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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the week ending on Feb 14, 2005
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2005)

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Feb 14 Notes

Sania is ranked #99 in the latest WTA rankings released just now! .. How about that ???

Prakash Amritraj fell at the final hurdle in the Q3 today at the Joplin challenger qualies - to #362 Paul Logtens (NED) by a score of 36 57 .. Oh well ..

Nothing much else in the news today .. More later.

Feb 13 Notes

Good news from the $50K challenger at Joplin (Missouri, USA) .. Prakash Amritraj (IND,.354) upset the 5th seed in the qualies, Nathan Healey (AUS,292), 57 64 62 today to reach the final round of qualies ..  Yesterday he had beaten Travis Rettenmaier (USA,430), 75 64 .. He runs into Paul Logtens (NED,362) tomorrow .. Logtens had upset the top seed in the qualies, Justin Gimelstob, in the Q1 round .. Today's is quite possibly the best match Prakash has played in several months, I think .. He seems to have got a bit of his confiudence and the old fighting quality back - probably is getting healthier too, as he has had some nagging injuries recently .. Go Prakash.

The match before his Q3 match tomorrow is another final qualifying match between the 3rd seed Rajeev Ram (USA) and Peng Sun (CHN), the suddenly surging Chinese player who has been racking up some big wins lately and is making me really worried about the upcoming Davis Cup, where Peng will be China's #1 player .. Hopefully Prakash can do some scouting on that guy in the match tomrorow - and it is good that he is playing Rajeev Ram, who has a good grasscourt style game .. Would like to see how that guy stands up against that style of tennis.

It is great to see that Harsh and Prakash seems to be in at least decent form and health for now .. I was extremely worried yesterday when I found that Leander withdrew from the Rotterdam doubles.  I am not sure if it is due to that injury from the Australian Open .. Anyway, Leander has been on record talking about somebody giving him a breather in Davis Cup.  If HM and PA are helthy, it would be great to try throwing them both in for the first day and preserving Leander as a 3rd day insurance policy .. Despite the emergence of Peng Sun (and Yu Wang Jr. also) in the Chinese side, on grass courts at Delhi, I would think HM and PA can get the job done .. I am sure Leander will watch the health and form of HM and PA and decide on his strategy in a couple of weeks.

By the way, AITA announced the teams for the Fed Cup and Davis Cup .. LP, MB, HM and PA for Davis Cup, with Karan Rastogi as reserve .. A bit surprsining that Sunil Kumar, technically the current Indian #1, just a few spots ahead of Harsh and Prakash in the ATP ranks, was not taken in even as the 5th player .. That is a bit unfair, but Sunil has had some injury problems recently (though he still pulled off some big wins in the two Indian futures), and he would hopefully not take it as a slight and feel too deflated .. I would guess that it was only a reflection of his health situation, possibly .. LP has been SKS' mentor for many years, and if SKS was in good health/form, I would think LP would have given the young man a chance .. On the women's side, there was really no question .. Sania and Shikha will be the spearheads (wow, one top-100 player and one top-150 player -- we are not pushovers at all in Davis Cup, baby!) .. The other two are Ankita and Rushmi .. Sanaa Bhambri and Punam Reddy are reserves for the team .. We will stick with Rico Piperno for captain ..

Sania will take a few days off.  May play the Dubai Open .. I would think she could easily get a wildcard there, thou gh the main draw normally close inside top-50 there! .. Hopefully SM would make sure that the ankle(s) injury is all fully healed before playing again.

Feb 12 Note-2

Sania-Mania is in full swing in India .. An Asian girl reaching top-100 at barely 18 years of age is of course huge news, and reports are coming in about newspaper articles all over the place, even as far away as in Canada .. What I loved most are the pictures of the fans at Hyderabad holding the sign, "Sania, u Dragged us from Cricket to Tennis" .. How apt! -- the picture has made it up to even the BBC website .. I won't write a whole lot more, because unless you live under a rock somewhere in a forest in India, you will be reading about 1000 articles in India ..

Meanwhile there is other news to report .. Just saw that Leander and Zimonjic have withdrawn from the Rotterdam ATP starting on monday .. They were in the doubles entry list there .. Hope Lee is not too bothered still with that injury .. They are in the list, as are Mahesh and Woodbridge, for the Dubai ATP next week.

Harsh Mankad and Eric Butorac pulled off a comeback and stepped on the pedal to win the final at the British satellite second leg in doubles -- they beat the 3rd seeds Ravel Klaasen and James Auckland, 67(6) 76(5) 60 .. I believe they won the last 8 games in a row in the match .. Great job by the new pair.

Young Karan Rastogi could not do a whole lot at the qualies in Rotterdam - he lost 46 26 to Bjorn Phau (GER,118) .. Oh well - good experience for the young man to go up there and play against a very good player.

Prakash Amritraj's challenger qualifying match at the Joplin (Missouri) challenger is at around 3 pm this afternoon.

Feb 12 Note-1

500 .. 5000 .. 500000 .. Give me five!! .. She won it .. We have gone up to 500 members in our forum, we just crossed 500,000 hits to my web notes and I just made my 5000th post in our forum, which was on the auspicious matter - Sania Mirza has won the Hyderabad Open!!!!! .. Epic match today where Sania had to go through a lot of drama before coming through in  great style, aces flying, in the end -- [F] Sania Mirza (IND,134) d. Alyona Bondarenko (UKR,102), 64 57 63 !!!

Here is the match-report based on the great commentary we had in the chatroom by Red_Indian:
The match started with Sania dropping serve immediately .. Down 0-2, but she broke twice to lead 4-2 .. At 5-3 she had 15-40 double set point and then one more at AD out, but Bondarenko held as Sania hit one long. At 5-4, she was down 0-30, had four more set points, saved a break point and then finally converted her 8th set point in the final two games to take the set 6-4 ..

Helped with a double fault from Alyona, Sania broke ahead immediately in the second set.  She got broken back at love in the next game though. She was again broken in the 6th game, as many mistakes and double faults crept into the game .. Saved three set points in the next game from 15-40 down to hang in there. 3-5.  Off Bondarenko's serve, she saved three more set points in the next game .. She converted her second break chance there, and safely served the next game off .. And just like that it was 5-5 .. At 5-6 she saved a 7th set point off her own serve, but finally fell as a net-chord went against her .. All even at 64 57 00

She started well in the 3rd .. A brilliant backhand down the line forced an immediate break at 15-40 off AB .. Sania saved two break points in the next game, one with a nice forehand cross-court .. She was broken back in the second game, as the epic fight continued on .. Helped by a nice drop shot that Alyona could not handle properly, Sania broke again in the 3rd game, and then held serve for a 3-1 lead .. She had two break chances in the 5th game followed by a great forehand crosscourt return .. AB won the next points, but Sania came up with the goods once more to go up two breaks to 4-1 .. Served off the next game and the pressure was now all on Bondarenko with a wild crowd going bananas .. She held serve after a couple of deuces .. Sania served for the match at 5-2, and started great with two aces .. The next two points caused major drama, as she seemed to serve two aces which were called back .. Then at the second match point at 40-30, she even fell to her knees and the crowd pretty much got on court, but the ump called let on that .. Then she was broken .. 5-3 .. No problem - she promptly broke again to finish it off in the middle of utter ruccus in the stands!
Hello, top-100 !!! .. Man, what an incredible show! .. I am hit by saniasis again .. Will type more later :)

Feb 11 Note-3

Had an email from Mahesh who clarifies that Sania's semifinal match actually did have top quality tennis .. My comment below that it was probably not the best quality tennis was based on the reports on errors by SM and Kirilenko - but basically it seems that they played some great tennis too .. Thanks for the note, Hesh .. He is of course too damn excited from all the Sania show there (which means you get about 4 more words than the usual 5 words -- Hesh is known as one with very few words in his emails! -- but he does make his points; something professorial types like me need to learn) ..

Prakash Amritraj is at the $50K Joplin challenger qualies this weekend .. He is drawn to face Travis Rettenmaier (USA,430) in the Q1 round tomorrow.

Feb 11 Note-2

I just read this article in the Indian Express about our oil minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar suddenly deciding that oil companies should pick up Sania and sponsor her, so that she can stop worrying about money .. A few people in our forum have had some big chuckles about it .. One would almost feel that they might next consider picking up Sachin Tendulkar for sponsorship so that he can stop worrying about money too :-) .. The ministry may need to get in line with every other big company in India, out of which Sania has said she really can handle only about 4 companies who want to help her "stop worrying about money" .. OK, I am kidding, and I don't want to make fun of the honorable minister's good intentions ..

I have a suggestion for Mr. Aiyar, which would be to pick somebody up early, like GVK industries did with Sania .. I will suggest one player right now, though I don't know if he needs the money .. Young Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan who only turned 16 a couple of months back and will be ranked about #35 in the juniors next week, as the 3rd youngest player in the world top-50 .. He is actually higher ranked than even Karan Rastogi was at that age .. Now, I don't know about the politics about Mr.Aiyar and Jeevan's family and all that (many know what a stalwart his grandfather was, in TN politics) .. If you are to look at some real "can't miss" type prospect, pick him up! .. I hope Indian companies would see from the Sania experience, what one can expect if you go out there and stick your neck out to help a good prospect in sports .. I don't want to discourage any sponsorship that goes to Sania though - she deserves every bit of support she can get, if she needs it.

By the way, Jeevan just won the grade-3 ITF juniors in Chandigarh, beating the 5th seed Xiao-Peng Lai for a washout score of 63 60 .. He also won the doubles title with Vivek Shokeen (another big prospect, who is a year older) .. This finishes a three-week swing where he went 14-1 in singles  .. His only loss was to Vivek in the second week final, after beating him in the first week semi .. To boot, Jeevan had two titles and a runner-up finish in doubles as well (11-1 there), winning the last two weeks with different partners - Sanam and Vivek ..  That is about as dominant a run as you can imagine .. In the last 5 domestic events he has played, Jeevan has gone 23-2 in singles ..

OK, in other news, Karan Rastogi is drawn to face the 6th seed Bjorn Phau (GER,118) at the big Rotterdam ATP qualies tomorrow .. As you would remember, Karan got the wildcard to the ABN Amro Rotterdam ATP qualies by winning the pre-qualifying tournament in Mumbai in december.  Go Karan!!

At the Redbridge satellite leg in UK, Harsh Mankad and Eric Butorac paid back the team that beat them last week and had been unbetan through two legs .. They beat Lee Childs and Joshua Goodall, 61 75 in the semifinal .. They face the 3rd seeds james Auckland (GBR) and Raven Klaasen (RSA) in the final tomorrow.  Tough satellite there.

By the way, I am not sure if you have noticed, but Peng Sun of China has been playing unbelievably well lately, even qualifying into the main draw of the DelRay Beach ATP last week and winning a round, and then qualifying into the dallas challenger this week winning a round .. Beating tough players like Matias Boeker and Eric Taino .. Hmm! .. The Davis Cup tie against China in three weeks suddenly does not look like a total gimme .. I will talk more on that after my Saniasis goes away.

Feb 11 Note-1

I should see a doctor ... I started feeling a bit numb about a couple of weeks back .. I keep waiting to see if it was just because of drinking too much of coffee .. Then every other day it seems to get worse .. It is terrible this week .. Now I am speech-impaired too, I think .. Uh .. Ah .. What .. the hell .. is .. going aaaawnnn? ... Aha .. it just hit me .. It is SANIASIS .. The parlaysis coming from too much excitement of the sports variety .. The worst today .. And it will go on for at least another day for now, and I believe it will keep coming back for a long time ..   Sania wins! Sania wins! .. And she is in her first WTA final ..

[QF] Sania Mirza (IND,134) d. (8) Maria Kirilenko (RUS,82), 64 76(4) ..  The match kept going and back and forth with a lot of breaks, though Sania never trailed by a break if I am not mistaken ..  Lots of mistakes and errors from both sides, and reportyedly it wasn't really tennis of the highest quality - except when the winners were coming, knowing as these two are two of the biggest 18 year old talents out there on the WTA tour .. Our girl was up 5-2, promptly got broken back while serving for the match and then had to step on the pedal once more in the tiebreaker .. Boy, what a winner this girl is ..

Here is how it ended -- (from the Associated Press) - "Mirza raced ahead 3-0 in the second set. Serving for the match at 5-3, Mirza committed four double-faults during the ninth and 11th games, helping Kirilenko bounce back .. The 18-year-old Russian then made two unforced errors and double-faulted, forcing a tiebreaker. Kirilenko led 4-2 in the tiebreaker, but Mirza reeled off five points in a row." ... Cardiac Sania .. I wonder how hight the excitement was, at the stadium, when Sania reeled off those final 5 points to win it, after being down 2-4 in the tiebreaker!

Sania now has 85 points from this event, including 18 bonus, which takes her point total to about 330 next week and her ranking to just inside #110 .. In the final she faces the 9th seed Alyona Bondarenko (UKR,102) who had it easy today as the 2nd seed Anna-Lena Groenfeld withdrew due to the injury from doubles yesterday .. A win tomorrow over Alyonawill give Sania an extra 32 more points which is enough to place her right around #100 .. Enjoy this folks, even if you are getting Saniasis .. Because it will be a long long time before we will see this kind of a performance from an Indian sports star ..

Early reports are that the crowd was rather well-behaved today.

Feb 10 Notes

One has to go back a long longh time to find anybody in Iindian sports who has roared up the world scene as fast as Sania is doing .. Probably it has never happened .. I thought she injured her other ankle also yesterday, and did not have a chance today .. And she dropped a set, then came back, then was down 0-3 in the final set, etc etc .. Even if she has to play with her feet fixed on concrete, it seems she knows how to use her hands and win it .. The girl is amazing and her confidence that she can pull it off for the fans out there, is incredible .. She did it again today .. [QF] Sania Mirza (IND,134) d. Tzipora Obziler (ISR,118), 36 64 76(5) .. Sania won five in a row from 0-3 down in the 3rd to pull up to 5-3 .. Then she was broken at 5-4 while serving for the match .. Like a true champion, she knew how to close it off at 7-5 in a tie breaker, after it was even at 4-4 .. And she is supposed to be playing on painkillers? .. Amazing .. Now she has 57 points from this event (14 total bonus included) .. Enough to take her up right outside #115 next week .. We are losing track of where her ranking is, because every time  we blink, she is up somewhere else :-)

Up next for SM is a very t ough customer, the 8th seed Maria Kirilenko (RUS,82) who upset the top seed Na Li today .. The semifinal is set as the first match on the center court, at 3 pm (4.30 am New York .. 9.30 am London) .. Our chatroom has been rocking lately during her matches .. Come on in.

Sania and Shikha lost their doubles match 57 16 later in the evening today .. Both are a bit injured and Sania was tired too .. Probably did not have enough to fight for a comeback after dropping the first set .. Unfortunately, Anna Lena Gronefeld's injury caused her and the legend Martina to retire early in the first set of their doubles match .. So, the Hyderabadis got to see the legend only in one match, sadly..

The crowd in Hyderbad has been creating a lot of news .. The free entry scheme is causing so much of crowd that there was even a little lathi charge by the police out there today .. I am all for the crowd getting into it and creating some hoopla even during the tennis match, but the reports of classless clowns eve-teasing the players etc makes me mad .. Come on idiots, this is how you pay back the tournament organizers who stuck their neck out to give you all free entry? .. Pathetic.

By the way, the fans at the forum had decided earlier that Shikha and Sania now fit our general criteria for a badge of honor masthead webpage on   Shikha had met the criteria immediately after she won a grand slam round last year at the USO, but we had to wait till her name officially had an (IND) with it .. Sania did the job at the Australian Open .. I have also had some emails from fanclub people asking when the pages will be up .. Yes, I am getting done with that - we will have the pages up very soon, and they will be the first time in 7 years that we will start a player page .. We will also officially retire the Nirupama page then, at the request of the lady herself .. Niru had emailed me a few weeks back asking me to retire her page and start the pages for Sania and Shikha .. I will certainly oblige (soon .. but it will take longer if they keep winning and I have to sit in the chatroom following their matches rather than make their pages :-))

In the $509K UK satellites leg-2, Harsh Mankad had a tough tough loss yesterday, 63 67(2) 67(4) to Alex Vettur (GBR) .. He has reached the doubles SF with Eric Butorac (USA) .. They beat Ervin Elaskovic (SWE)/ Dominic Stoeckler (SUI), 61 46 63 and then Neil Bamford and Robert Green of GBR, 61 64 .. They run into Lee Childs and Joshua Goodall of Britain who are unbetaen in the satellites so far and upset the top seeds Marray/Hilton today ..

At the Chandigarh grade-3, only one Indian remains in the semifinals on either draw .. Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan .. Vivek Shokeen's 7 match win streak came to an end today against the 2nd seed Xiao-Peng Lai (HKG), as Vivek is being troubled by a shoulder injury .. On the girls's side, Madura fell in the QFs .. Jeevan and Vivek Shokeen are also in the doubles final .. See the Chandigarh juniors page.

Feb 9 Notes

Yeeehaaawwww!! ... Sania is in her first WTA quarterfinal with a huge upset of !!! .. [R2] Sania Mirza (IND,134) d. (3) Jie Zheng (CHN,61), 61 26 63 .. This is the second biggest upset win by an Indian in our memory -- the other being Shikha upsetting #56 Obata at the US Open last September .. Sania has 34 total points so far, with 8 bonus points for a top-75 win and 2 bonus yesterday .. She has some 9 points falling off next week, but this is enough to move Sania just inside top-125 .. YES!

By the way, sorry for not writing too much on Sania's win yesterday .. I guess we are not that surprised at all .. We were instead having a very active forum discussion running into several pages, about crowd behavior in Hyderabad .. Take a look from this post .. I am of course a huge supporter of the idea of coinsidering the fans as not a nuisance, but as somebody tennis is actually played for -- so I can only support the unique experiment that Hyderabad WTA is, with free entry to people which creates so much noise and fanfare in the stands, especially when Sania is playing .. My suggestion is that tennis should have changed years back and allowed constant crowd noise (not individual shouts just when somebody is about to serve etc, but just a high noise level which would sell so much better on TV too) .. It is a long and convoluted set of arguments I have on this; and even a suggestion for a new form of tennis with much more fan participation .. Well, I had to stand up for the common folks in Hyderabad who are having the time of their life, even if a few players get cheesed off and a lot of pure tennis followers feel that it is "uncivilized" behavior .. Not everybody would agree with me , I know - but after all, I run TennisIndia.Org which has always had the motto - "By the fans, of the fans, for the fans" .. Wish the tennis mandarins around the world would look at this sport as a sport for the fans and think outside the box a bit! .. Anyway, more power to Hesh and company for the Hyderabad experiment!

I am not sure if it was on cue, but here is an article by Deepti Patwardhan (who has written some good ones lately in -- "Quiet, Please" ..

Harsh is up 5-1 in the first set right now, according to SMS messages coming to us from S_K_S in UK ..

Feb 8 Note-2

Sania had a pretty easy time today, but a thigh strain late in the second set basically took Shikha out of any chance she had against Czink after a pretty impressive start .. [R1] S.Mirza (IND,134) d. Delia Sescioreanu (ROM,150), 62 75 .. [R1] Shikha Uberoi (IND,145) l. Melinda Czink (HUN,130), 76(5) 36 26 .. Here is Prajwal Hegde's article in the Deccan Herald on both Sania's and Shikha's matches .. Sania is something else! .. I don't klnow what to say .. This girl is supposed to be playing with pain-killers .. I guess as long as her forehand is not injury-impaired, she can stand there and beat people! ..

Harsh beat a pretty good player today at the RedBridge (second) leg of the British satellites - 19 year old wildcard David Brewer (GBR), who was a junior top-10 player in 2003 and is quite talented .. I suppose it took HM a little time to get used to that guy's game - probably wa sa bit surprised by him .. After dropping the first set 7-5, HM took care of business in a 57 63 63 comeback .. He plays Alex Vittur (ITA,647) in the second round tomorrow.

At the Chandigarh "SAIL" ITF grade-3 event, Jeevan, Vivek, Sandhya, Madura etc won their matches today .. Once again, 15 year old Parija Maloo came ready to play .. She had upset a seed last week, as a wildcard entry .. Ranked #546 this week, she qualified in and had an upset win against a 326-ranked player in the main draw .. She runs into the same seeded player she upset last week, in the second round .. The boys' section has reached the QF stage, and only the top  seed Jeevan and 3rd seed Vivek have gone that far .. But it's great to see the consistency these two boys are shoing .. See the Chandigarh juniors page.

Sania won 62 75, but Shikha lost a tough one 76(5) 36 26 .. Harsh won 75 63 63 in UK .. More later .. Gotta run.

Feb 7 Notes

At Hyderabad, our latest doubles pair played together and picked up their first win together - one of many many more in the future we hope .. [R1] Sania Mirza/  Shikha Uberoi d. Chin Wei Chan (TPE)/ Na Li (CHN) 64 75 .. If the score updates at the Hyderbad Open were correct, then this was a big break-fest all the way .. Our girls seemed to stay a tad bit ahead of the Chinese girls throughout the match though .. They won the final three games to take the first set, and followed it up with two more to go up a break .. The other girls did make a fight of it at 5-5 in the second but then the Indian EXpress WTA edittion took care of business winning the final two games .. With the tournament not charging gate fee, the place was packed with 5000+ screaming fans who got their money's worth .. In the earlier singles match, Ankita Bhambri was a bit over-matches and she went down in straight sets - but a great experience for the girl to play in the main draw against a top-100 quality player, Alyona Bondarenko of Ukraine .. Tomorrow, Sania and Shikha play the featured singles matches on the center court .. See the Hyderabad Open page for all of today's scores.

There is an onsite fanclub member report in our forum by Vishnu -- especially about how the crowd was loud like nobody has seen! .. take a look.

In the second leg of the $50K British satellites, Harsh Mankad is seeded 5th this week .. He plays a wildcard, David Brewer (GBR) in the first round tomorrow.

The third event in the Indian ITF junior circuit, the grade-3 "SAIL" junior international started at Chandigarh today .. No big surprises today, as almost all the boys matches were done and only three girl's matches seemt o have got done .. See the Chandigarh juniors page for scores.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on Feb 07 ..

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