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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Feb 10, 2003
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2003)

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Feb 10 Note-1

I have added a page for the $10K ITF women's satellite that started today at the Chennai Gymkhana .. The qualies have been completed with three Indians making it in, yesterday .. 14 Year old Madura Ranganathan won one round against experienced Jahnavi Sunderrajan, but went down fighting against  Jouila Vorobieva (RUS) in a three setter in the qual final .. Sasha Abraham had a couple of decent wins to make the main draw .. Rushmi, Suchanan Viratprasert, Sai Jayalakshmy, etc lead the lineup .. The wildcards to the main draw went to Isha Lakhani, Samrita Sekar and M.Kamini .. Good to see Isha there; she will be a handful for everybody, as will be another talented junior, Uzbekistan's Ivanna Israilova who qualified in .. Ankita is not there, or she would also be major trouble for everyone .. See the Chennai satellite page.

Feb 9 Note-3

Good news from California .. Prakash Amritraj (IND) has reached the final round of qualies at the $380K Seibel Open in San Jose .. In the first round yesterday, 658th ranked Prakash had a very good upset, over Jean-Julien Rojer (AHO,301) 75 63 .. In the second round he had a 63 76(4) over Tomas Penicka (USA) who had upset the 6th seed Jaymon Crabb (AUS,182) in the Q1 .. That is some impressive stuff from PA .. Prakash now faces Todd Reid (AUS,300) who upset the 3rd seed Jack Brasington (USA,138) .. In the doubles main draw, California's best young team got a wildcard - Stephen and Prakash face Juan Balcells (ESP) and Kenneth Carlsen (DEN) .. How 'bout that?

Feb 9 Note-2

Here is the Sukhwant Basra article from the Times of India on the reverse singles matches .. Quite a complimentary piece on Rohan .. If this was a first day tie against a #503 ranked player, I wouldn't have been that impressed with RB, but considering that he was under quite a bit of pressure after losing to the Japanese #2 already, and that an upset loss to Jun Kato would be disastrous for his own reputation; he came through fine - and that does say something about his temperament as a player .. On the other hand, the tie also made it rather clear that RB still has quite a bit of work to do (and quick - we don't have much time) to become the kind of complete player he can become .. Backhand, movement on court, volleying, service accuracy - all of it needs work .. And he will need to do it with some good effort - let's face it, the one breathing down (or up -)) on his neck, Harsh Mankad, is no spring chicken either, and you can bet that he is gonna do everything he can to win back his starting spot in the Davis Cup team .. I like it that we have a couple of good guys who will push each other a bit ..

Quickly, speaking of Harsh, he will be back in the US this week, planning to play a couple of tough $15K futures down in Texas .. Actually the futures starting on Feb 17th has a really tough draw, with #475 Harsh finding himself in the qualies, 9 out from the main draw! .. He is gonna play the qualies and do it the hard way.  Way to go!

Here is another Times of India piece today, "Sports Beyond Cricket" - about how AITA has been doing some leg work to get corporate types interested in tennis .. They are right in what they say .. We are all cricket fans and all the other sports are asking for is that just a minuscule portion of the money going to cricket be turned towards other sports .. The fact is that tennis also has quite a bit of fan support in India (as does hockey and football), and I have never been convinced that the marketing guys in our corporate houses have ever objectively looked at whether there is mileage to be gained by diverting some money out from cricket, where they really are all competing against each other in a zero-sum game .. In other words, we are not asking for charity towards tennis .. Simply for these corporate houses to take a look cloesly at whether ALL of their money going to cricket is well-spent; I don't think it is.

Another "side issue" this week was some stuff kicked up by the Japanese coach, who (wouldn't you guess) is an Aussie - Bob Brett .. His beef before the tie started was that the grasscourt area at the DLTA complex was only 57 feet wide while the Davis Cup rules requires 60 feet .. It makes the side space about 13 feet instead of 16 on one side .. He whined, as though he had just made some big discovery of a really ingenious idea from AITA to give some huge advantage to the Indians .. Of course this "side" issue is all known to AITA, from an earlier tie (against Korea) when the matter came up and ITF apparently did not have an objection to it .. ITF knows that this is the least of the gamesmanship issues that come up in Davis Cup, where things like people throwing bottles at opposing players in South America, and India having to play in track suits in a Beijing indoor arena where the heater "conventiently" stopped working, are common place - it is part of the charm of Davis Cup to some extent and ITF hardly tries to curtail everything .. Heck, *both* teams played with a little bit less space to one side (I believe the grass area is within the arena with an often used sythetic surface part that will need to cut up to make the grass area bigger) ..

Anyway, a normal protest would have been fine and teams often protest about something or other in all these ties, which only results in a routine dismissal from ITF in most cases .. The matter has already been dismissed by ITF Davis Cup committee this time too, according to AITA .. The issue was not this .. The Aussie coach for Japan is Bob Brett, the well-known bigname Australian who used to be the coach for those like Boris becker (which immediately makes him also persona non-grata for me; how much I detest Becker being clearly expressed here many times - the whole old story between LP and Becker; but I digress) .. OK, Bob "bigshot" Brett decides to mouth off on AITA which he called "unprofessional, incompetent and indulging in gamesmanship" - this was in the Times of India Delhi print edition on Friday but I decided to talk about it after the tie was over .. Mr.Brett probably thinks he can go anywhere and behave just like he is in Australia .. I am of course stereotyping here, but It seems to me that the Aussies think that nobody can ever dislike them, the good "mates" they all are, and that speaking what comes to your mouth, like you are in some outback bar, is just fine anywhere! .. No thank you .. Hey, Sir Brett, you don't come to India and start acting like you own the place .. Play the damn match on the court given to you - it is not like the side space magically shrunk only when Leander's corner serves were going that way .. Laughable stuff from him .. Like AITA is such a cunning organization that came up with such an original plan to give India an advantage! .. Well, the Monday Hindustan Times quotes Anil Khanna of AITA to be saying that the International Tennis Federation has warned Japan on Sunday for comments made by coach Brett .. AITA had come out on Saturday with some harsh retorts saying Brett was out of line, which he of course was, in speaking the way he did.

There was more, with Japan's captain bringing out temperature readings in the press conference to show Suzuki was ill, as though that is why Leander beat him .. He couldn't have that easily forgotten LP beating a healthy Suzuki in Japan too .. He also complained about the grass and the atmospheric conditions - "Not good air, throat is choking," Jun Kamiwazumi said in the press conference .. Aw come on, grow up! .. Learn to show some basic courtesy to the country you visit and stop acting like you are some prima donna .. You lost .. Badly! .. Now eat some crow, humble-pie or curry-rice, enjoy it, and go home! ..

Feb 9 Note-1

Some exceprts from Prajwal Hegde's article in the Deccan Herald about the doubles win on Saturday for the old express .. For Paes and Bhupathi today it was all about delicate balance. Just as it is for ice skaters. Their every stretch and stare came under the microscope. Playing together in India for the first time since they parted ways, they showed no signs of strain — egging, cheering and pushing each other on. Infact, in the seventh game of the second set, Bhupathi, enjoying his best service game of the match till then, didn’t even wait for Paes to wrap up his overhead and close out the game. He simply walked off the court. Such is their level of confidence when they are playing together ...... Het, that's cool stuff indeed! ..... When Paes came up with a breath-taking lob in the second set, Bhupathi matched it with a powerful jab. Then when a Paes backhand left Shimada stranded, Bhupathi came up with a powerful two-handed winner. The crowd, thoroughly enjoying the fare, must have wondered what it was that kept the twosome apart on the tour .... Bhupathi admitted that when they play tennis like the way they did today it is “at times” tempting to reunite. Paes called it “our neatest performance in Davis Cup.” ..

Hey, there is nothing to all this -- don't get your hopes up .. The express has gone back to the shed and I don't think there's any plans for it to come out ..

Feb 9 Note-1

India's ranking in the world will stay right around #16 after this round of Davis Cup .. India has been pretty much at the highest ranking possible with regioanl ties' points .. We keep defending our point total - for the 3rd year in a row, except for variaion due to away-win bonuses etc .. We get New Zealand in April at home .. They are ranked #28 in Davis Cup, compared to #31 of Japan, but may be a realtively easier team, in my view.

In the doubles qualies first round at the Dohan WTP, Sania Mirza and Sunitha Rao went down 4-8 to the second seeds Nathalie Grndin and Kim Grant .. Sunitha and Sania had a wildcard into the doubles .. Single set qualies in the first round as always .. So the trip to Doha did not prove too productive in terms of wins, though Sania again showed that she can certainly hang with the players in the top-200 range, by taking a set off Blahatova yesterday .. Confidence from doing those things will help in lower ranked tournaments .. It takes quite a bit of experience to play whole matches against the WTA tour players; it needs making proper adjustments to counter things when the experienced players change strategies during the matches .. A lot of these kinds of matches are nothing but experiments for a young player trying learning the tour .. It also tells her the need to work more on mental and physical stamina/focus to play whole matches without getting frustrated when things start going south ..

Sania will be at two $10K satellites in Nigeria the next two weeks .. I think she decided to play the Nigeria evens instead of the two events in India because she would have to miss the first one in Chennai starting tomorrow because of the Doha trip which she had to take up once she got a wildcard there .. The Benin city events in Nigeria start on the 17th and 24th - also the field is somewhat weaker there than in India, she will get a chance to play a few different players than in the Indian event which has a similar field as in the December futures in India and Indonesia .. After that trip, I think she will have a 2-week break .. She will be back in the junior tour soon with three grade-1 ITF events, which I think may be asian events - in Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines, starting March 17 .. Looks like a pretty good plan, mixing things up.

By the way, next week's ITF ranks will show Sanaa Bhambri up in the 80s in the world .. Wonderful to see another 14 year old that high up, isn't it? .. Tara Iyer at 14 is not too far back either .. Girls tennis is really making some noise in India .. Sanaa has reached the finals in four of the last five ITF events she played, the only blemish being the R1 exit at the Asian juniors to Montinee Tangphong in December .. Otherwise she has reached finals at the Mumbai grade-4 in late september and then the grade-3s in Kolkata, Delhi and Chandigarh in the last three weeks .. Good to see her getting over the hump and winning her title yesterday at Chandigarh to finish this run .. Congrats, Sanaa! .. Time to not let up on any plans, and to go fully into serious coaching and physical training .. Though she is still a little 14 year old, I think she may be beginning to grow into a stronger player .. Last year we used to see that she was winning mostly on pure talent and court sense (Asian juniors semis in 2001 as a 13 year ild, etc), but recently there have been newspaper comments about her to be hitting harder and all that.  That is good, and that's what she needs to do - one of the mistakes that many Indian kids have made in the past is to not plan for whom you winning .. Hopefully no such problems in Sanaa's case .. Le's go Sanaa!

More later, with the Chennai women's satellites details.

Feb 9 Note-1

Today turned out to be easier than expected .. [Match-4] #1 R.Bopanna vs #1 J.Kato, 76(5) 64 64 .. [Match-5] #2 L.Paes vs #2 G.Motomura, 16 63 64  to give India a 4-1 Davis Cup win over Japan .. Not sure why Takao Suzuki didn't play; perhaps he was injured .. Anyway Rohan did the job on Jun Kato .. I am not sure why LP didn't skip the reverse singles - I would have definitely liked to see Harsh Mankad get a chance for the first time in India .. After all the sacrifical lamb matches he was thrown into abroad in the Swedens, USAs and Australias, he finally gets a home tie and didn't get to play .. Oh well, it goes like that I guess .. Lee simply likes to play Davis Cup matches (he has come in for dead-rubber reverse singles in some 3 or 4 ties in the past too!

India now gets New Zealand in India in the first week of April.

In the Qualies round 1 at the $170K Doha WTA, Sania Mirza lost to Olga Blahotova (CZE,166), 46 63 61 and Sunita Rao (USA,176) lost to #6 Wynne Prakusya (INA,112) 26 26 ..

Sanaa Bhambri finally got a title over a Thai girl, after losing to them in the last two weeks .. 64 64 win over Thassah Vitaraviroj to day in the final of the grade-3 juniors in Chandigarh.

Feb 8 Note-2

Unfortunately, I can't avoid being away froim a computer pretty much till sunday morning here in the US, and can't update the reverse singles scores on sunday till a few hours after it is all done .. Sorry about that .. Check the forum and come to the chatroom for any news - the matches start from Sunday at 10 am (4.30 am London ..11.30 pm Saturday New York) ..

Here is the report on the doubles match, from rediff.com ..

Later, folks!

Feb 8 Note-1

LP-MB continue their streak of doubles wins in Davis Cup which started some 8 odd years back .. Today was one of the easier matches for them, it seems .. [Match-3] M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. T.Shimada/ J.Kato, 62 62 63 .. I have no details on the match, but it looks like there was nothing much happening, I guess, from the scoreline.

So India takes a 2-1 lead .. Match-4 is expected to be between Rohan and Suzuki, on Sunday, with LP-Motomura following.

Feb 7 Note-3

Saturday doubles starts at 11 am (I think) at Delhi [5.30 am London, 12.30 am New York] .. I haven't confirmed the time .. The chatroom will be open, but I will be away during the matches tomorrow and day after tomorrow, and my updates could be an hour or two late .. I am sure one of the fans will post the scores in the forum, as soon as they fnd out.

Japanese coach Jun Kamiwazumi, was exasperated and asked in his postgame interview today - "Why does Paes play so well in Davis Cup, while he is only ranked outside the 1000s on ATP rankings? Is it because he eats lot of curry-rice?" .. I don't know the logic of the reference to curry, but curry is better than sushi for my money!

Here are the newspaper articles about Friday's matches .. Kamesh Sreenivasan had this article in The Hindu .. S.Kannan wrote this in the Hindustan Times .. Here's Prajwal Hegde's article in the Deccan Herald .. Sukhwant Basra had this to say in the Times of India .. They are all out of words to describe yet another Leander show, and nobody can blame them .. All four are not very critical of Rohan and have written relatively encouraging words on his play .. Yes, RB has a lot more learning to do, but the way he came back in the second set from 1-4 down was noticed by everybody .. The 20 double fault to go with 23 aces is what caught everybody's eye .. He needs to learn to not be one-dimensional, it seems .. The report on how the chair umpire Puneet Gupta overruled a service call which seemed right, and gave the point to Gouichi in the 3rd set tiebreaker when RB could have gone up 3-0, is sad ..  It seems to have caused RB to lose a bit focus too .. Again, he did a last gasp comeback from two break down in the 4th set, taking one break back, but that was too little too late.

Everyone seems to expect that the Japanese captain will change the doubles team for them, and put in Suzuki instead of Jun Kato, with doubles specialist Shimada .. Don't forget that these two gave missive headaches to LP and MB in Japan two years back and took them to five sets .. Also don't forget that LP-MB were taken to 5 sets on the same grascourts at RK Khanna stadium in 1997 by Chile's Rios and Massu, two guys who had hardly played any grass tennis at all .. So, don't think that the crucial doubles match is in the kitty .. We should also remember that LP and MB have won all those matches were they were troubled to the end .. They just know how to win it when it counts, so we no need to be worried.

Tamarine Tanasugarn has been the least talked-about top player at Hyderabad .. I am not even sure if she was one the tournament actively pursued, seeing that the press reports never mentioned Tammy, till the entry list came out! .. Looks like she is one who really wanted to play here .. The second seed has quietly come through so far .. She faces the 5th seed Iroda Tulyaganova in a rematch of the Asiad finals .. It was impressive actually to see three Asians in the semi (Akiko Morigami of Japan being the surprising 3rd one) .. See the Hyderabad WTA page .. There is a chance that both the Indian pro events titles would be owned by Thais (Paradorn won the Chennai ATP).

A Sania update -- her doubles match on thursday got done at around 11 pm at Hyderabad, she got a visa clearance at 1.30 am, and she was gone to Doha for the $170K WTA event qualies, by a 5.30 am flight Friday! .. That's the tough life of a tennis player that she is getting used to .. I think she will be trying doubles there with Sunitha Rao - that is a very good partner! .. Not sure if it is main draw (which will need a wildcard) or in the qualies; anyway, we will wait for the draws from Doha .. Actually, her dad, Imran Mirza was in the chatroom during the Davis Cup match giving us score updates (thanks!) yesterday, but I forgot to confirm the doubles thing at Doha with him .. Imran did say that there is not plans to drop the junior tour altogether or anything .. Sania is planning to play three grade-1 events soon.

At Chadigarh, Somdev Varman lifted the singles title again .. He has been very impressive lately .. The xtra points will take his ranking next week to around #45, the highest ranking by any junior in a decade or so! .. Actually Sunil Kumar did reach #30 for a couple of weeks in the last month of his junior eligibility with the Asian juniors title, but otherwise his best rankings were just around #50 ..  Somdev was quoted after last week's delhi title to be saying that he is serving and hitting the ball a bit harder, and he learned quite a bit seeing the top players around the world in the Australian trip last month .. I like Somdev's focus .. The boy definitely has that proverbial "fire in the belly" that I often talk about ..  On the girls' side, the final is tomorrow .. Sanaa Bhambri won the semi today with a tremendous 3rd set tiebreaker win (10-8) over the 7th seed .. This is the 3rd consecutive final for Sanaa (who lost to Thassha Vitayaviroj of THA at Kolkata and Montinee Tangphong of THA at Delhi) - let's hope she would finally pull off a title, against Thassha tomorrow .. Hat's off to Sanaa for the focus in getting to three grade-3 finals in a row at such a young age .. She will crack into the top-100 in the world next week with all these points! .. Go Girl! ..  See the Chandigarh juniors page for all scores.

Feb 7 Note-2

Some things never change .. The sun rises around Japan, and sets somewhere at the other end of the globe .. Or for the Japanese, it sets wherever Leander Paes is .. [Match-2] L.Paes d. T.Suzuki, 64 76(3) 64 .. Lee had a break point at the right time in the 9th game, converted it, and served out the 10th game at love for the first set .. In the second, he agains went up a break at 6-5 but this time dropped serve immediately at 30-40 to face a tiebreaker .. He was all over the place, racing to a 6-1 lead in the TB .. Finished it at 7-3 .. In the 3rd set he had a break chance in the second game .. Bad call (hello, that ain't supposed to happen at home!) .. Lee argues, Ramesh argues, but no luck .. Lee gets fired up, which means Japan loses whatever chance they could have ever imagined against Lee.  It's 2.30 am here in California .. Gotta sleep .. and sleep peacefully, knowing that the sun will rise again and that Leander Adrian Paes will still be there to bring us Davis Cup glory.

Feb 7 Note-1

Well, Rohan played a close match, but when the best weapon is misfiring on and off to the tune of some 15 double faults or something, even his best effort wouldn't help .. [Match-1] R.Bopanna l. G.Motomura, 46 76(4) 67(4) 36 .. I only had some occasional updates during the match .. They traded breaks early in the first set, and Rohan had some 6 double faults in the first few service games .. In fact a double fault at 4-5 is what caused him to drop the set .. In the second, Rohan was down 1-4 but came back from there and came through in a tiebreaker ..  He had momentum in the 3rd set when he was up at 4-2 .. A slightly loose game, and a couple of backhand mistakes, and it was all even .. Once he lost the tiebreaker, the end was near .. He was down 0-3 soon and the match was over ..

As I type Leander is up 64 76(3) 22, and it's back to a familiar song for India with our one-man army doing the job to keep us in it.

Feb 6 Note-3

OK, it's all set to go in Delhi in a couple of hours .. Bofors Bopanna starts it off against Gouichi Motomura .. 10 am  (4.30 am London .. 11.30 pm Thursday New York) .. Come to the chatroom ..

For those few of you who may be a bit puzzled about what each of these Davis Cup ties mean, this is the first round of the Asia-Oceania Group-1 competition in 2003 .. Group-1 is the somewhat misleading name ITF uses for the highest tier of eight teams in the region that includes Asia, Australia, New Zealand, etc.  The idea is to go through two rounds in the regional at this level to advance to the world group playoffs around september .. Thaose playoff ties determines 8 teams to join the final-16 (world group) in 2004.  The eight teams (2 from Asia) that advance from the regionals play after a draw against the 8 teams that lose the first round of THIS year's world group-16 [these first round ties are also this weekend] .. Those who win the first round of the world group each year stay in the wordl group for the next year .. So, we have not found Australia in the Asia-Oceania regionals for something like 15 years or so .. India has won two rounds in the regionals for the last three years in a row, drawing (unfortunately) the toughest loser from the world group each year for an away tie (Sweden, USA and Australia) each time .. The last time India played in the world group final-16 was in 1998 when we lost the first round in Italy and then lost the late year playoff to Britian to get relegated to the regionals .. Before that India was in the world group for a few years in a row .. This year, if we win this round against Japan, we will face the winners of the Pakistan-New Zealand tie in the second round which looks like an easier tie than this one against Japan, especially with NZL coming to India .. So, for all practical purposes, a win this weekend will take us to the world group playoffs in September with hopefully a good draw (and hopefully a home tie as well, because we have homecourt advantage against a lot of teams in the world group at this point; and we are due for a good draw after so many away ties and tough draws in a row) .. So, the bottom line is, we have to get past Japan and fight tooth and nail for that this weekend.

The last time India made the world group (technically, the last time we won a playoff and stayed in the world group) was in late 1997 when India beat Marcelo Rios and Chile in what was one of Mahesh Bhupathi's finest wins in the 5th match, where he came back from 2 sets down to pull it off .. That was right there at the RK Khanna stadium in Delhi ..

The last time India lost to Japan was .. well .. 1930 .. The Japanese won a couple of ties played in USA and Britian .. The next tie was in 1956 and from then, India has gone 16-0 against Japan in Davis Cup ties .. 6 ties won in India and 10 won in Japan .. Japan has won more than 1 match in India in only one of those 6 ties .. And that was the only time they came anywhere near beating us .. Back in 1976 .. Things were tied at 2-2, but Jun Kamiwazumi, interestingly the current Japanese captain, lost the 5th match to Anand Amritraj .. Their next trip to India was in 1990 .. Zeeshan Ali and S.Vasudevan beat Tanizawa and Matsuoka on the first day and then a 17 yr old young kid by the name of Leander whataver, playing with Zeeshan won a marathon doubles match 18-16 in the 5th set to dash whatever faint hopes they had for a comeback .. The next tie was two years back in Japan when that same kid, quite a bit older by then, again broke their heart winning the 3rd point for India in reverse singles .. He dropped two of the first three sets to Suzuki and came back with an adrenaline pumping show that the guy is so known for in Davis Cup .. We need him to make Japan cry once more .. For gravy he does have the Kodava Gun with him too, this time.  GO INDIA!!!!!

Feb 6 Note-2

I have been looking for a nickname for Bopanna for a while, and nothing fit .. Sukhwant Basra of the Times of India just came up with a good one in his preview article -- Rohan "Bofors" Bopanna !! ... I love it .. Read his article written with the usual Sukhwant flair .. Here is another good preview from S.Kannan .. I believe the first match starts at 10 am tomorrow (that is 8.30 pm THURSDAY in Los Angeles) .. Sania/Pierce lost 36 61 64 today .. Pity, they were up 3-0 in the 3rd .. At Chandigarh, Somdev, Karan,. Chatwinder and Sanaa reached semis .. Gotta run, more later.

Come to the chatroom during the Davis Cup matches, though we have no idea who is going to bring in score updates ..

Feb 6 Note-1

The Davis Cup draw was done by Prime Minister Vajpayee at his residence this morning .. It will be #1 Rohan Bopanna against #2 Goichi Motomura in the first match tomorrow, followed by #2 Leander Paes against #1 Takao Suzuki later in the day .. The doubles is scheduled for Saturday between Paes-Bhupathi and Thomas Shimada/ Jun Kato ..

There was a report today about the Japanese being a little surprised about the Indian camp on wednesday .. According to The Hindu, "There was laughter and camaraderie all around, perhaps to the bewilderment of the Japanese team which may have heard stories of the 'groupism' in the Indian camp and the difference of opinion between Leander and Mahesh, who did not hesitate in posing together for the photographers this day" .. You see, Japan, we are really good at this stuff .. India is never what India is reported to be; so don't try to figure us out! ..

Feb 5 Note-2

The Davis Cup draw is tomorrow .. Interestingly, for the first time since Ramesh Krishnan retired, we have a change at the #1 spot for India .. This time it will be either Bopanna or Mankad (most probably the former, due to his big game that suits the grasscourts) - and both are ranked ahead of Leander .. In Australia, LP was #1 because Mankad had a rank just below him and played on day one as #2 .. The Japanese top two are almost surely Takao Suzuki and Goichi Motomura, though their captain has not announced it yet .. LP should be playing Suzuki on the first day itself, when the #1 players face the #2 players.

As we are always interested in finding a fanclub member (or a common tennis fan, not necessarily a tennis expert) to give us match reports with some fan enthusiasm, any of you who would be going to the Davis Cup at Delhi, please send me a note! .. The only requirement is that you need to have to be able to email us a report as soon as possible after the matches .. By the way, if I am not mistaken, the entry is FREE to the Davis Cup this time! .. At least that is what a newspaper report said, and it's for the first time in a long time that AITA has done that if so; but I will confirm it .. Also, an early request to you "couch potato" friends out there who will be watching it on TV .. We'd really like you to come to our chatroom and give us match commentary, starting Friday (I know a lot of you have relatively expensive online connections in India, but I know some of you can handle it! :-))

Saare Jahaan se Acchaa!, the song that fires up Leander! .. Let's get it started, guys .. This Davis Cup is tie not a slam-dunk, though we are favorites at home ..

Manisha's nice run at Hyderabad ended today with a loss in the doubles today .. Manisha Malhotra/ Kim Grant (RSA)  l. Yulia Beygelzimer (UKR)/ Anastassia Rodionova (RUS), 67(3) 46 .. MM-KM were up 4-2 in both the sets but lost the advantage both times to fall in the end .. Despite the loss, I think Manisha did put her best foot forward at Hyderabad, coming through the singles qualies and almost pulling off an upset win in the main draw as well.

At the grade-3 ITF in Chandigarh, Somdev continued his run with another easy win .. Karan Rastogi was really off-color today but came up with just enough to win a three-setter against Divij Sharan .. A nice win worth mentioning was by Sanam K. Singh, who is #1 in our under-14 rankings and #4 in the u16 ranks, and is quite young as well, having just turned 15 last month .. He beat Kirati Siributwong of Thailand, who had upset Rupesh Roy yesterday .. Sanam has not been all that much in the news, but I had kept an eye on the guy since his win over Rupesh in the u16 semi (he lost to Divij in the final) and the u14 title at the DSCL hardcourt nationals a few months back .. he reached a grade-5 final in Bangladesh last month and had gone down in three sets to Rupesh in the grade-3 the week after there .. He did not play the Kolkata grade-3, and had lost in the first round last week at Delhi against the Kolkata winner, Tolok (UKR) .. Sanam runs into Tolok in the QF tomorrow again though - that will be a tough match again .. Prashanth Natarajan (aka Vijay Sunder Prashanth) had a nice upset of the 8th seed Doakmaiklee (THA) to reach QF too .. On the girls' side, Sanaa is the only real threat we have this time, but Parul Goswamy is also in the QF with a win over vandana Murali today .. See the Chandigarh juniors page for all scores.

Somdev Varman moved up to #51 in the world junior rankings this week thanks to his title at Delhi last week, inching ahead of Karan at #58 .. Both could use another 20 or 30 more points in their best-6 total to get over 250 points and ensure entries to FO and Wimbledon juniors now itself .. In doubles, Karan is at #52 and Somdev at #87 - actually these two are a pretty good team though they have only started playing together recently ..

Feb 5 Note-1

A BIG THANK YOU to all of you who contributed, as we just closed down the fundraising for Premjit Lall .. I am glad to announce that we raised US$ 2,930 for a cheque to Premjit in the amount of Rs 1 lakh 40,000 .. All of that in just 4 days .. The donations came from 27 people .. The highest was $500 which was also matched by another donor who had promised to match the highest amount .. The thought counts a lot too, and there were a couple who came through with $10 too! .. I may list the names of the Indian Tennis fans who contribued, after getting their permission.

Premjt Lall,  Born: 20 Oct 1940
--- One of the most dashing figures ever in Indian tennis, but confined to a wheelchair now and in need of help.
--- #2 singles player behind Ramanathan Krishnan in the 1966 Davis Cup team that finished runner-up in the World.
--- Wimbledon Junior runner-up, 1958.
--- 58 Davis Cup wins.  Only Ramanathan (69) Jaideep (62), Leander (60) have more.
--- Most doubles wins for India - 24 in Davis Cup.
--- 14 years in Davis Cup.  Only Anand (19), Vijay (17), Ramanathan (17) have played more years..
--- The first Indian to earn a WCT (World Championship of Tennis) circuit contract, 1973
--- Even led Rod Laver at Wimbledon 2-0 and 3 games to nil, forcing Rod to make his most incredible comeback ever.
--- Easily among the best 4 or 5 players India has ever produced.
Those are just some of the things I pulled together on Premjit ..

Sometimes an upcoming player comes in and does not get picked up by the radar at all .. At Hyderabad, there is a phenom who has just not been talked about much at all (the press didn't seem to notice, and I simply forgot to talk about her) .. That is Maria Kirilenko of Russia .. She is even younger than Sania (by a couple of months), if you can believe that, and has reached the QF as a qualifier .. She beat Angie Widjaja, the 7th seed in a comeback threesetter to do that .. Kirilenko is of course #3 in thw orld in the ITF juniors, and is the winner of the US Open juniors as a 15 year old last year .. Quite a talent, she is .. I am sure we will hear a lot more about her in the future, and would possibly adding her anme among the illustrious ones who have played the Hyderabad Indian Open.

Manisha and Kim Grant are playing their first round doubles match right now.

The Davis Cup practice sessions seem to be moving along nicely at Delhi .. The practice is at the NSCI grass courts .. They will get to practice at the RK Khanna stadium grasscourts also a bit before the tie starts on Friday.  More later on that.

At the ITF grade-3 in Chandigarh, Tushar Liberhan once again went down early, but otherwise the first round got done with no other causalities among Indian .. Somdev, Karan, Chatwinder, Sanaa etc moved on .. With Ankita having skipped this due to the qualies at Hyderabad,a R.Madura not being there, we really have only Sanaa to hopefully be our flag-bearer deep into the draw on the girls' side .. Will update today's scores soon at the Chandigarh juniors page.

Feb 4 Notes

Quick note, as it is a busy day for me .. Manisha played her heart out in a massive comeback from being down 0-4 in the first set and dropping the set at 2-6 .. She fell late in the 3rd set, which is a really good show against a top-100 player .. 26 64 57 loss to Tataiana Poutchek (BLR,87) .. Later, Sania made a good account of herself too, scaring the daylight out of Evie Dominikovic with a 6-2 first set .. She could nto sustain the momentum as her service reportedly became erratic later in the match .. 62 16 26 loss for the sixteen year old but she gave a glimpse of what is in store in the futures, I suppose .. Later, with more.

Feb 3 Note-3

In the night doubles match the Hyderabad WTA, Sania Mirza and Mary Pierce easily won the first round, 61 64 over Rushmi Chakravarthi and Sai Jayalakshmy .. Mary was quoted with a comment that Sania was hitting the ball harder than Mary herself! .. That is high compliment of course .. See the Hyderabad WTA page for all of today's scores.

The qualifiers have been placed in the draw, and Manisha Malhotra plays Tataiana Poutchek (BLR,87) .. Sania and Manisha are both in the schedule for Tuesday in singles, with SM playing Evie Dominikovic at night on the center court.

By the way, I must be dumb - I figured out what the official Indian Open site meant by "Glam Slam" only now! .. I guess I don't think of women's tennis as a glamor thing! .. The website has been very well liked by fans all over .. A little too popular actually .. They had way too many hits at their online live scores page causing it to basically freeze .. They were working on fixing the problems, but it was nice to see them putting in all kind of score updates till late at night anyway.

Vishal Uppal was again in the qualies for the second leg of the Australian satellites .. Unfortunately he went down in the final round of the 4-round qualies .. Dhruv has put in all the score details in our forum (under the "Indian players at various events" thread) ..

The grade-3 ITF juniors have started at Chandigarh .. 7th seed Rupesh Roy went down today, but otherwise no big surprises .. Somdev, Karan, etc, have not played yet .. See the Chandigarh juniors page.

Feb 3 Note-2

The Indian team has been practising for a couple of days in Delhi, getting ready for the Davis Cup .. Leander reached there for the Sunday practice with just his raquet bag, as his luggage had been misplaced by the airline (by the way, a fan had pointed out to me that LP had changed his racquet from his long time brand, Prince, to Babolot -- that seems to have worked, based on the AO results) .. Anyway, the practice sessions have been going on, and there is a report today about LP giving his endorsement for Bopanna .. He said he was impressed at how much RB has improved, even in the last few months .. Mahesh will join them tomorrow.

In other news, the ITF grade-3 juniors this week is at Chandigarh .. Hopefully we will get some news later today on that.

Feb 3 Note-1

Great news! .. Manisha Malhotra just finished her match in center court winning the 3rd and final round of qualies .. [Q3] M.Malhotra (IND,345) d. H.J.Kim (KOR,299), 76 64 .. How about that? .. One of her best wins on the pro tour .. And she becomes the first and only Indian to qualify into a WTA event in India! .. Manisha showed a lot of her grit today, coming back from (I believe) two breaks down at 0-4 in the first set to even it at 4-4, and then saving two set points at 4-5 to send it to a tiebreaker .. I think she went up 3-1 in the second set and cruised to a win from there, converting her first match at 5-4, 40-30.

See the Hyderabad WTA page .. The main draw is set to start around now, as a couple more qualifying matches are getting done.  Sania/ Mary vs  Rushmi/ Sai is the featured night doubles match on the center court.

The doubles draw is also all made - Manisha made the main draw as a direct entry with Kim Grant (RSA) .. That is very nice, considering that her original partner Chanda Rubin withdrew in the last minute ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Feb 03 ..

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.