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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Feb 9, 2004
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Feb 9 Notes

In the latest Davis Cup rankings from ITF, India has now moved up to #13 !! .. Two spots up from our earlier #15 rank, with a few bonus points for an away tie .. That is fifth among all the teams that are expected in the world group playoffs late in the year -- eight teams ahead of us who are in this year's WG QF are already in the world group for next year, having won their ties this past weekend .. The four WG losing teams ahead of India (AUS, RUS, ROM, CRO) and the four who are behind us (CZE, CAN, MAR, and AUT) are already in the draw for the September WG qualifying playoff for 2005 .. India is currently the highest ranked team that is vying for a spot there through one more regional tie .. If we beat Japan away in April (a tall task!), India may end up as among the top 5 in the filed of 16, on Davis Cup ranking .. But that may still not be enough to get us a  top eight seeding and get us a winnable tie in the WG playoff (eight seeds are drawn against eight easier unseeded teams), because ITF may continue to disregard their own rankings and their stated criterion of double team strength and basically use just the ATP singles ranks as effectively the sole criterion for seeding .. Anyway, that is all later -- we need to beat Japan first before thinking beyond that .. I will say more after 9 weeks, once we get past JPN.

The rankings are based on points from four years of performance in the DC (earlier years with lesser points) .. In Asia-Oceania Davis Cup rankings, Australia is #1, India is #13, Thailand #16, Uzbekistan #21, Japan #30 and Indonesia is #34 .. Did you know that Britian is #22, Germany is #28 and Italy is #39?

Nothing much going on, as the women are getting ready for qualies at the WTA Indian Open (Hyderabad) this coming weekend, and the men are waiting for the Delhi F1A futures the week after (Feb 23rd) .. On the junior side, the Chandigarh frade-3 is this week ..

LP and MB are off for this week and both would be out playing the tour in a week or two .. I hope Rohan Bopanna may have started hitting the ball again, but I' mot sure how soon he wil be playing - I will try to confirm from Bofors on that .. Prakash also hopefully will be getting  back on court in a few weeks .. Harsh is in the entry list for next week's $15K futures in Texas, but he is going to see how his groin/thigh strain feels by the end of the week before deciding whether to play ..

An interesting bit from the PTI article on Paes' 5th match win yesterday - Paes later admitted verbally sledging New Zealand’s Simon Rea in the deciding Davis Cup tennis rubber here today, but only because home team captain Bruce Derlin started it .... Davis Cup debutant Rea raced to a 3-0 lead over Paes in the first set of the deciding match ... Paes said that’s when the taunting started and it was Derlin who shot from the lip first ... “The Kiwi captain, who knows I’m four feet away from him when I came back out (on court), said 'You must be feeling the pressure now',” Paes said. “I thought, 'all right, boy. You have started the game, so let’s go.' .. “It worked to my advantage.... Once that happens, I’m coming at you.” .. Man, that made me laugh .. Bruce Derlin has got to be incredibly naive to try something like that with Leander, because pretty much everybody with any experience in Davis Cup Asian regionals know what not to do against Lee! .. Anybody who has tried that kind of stuff on Lee has paid for it because that is the kind of thing that drives Leander, but Derlin is a newby as a captain; I guess he learned his lesson .. By the way, this Bruce Derlin business started in the first match itself, as he was doing things like screaming to justify blatantly partisan line calls against Mankad; so much so that Mankad refused to shake hands with him at the end of the match -- it is clearly in bad taste for the captain to do that kind of stuff, especially when the opponent is struggliung with a strapped thigh and injury and all that too .. Anyway, Lee did exactly what was needed! ... All right, boy, says Lee -- classic!

Feb 8 Note-3

The road is tougher from now on in Davis Cup, as we are looking at playing Japan away, and then Russia away in the playoff if we advance :-)

The Indonesians almost pulled off a big upset at home on Japan today, as Terachi retired against Widhiyanto in the 4th match to make it 2-2, and then Simpatiaji led by 2 sets to nil .. Motomura pulled off a comeback to win a 5-set fifth rubber to earn the right to play India at home ..  That tie will be in April, to decide who advances to play the October playoffs for the 2004 world group final-16.

The world group playoffs will be between 8 regional qualifiers (2 from Asia) and the 8 losers of the first rouond 2003 WG ties this weekend .. Eight teams will be seeded and be drawn against 8 others .. Most of the seeded teams in the WQ playoff will be this week's losers.. India, if it beats Japan, will not be seeded because of ATP singles ranks  .. Looks like there will be at least two biggies in the playoffs, as Russia got shocked by Belarus and Australia were upset by Sweden ..That means, using my never-failing predictive powers on how the Davis Cup draws will turn out, if we beat Japan in two months, book your tickets for a trip to Russia :-) .. Actually Australia in India would be a pretty bad too.

Feb 8 Note-2

By the way, congratulations go to Leander for equalling the great Ramanathan Krishnan in all-time wins this evening! .. Ramanathan had a 69-28 record (singles and doubles combined) in Davis Cup .. LP now is 69-29 ..  Actually, but for Ramanathan coming back at the age of 38 to win one match after six years since his previous match in 1969,  Lee would have the record today in most wins! ..  In singles, LP is 44-20, in second place behind Ramanathan at 50-19, and ahead of Jaideep Mukherjea at 39-23 .. In doubles, LP has just moved ahead of Premjit Lall (24-12) with a 25-9 record .. Amazing numbers - and they are especially impressive when you consider the number of times Lee has had to do it with his back against the wall, knowing that a loss from him would pretty much mean that we would lose the tie .. Today's match also made Leander the player with most Davis Cup matches in India's history -- Now he has 98 matches .. To underscore the point that he has played three matches a a pop almost every times, the 98 matches have come in just 34 ties .. For comparison, Ramanathan Krishnan's 98 matches came from 43 ties, and Jaideep Mukherjea's 97 matches also have come from 43 ties .. In fact, I just ran some stats, and Leander Paes has played most matches per ties, among anybody who has played over 30 ties in Davis Cup history - an incredible 2.88 matches per tie .. With the win today, he went past Balazs Taroczy of Hungary with 95 in 33 ties (2.87 avg) .. The next closest in Davis Cup history is Alex Metreveli (RUS) who played 105 matches in 38 ties (2.76 avg) .. LP is now in the 12th spot in all-time wins, behind Ramanathan Krishnan at #11 in Davis Cup history .. And he is not done by any stretch of imagination fany time soon .. Incredible numbers.

Feb 8 Note-1

INDIA WINS!! .... INDIA WINS!!! .... and Leander Paes is God ..

He has broken the hearts of many countries' fans in the past, and now for the 3rd year in a row he has broken the Kiwi hearts -- I am sure they will never forget him .. And I finally have the feeling that I can forget the crimes by the Kiwi Onny Parun who broke my heart as a young boy back in the 70s .. [Match-5] Leander Paes d. Simon Rea, 36 75 63 62 .. First of all, hats off to the young guy Simon Rea who played way beyond what anybody could have expected of him based on what he has done in the US college tennis etc .. It was no mean task he was facing, to go up against one of the very best closers in Davis Cup .. And he was immediately up a break at 4-1 and kept that up to take the first set on Leander .. To say that there was gloom in our chatroom would be an understatement .. But we knew that Lee would come back - the only doubt being about whether he was physically able to do it this time .. Second set .. and it goes neck and neck .. Finally when I called the stadium, they told me it was 6-5 on serve ..  But I knew one thing right then .. I KNEW .. Well, knew enough to predict that Leander would be breaking Rea in that game .. He has played enough Davis Cup to know that he HAD TO break REA right there, and we knew he knew he had to do it .. And that was exactly what happened .. According to TennisNZL, the game was a long one with many point and in the end Leander pulled off the break to even it and get himself back in it .. We all heaved a sigh of relief and the celebration was pretty much on .. We knew LP would do it from there; no doubts anymore .. The next two sets were a breeze .. And all is well with the world .. The sun rises in the east and Leander wins the matches that we want him to win.

Earlier, Vishal Punna seemed to start with a flourish, as he led with an early break too, but Nielsen came back on him ... V.Punna l. M.Nielsen, 46 36 16 .. Considering that this was his first match, I think Vishal played well.

Up next for us seems like Japan in Japan, unless Indonesia pulls an improbable upset .. The usual Suzuki-Motomura-Shimada team, I expect .. That will be iin early April, and hopefully PA and RB will also be healthy by then ..

Time to really start talking about the tournament that we are all proud about -- The WTA Hyderabad Open ...  Though I have not seen the proper press release yet, I may as well release the news on the second wild card, as CGK Bhupathi (who was with us in the chatroom during the LP match) did not object to it ---  as you may have guessed, the Indian #1, Isha Lakhani has got the second wildcard .. Go Isha !! ..

Feb 7 Note-2

The reverse singles start in 3 hours .. Sunday at 11 am in New Zealand (3.30 am India .. 5 pm SAT New york) .. Come to our chatroom at the forum (link at the top) to follow Vishal Punna's debut and the Lee's fifth match .. If you firt long into the forum and then click the chat link, it will bring you in with your forum name .. You can also come in without logging in, with a default "GuestX" name, and change the nick once in the chatroom.

17 yr old Tushar Liberhan, who shares his brithday with Karan Rastogi, upset the top seed Divij Sharan in a closely fought match, 06 75 75 to take the title at the prestigious grade-2 Delhi ITF juniors today .. Thos are two quality wins for Tushar, to get past Rupesh and Divij in three set matches where he amply showed his temperament and the winning attiutude .. The girls' title went to the irrepressible I-Hsuan Hwang (TPE) who beat Pichittra Thongdach (THA) .. Congratulations to Tushar pulling off a double crown! .. He picked up enough points to move his ranking up just inside top-40 .. Divij himself picked up a lot of points for the final, and he will now move to top-35 .. In addition, with his semifinal, Rupesh Roy has come roaring up the rank - he will be almost in the top-50 as well .. It looks like we will have four boys safely into the remaining three grand slams .. Congratulations to all of them .. Actually, going back to last year, we have now had six different guys (Somdev, ArunPrakash, Karan, Divij, Tushar and Ruepsh) in the top-50, which is quite an impressive record lately in bringing up players .. Before that we had Sunil Kumar in 2001 in the top-50 .. Prakash was just ouitside top-50 in 2001 and before that the only one who came right at top-50 in many years before that was Harsh Mankad in 97 ..  Now we wait to see which among the big group of boys would make the mark with top-100 ATP performance - I am reasonably hopeful of Karan doing it .. Perhaps one or two from the others would do it too .. The futures is looking bright ..

The juniors now go to Chandigarh for the grade-3 there .. Hopefully somebody from among the grils' side also would do something noteworthy, like a final or better ..

Feb 7 Note-1

Sorry for a delayed update -- I fell asleep after following the double match yesterday and having a long chat with other fans in the chatroom .. No problems in the doubles match, as India took a 2-1 lead with a nice and easy 63 64 76(4) win for Paes-Bhupathi over Nielsen and Matt Prentice .. Our pair broke Prentice in the 8th game of the first set to go ahead and serve it out .. In the second set, LP-MB got a break immediately in the first game and made it stand up till the end ..  A little bit of a fight from the Kiwis in the 3rd set, which had no breaks I believe .. PTI writes, Nielsen had a chance to force the match to a fourth set when he served at 4-3 in the tiebreaker, but he dropped both points to allow the Indians a 5-4 advantage .. Paes decided the set with two slick points, including a crisp, unplayable volley at match point .. Yeah! .. Bascially, the usual Indian Express DC doubles match .. They have a way of smoothly staying ahead in Davis Cup doubles, though it would always look like the other team were playing them closely ..

Now, the bad news -- Harsh Mankad's left adductor groin/thigh muscle strain seem to be slightly worse than originally thought and he will not be able to play tomorrow in the reverse singles .. So, Vishal Punna gets to make his debut match in Davis Cup .. Harsh himself has written in our forum, wishing Punna the best .. Go Vishaaaal!! .. Incidentally, HM's thigh injury was reported on friday morning in the Telegraph in Kolkata but I had not read it and we didn't know it till after his match .. Telegraph said in their article that the reason why Leander decided to throw his name in the draw on thursday was HM's condition .. He had the injury in practice on wednesday .. They checked him out on thursday before the draw and decided to play him, but LP, who we thought might keep himself fresh for the 3rd day due to the uncertainty on what singles shape he himself is, decided to take on the challenge and put his name in .. He didn't want to take a risk of falling 0-2 on the first day, just in case HM ran into trouble against Rea .. It has worked perfectly so far .. Hopefully Vishal can go after Nielsen and make it easier for LP .. Looking at Lee's form so far, the Kiwis certainly can't be too hopeful for the time being.

Here is the TennisIndia-SportsIndia exclusive -- Harsh Mankad writes:

Let me first update the day's proceedings. Lee and Hesh went about their business in top quality fashion. Hesh probably served the best that I've seen him at least at Davis cup and so did Lee. Except for one service game I don't think the kiwis came even close to sniffing a break point on our guys. One could very easily see the difference in class among the two teams. The kiwis really never had a chance. They did play much better in the third and forced the set into a tie-break. However, both Lee and Hesh stepped it up as they have done on so many occasions before and closed the match out. This was good for our team as it gives Leander that much more time to recover for the reverse singles tommorow.

Coming to the reverse singles, I will not be playing. The left adductor - groin injury that I sustained is the reason why I have been replaced. My game revolves around my speed and explosiveness, especially so on a fast court such as this one. My injury has put me back a step. I would have loved to play tommorow. I have dreamt of playing a match like the one tommorow and playing well and winning for India. But that will have to wait for another day. Vishal Punna deserves his chance tommorow. Our whole team will be behind him. He is a very talented young player with a big serve and volley game. Hopefully he can come out firing and put Mark Neilsen to the test. And then ofcourse there is Leander in case it does go to five and I feel that with the way he has played over the past two days he will have the egde over Rea.

In other Davis Cup news, Indonesia, which surprised Japan with one first day win, are down 1-2 after doubles at Japan .. It looks like Japan will win that tie - if so, if India beats New Zealand, it will yet another road trip for us, to Japan ..

Tournament director CG Krishna Bhupathi and Globosport announced the first wildcard for the WTA Hyderabad Open .. Surprise! -- it is Sania Mirza!  :-) .. I don't think there has ever been a wildcard at a tournament that has been more of a certainty .. All the best, Sania! .. I have heard from Globosport about who is getting the second wildcard, but they are announcing it one by one .. The next anouncement press release may be out today but I will wait till it hits the press before saying who it is .. Hint -- who is the other Indian girl that Globosport has with them?

Feb 6 Note-2

Saturday is doubles day there at Invercargill .. With LP showing great form yesterday and not spending too much energy in a fairly brief singles match, things looks all fine for Indian Express to come out and do their thing .. Once correction in what I had said earlier -- the initial draw that was reported in the New Zealand press had the 3rd day order wrong .. It will be Indian #1 vs Kiwi #1 in the 4th match and not the fifth on Sunday as they first reported .. That is significant, because LP would not have to think about surely having to play the first match on Sunday .. It will be Mankad vs Nielsen in the first match on Sunday .. HM had written in our forum that he tried his best but Rea played a terrific match today .. The NZL press also seems to say that Rea was totally on song - Strange spirits possess some players in Davis Cup, I suppose! .. Bythe way, HM did not mention any injury in his forum note but I found today that he had injured his thigh .. Not too bad, but enough to throw him off his rhythm yesterday it apears .. I talked to HM just now (saturday morning there) and he said it was more Rea than the injury, actually .. He is on some pain medication though  .. By the 3rd set he removed the thigh straps and he was actually feeling fine in the end - but it was too late against a charged up Rea .. Both Sanjay Singh and Dr. Vece Paes are there and have been doing a great job in getting him back in shape and ready for tomorrow .. I am sure he would certainly like to do his best against Nielsen and take some  pressure off Lee in the 5th match, assuming we win the doubles today ..  

It has been interesting out there with our "captain's chair" .. The playing captain Leander sat on the chair for the first set and half for Mankad yesterday and then left to get ready for his singles match .. Mahesh took over from there and did the duties for Lee's match too .. They had expected Harsh to be on the captain's chair for the LP-MB match today, but he has been asked to watch his thigh and not do all the sit-down and stand-up duties on the chair .. So, we will have the #4 Vishal Punna sitting on the chair ..  How about that, eh?  .. Ten days back he was not even dreaming of Davis Cup, and suddenly here is the 20 yr old Hyderabadi on the captain's chair, having never even played a Davis Cup match, and now directing one of the best doubles teams in the history of Davis Cup .. Yeah, I know - not exactly "directing" them; more like fetching them the towels and all, and arguing with the umpire if needed - but still the young man will remember this I am sure! ..

Oh, by the way, Leander and Mahesh have been in great spirits with each and the team is having good fun - much like old times, I believe .. The doubles match on saturday starts at 2 pm (6.30 am India, 8 pm FRI New York) .. We will have score updates, at least twice per set, in our chatroom .. Come on in.

At the big grade-2 ITF juniors in Delhi, Tushar Liberhan ended  Rupesh Roy's 13 match win streak which saw him winning titles at the Bangladesh and Kolkata grade-3 events earlier (actually going back to two ITF grade-5 events in Pakistan last sep-oct, and the Delhi Asian juniors where he lost to eventual winner Arun Prakash in a 7-5 3rd set, Rupesh had gone 24-1 in the previous 25 matches!! .. So he was due to fall some time and the second seed Tushar took care of it today .. Rupesh has still picked up enough to move to just outside top-50 .. Man, what a talent this boy is! .. Of course, Divij and Tushar lived up to their billing as the best Indian juniors after Karan this year .. They meet in the final .. The girls side continues to disappoint, as nobody seems to have emerged from the pack in almost 18 months or more - since Sanaa, Tara etc hit the scene after Sania, Ankita, Isha earlier .. Kartiki who has quitely picked up points and wins, but has noit had the break through wins in this circuit, went down to the 7th seed Thai Thingdach, who along with 3rd seed I-Hsuan Hwang (TPE) seems to be a class apart from the rest in this circuit .. The good news was that the doubles titles were both won by Indians .. Dibij-Tushar won the boys' title and Madura-Vandana won the girls' title today .. See the Delhi juniors page for scores.

At the grade-2 in Ecuador, Tara Iyer was upset by the 15th seed Lara Fakhoury (GBR), 62 62 in the PQF .. Tara had beaten the same girl last week - but such up and down results are not that unusual for Tara .. She will be back out upsetting somebody soon too .. Top seeded Tara and Agnes Szatmary (HUN) were upset in the doubles QF as well - by Liset Brito (CHI) and Florencia Molinero (BRA), 64 62 .

Feb 6 Note-2

Is there anybody better? .. IS THERE ANYBODY BETTER, I ASK! ..  There are some certainties in life --- death, taxes and Leander Paes puliing off Davis Cup wins .. #2 L.Paes d. #1 M.Nielsen, 62 63 76(2) .. Talk about a captain's show! .. Broke Nielsen twice in the first set .. Broke him again in the 8th game in the second to increase the lead .. Had a bit of a hiccup to fall 3-5 in the 3rd but broke MN right back to take it to a tiebreaker where Leander served two aces and finished with a cross court winner .. I mean, un-bleeping-believable .. This man is playing his first singles match in a year, and he was not even hitting a ball for 5 months with a parasitic brain infection, and he comes back out with our back against the wall and does this to somebody as good as Mark Nielsen? .. Are you serious? ..  "Leander Adrian Savior Hanuman Superman Inhuman Paes" is now my name for him ... We're Not Worthy! We're Not Worthy! We're Not Worthy! We're Not Worthy!

But the work is not done .. Lee will need to do three in a row unless Harsh's injury is not serious.  On to the Indian Express show tomorrow.

Feb 6 Note-1

India is in a serious hole after seemingly bad luck struck again .. According to the Tennis New zealand website, Harsh Mankad was suffering from a leg injury .. Not sure when he got that - has to be in the match, because there were earlier no injuries that we know of .. Anyway, the first match is over .. According to the couple of updates we got, HM was broken at love at 4-5 in the first set and proceeded to lose serve two more times in the second set, to fall to 46 16 13 ..  That is when they said that Rea was serving and volleying well to put pressure on HM who was injured .. It seems like he somehow managed a last gasp fight back but fell in the end, 46 16 67(2) ..

Once again, we need the miracle work from Leander ... Except we have no idea how his singles game is, as he is playing his first match in about a year, since the last tie against NZL last year .. Go Lee, save us again!

Feb 5 Note-2

The Davis Cup matches are about to start (it's already Friday afternoon down there) .. The first match, Mankad-vs-Rea is at 3 pm in NZL (7.30 am India .. 9 pm THU New York) .. Come on down to our CHATROOM AT THE FORUM ... Hopefully somebody or other will give us scores (or I will be calling up and finding scores) ..

At the Delhi grade-2 ITF, four Indians are in the semifinals .. Divij, Tushar, Rupesh, the top three seeds in the boys' draw and Kartiki Bhat, the scond seed in the girls draw .. Top seed Madura, who has really had trouible moving up from around #120 in the rankings for quite some time, went down today - thoiugh after a tough fight and comeback in the seocnd set .. Rupesh's 22 odd match winning streak (singles and doubles) ended today in the doubles semis, but he keeps on going in singles still .. See the Delhi juniors page for scores.

Feb 5 Note-1

Well, we should have guessed that Leander was bluffing when he said (through Naresh Kumar, as I reported earlier) that there was "no way he would be ready" for Davis Cup singles ..  The Davis Cup draw came out a couple of hours back and here it is -

Day one, singles: #2 Simon Rea v. #1 Harsh Mankad followed by #1 Mark Nielsen v. #2 Leander Paes.
Day two, doubles:   Rea/Nielsen v. Paes/ Mahesh Bhupathi.
Day three, reverse singles: #2 Rea v. #2 Paes, followed by #1 Nielsen v. #1 Mankad ..

It is always nice and certainly reassuring to see LP playing, but I suppose he would have preferred a better draw with him playing the 1st and the 5th matches .. Now, unless we are up 3-0, he cannot skip the 3rd day and it will be quite a physical strain to do what he is about to do .. But then, who else can do the kind of stuff Lee pulls? .. Go India!

In other news, Tara Iyer beat Isabela Kulaif (BRA) 63 63 in the second round (she had an RI bye) yesterday to reach the PQF at the grade-2 in Ecuador .. She plays the 15th seed Lara Fakhoury (GBR) in the PQF .. In doubles, after an R1 bye, top seeded Tara and Agnes Szatmari (ROM) beat Barbara Costa (BRA)/ Angelina Gabueva (RUS) 62 61 to make the QF .. They play Liset Brito (CHI) and Florencia Molinero (ARG) next.

Some great work by Vijay Amritraj to keep the Chennai Open right there, after the title sponsors Tatas pulled out and there was serious talk of the event moving to Hyderbad, etc .. Vijay pulled the show with "Amma" (you know who that is, in TN) - is there a more persuasive man out there than Vijay Amritraj, I wonder! .. The TN government will come up with Rs. 1 crore a year, with Indian Bank and Murugappa group coming up with another huge chunk of cash too .. I was never a big fan of CM Jayalalitha, but anybody who pulls cash out for tennis immediately goes to my "admired people" list .. Here are the details - article in The Hindu .. It will be known as simply the "Chennai Open" from now on ..

Feb 4 Notes

Things are all set at Invercargill for the Davis Cup draw on thursday (a few hours from now) .. Harsh Mankad reached there on Sunday and has been practising .. The team manager TD Francis (AITA treasurer) and coach Nandan Bal arrived soon after .. Mahesh and Vishal Punna got there on Monday .. After a bit of delay because he was playing Sunday evening at Melbourne, Leander and Karan from Australia got there for practice by Tuesday ..

Invercargill is at the southern tip of the south island of New Zealand, and they brag that they are the closest city in the world to the south pole .. Harsh Mankad wrote from there in our forum -- "it is a good thing that the world is round; otherwise a little bit more from here and we would have fallen off the edge" .. Harsh should take up a writing career some time :-) ... It is of course chilly and also raining down there .. Not a big city, but with some 50K residents .. Of course there are two Indian restaurants that I can trace information on -- "Bombay Palace" and the "The Fat Indian Curry House" -- the former is the official supplier of meals to the Indian team according to the local newspaper, and the latter takesthe cake for having the worst name I can imagine for a restaurant in these health-conscious days! .. The "Stadium Southland" arena down there is relatively new, and was the venue of at least another Davis Cup tie a couple of years back .. About 2500 fans can be there .. We were wondering in our forum if there are enough Indians down there to sing our teams official favorite song -- "Saare Jahaan se Accha, Hindustan Hamaaaraa" ... There are a few Indians out there -- on the web I find a big Sports Medicine specialist in Invercargill who is an Indian - Dr. Ajit Johr, but I don't know if he is loud enough to sing the song all by himself or if he is even a tennis fan :-) .. Hopefully the restaurant owners and a few other Indians are there .. By the way, Indian cricket team has played there, and actually an Indian hockey team played there in Invercargill way back in 1931!

As for the tennis matters, the New Zealand team is Mark Nielsen, 26, Simon Rea, 21, Daniel King-Turner, 19, and Matt Prentice, 23 .. Three of them, other than Mark are newcomers to their team .. The long-term pillar of solidarity in their team, Alistair Hunt, has retired and they have apparently somewhat unceremoneously dumped James Shortall (who seems less than pleased at how Tennis New Zealand has treated him - see this article) .. Another newcomer, Adam Thompson, 21, is the fifth non-playing member now .. The ATP ranking for Mark Nielsen has dropped quite a bit from about two years back when he was in the top-250 (he was also briefly up near #175 three years ago) .. #541 Nielsen has not played a whole lot since a runner-up finish in a UK futures last August .. He lost in straight sets at the Auckland ATP first round as a wildcard recently against Dominik Hrabty ..  Nielsen, though ranked 200 spots below than Harsh Mankad now, had beaten HM badly at the last Davis Cup in 2001 (that was perhaps HM's worst outing, in windy and chilly outdoors in Wellington) .. I expect him to be tough for Harsh even now.

As for the other players in the NZL team, things are quite unclear .. Simon Rea is probably their #2 based on newspaper reports guessing what captain Bruce Derlin would give as the team for the draw on Thursday .. Rea is probably much better than his #818 ranking shows .. He hasn't played much of  pro events lately, as he is at the University of Tennessee as a junior player .. He is the #1 player for the #54 ranked Tennessee - in fact he got to Invercargill only on Tuesday, as the college would not release him early because of a big tie against #29 ranked U.of.Virginia thiis past weekend (which they lost 3-4, despite Rea upsetting #25 ranked top player of UVa) .. Rea has been ranked as high as #12 in college, buit generally has been in the top-40 range .. A bit of an unklnown quantity in their team is the 19 year old Daniel King Turner - this guy took ATP #80 Wesley Moodie to a 3rd set tiebreaker as a wildcard at the Auckland ATP qualies (Wow!) - and he was pretty much immediately rewarded with an entry in their team .. I suppose they would be reluctant to throw him in as #2 though ..  The 4th member Matt Prentice, is also a  college player - he played #1 for the Oklahoma State University till last year; he was ranked as high as #40 in US colleges but was in the #75 range most of the time .. On paper, Harsh Mankad should be able to handle their #2 player, but in Davis Cup anything is possible .. Vishal Punna also has enough to beat their #2 players I believe, and if he does, we are pretty safe in this tie .. For all we know both Indiians are ahead of Mark Nielsen also now, but it is always dioofficult to say that about experienced veterans like Nioelsen.

As for our plans, it will all depend on whatever Leander decides .. It is not clear if he is ready to play singles, but we will see .. If he chooses not to play on day-1, Lee will pick between Punna and Rastogi as our #2 singles player - I expect Punna, unless he looks really out of form in practice .. I don't know if either guys have any experience on carpet surfaces though, and that is a problem .. With only one court to practice on, I believe neither team is going to get as much practice as they would like .. HM has played on indoor carpets before and he should be fine .. Anyway, let us see how it goes .. This is going to be an interesting tie.

OK, now for other news -- the Delhi ITF grade-2 is shaping up to be really good for Indian kids so far .. Five Indian boys and three Indian girls have reached the QF .. It is quite amazing how well the seeds have held up there .. Except for Sanam Singh upsetting the 7th seed Sato (JPN) and Sandhya Nagraj beating 4th seed Punam Reddy today, everybody ius safely through to QF .. Sandhya Nagraj is having a terrific week so far, as she has the only upset of seeds in the doubles draws as well (she and Sandri has pulled of two impressive wins there too) .. See the Delhi juniors page for scores .. This is pretty iumrpessive to see 8 Indians in the QFs .. Remember that the boys draw is actually quite strong, with the entry cut inside top-250 and seeds inside top-175 with a good number of foreigners .. It is not really a low quality event, and the Indian kids are showing better results these days than we traditionally have seen in the past.

Feb 3 Notes

Quick news -- nothing much going on this week, except for Davis Cup starting in a couple of days, the Delhi ITF grade-2 and Tara Iyer playing at the Ecuador G2 (she has byes in singles and doubles R1) .. Davis Cup team practising in Ivercargill -- will have preview details on the tie soon .. All the other men players are off, as the futures schedule is very light this week .. Sania Mirza, who won the singles and finished runner-up in doubles at Boca Raton is returning to India and decided not to play the challenger qualies for next week - she has a slight stomach muscle strain after a whole ton of matches in Florida, and rest is the best for now .. WTA Hyderabad Open is next for her .. I have added the monday results and all the qualifying results ffrom the grade-2, at the Delhi juniors page .. More later today.

Feb 2 Notes

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

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

Davis Cup news, etc, coming ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Feb 02 ..

I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.