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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the week ending on Feb 13, 2006
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Feb 13 Notes

According to the draw released by the International Tennis Federation today, India will host Pakistan in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-I first round relegation playoff tie be played during the April 7-9 weekend. The previous tie between India and Pakistan which was to be hosted by Pakistan in 1973 was played at a neutral venue in Malaysia pretty soon after the last war between the two countries .. Thus the host for this tie had to be determined by a coin-toss. The coin fell India's way in a very important tie today!

India has an unblemished record against Pakistan in five Davis Cup ties in the past, beating Pakistan 5-0 in Lahore in 1962, 4-1 at Poona in 1963, 4-0 at Lahore in 1964, 3-1 at Patna in 1970 and 4-0 in Kuala Lumpur in 1973 .. The venue and surface of the upcoming tie in India will be decided over the next few weeks. As Pakistan is considered very comfortable on grass courts, their favorite surface for home Davis Cups, India may need to rethink the customary plan for playing all the home ties on grass courts, as has been done for over a quarter century. This tie promises to be very exciting; much is at stake, as the loser gets closer to being relegated to the lower tier, group-II of the Asia-Oceania region .. The loser will play a september tie against the loser of the China-UZB tie .. Losing that one would relegate the team to group-II, and they would then require a minimum of two years of regional ties to have any hopes of making it to the world group final-32, which will have to be in 2009 for them .. We need to stay in the Group-I because if we are to make any moves, it will have to be by 2008 .. It is hard to imagine LP and MB available for a sure doubles win for more than another couple of years .. We will just have to try to do it with the current group of players (HM, RB, PA, KR etc) who will simply have to come through and raise their level of play to the next step next two years .. So, let us do whatever we need to, to beat Pakistan and stay in the group-I for next year.

At the WTA Bangalore, Rushmi Chakravarthi fell today 16 26 to Melinda Czink .. Doubles later today for Rushm .. See the Bangalore WTA page for scores.

Rohan Bopanna (IND,233) is at the $15K Australia F1 futures at the Olympics tennis park in Sydney .. He is drawn to face Andrew Coelho (AUS,913) in the first round .. Coelho got a special exempt entry for reaching the Burnie challenger semis last week, with wins over 7th seed #349 Sugiyama and top seed #134 Yen-Hsun Lu .. So, he is a hot player right now. Hope RB is ready .. In doubles there, 4th seeded Rohan nd Luke Bourgeois (AUS) play the Aussies, Carsten Ball and Andrew Coelho.

Good news about the Karnataka challengers in April .. The tournaments hit the ATP calendar officially late last week .. So we are on for a couple of challengers in a long time, over two years .. Chikmaglur will host a $25K+H  starting on April 17th and Dharwad will host another on Apr 24th.  Perfect timing, as our top guys can plan their trip to India for Davis Cup and  stay there for the challengers .. Good job by AITA and KSLTA in pulling this off.

Feb 12 Note-2

The Draw has come out at the $50K Joplin Challenger .. Harsh Mankad faces #242 Andreas Beck (GER) in the first round .. In doubles Harsh Mankad and Jeremy Wurtzman (USA) arte the third seeds and they face the American pair, Alex Kuznetsov and Scott Oudsema ..

Prakash Amritraj had made the cut in the last minute on Friday for the Joplin challenger, but informed ATP that he won't be playing .. I think he could have made it there with trouble by Tuesday but probably chose that it would be futile to travel and play immediately, after the Davis Cup .. Prakash is listed as 7th out from the qualifying list for the Dubai ATP in two weeks .. Not sure if he will play that .. Otherwise it will be the Kyoto challenger in Japan (Mar 6) and  Ho Chi Minh city challenger (Mar 13) next for him.

The main draw is out for the Bangalore Open ..  Top seed Sania Mirza (IND) plays Martina Muller (GER) ..  Wildcards Ankita Bhambri (IND) plays Kaia Kanepi (EST), Rushmi Chakravarthi (IND) runs into Melina Czink (HUN) and Isha Lakhani (IND) gets a qualifier to be determined tomorrow when the final round qualies are finished.  Rushmi's match is the only one scheduled for tomorrow, and it will be in the afternoon .. In doubles, Sania and Lizel Huber are the second seeds .. They play Tzippi Obziler (ISR) and Angelique Widjaja (INA) in the first round .. Ankita and Rushmi got the wildcard in doubles and they face Martina Muller (GER) and Silvija Talaja (CRO) in the R1, the match scheduled for late evening tomorrow after Rushmi gets rest following her singles match .. See the Bangalore WTA page for scores.

Feb 12 Note-1

Davis Cup ended in utter misery for us, as Rohan could hardly do much against a totally in-form Hyung-Taik Lee and then Prakash sadly couldn't get past the Korean #4 player, the youngster Woong-Sun Jun ..  But this is nothing new outdoors in Korea for Davis Cup .. All our players have had listless matches in Korea - even Leander Paes has lost there after being a couple of games away from a three-set win, as happened the last time .. What IS it that makes this happen time after time after time? - I don't know .. I doubt if there is another away-tie in Davis Cup where the visting team has performed this poorly regardless of the players or their record! .. Anyway, we are out 1-4, having lost all four singles matches and with just two sets won out of 14 played .. Hyung-Taik Lee (KOR) d. Rohan Bopanna (IND) 63 61 62 .. Woong-Sun Jun (KOR) d. Prakash Amritraj (IND) 63 36 75.

India will now play a relegation tie against Pakistan who lost a close 2-3 tie on the road against Taiwan today .. Not sure whether this tie will be in India or Pakistan, as the last tie in 1973 was played in Malaysia in 1973 - a rare case of a neutral site, probably because it was pretty soon after the last IND-PAK war.

At the WTA Bangalore qualies yesterday, no great news, as ALL Indians went down - but to much higher ranked players though .. The best hope was for Megha Vakharia to do something, but she had to retire due to an ankle injury after just two games (oh brother, once again Megs is injured) ..

Feb 11 Notes

Paes and Bhupathi got closer to completing a 10-year unbeaten run in Davis Cup doubles today with a 62 16 63 62 win against Woong-Sun Jun and Oh-Hee Kwon of Korea.  They had some sort of momentary lapse in the second set - probably lost a bit of focus, which is always trouble against the Koreans on their home court .. The Indian Express took care of the job after that quite easily though .. This is the 18th Davis Cup doubles win in a row for them - the last loss coming against Bjorkman-Kulti of Sweden in April 1996 ! .. Amazing run by them.

Sania Mirza and Liezel Huber went down in a very close doubles match 76(6) 36 67(5) against Tathiana Garbin and Mashona Washington at the $600K Tier-II OpenGaz de France WTA in Paris yesterday ..

The WTA Bangalore Open (Tier-III, $175K) is all set to go at Bangalore .. Due to a variety of reasons, perhaps some of it has to do with the government change in Karnataka, things generally have appeared low-key about this event .. The player field is good, but no huge names out there this time, except for Sania .. The second seed Shahar Peer is quite good too..  Unfortunately, an injury prevented Shikha Uberoi from playing, and her sister Neha then decided to use these weeks to continue a training program rather than make a one-week trip to India .. Among other Indians, Sanaa Bhambri seems to be missing for some reason from the qualies (I thought she would be playing Q) .. Rushmi, Isha and Ankita have main draw wildcards ..  Those like Megha, GK Shwetha, Parul Goswami, Punam Reddy etc are in the qualies .. The qualies started today .. See our Bangalore WTA page for all scores/draws.

Feb 10 Note-1

What can I say .. I hate Korea! .. Absolutely nothing ever goes right for us there .. So far, the "usual" has continued there .. India has dug a big hole from which it will be very difficult to climb out .. [Match-1] Rohan Bopanna l. Hee-seok Chung, 63 26 36 46 and [Match-2] Prakash Amritraj l. Hyung-Taik Lee, 26 26 06, as we have fallen behind 0-2 to Korea after the first day of Davis Cup .. Rohan started well but then it was totally downhill for us, as we lost sets like nobody's business .. I suppose the cold weather added to our misery, as we could not even attempt to mount some sort of a comeback .. Let us hope for LP and MB to pull one back and then a massive comeback to happen on Sunday ..

Feb 9 Note-2

Sania had a pretty good start but then nothing went right for her in a 46 26 loss to Tatiana Golovin (FRA,24) at the $600K Open Gaz de France WTA in Paris .. Sania was down 0-2 at first and then won four games in a row to go ahead 4-2, but Golovin turned it around and won 8 of the next 10 games to take the match .. Six double faults by Sania hardly helped either .. She will play the doubles QF tomorrow

Feb 9 Note-1

Sania Mirza plays the second round at the Tier-II Paris WTA against Tatiana Golovin (FRA,24) today ..

OK, It is almost Davis Cup time, as it is Thursday evening already in Korea .. The ceremonial draw was completed this afternoon for the first round Asia-Oceania region Davis Cup encounter between India and South Korea. This is being played over the next three days on outdoor hardcourt in Changwon, about 50 kilometers from Busan.

Rohan Bopanna (IND,232) is our #1 singles player and Prakash Amritraj (IND,249) is the #2 .. Captain Leander Paes was unwilling to say if he would play single when asked yesterday .. In fact, considering the very bad chilly conditions, it would not even have looked all that bad a decision for LP to play singles to make use of his experience .. But then again, without any singles practice for 10 months now, that would have been quite risky too .. Lee does have the luxury of having two top-250 ranked players in the Indian team for the first time in NINE long years (amazing that it has been that long, isn't it? -- by the way, with Harsh at #228, we actually have three top-250 players this week, and I don't even know when it was that we had that last time!  .. Not in some 20 odd years) .. That is all well and good, but no ranking really counts for much when we play Korea on their soil .. India has never won a Davis Cup tie in Korea in three previous attempts, in 1980, 1990 and 1999 .. Korea will be represented by 89th ranked Hyung-Taik Lee and 677th ranked Hee-Seok Chung. Due to heavy snow and extremely cold conditions in Korea, only one day of practice was possible for the Indian team that assembled earlier this week in Korea.  Reportedly they just did workout at the hotel gym and used the hotel corridors for sprints! .. Though the rankings of the singles players and the doubles team would seem to give India a clear advantage in three of the matches in the tie, that advantage may be nullified by the extremely chilly conditions that the Indian players are less used to .. Changwon, near the southern coast of Korea, is doing better than many other parts of Korea like Seoul, though .. Some sunshine is predicted for the next three days though the minimum and maximum are still expected to be 0 degrees and 7 degrees! .. The Draw and order off matches:

[Friday, 10.30 am]
#1 Rohan Bopanna (IND,232) vs #2 Hee-Seok Chung (KOR,677), followed by
#2 Prakash Amritraj (IND) vs #1 Hyung-Taik Lee (KOR)
[Saturday, 1 pm]
Leander Paes/ Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) vs Oh-Hee Kwon/ Woong-Sun Jun (KOR)
[Sunday, 10.30 am]
#1 Rohan Bopanna (IND) vs #1 Hyung-Taik Lee (KOR), followed by
#2 Prakash Amritraj (IND) vs #2 Hee-Seok Chung (KOR)

By the way, India did get a bit of a break with the talented youngster Kyu-Tae Im (KOR,300) not playing .. He had looked very good in two big upset wins at the Delray Beach ATP qualies last week before he retired with a bad-looking ankle injury .. I suppose the Korean captain may be keeping him as a wildcard for the third day if he can play .. Despite the #677 ranking, Hee-Seok Chung is no sliced panneer either, though .. His career high never really cracked top-500, but that is mostly because the 29 year old has never played full-time on the tour .. He has had something like 8 futures finals and 5 titles in his career, but he has almost never left Korea, only going to Indonesia at times for a futures or two, where he generally won all his matches in straights nearly every time .. He also has pulled upsets to reach the QF levels of some challengers in Korea too .. Rohan and Prakash would do well not to underestimate him, because if we drop a match to him, we would a require miracle-type upset of #89 Hyung-Taiuk Lee .. That is also not impossible though -- Bofors does have a win over H-T.Lee from three years back .. This would be a usual nail-biter tie against Korea - the only thing I want is that the final result be "unusual" with us pulling off a 3-2 win there!

For those who need a quick reminder on how Davis Cup works, here is the periodic primer .. This is the first of two rounds of knock-out regional play in Asia-Ocenia, to pick 2 teams from 8 in the gorup-1 (highest rated regional group) .. Those two teams will play the world group playoff late in the year to try to make it into the world group-16 for 2007 .. Eight regional winners from around the world including 2 from Asia-Oceania will be drawn against the 8 first round losers of the 2006 world group-16  (also this week) in those late-year playoffs .. If India advances in the regional first round, we will play either Pakistan or Chinese Taipei in the regional final round .. PAK is visting TPE this week in a very tough tie for them.

Feb 8 Notes

Nothing at all happening today, except for a late evening doubles match at the Dallas Challenger .. Harsh Mankad (IND,246) and new partner Todd Widom (USA,283) put up a very good fight against a much-higher ranked 4th seeded pair of Amer Delic (USA,143) and Jeff Morrison (USA,156), but went down 5-7 6-7(5) .. That finishes a week for Harsh, who proceeds to the $50K challenger in Joplin (Missouri) in USA next ..

Feb 7 Notes

Terrific upset win by Sania Mirza (IND,32) at the $600K Tier-II Open Gaz de France WTA at Paris .. She upset the 6th seed Flavio Pennetta (ITA,16), 62 76(5) .. This was a very good win after quite a few months for Sania .. This was one of two featured night matches there - and was quite well advertised there, because the "buzz" about Sania had preceded her .. 23 year old Flavia being a pretty good power player herself, who is on a career-high ranking, and Sania having the reputation as one of the new brand of hard-hitting youngsters .. Sania came out firing, immediately breaking Flavia in the second game and going up a break .. She got broken back in the third game but she broke Flavia in the 4th and 8th game also to wrap up the first set quite nicely and easily .. Sania's second serve seemed to be working alright, as she won about 5 of the first 8 second serves .. Her first serve percentage was quite good today and hovered around 60% all day .. In the second set, however, she seemed to have problems winning any points on the second serve for quit a while (only about 25% points won in some 20 second serves) .. That found her dropping serve three times and falling to 1-4 with one break of Pennetta .. Then started Sania's comeback into the set, as she held serve and broke Pennetta in the 6th and 10th games to pull back up to 5-5 .. I believe she saved one set point at 4-5 as well .. In the tiebreaker, neither could take a point on their serve early on, both throwing in one double fault each, but it went even till 4-5 when Flavioa had another double fault which gave a match point to Sania .. Penneta saved one on her serve but Sania took care of business at 6-5 to finish the 1 hour 25 minute match.

Up next for Sania is Tatiana Golovin (FRA,24) who has beaten Sania once - 62 64 at Tokyo WTA semis in early October .. Time for revenge .. Sania gets the day off tomorrow without singles or doubles .. The singles R2 will be on Thursday, with the doubles QF on thursday or friday.

At the $50K Dallas challenger, Harsh Mankad and Todd Widom (USA) play the featured doubles match tomorrow at 6.30 pm, against the 4th seeded American pair, Amer Delic and Jeff Morrison ..

There are reports that the Indian team has assembled in Korea for Davis Cup .. It has been very cold all over Korea with record lows and serious snow .. I think Changwon is OK, and they should be able to play outdoors this weekend .. I am not sure how well our players can adjust to the bone-chilling temperature though .. News is always hard to come by from Korea ..

The entry list came out today for the 4-week men's satellite ($25K+H total) in India starting at Delhi 2 weeks from now .. All four weeks will be at the RK Khanna stadium .. The list is not too tough but not bad eithe, with #373 Alexey Kedriouk and three other top-500 players .. #511 Sunil Kumar and # 522 Vishal Uppal lead the Indians .. Sanam Singh and Vivek Shokeen are also in the main draw list ..

Feb 6 Notes

Sania and Liezel Huber had an easy 61 64 win over Liga Dekmeijere (LAT) and Jasmin Woehr (GER), in the doubles R1 at the $600K Paris WTA ..  She plays the singles R1 tomorrow.

Harsh Mankad (IND,228) once again ran into a top player and once again could not pull an upset .. He went down 36 46 to the 5th seed Thago Alves (BRA,142) in the first round of the $50K challenger in Dallas today .. HM and Todd Widom (USA) were the last entries in the doubles draw .. They face the 4th seeds Amer Delic and Jeff Morrison in the first round, which will be on wednesday.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on Feb 06, 2006 ..

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 playera, let me know .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan