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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Feb 14, 2000

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Feb 14 Notes

The Kolkata challenger news wasn't good today -- Srinath and Fazal lost their first round matches .. Sri made it a closer game in the second set against Terachi of Japan, but on grass not considered Srinath's best surface, it would have to be taken as a serious upset had Sri won it .. But then again, that is all excuses I am making - the fact is that the wait for some quality upset wins from Sri and Fazal has been going on for a long time .. According to news reports, though Sri fought back in the second set, Terachi never seemed to be losing control of the match .. As for Mustafa, who has had one disappointment after another with a string of wildcard entries, it was no different today as he went down to Australia's Dejan Petrovic ranked #196 .. The good news was a nice upset win in doubles by Fazal and Cedric Kauffman of France over the 4th seeds Anzari/Iwabuchi .. Three more Indians play tomorrow -- Leander plays Tomashevic, Fazal plays Navarra, and Vishal Uppal plays H-K.Lee .. Something tells me that Fazal is long overdue for a big win, too .. If he can take out Mose, that would be the best win of his career (I don't think he has ever had a win over a top-300 player, though - so it's a very very long shot) .. It could do wonders for Fazal's confidence though, if he can pull one off on his favorite homecourt -- hey, I am always a bit optimistic .. See the Monday results and the full draws in the Kolkata challenger page .. Saurav Panja is not playing (he was injured during the futures after the Chennai Open - perhaps he still is) .. So no double-SP in the doubles draw .. Srinath is playing doubles with Kobi Ziv of Israel .. Ghouse/Uppal are in the doubles draw .. By the way, Rohan Bopanna was the only Indian in the final round of the qualies, but he lost to Nir Welgreen of Israel .. There are six Israelis in the main draw .. A good contingent, just like always - they all seem to really like touring India ! .. There is a large number of other repeat visitors this time too -- those like Chicoine, Carraz, Kauffman, Borgula, Ketola, Ogorodov, Kunitzin, Groen, etc .. I guess people have stopped complaining about stomach upsets and strange surface and all that they used to say about events in India ? -- At least all these guys seem to have figured out that if you spend some time understanding how to deal with India, it's one of the nicest places to be at .. Pakistan's Aisam Qureshi is also playing .. That guy can play very well on grass.

The Indian women have all been off the tour for a few weeks, and it's time for me to check up on how Niru's injury rehab is going - no news for a while from her .. Manisha Malhotra played the qualifiers at the Redbridge challenger this week in UK, but lost in the first round to Maglie Lamarre (FRA,384) 26 64 26 during the weekend ..

The Indian team of under-14 players (Tushar Liberhan, Karan Rastogi, Rohit Raju, Sania Mirza, Ankita Bhambri and Sanaa Bhambri) had a terrific time at the two ITF under-14 South Asia events in Islamabad over the last two weeks .. 13 yr old Tushar (from Chandigarh - where else?) created some big noise winning singles titles both weeks, also sweeping the doubles crown with Karan .. Sania Mirza of Hyderabad won one singles title and was runner up in one .. Sania also win two doubles titles with Varvara Lepchenko (Kazakhstan) .. I have compiled some results from the Pakistani newspapers which I will post soon .. The evnts has players from the subcontint (Ind, Pak, Bang, SriLanka, Nepal,) and also from Afhganistan, Kuwait, UAE, Uzbekistan and Khazakstan .. Winning titles here would help Tushar and Sania in making it into the ITF subjunior team for Europe, etc .. 12 yr old Sanaa Bhambri was selected as the tounaments' most promising player .. India finished with 6 gold medals for titles,  3 silvers for runners-up and one bronze .. Uzbekistan with one gold, two silver and three bronze medals was the next best! .. To be fair though, considering the competition, I would have been very concernned if our kids did not return with the best tally of medals.

Feb 13 Notes

Saw the matchups for Indians at the $25K Kolkata challenger starting Monday, and it's brutal, to say the least .. Only Leander made the entry directly according to the news reports, and he is the top seed, facing Dmitryi Tomashevic (UZB,390) .. There are four wildcards - Srinath, Fazal, Vishal Uppal, and Mustafa Ghouse, who face the #9, #4, #7 and #6 seeds respectively .. Yikes .. I don't know why Srinath at #340 needed a wildcard, as the draw closed at around #400 (did he once again not enter the event early enough? - I don't know) .. Sri faces the 9th player in the field, Takahiro Terachi (JPN, #255) .. Fazal gets the 4th seed Mose Navarra (ITA,169) .. Vishal gets #7 Hyung-Taik Lee (KOR, 197) and Mustafa gets Dejan Petrovic (AUS,196) .. Vishal may get a bit lucky if Hyung-Taik Lee was doubtful for the event .. They will all need to considerably raise their games to pull off any upsets .. Fazal's opponent Mose, for instance, is a very good grass player .. But that is how it goes .. I have not seen any qualifier results yet, but a lot of those matches are delayed due to weekend rains .. Leander is in good nick, and will play only on Tuesday .. See the Kolkata challenger page.

Had a chat with Mahesh today .. He confirmed that the press reporters misunderstood what he said about being there for the Delhi Davis Cup against Korea .. He said he was planning to be there, and perhaps practice with the team, but he doesn't expect to be in playing shape, unless miracles happen .. He will start hitting the ball in 2-3 weeks from now and may not serve hard for a while after that .. Rome masters, a couple of weeks before French Open, is realistically still the earliest for a return - he had said that to the press at Mumbai too, but they missed that it is about 5 weeks after Davis Cup .. For now it's light weights and a lot of physical therapy at New York for Mahesh - tough time and he is itching to get back on court, but he is taking it in good spirits.

Feb 12 Notes

Not much news still, except that Sofian of Armenia and Peng of China have been absolutely unbeatable by Indians in the Kolkata ITF juniors .. The former beat Vinod Sewa and the latter beat Radhika Tulpule in the finals .. See the Kolkata juniors page .. The kids will now all be going to the Rajshahi (Grade-4) and Dhaka (Grade-3) events in Bangaldeash .. I hope Sunil Kumar is well enough to play again (he was badly sick after Davis Cup and had to skip the Kolkata event) .. I had heard that he might decide not be play at the Challenger at Kolkata (for which a wildcard was expected for him) and go to the two events in Bangladesh now.  He needs the junior points for the time being - for the purpose of entering higher grade junior events like grand slams etc, this year ..   It would be best for him (in my view) to play the juniors in the world top-25 to get used to the grind before playing all that many pro events .. If any of you have any doubts about whether some of those Juniors can play, here is something -- This friday in the Argentina masters (I believe the national championship or something), Guillermo Coria, who just turned 18, the top junior who has been in the world junior top-5 for a while, beat Mariano Zabaleta (#31 in ATP) in three sets, in a match Zabaleta wanted not to lose .. It tells you where the best juniors of the world stand at age 18 .. Argentina keeps bringing them up - they have four players in the top-25 in juniors .. Have no doubt - those like Sunil Kumar should be looking to reach such levels in juniors.

Feb 11 Notes

There was nothing much going on for a couple of days, and hence the slow updates ..

Mahesh was in Mumbai for a family wedding a couple of days back .. There was an agency report that quoted Mahesh to be saying that he hopes to play doubles for the Davis Cup in April .. I was surprised to hear that, as the original plan was to return in early May .. Just when I was about get excited, I also saw the quote from him that he expects to be ready only two weeks before French Open which is basically a May return .. So I am a bit confused (not unusual - the news agencies sometime do a shoddy job in tennis reporting!) .. Anyway, if Mahesh feels that his return could be a bit earlier and he just might be able to play at the Davis Cup, it's terrific news .. Since I believe he is yet to start hitting the ball (will start that soon, I am sure) and won't be serving for another 2-3 more weeks, it will have to be tough for him to be ready in 8 weeks for Davis Cup .. But then again, if there is no risk of aggravating the injury or anything, then Hesh at even 65% would perhaps be enough for us to nail down the doubles .. Anyway, this is all silly speculation from me .. I will try to get an update soon from Mahesh on where things stand, and if there is an indication that the rehab and return would proceed faster than originally thought - wouldn't that be great ?

At the Kolkata ITF juniors, only the doubles finals were there today .. Unseeded entries Benjamin Xavier (who turns 17 soon) and R. Arun Praskash (yet to turn 15, I believe) won the doubles title today .. This should be taken as some sort of an achievement, especially for Arun Prakash of Tamil Nadu who is actually the Indian #1 in under-14 boys, and is coached at the Krishnan Tennis center (not sure of that) who is playing in his first ITF junior event if I am not mistaken .. Benjamin Xavier has always been considered very talented, though his results have been up and down for a couple of years now .. Anyway, these two got together for the first time at this event, needed a wildcard to get in, as Arun doesn't have a ranking and Benjamin is around 500 in doubles .. Well, they went on to upset the top seeds Vinod sewa and Harshit Sharma and then the Romanian-Slovenia pair of Luchici-Kuhar in straight sets, then pulled a three set comeback win over the Armenian-Uzbek pair, Sofian-Mukhamedzanov, and ended the run today with a 76(5) 62 final upset of the 4th seeds Kamala Kannan and P.Ravishankar, the title-holders at Chandigarh last week .. Great job by this pair .. Need to keep an eye on this kid Arun Prakash for sure .. He and Kamala Kannan are the only ones to even take a set off off Armenia's Sofian in his 8 singles wins in India so far .. Arun was a wildcard entry here and won a round before running into Sofian .. The other very young one to be noticed so far has been Chatwinder Singh of Chandigarh (The India #4 in under-14), who just turned only 14 .. He qualified in at Chandigarh for his first ITF event last week, and then went on to win two rounds including an upset of the 4th seed P.Ravikrishna (winning all 4 tiebreaker sets in the process too!), before losing 57 46 to who else, Sofian! .. I am always on the lookout for promising results from young ones to look forward too.

Back to the Kolkata event, the semifinals were yesterday and there was a nice story out there too - of 17 yr old Vinod Sewa of Kolkata, who is proving to be a tough nut .. According to The Hindu, he is the son of a Nepalese marker at a local tennis club, and he won a remarkable three-set semifinal match yesterday against Uros Kuhar of Slovenia, 16 76(6) 60 .. After being completely outplayed in the first set, he made a comeback, had to hang on for dear life after falling behind in second set to go to a tiebreaker, was down 1-4 in the tiebreaker before winning 7 of 9 tiebreaker points to even it a set apiece .. Then he ran away with it in the 3rd set 6-0 too .. Kuhar seems to be a good player based on the results in India so far, but regardless of the opponent, the way Vinod Sewa won the match says a lot about Vinod .. He has played only four ITF events in the past year, and this is his second final, the other being the title in October 99 on the same DKS courts in Kolkata where he upset two seeds on the way to a final win over Parantap Chaturvedi .. Vinod reportedly has an all-court game and has been growing in confidence thanks to the two finals he has reached so far .. He will have his work cut out for him tomorrow though -- nobody has been able to beat his opponenet, Haroutioun Sofian (ARM) in India so far .. Sofian beat Raian Luchici of Romania easily in the other semi .. On the girls side, a similar story as last week .. Top seed Radhika Tulpule faces 2nd seed Shuai Peng of China whom she lost to in three sets last in the Chandigarh final .. Peng who won the doubles crown also last week, is still unbeaten as she and Yan Ze Xie won the doubles title today .. Tomorrow's singles finals should be interesting .. See the Kolkata ITF juniors page for all the scores.

The qualifiers should be starting for next week's Kolkata ATP challenger at the South Club grasscourts on Saturday or Sunday.

Feb 9 Note-1

Well, Nicolas Lapentti had asked his tour manager to find him a doubles partner at Dubai, and was apparently very glad to find on arriving in Dubai that Leander would be his partner (LP became available as Wayne Black was too tired after Davis Cup and decided against doubles) .. Anyway, as Associated Press reports, Nicolas' joy was shortlived, as he and LP lost today in a late night match on the centre court .. #3 J.Novak/ D.Rikl d. N.Lapentti/ L.Paes, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 .. Lapentti was quoted as saying, "I can't complain about that. I love playing doubles. When I was a kid I enjoyed playing doubles more than singles. The thing is that last year when I started to do good in singles it was a bit tough to play doubles at the same time. But I'd love to start playing doubles again. It can help me on my serve, my returns and my volleys. And sometimes I prefer to play a doubles match than to go out and practise." .. Well, it's nice to see at least somebody at the top of singles who plays some doubles.

As for Leander, he will head out to Kolkata for next week's challenger ..

At the Kolkata ITF junior international today, the semifinalists were all decided, and unseeded Nandita Chandrasekhar reached semifinal with wins over the 7th seed from Singapore, then a Hong Kong player, and then an upset today over the 3rd seed Aibika Kalasarieva of Kyrghistan .. Nandita faces top seed Radhika next .. The two Chinese players whom nobody else have beaten so far, 2nd seed Shuai Peng and 8th seed Yan Ze Xie play the other semifinal .. Vinod Sewa is the only Indian remaining in the semis and he seems to like these DKS hard-gravel courts where he won the title in the November 99 ITF juniors .. 4th seed Sofian of Armenia who won last week's Chandigarh has easily won all the matches so far and is the only seed remaining .. It would have been nice to see him play Sunil Kumar, but Sunil could not play the events this week and last (Sofian wasn't in the first week event at Delhi) .. See the results in the Kolkata ITF junior page.

By the way, my note about LP winning a set over a top-50 player yesterday seems to have not gone down well with one of the LP fans who sent me an expletive laden email saying LP has wasted his talent his whole career, should not have played Davis Cup and should have gone early to win at Dubai, blah, blah, blah .. Also that I am stupid for bringing up the fact that he won a set, as that means nothing .. etc etc .. I know there are a quite a few of these types who I guess were always counting on LP to reach top-10 in singles and all that, and are downright nasty about him having not done that! -- Those who objectively look at where LP's best abilities are, and where his limitations are, would agree that it is really not some big lack of determination on his part that has caused him not to reach the very top in seniors after a #1 Junior campaign .. He could certainly have reached much higher than he has done, but other than the last year (when he did let singles slip a bit) he has not been one who was just goofing off and not doing the hard work needed .. I would say some better planning would have helped him reach higher in his career earlier, but I disagree with those who say he has been some sort of huge failure in his career, because he did not reach the levels THEY thought he would .. To those who think he is an underachioever, I would say it's just the reverse - a case could be made that he has overachieved often on sheer adrenaline and focus and determination, and has become a victim of expectations he created .. This is an interesting topic that you may want to comment on, in the discussion forum .. Anyway, as for my note on his loss being encouraging yesterday, I do not want to leave the wrong impression .. Loss if of course a loss .. I am not talking moral wins from taking a set off a top-50 player, or that it is such a big deal .. It was written more to show how poorly LP had done in the last 18 months in singles, and how I am at least somewhat encouraged that he is showing an upswing .. He has a lot of work to do, and his goals should be much higher .. Top-50 is what he has said he wants to reach right now .. That is possible, and in my conversations with him, I get the feeling he is focussed enough now to go for it.

Feb 8 Note-2

Fernando Vicente (ESP,48) d. Leander Paes, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 in the first round at Dubai .. Despite the loss, I am quite encouraged by the scoreline .. It has been a long long time since Leander took a set off a top-50 player on any surface  other than grass ..  Would you believe that the last time he did that was against Pete Sampras in August 1998 ?? .. Incredible .. In fact, the win against John Van Lottum (then #90), and the following loss to Ramon Delgado (then #69) in October 1998 at Shanghai were the only times since that match against Sampras when LP took a set off even a top-100 player on hardcourts (he won two sets over #11 Rusedski in Sep 98 in the Davis Cup too) .. If I am not mistaken, LP had lost 39 sets on hardcourts since October 1998 and have taken sets off only players below top-100 in that period .. That is an extremely grim statistic that was in the back of my mind - but something that I wanted to mention only after he broke the streak (the streak of lost sets against top-150 players was broken against Boutter, #133, at Chennai last month, by the way) .. Wow - and this from someone who beat four top-75 players on the Atlanta hardcourts for his Olympic medal .. Nice to also see him  making it a fight after being completely outplayed in the first set - again, almost invariably in his matches during the last 18 months, a lost set had caused LP to lose heart and play worse in the next set, which was quite unlike his record in the earlier years .. I can't believe I am somewhat excited about this  match - a loss, that too - and it says something about how far my hero had fallen in his ability to win in singles on any surface other than grass, since August 1998! .. To be fair, it was not the win against Sampras (or any "Pete's curse") that started the downfall .. It started with the hip fatigue injury he suffered at Stockholm in Nov 98 that laid him off completely for 6 weeks - he had never been able to find even three weeks to train for singles from then on till Nov 99, and he has had time only to win grand slam doubles titles (this combined with Mahesh's injuries during all of last year when *he* played singles in only 8 events, underscores what kind of unbelievable determination it took from them for 1999 to be so memorable in doubles)! .. Anyway, things are certainly much better and looking up for LP in singles, and I am pretty confident that he will make his comeback - I have been saying for a while that LP is the last man that anyone should write off! .. I think we are seeing definite signs of slow improvement .. It is still a hard climb back - let us hope he keeps it going.

The PTI reports that LP was troubled in the first set by Vicente's speed to the short ball and his cross-court passing skills as LP tried attacking at every opportunity in the first set though he couldn't find the rhythm .. In the second set, LP broke for a 2-0 lead, then got broken back, but did a repeat break in the 9th game for a 5-4 lead .. In the 3rd set, a double fault from LP in game 7 gave Vicente the upper hand .. LP said, "I just came from a grass event, and conditions are quite different here .. I had a practice session yesterday and a long one this morning, but the courts are very high-bouncing and it takes a couple of days to prepare for that .. Unfortunately, with my schedule I didn't have time to do that" .. That sounds like an accurate assessment of what often troubles LP - the high bounce on hardcourts ..

By the way, Leander has dropped to #140 in ESP (entry system placement) rankings this week, after 56 points from last year's Calcutta challenger title dropped off .. He will have a chance to put those points back in, from the three Indian challengers (one on grass and two on hardcourts) starting next week, each giving 50 points for the winner - at least 75 points from those three challengers, which is realistic, would get him close to #110 in ranking .. Three titles will put him inside top-100 again (very tough, of course - but what the heck, he has a 4-challenger title streak in India -- why not continue it ? :-))

Feb 8 Note-1

Leander Paes was scheduled to play Fernando Vicente at the $1M Dubai Open, just about now .. Will try to find out the score soon ..

Here is a picture of Leander with a big bird (an ostrich?), at the Dubai Open - normally I do not lift pictures off newspapers without permission, but this one in today's Gulf-News was a classic, and I had to :-)

The Gulf-News had some comments from LP -- he said that he will find temporary partners, tournament to tournament, till Mahesh gets back .. LP sounded rather concerned about the uncertainty on how soon MB will be back healthy .. He said that the big goal for them is Olympics medal .. "Our future depends on how fast and how well Mahesh recovers .. We will have to see when he can come back. Currently, I am concentrating on looking after myself. This is my profession. I am also paying attention to my singles ranking as this will help get me in the main draw at tournaments". Paes said that singles is the focus now .. He said, "I am playing Challengers and have refocussed on my training. It will take me time to get back into shape but I can do it." .. I would underline the comment on training .. In my view, LP lost a bit of physical strength after injury layoffs last year and that was a big reason for his singles slump .. "I will be 27 in five months. I have to nurture the last three or four years of my career. Everything is getting harder from now on. I will have to perform. Injuries will come and I am sure that it will take time to recover from them. The body is ageing, and I am aware of it as every year goes by" .. One of these days someone should tell Lee that 27 is not really that old - in fact, Leander started talking about getting old, about 2 years back ("I am not getting any younger" is his favorite line :-)) .. The more he thinks about getting old, the faster he will become old! .. For the time being, it does give him a sense of urgency and that is always good for Leander, whose best quality is the determination to go after his goals when he feels the urgency and gets focussed - so may be it's OK for him to think that way.

The Grade-5 ITF junior national started yesterday at Kolkata (I need to get used to that name) .. The bad news was that Sunil Kumar who was seeded 3rd had to withdraw in the last minute as he has not recorvered from the viral problem he picked up during the Davis Cup week at Lucknow .. There were a whole bunch of upsets in the boys' draw .. The top seed Omar Behroozian of UAE lost (he has had a pretty forgettable swing in India with a QF, a 2nd round loss and now a first round loss - by the way, I made a mistake in one of the earlier notes in saying that he won the Chandigarh event - actually Sofian of Armenia won that one .. Thanks Jose Pereira for pointing that out in our forum page) .. Omar went down to unseeded but very talented Vinod Sewa, who is actually the defending champ there .. Wildcard P.Ravishankar beat 2nd seed P.Ravikrishna (he has not done all that well in these events either) .. 6th seed Parantap Chaturvedi lost .. Qualifier Pratim Parekh upset 7th seed CS Mohanty too .. Benjamin Xavier, Amanjot Singh, Kamala Kannan etc advanced .. Somehow it seems that there are quite a few of the youngsters who are playing tough matches against each other all of a sudden .. I am glad to see that .. On the girls' side, not many upsets in the first round as usual .. Nandita Chandrasekhar upset the 7th seed from Singapore .. Nandia looks great one day and can beat anybody, but she can also lose without notice .. The 16 yr old needs to get a bit more consistent - she is talented .. See the results at the Kolkata juniors page.

Feb 7 Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Feb 7th ..

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