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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Feb 16, 1998

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Feb 16 Note-2

Women's tennis: India defeated Pakistan 3-0 (YES!) on the first day at the Bangkok Fed Cup. In other Group-II matches, Pacific Oceania beat Malaysia 2-1; Tajikistan beat Syria 3-0. .. no other details available yet. If India beats Iraq in the next match, India will advance to the superleague of three sub-group winners in Group I .. Pacific Oceanea beating Malaysia is an upset, as Malaysia was #2 seed among the 9 Group-II countries .. In the separate Group-I competition, New Zealand d. Thailand, 2-1, Korea d. China 3-0, and Taiwan d. Indonesia 2-1.

The results I know of, from the Monday's matches at the Singapore Challenger are : Singles: Fernando Vincente (Spn) bt Yoon Yong Il (SK) 7-5 6-3, Amir Hadad (Isr) bt Peter Tramacchi (Aust) 7-5 6-4, Todd Larkham (Aust) bt Danai Udomchoke (Thai) 6-4, 6-4, Q-Andrew Ilie (Aust) bt Stephane Huet (Fra), 6-2, 6-1 Doubles: Jim Thomas(US)/ Laurence Tieleman (Ita) bt Keppler Orellana/Maurice Ruah (Ven) 6-1 6-7 6-1 (courtesy: Singapore Straits Times) .. Leander and Mahesh play Tuesday, so we will have more info from the two fanclub members in Singapore later ..

Feb 16 Note-1

Here is what the UPI report in Indian Express said about the Dubai Title: Except for a short while in the second set, when the Americans staged a brief comeback, Paes and Bhupathi were in total control of the match from the word go .. Paes excelled at the net and came up with some brilliant volleys and passing shots. Bhupathi served and returned well today and hit some superb backhand shots .. Johnson and Montana failed to combine well and left huge gaps on either flank, which the Indians continuously exploited. Montana managed some good interceptions at the net once in a while .. Paes and Bhupathi got two early breaks in the first set to go ahead 5-1 .. In the eighth game, the Americans had a chance to break the Indians and saved two set points but Paes and Bhupathi finally took the set at 6-2 .. The Indians broke Johnson in the very first gameof the second set and were leading 3-1 at one stage. The Americans broke Paes to make it 4-4 and then went ahead to 5-4 before the Indians levelled again. The Indians broke Montana to take the lead at 6-5 and then saved three break points in the next game before romping home 7-5 ..

Here are some excerpts from Robin Chatterjee's article in today's Gulf-News: India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi proved why they are the hottest doubles pair in the circuit today. In front of a packed centre court, the pair treated the crowd to an exhibition of their doubles skills .. complementing each other's play when their serves were under pressure and lifting each other mentally at crunch situations .. Paes and Bhupathi are contrasting personalities. While Bhupathi is the more stoic partner, Paes is overflowing with energy. This energy spills out on court and helps liven up his partner. Bhupathi's serious attitude, on the other hand, acts as a balm for Paes on many occasions. Bhupathi took over the role of returning Paes' serves, when he was under pressure of losing it, with crisp volleys at the net and line hugging passes. This helped his senior partner get back his rhythm specially as Paes was hurt by a return from Montana during one of the rallies .. Bhupathi's service was never under threat in the first set and the Indians capitalised on it, coupled with some deft dinks and volleys at the net by Paes .. Bhupathi looked the more dominant partner with his crisp crosscourt and down the line passes unsettling the opposition .. "We had a lot of fun out there," said Paes at the post-match press conference. "I took some time to get off the blocks but I really got going after I got hit by a return." The Indian pair are not pressurising themselves by thinking about winning titles. "They will come," said Bhupathi. "We don't have to worry about that. All we have to do is take it one day at a time and keep healthy. That's why we are improving." "People know that we are trying our best and we know that too," said Paes. "Which is why people are coming out to watch us" ..

Hey, our dynamic duo is quickly getting a good reputation as a pair that really brings out the crowd for doubles matches .. There aren't too many doubles teams in the world who are able to do that.

In other news, the Fed Cup is starting, out at Bangkok today. India is in the Group-II competition. The nine nations in the Group-II level are split into 3 subgroups of 3 each. As far as I know, each plays the other two within their subgrup to advance to a Super league of winners from each subgroup. After the Super league, the top two are selected for Group-I level (and the current Group-I level competition is also at Bangkok, the top two of which advance to World-Group competition next year..). The subgroups in Group II are: Group A: India, Pakistan and Iraq Group B: Malaysia, Pacific Oceania and Singapore Group C: Tajikstan, Syria and Kazakhstan .. If you want to know the better teams in Asia/Oceania, here is the info on the separate Group I competition there. The seeded teams are Chinese Taipei, South Korea and Thailand. Group A: Chinese Taipei, Indonesia and Uzbekistan, Group B: S. Korea, China and Hong Kong Group C: Thailand, New Zealand and Philippines .. Japan and Australia are not there, as they are already in the World group .. Once again, hardly any press reports on this so far, and I hope what I say here is accurate !

Feb 15 Note-2

This was their 11th final in the last 10 months, and for the 10th time, they won the title.. 8 of those titles are in ATP tournaments and 2 in challengers. Is that a great record or what ?? .. Yea baby, they keep on a-rollin !!

The final score was 6-2, 7-5, and they won for the third straight time over Johnson/Montana, and it did not go to three sets as in the previous two cases .. They get 280 points for this title. By my calculations, this will add on about 235 points to LP's best-14 doubles total (2880 now), and about 215 points to MB's best-14. This will place them both in the exclusive company of the very few with over 3000 points.. MB should move up just ahead of Haarhuis to #5 and LP should move up to #7, their highest individual rankings, as of tomorrow (quick mental calculation, so don't hold me to it ! ..). The team ranking will remain at #3 behind the Woodies.

Now that they are done with doubles for the next 5 weeks, I will soon post the detailed point breakups and chronicle the last 10 months of torrid doubles play. They played in 19 tournaments starting Chennai. 11 finals, 10 titles (one Super-9, two championship-series, 5 world-series, and 2 challengers there), 1 world championship final, 2 grand-slam semis, 2 super-9 quarterfinals, and just one first-round loss in those 19 tournaments. Unbelievable ?.. You bet!

Feb 15 Note-1

Still awaiting news from Dubai on the doubles final there. Must be all done by now, as it's night time out there in Dubai.

Our trusted old friend Kim Das is now working in Singapore and here is what he sent from there today, as the draw is out for the Singapore Challenger starting tomorrow (depending on time availability, Kim Das and Arvind Kumar will report on a few matches there.. So, this is the first of a few on-site fan club member reports from there):

Here is the immediate draw Kim sent for LP and MB in the upper and lower halves:

Top half (partial)

1-Juan-Antonio Marin (#95)  vs. Jean-Baptiste Perlant (#179) \
Leander Paes (#159)         vs. Berndt Karbacher (#186)      / \
Todd Larkham (#200)         vs. WC-Danai Udomchoke (#1286)   \ /
Maurice Ruah (#241)         vs. Prieto (#560)                /

Bottom Half (partial)

Oscar Burrieza (#152)       vs. Frederic Fontang (#196)      \
Amir Hadad (#270)           vs. Peter Tramacchi (#187)       / \
Mark Knowles (#385)         vs. Neville Godwin (#220)        \ /
WC-Mahesh Bhupathi (#219)   vs. 2-Alex Calatrava (#111)      /

..In other words, not a pretty picture. But then again, these are all beatable guys and both LP and MB are due for a string of wins of the type they are capable of. Good to get the doubles out of the way for a while and get into the singles frame of mind and focus down. Go LP ! Go MB ! Let's see that all-Indian final out in Singapore ! ..

Feb 13 Note-3

This was not the match I expected at all, today.. (says how much I know!).. They just steamrolled Galbraith/Steven, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the finals at Dubai. Seems like they did not lose focus in the second set (good sign. Keep it up, LP/MB!..). They now face old friends Johnson/Montana (#2 seeds) in the finals. Johnson was once a doubles partner for Leander for some time. J/M won the Monte Carlo (super 9) tournament last year, and finished close to #10 in ATP rankings last year-end. They are no push-overs either. LP/MB met them twice last year, in the second round at Montreal and then in the second round at Cincinnati the week right after. Won both times, but both matches were long 3-setters (the Montreal match went for 2 hrs 30 minutes!). 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(9-7) the first time and 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 the second. The dynamic duo will not take them lightly. Let's get them for a 3rd time ! The final is on Sunday, I think (no idea where Michal disappeared to, after the early match reports..)

Shruti Dhawan gave all that Uzma could handle in a three-set final today at Chandigarh (ITF junior ranking tournament). She even took a set off Uzma, something that nobody has done in 3 weeks, and then was about to break Uzma at 30-40 to go up 5-4 and serve out the 3rd set.. she hit the ball into the net and Uzma pounced on the reprieve to win with a break next game. Still a very promising show by DHAITA's 14 yr-old upcoming star, Shruti. Uzma made it 3 singles titles in 3 weeks and a 15 match win streak. On the boys' side, 5th seed Vijay Kannan (by the way, the seedings were all a bit strange there with different age groups coming in .. Vijay was probably the best among the bunch there, anyway!.. that's why he is a Davis Cup alternate pick) won for the title for the second week in a row, beating 3rd seed Ravi Kiran Bhatt, 6-2, 6-2 .. No sweat ! .. See the complete results.

Need to make a correction on something I said in yesterday's notes. Brett Steven certainly did not play Paes at Newport. It was Sargis Sargsian who beat Paes in the semis. The next day Brett lost in the finals to Sargsian. I had seen both those matches on successive days, and got a bit confused .. By the way anybody who taped those two matches should see them. Grass court tennis at its best. Sargsian was not really known for grass, and the match against LP had quite a bit of baseline play too; but whenever those two decided to move around, it was terrific. Sargsian ran down a lot of deftly placed balls from LP. That was a three-setter, and the next day Brett Steven and Sargis played another three-setter where Brett showed what he can do, before Sargsian somehow pulled it off in the end .. Thanks go to Sidharth Vali who alerted me to my boo-boo yesterday .. I had mixed up the two matches ..

Feb 13 Note-2

Here is what Khaleej Times said about the quarterfinal match: .. India's Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes just about managed to squeeze home to a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Australian doubles specialists John Eagle and Andrew Florent in the late night game on centre court. With the breaks coming in early in the first, the top rated Indians raced home easily against the formidable Aussies but faltered on Paes' serve to be down 5-6 in the second set from where the Australians went on to clinch it .. In the rubber, Bhupathi lost serve while serving for the match at 5-3 but Eagle was broken at love game immediately for the top seeds to move into the semis..

LP/MB still seem to have that occasional lapse of focus (normally at crucial times too), but they also show tremendous killer instinct in coming right back in the nick of time to take care of their matches..

The Indian women's team for Fed Cup (Nirupama, Uzma, Arti, Rushmi) is reportedly leaving Friday night from Delhi for Bangkok.

Feb 13 Note-1

The 4 seeded teams are all in the semis at Dubai! This is a pretty rare thing in ATP tournaments, and shows that the established teams have all come ready to play here .. The semifinal draw is as follows:

1 - Bhupathi(#8)/Paes(#9)      vs.  3 - Galbraith(#10)/Steven(#40)
2 - Johnson(#22)/Montana(#24)  vs.  4 - Stolle(#41)/Suk(#20)

LP/MB now have 12 bonus points for beating Broad(#34)/Norval(#36) and 12 for beating Eagle(#39)/Florent(#52). 100 for reaching semis, for a total of 124 so far. A win today would give them 18 more bonus points for 42 bonus to go with 160 pts (202 total). If they make it to the final and win it, they will get a total of 280 or 274 depending on who the opponents are. The doubles prize money here is not bad either. A finalist team makes $45K total and the title is worth a total of $78K to share.

Both the semifinals are scheduled for today (Friday). LP/MB play the second semi at 5 pm following the first semi at 3 pm ..

Feb 12 Notes

Leander and Mahesh had a tougher match today, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over Eagle/Florent. They continue to have these little let-ups, I assume, in the second sets. Apparently this happened in the first round match as well, where they were up 3-1 in the second set before allowing a couple of breaks, and then coming back strongly to finish it off at 6-4. They didn't do that today and lost the second set, but as usual they took care of business in the 3rd set (by the way, only the very best teams beat them in a three-setter!). They now go up against a team that has looked very good this year, Galbraith and Steven. Brett Steven has been playing some terrific tennis over the last year (pretty much ever since he beat Paes in the semifinals at Newport, where he surprised me with how well he could keep up with Paes' quickness.. Brett beat Rios in round 1 at Dubai), and Galbraith is well.. Galbraith ! .. LP/MB better be ready.. I am sure they will be.. Anyway, it's another semifinal folks !

Uzma is in the finals at Chandigarh singles. She finally lost a match, though .. the doubles finals against the Austrian pair. That is 14 singles matches and 11 doubles matches she won in a row over 3 weeks, before that loss today. Vijay Kannan and Ravi Kiran Bhat are in the boys' singles finals. Complete results are here..

Feb 11 Notes

Leander and Mahesh played the featured night doubles match on the center court on wednesday, winning 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 over Broad/Norval (ranked #12 in the current team rankings..). Sounds like a ho-hum win for our guys. Our pal Michal has not written to us yet on the details (poor guy probably wanted to sleep after all the excitement and the ball boy work ! .. the LP/MB match got done only at 11 pm). The Dynamic Duo now play Eagle/Florent, who won the Adelaide tournament last month .. LP/MB have not lost to E/F in the last few matches .. LP and Norval beat them last month at Sydney, too. They are not an easy team, though. The match is at 10.00 pm again, on Thursday there.. In other doubles matches, no upsets so far, and all 4 seeded teams have advanced to the quarterfinals. Some great doubles matches coming up now!

Uzma keeps on rolling .. Two more matches won today (wednesday). She is in the semis of the singles and the finals of the doubles and has not lost a match in 3 weeks. The doubles semis last week and this week against the tough Shruti Dhawan - Sheetal Gautam pair are the only matches to even go to 3 sets. Vijay Kannan and Sansar Uz Zaman are in the semis of the singles on the boys' side at the grasscourts at the Chandigarh ITF junior ranking tournament. . Here are the latest results, after Wednesday there.

Feb 10 Notes

Michal Chojnacki reports from Dubai that the first round doubles match for Leander and Mahesh against Broad/Norval is set for 3 pm on Wednesday. Will report the score as soon as our onsite-man sends news again !

Fanclub member Jan Kongtako reports from Thailand that Mahesh has got a wildcard for the Bangkok challenger (the 3rd week of the 4 week Asian tour) along with Danai Udomchoke and Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand. That means he is in the draw for the first three challengers with no trouble.. She also reports that LP and MB are entered in the doubles there too. That is interesting.. Sort of odd for a top-3 team to play a challenger. If they are in, that would probably be to make sure that they get some doubles practice (or they would go without any doubles for 5 weeks till the second week of Lipton (where they will get a first round bye too, in the 48-team draw). It probably makes sense to play some doubles in the 3rd week of this 5 week period.

Uzma , Vijay and Sansar-Uz are all in the quarterfinals at the ITF junior ranking tourney at Chandigarh (Uzma is in the semis of doubles, again, too). Here are the latest results, after Tuesday there.

Feb 9 Note-4

Kannan Srinivasan's article in Hindustan Times mentions Leander to have direct entries at all 4 Asian challengers. LP also said that Mahesh has been given wildcards at the first two challengers (Singapore and Ho ChiMinh City). That is good news. The Indian Express says Leander's ranking is hurt by the cancellation of the Shanghai tournament (where he had 85 points last year in January). Not really true. The Shanghai tournament is very much there this year too, in the ATP calendar. It is rescheduled to October 5th, as part of a three-tournament Asian swing; Shanghai, Singapore and Beijing. Indian Express (SK John) reports LP to have said that he hardly got much practice in December due to all the commercials being shot, and that it hurt him at the AO .. By the way, several Indian newspapers reported wrongly today that LP/MB won 5 tournaments last year. I don't know where that report came from (may be from Dubai?), but they won SIX last year. Chennai, Prague, Montreal, NewHaven, Beijing, Singapore (they also won three challengers at Singapore, Prague and Jerusalem). Hey, the fanclub doesn't appreciate anybody reducing our guys' achievements ... :-)

In other news, Nirupama, Rushmi Chakravarti and Arti Ponnappa have started Fed Cup training at Delhi. The Mumbai and Delhi events (both $10,000) on the WTA tour, will be the weeks after the Fed Cup. The earlier dates I had from a few months back showed them to start next week (if I remember correctly, they were postponed when the Mumbai and Ahemedabad ATP challengers came through in the last minute), and I was wondering if our top women players would miss it due to Fed Cup. The ITF web site has updated the schedule today showing the new dates .. Nirupama hasn't decided if she would be playing those two events .. Also, the Chandigarh ITF juniors ranking tournament has started. Fewer foreigners on the boys' side (the Danish kids at Delhi last week, including the finalist Jakob Paulsen, aren't there). No big upsets in the first round, except for DHAITA's Shruti Dhawan beating the 3rd seed, Tina Tagwercher of Austria. Another routine two-sets job by Uzma Khan. Vijay Kannan and Sanzaruz Zaman have won their matches too. Here are the results.

Feb 9 Note-3

Take a look at this draw for Dubai ! ..

GRABB/NOVAK v. EAGLE/FLORENT              / \
Q-QUALIFIERS v. CARBONELL/ROIG            \    /
ALBANO/NYBORG v. 4-STOLLE/SUK             / \ /

That is the toughest draw I have seen in a non-grand-slam ATP event in quite a while ! .. The established teams have appeared enmasse here. LP/MB face Broad/Norwal, and potentially Eagle/Florent, Galbraith/Steven and Johnson/Montana .. Or any of a whole bunch of other teams who can jump up and bite ! .. This is simply incredible .. Actually Johnson/Montana has a slightly easier half of the draw. I could comment on the possibilities of about 10 different teams out there to win it, but I won't. Let's just watch the fun ! .. Whoever wins the $78K would have truly earned it here.

Feb 9 Note-2

The doubles field also is a stellar one at Dubai. LP/MB are #1, and have #3 seeds Galbraith/Steven in the top half. The other half has #2 seeds Johnson/Montana with #4 seeds Stolle/Suk. It could be a tremendous pair of semifinals if all four teams win their first two matches. Johnson/Montana won the $515K Marseille Open this weekend. .. As though the seeded teams weren't enouogh, there is also the former #1 team, Apell/Bjorkman in the doubles field !