times .. If I am calculating it correctly, this will bring up Sunil all the way inside the junior world top-250 (from his current ranking of 600).. He and Punna Vishal are among the youngest handful of players in the world ranked that high .. He has two more years to go in the junior ranks after this, and if given proper support, could go places, based on what they all seem to say .. The girls singles title went to (who else?) 17-yr old Sheetal Gautam, who completed her third ITF junior grand double in a row - she beat 16-yr old Sonal Phadke, 7-5, 6-4, today to add to her singles and doubles titles at Calcutta, Colombo and here .. See the results in the Delhi ITF juniors page .. The caravan now moves to Chandigarh for the grade-5 tournament there next week, starting on Monday. AV Rao and Sunil Kumar are from Chandigarh, and should find that place comfortable! .. Shruti Dhawan is expected to play there also.

Feb 5 Note-2

Got the scores confirmed from the fax from the South Club (of course, the scores given over phone was wrong, as always! :-)) .. LP beat Mose Navarra (ITA,200), 6-3, 7-6(2) and MB beat Tuomas Ketola (FIN,242), 6-2, 7-6(7) .. The dream-final will be tomorrow at 2.30 pm .. In doubles, Behr and Ran of Israel beat Fredriksson (SWE) and Iwabuchi (JPN) in the semis, 6-1, 6-4, and will face Cowan/Whitehouse (who had won their semi yesterday) in the final tomorrow.

LP broke Navarra in the 8th game of the first set and finished it off in the next game with 2 aces .. In the second set, LP came close to breaking Navarra in the 5th game which went to deuces, but he held .. Then in the tiebreaker, it was all Leander .. As for Mahesh, he broke Ketola in game 6 to lead 4-2, wasted a couple of break chances in game 8 before sending down a "beautiful forehand down the line" (so says the fax) to get a second break and the set .. He promptly dropped serve in games 3 and 5 of the second set, but also broke Ketola in games 4 and 6 and then it went with serves .. MB was down 0-30 in the 9th game but came up with "two great smashes" (:-)) to hold serve .. He had one match point in the 10th game but Ketola fought that off to tie it at 5-5 .. The tiebreaker went back and forth but MB closed it off at 9-7 .. And viola! .. We have the brothers in arms in the final!

That is 50 points for MB, taking his points total from 91 to 141 and his ranking from 356 to about 270 .. If he beats LP tomorrow (hmmm.. will be tough, but he *can* do it), he will get 23 more points to get back inside top-250 .. As for LP, he has 51 points so far, taking his total to 585, and his ranking closer to #85 .. LP and MB have played one official ATP match in the past - at the Ahmedabad challenger in Dec 97 - where LP beat MB in a comeback three-setter, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1 .. Their previous match was an exhibition match, probably at the South Club itself, as part of the Akhtar Ali benefit event in Calcutta during 1997, if I my memory is correct - can't remember who won that one-set match; perhaps Mahesh ..

I got the complete official scorecards for the Calcutta challenger qualifiers from Steve Gocha (thanks!) and I have updated the results page .. It turns out that Vinod Sridhar, who had a wildcard there, never played the qualies - the newspaper report I had seen about that must have been wrong .. He was replaced by Juan Ignacio Carraz of Spain. I guess Vinod did not show up, then .. All the results are at the Calcutta Challenger page.

Feb 5 Note-1

I am told Leander and Mahesh won their semifinals today!! .. LP by the score of 6-4, 7-6(1) and MB by 6-3, 7-5 .. I will await the fax from the South Club before confirming the score, but it's a dream all-Indian final tomorrow at 12.30 pm !! .. How about that? .. More later.

Feb 4 Note-2

Sunil Kumar upset the 5th seed Mark Weaver of Britain, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the final at the ITF world junior ranking tournament in Delhi today .. Sunil is unseeded, but that is only because he has not played many ITF tournaments - it's a pretty good win for him .. He faces top seed Kedar Tembe in the final tomorrow .. Kedar beat 4th seed Dipesh Rao .. No Indian team was in the boys' doubles final .. On the girls' side, Sheetal Gautam and Shruti Dhawan won the doubles title, beating Radhika Mandke and Radhika Tulpule (these two are the best two junior doubles teams there - but it seems like the former has beaten the latter almost every time) .. Sheetal is in line for a 3rd Grand double in a row .. She plays in the final tomorrow against Radhika Mandke .. See the results (courtesy: Indian Express) at the Delhi ITF juniors page.

Feb 4 Note-1

Got the fax promptly from the South Club today, and the good news continues .. LP and MB both won today, to reach the semis .. I am not sure when was the last time we had two Indians in a challenger semi in India .. Qureshi started with some troubles in his first two service games (can't blame the kid if he was a bit nervous going up against the best player from Asia!) .. He held however, and only in the 10th game did LP get a chance, with Aisam double faulting after five deuces .. In the second set Aisam had a couple of break chances in game 3, but LP wouldn't let him go any further .. Instead he broke AQ in the next game for a 3-1 lead and it was over from then on - final score: 6-4, 6-3 .. As for MB, he continued his good form - "his service and velleying left Carraz stranded" says the fax .. No breaks in the first set till the 12th game when Carraz served two double- faults from 30-30 and lost the set (yeah - I like that when our guys intimidate their opponenets :-)) .. Things were close in the second set too, but six aces from MB made a bit of difference and he won it in a tiebreaker, 7-5, 7-6(5) ..

Fazal and Hilpert lost in the doubles quarterfinal, 6-4, 7-5, to Barry Cowan and Wesley Whitehouse .. See all the results at the Calcutta challenger page ..

This is the first challenger semifinal for MB in almost 2 years - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in March 97 was the last .. Can't believe it has been that long .. MB gets 30 points, which is enough to move him 60 spots up, to around #295, which will be the highest ranking for him in 8 months ! .. Next up for MB is Tuomas Ketola (FIN,235) who beat Kalle Flygt (SWE) .. For LP, the semifinal opponent will be Mose Navarra (ITA,200), the 4th seed, who beat the 6th seed Andres Zingman (ARG) .. By the way, I am still surprised to see some of the names at this challenger .. The Spaniards, Portugese etc .. Actually, Zingman is the first Argentinian to come to India, if I am not mistaken, since Gaston Eltis at Chennai Open in 97 April (Argentina has some 25 players in the top-300, but most are claycourters who don't even think of coming to India!) .. Anyway, LP will get a good fight from the Italian, Navarra, who has experience on grass .. LP beat him at Vadodara last year, though (so has MB, at the Kyoto challenger on carpet a couple of years back) .. MB has never played Ketola .. Let's hope for that dream-final !!

Thank God for Indian Express giving a late-update newsbit on the ITF junior ranking tournament in New Delhi - Both the top seeds Sheetal Gautam and Kedar Tembe have reached semi .. Every other Indian newspaper had nothing online about this (and there are three of them, based in Delhi - but then again, the cricket test is starting there you know .. That's the time when everything starts becoming foggy in India - and we start hearing news of snake charmers at Kotla ground and all that :-) .. I shouldn't complain - the challenger has been well-covered by all newspapers) .. Anyway, Sheetal, despite having less name-recognition that Shruti in the juniors, has been quietly having a great win streak of 14 wins or so in ITF ranking events .. She had a double-bagel 6-0 6-0 win over a talented Geeta Manohar to reach the semi .. In the boys' section, the one we should watch for, 16 yr old Sunil Kumar of Chandigarh is also in the semis .. See all the results I could gather, at Delhi ITF juniors page ..

Feb 3 Note-2

Got a fax from the South Club, courtesy Neel Issac (thank you!) .. See all the results in the Calcutta Challenger page .. LP actually had a three-set comeback win! .. The score I gave below was not correct (I never get correct scores over the phone from *any* tournament office - nice to have Neel send me the correct one and a good match report too) .. LP won 6-7(6), 7-5, 7-1 .. The Swede, Patrik Fredriksson, made Leander sweat a bit .. LP was up 4-0 in the first set, but relaxed, and found the Swede tying it up at 4-4 .. After losing a close tiebreaker, LP was broken in game 3 of the second set too, before he woke up and went after the win with a vengence .. A good forehand crosscourt tied it up at 3-3 .. Then he served a love game and had three aces in two games, one off a second serve! .. Got the set in the 12th game, breaking Patrik on the 3rd set point .. Two more aces in the first game of the 3rd set, and a break in the second game - it was then all over for the Swede .. 

Mahesh won 7-6(2), 6-1 in a good upset of Peter Tramacchi (AUS, 233) .. MB started off well by breaking PT in the first game and then holding serve with three aces .. PT broke him back in game 4 .. In the tiebreaker, it was all MB .. In the second set, he had a quick break in game 2 .. Had an argument with the line-judge in game 3 after serving at AD .. Got charged up, sent down an ace and followed it with a backhand volley, to go up 3-0 .. He broke PT once more in the 6th game .. This is a very encouraging match from MB, to beat a very good grasscourt player in Tramacchi .. More importantly, any time he does not drop his second set and avoids playing tiring three-setters, it's great .. There are no seeds left in the bottom half of the draw for MB, and he faces Gregory Carraz (FRA, 235) in the quarterfinal ..

The win that some may be surprised about (not me!) was by wildcard Aisam Qureshi (PAK,761), who had his second upset - this time over Noam Okun (ISR,303), 6-1, 6-4 .. Looks like it wasn't even close .. The 19-yr old is fully making use of the wildcard .. He now gets Leander Paes in the QF .. Aisam has a decent power game and plays smooth tennis - he is also pretty comfortable on grass (actually his biggest junior title was on grass at Queens' last year, the week before Wimbledon, which pushed him into the ITF top-10) .. Folks, watch the kid - he is bound to make a lot of noise from the sub-continent in the coming years .. For now though, I am sure LP will teach him a thing or two and wish him best of luck (at least I hope so!) ..

Fazaluddin's screaming ride up the doubles chart continues - he and Marcus Hilpert upset an experienced Portugese pair, Couto and Cunha-Silva today, 6-4, 7-6(6) in the QF .. They face Cowan and Whitehouse in the semifinals .. I think Fazal has a very good chance to reach the final and pick up bushel-full of points .. Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse, who have jelled together well, had another great outing, but fell short in the 3rd set tiebreak, trying for a comeback win after dropping the first set ..

The bad news was for the Isaraeli players - All four of them in the second round lost today .. I sympathize with Arial Friedman who keeps up the Israeli tennis page (which along with this page and the Nederlands tennis pages are the ones which follow tennis players most closely on a daily basis) .. Friedman keeps waiting for somebody to break out from the bunch .. They normally have about 10 or so players in the 200-300 range, and many inside of top-250, but rarely does anybody crack into the top-200, despite most of them playing week after week all over the world .. They are a talented bunch of players too ..  But the wait for another Amos Mansdorf will have to continue for some more time.

Feb 3 Note-1

Early info from Calcutta - Both Leander and Mahesh won their second round matches today !!! .. LP beat Patrik Fredriksson (SWE, 276) and MB did the big upset-job on 7th seed Peter Tramacchi (AUS,233) - both wins by the same score of 7-6, 6-1 .. No other info, on who else won and on who the quarterfinal opponents are.

Feb 2 Note-3

The score for Mahesh's win today was 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 .. At first I thought it was his usual tendency to drop the second set (he has done that soooo many times), but then saw the reports that he almost pulled out of the match due to serious shoulder pain .. It was just the will to go on and take advantage of the mistakes by the young Whitehouse that kept him going .. He even hinted that he may not play tomorrow's second round if the shoulder hurts, but we will see .. He was still zipping some hot serves in, but was inconsistent in his service .. MB has become a pretty good grasscourt player, largely due to "improved volleying skills", as S. Kannan of Hindustan Times observes .. As for Leander - well, this is his playground with his favorite surface .. He was in full control against a Spaniard, Oscar Burrieza, who played surprisingly good grasscourt tennis .. That wasn't enough against somebody like Leander though .. Got a break in the firt game of the match and had Burrieza applaud him for some shots too .. The problem was that LP was up to his customary net-acrobatics and dives .. It's always worrisome when he steps on to grasscourts, as he can injure himself - but that's his style on grass - daredevil ..

The other good news was that Fazal and Marcus Hilpert had an upset win in doubles over Carraz and Caballero - Fazal's doubles ranking has been going up and up and up this season - ranked around 1300 just a few weeks back, he has come up to 677 this week and will move up inside 600 with the 15 points here, to place himself as the 5th best doubles player after LP, MB and the Kirtanes .. They next face a very good doubles pair, Couto and Cuha-Silva - though they are not seeded here, they have some titles together and will be tough to beat (but I don't know how well the Portugese play on grass) .. An impressive win today was by Aisam Qureshi, who justified getting that wildcard, by upsetting Joao Cunha-Silva ranked about 400 spots above him .. The second seed Marcos Ondruska was upset by qualifier Jonathan Erlich today too .. See all the results at the Calcutta challenger page ..

At the ITF junior ranking tournament in Delhi, there was a huge upset, by Liza Pereira - she beat 2nd seed Shruti Dhawan in three very close sets .. Liza turned 15 only a couple of months back, and this should be counted as a huge win for her .. Sheetal continued her win streak and is in the quarterfinals .. On the boys' section, I have not seen all the results (patchy reporting by all newspapers on this today ), but 3rd seed Karan Doctor got upset by Kedar Shah .. top seed Kedar Tembe and second seed AV Rao won and reached the QF .. One Pakistani kid playing there may be worth watching - Nomi Qamar .. No news on him and other Indians like Sunil Kumar .. See the results at the Delhi ITF Juniors page ..

Feb 2 Note-2

Today's Telegraph, Calcutta, reports that the 3rd Indian challenger at Bangalore has been cancelled, as some sponsors got last-minute cold-feet .. I guess the reason could be the fact that the Indian top four will all be missing from there, due to Davis Cup at Korea being in the same week ? .. It's a pity - but then again, if only foreign players were going to benefit from it, I guess we should not be too disappointed .. It is not a good thing, reputation-wise, to cancel ATP events, but we have had a good run this year with all the events so far going right on schedule, even with some similar problems earlier (I am told either the Mumbai or the Ahmedabad challenger went ahead even with some scary last-minute withdrawals by sponsors). Dr. Vece Paes, whose event management firm, Paes en Sport was organizing the three-challenger sequence, said yesterday that he waited till the last minute before pulling the Bangalore event out, and that "even if it was near break-even, they would have gone ahead" .. I guess when these challengers were negotiated with ATP, we didn't really expect a monkey-wrench in the form of a first round Davis Cup Asian Group-I event to clash with the dates. Remember that the dates were pushed forward for Davis Cup by one week, or even the Lukhnow event next week would have clashed with it. At least those who came to India will get to play two challengers now, which is fine.

Feb 2 Note-1

Alright .. The big two delivered today at the Calcutta South Club .. Leander and Mahesh have both won their first round matches in straight sets, I am told .. LP over Oscar Burrieza (6-4, 6-4?) and MB over Wesley Whitehouse (6-3, 6-2?) .. No more info available now .. Good start - both get 8 points each .. LP next plays Patrik Fredriksson (SWE, 276) and MB plays the 7th seed Peter Tramacchi (AUS, 233) .. See the draw at the Calcutta challenger page - I will update the Tuesday results once they are available ..

The new rankings are out - LP/MB are #2 in doubles with MB at #2 and LP at #4 in individual doubles .. The ATP point table seems to have changed a bit .. My calculation had them getting 643 points from the AO, but they got 658, as the point table now gives 552 tournament points for the runner up as against 537 before .. The bonus points are the same as I said below - 106 .. In singles, LP moves one spot down to 94, and MB is now at 356 .. Others are basically at around the same rankings as before (Srinath at 379 and Fazal at 587) .. The Mumbai futures points have not gone in - so the doubles ranks for Vishal Uppal, Harsh Mankad and Mustafa Ghouse will go up only later ..

Feb 1 Note-3

It will be an understatement to say that Naresh Kumar, Akhtar Ali, Jaideep Mukherjea, Rico Piperno, etc, who were there to watch the Calcutta challenger matches today were probably disappointed our #3 and #4, though both lost to much higher-ranked players .. Srinath is not a grasscourt player and against Tramacchi, an Australian who knows grass (also the winner at the Vadodara grass challenger), he was not expected to do all that much, rusty and hobbled as he still is, with that achilles tendon injury from Asiad that never seems to go away .. But Fazal's loss to Noam Behr hurts a bit more, as he is one who can play well on grass, and just did not have his best day, though he showed a lot of comeback spirit in the second set .. See the articles in The Hindu, Hindustan Times and Deccan Herald .. Arnab Ghosh of The Hindu had this quote - "You know, they're like flying kites with threads snapped. As kites float aimlessly in the sky, these boys roam aimlessly in the professional circuit till they're lost,'' lamented Mr. Naresh Kumar, former captain of the Indian Davis Cup team. "You can see other players, most of them have come with a coach and our boys in their own country do not get any coach or guidance. At least one coach for three ITF Futures and three Challengers should have been provided. Our opponents are not more superior but they get guidance and look more confident" .. Yes, sir .. That hit the nail on the head .. We made some big strides this year in bringing these international tournaments and giving a lot of chances to many of our players .. The next thing that needs some serious work is coaching ..

The casual tennis fan can easily get disheartened by our players not taking the next step up, but the above coaching situation is one big reason .. Frankly, tennis talent is quite deep around the world now, and it's a lot of little things that help some players move up faster than others .. It's not difficult to appreciate the importance of a coach while traveling - to point out the mistakes made and to devise strategies against the opponenets - even one coach for a group of three or four players can make a big difference .. In fact, the biggest concern that Nirupama Vaidyanathan has always mentioned whenever I have talked to her, is how much she would like to have a coach and how she would like somebody to critically analyze her game after each match .. Something needs to be done on the coaching situation for Indian players .. I am told that some moves are in the works, and that AITA will be sponsoring a coaching camp by ITF coaches for 50 Indian coaches, though admittedly it's just a small step as a good start .. The newly formed AITA coaching committee with Bhupathi Sr, Akhtar Ali and Bharat Oza have some schemes in mind, I believe .. What would be nice to see is AITA paying for some coaches to travel with our players, at least in the domestic tournament (to actually coach - not for sight-seeing :-)) .. Let us hope that we will see this next season ..

Back to the challenger .. 3rd seed David Caballero (ESP,195) got upset today by Kalle Flygt (SWE,302) .. Hmm, Spaniard on grass - we could have called it, huh ? .. The big dudes are playing tomorrow - Leander, Mahesh, Ondruska, etc.

The Grade-4 ITF junior world ranking tournament has started in Delhi .. Sheetal and Shruti are first and second seeds on the girls' side .. Kedar Tembe is the top seed on the boy's side .. Not too many upsets today as all the top seeds won .. 7th seeded Punna Vishal (one of the better 15 yr olds) lost in three sets to a Thai player .. See the results at the Delhi ITF juniors page ..

News about the Chennai Gold Flake Open in April .. Carlos Moya has reportedly confirmed his entry .. Good .. Hope they get more top-100 players this time.

Feb 1 Note-2

Both Srinath and Fazal lost today in the Calcutta challenger first round, to higher-ranked opponenents .. Neither was able to put up much of a fight, and that was the disappointing part .. Kannan and Kirtane went down to the top seeds in doubles, too .. Not a good day .. More later .. See the results at the Calcutta Challenger page.

Feb 1 Note-1

Mahesh gets qualifier Wesley Whitehouse (RSA,350) in the first round at the $50K+H Indian Oil Servo Calcutta challenger .. 19 year old Wesley is a former Wimbledon junior champion and was among the top-10 most improved teenage players of the year according to ATP as he reached close to #250 late last year (by the way, Paradorn Srichaphan was another player I remember in that list) .. He was also part of one of the most shameful incidents in Indian tennis last year, as he was given a wildcard (along with a German kid Bjorn Phau) to the Chennai ATP Open, by the foreigners who ran that big circus .. Not his fault - I am only mad at the spinelessness of the Indians who stood and watched Srinath and Fazal not being given wildcards, despite both being unable to play even the quals, as they were playing for India at Italy over the weekend .. Man, that affair still makes my blood boil .. Anyway, Wesley is a very talented kid, and Mahesh will have a tough match .. Now I am not sure who plays Fazal - Deccan Herald says Noam Behr, and Hindustan Times says Barry Cowan .. I have requested fax/email of draws and results - hopefully I will get some from South Club .. I am told both LP and MB will play their first rounds only on Tuesday.

This is reportedly the first ATP challenger to be held in Calcutta - amazing as it seems, considering the history of the South Club grasscourts and the respect it commands in the tennis world .. Leander has never played professional matches there, where he grew up learning grasscourt tennis - he has only played Davis Cup there .. S. Kannan (Hindustan Times) makes the observation in connection with the AO show, that Leander's performances have invariably been superb each time he has fought his way back to form after a lay-off .. This is true, as we saw at Chennai last year and then at Newport and NewHaven .. I too had noticed this about Leander, but didn't want to say it and jinx it - I guess Kannan has gone and done it :-) .. Let's hope LP continues the doubles form into singles too .. Kannan's comments on Mahesh - As for Mahesh, he is a strong man with a voracious appetite for hard work. “These guys play so much, rarely are they fully fit,” said Enrico Piperno, coach of Mahesh .. Even as the Bangalore man was firing cannon balls at practice session today, trainer Sanjay Singh was preparing the ice pack to apply it on his sore shoulder. Mahesh does not have the best pair of legs, but his volleying skills have improved so vastly, he can be a good bet here ... What coach Piperno is really banking on is Mahesh getting off to a good start. “He has done so well on Wimbledon grass, and there is no reason why he should not do well here,” said Piperno.. Both MB and LP can use some points .. Leander has 90 points to defend in Feb-March (70 from the Bangkok challenger title) and with only Dubai, Indian Wells and Lipton planned for the 7 weeks after this, and with Leander having direct singles entry only at Lipton, some points from a challenger is always good .. MB has 32 of his 90 points to defend from the 4-week Asian challenger sequence last year too ..

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Feb 1..