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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Feb 22, 1999

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Feb 22 Note-1

For the further notes of the day, see next week's notes - link above ..

LP and MB are taking this week off .. MB is expected to play at the Singapore Challenger next week .. I believe LP will take rest for next week also, before starting on a 6 week stretch with Mahesh at Indian Wells, Lipton (2 weeks), Davis Cup in India, Chennai Open, and the Delhi challenger ..

OK, we need something to take our minds off the Korea nightmare in Davis Cup .. It's time for FED CUP, starting today, folks! - India returns to Asia-Oceania regional Group-I after a year's break .. Ten countries have assemble in Thailand for this - divided in two round robin groups - one team will advance to world group qualifiers .. Here are the details - Group A has Chinese Taipei, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Uzbekistan and Group B has China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Pacific Oceania, New Zealand, .. India was originally expected to not be among the top 6 or so countries there, but as it has turned out, we are seeded 4th, and actually have the easier group to negotiate .. The reason is that both Indonesia and Thailand have had withdrawals of their top-ranked players - Yayuk Basuki (#87) who is the non-playing captain for Indonesia as she is pregnant and basically retired from tennis now, and Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand who is taking final degree exams in college (as of Sunday, the Thais were trying desperately to get her to change her mind and play, and she wasn't budging) .. Taiwan is the top seed and is in India's group .. 2nd seed is China and 3rd seed is South Korea, both in group-B ..

Here are the top-3 players for the countries there .. Along with India In Group-A, Chinese Taipei has Shi-Ting Wang (#79), Janet Lee (#104), and Stephanie Chi (#308) .. India has Niru (#173) and Sai (#473) .. Indonesia has Wynne Prakusya (#182) and W.Sawondari (#599) .. Uzbekistan has Iroda Tulyiganova (#543) and Natalie Nikitina (#992) .. Thailand has Suwimol Duangchan (#922) leading them, and they fall way down now since their top two players have withdrawn (in addition to Tammi Tanasugarn, #57, Benjamas Sangaeram, #404 has also withdrawn, ostensibly to play qualifiers at the Dubai challenger next week, which they are not happy about) .. In the other group, China has Fang Li (#41), Jing-qian yi (#190) and Ding Ding (#236) .. South Korea has Sung-Hee Park (#163), Eun-Ha Kim (#178), and Yun-Jeong Cho (#319) .. New Zealand has Leanne Baker (#392), Shelly Stephens (#428), and Rewa Hudson (#445) ..

Each country plays the other 4 within each group during the first 5 days (Feb 22-26) and then the group leaders meet on Saturday in a grand finale to decide the one team that advances out of the 10 to the world group playoff to reach World group-II (there are two levels of 8 teams each in the world group in Fed Cup, unlike 16 in a one group in Davis Cup - Japan is in the world group-II this year, and so doesn't play at Bangkok) .. The bottom two will get relegated to regional Group-II next year ..

Advancing from this Fed Cup group will be a miracle for India, but let's see how it goes .. We certainly got somewhat luccky to be in Group-A, since we technically need only one upset (over top seeds Taiwan - certainly not easy) to top the group .. We would then need possibly another upset in the final match to advance .. Of course, it does not always work that way when people play for their countries - you can throw a lot of the rankings out the window .. I am not sure if all these top-150 players will be there though .. Fang Li of China, the most feared player by all Asians right now, was playing down in Colombia yesterday, for instance .. Stephanie Chi was trying to qualify into a challenger in Midland, Michigan this week .. Janet Lee was in the early entry list for the Oklahoma City event starting Monday, but she may have withdrawn from there if she is playing Fed Cup ..

Here is the FED CUP schedule for India - we play Uzbekistan today, and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) on Tuesday .. We get a day of break on Wednesday and then get Indonesia on Thursday and Thailand on Friday .. It's a perfect schedule, actually .. We get a reasonably easy team for the first round - hopefully Niru wouldn't have had to play doubles today (scores awaited) .. Tomorrow is the big day - we will need Niru for everything against top seeds Taiwan .. I will update the scores very soon.

In other news, we still don't have any news out of the Rajshgahi ITF junior international, except that I heard Sheetal Gautam was in the final yesterday - I hope she won.

Feb 21 Note-3

Heartache - heartbreak - sobbing Leander - so on, so on .. Take a look at Nirmal Shekhar's poignant account of the Davis Cup 3rd day, in this article in The Hindu on how it all ended .. MB seems to have had his usual lack of concentration at the beginning of the second set with three doubles faults, and that got Yoon going - and he never let up on the grip .. Here is an exceprt from the Deccan Herald report by Prajwal Hegde: After Leander Paes had put India back in the tie with a resounding 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Lee Hyung-Taik in the morning, the onus was on Bhupathi to wrap up the tie for the visitors. The Indian started in right earnest, battling back bravely to win the first set tie-break. Thereafter, he inexplicably fell apart, losing the next three sets and with it the match and the tie. Yong-Il won 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. This is the first time he has won a live fifth rubber ... It's hard to explain what happened to Bhupathi after the first set. The man himself was at a loss for words. "I don't know what happened," he said. "I don't think I played badly. I was not getting any free points on my serve. Big first serves were coming back. Big forehands and backhands were coming back. I give Yoon the credit for winning the match." .. It was one of those days - Yoon clearly has the Indians' number. (by the way, Deccan Herald sports page link doesn't work - here is the correct link).

Mahesh has twice pulled big wins in the 5th rubber match for India while in India (against Netherlands in 96 and Chile in 97), but has had trouble doing that abroad (in Czech Republic, 97, and now) ..

India will next play China to avoid relegation to group-II for 1999 .. For a change, the tie will be in India - in the first week of April, just before the Chennai Open. There should be no problem for us to win a home tie against China and stay in the regional group-I for next year, and it's very good that LP and MB would not have to go up to China and be travel-weary at the Chennai Open (though I am sure they would have preferred to be flying back from New Zealand - but that's all water under the bridge now).

At the national games in Imphal, Vinod Sridhar (who turned 20 last week) completed a great week of tennis with his second Gold, this time in the singles event .. He beat Vasudev Reddy of AP, 7-5, 6-3 today in the final .. Vinod had another Gold, in the team event for Tamil Nadu .. In the bronze playoff, Mustafa "Pete" Ghouse (Mah) beat Manoj Mahadevan (TN), 6-2, 7-5 .. The Doubles Gold went to Gaurav Natekar and Asif Ismail who beat Vijay Kannan and Vishal Uppal (Delhi), 6-2, 6-1 .. Women's doubles meadal went to Janaki Krishnamurthi and Radhika Tulpule (Mah) .. See whatever results I could compile at the national games page ..

More later with some Fed Cup news .. Niru and company are in Thailand.

Feb 21 Note-2

We had an unbeaten streak of 7 sets going there, but once again hell seems to have broken loose just when it looked like we would squeeze out of the jam .. Mahesh Bhupathi lost three sets in the worst possible way after winning the first set - Score: 7-6, 1-6, 1-6, 1-6 .. I just talked to a media correspondent there, who said there didn't seem to be any sudden injury or anything to Mahesh - Yoon just beat him, it seems .. Heck, what's it with Yong Il Yoon ? .. He has some sort of hypnotic powers or something ? .. Anyway, Korea wins the tie 3-2 over India ..

So, that's the end of that. Bye bye to any world group for next year (which would have required winning two more ties after this one, this year anyway) .. The problem is that we need to take care of China this year to avoid relegation to Group-II next year (that shouldn't be a problem, but in Davis Cup, one can never say anything) .. It will be 2001 the earliest we will see India in the world group final-16 again.

At the beginning of this week, in the roundup of last week's Davis Cup results, I mentioned Canada's loss to Colombia and said they had no business losing to Colombia .. I am sorry I have to repeat that for India - Yes, India has no business losing to Korea, whatever goes wrong for us out there evry time, and however well the Koreans come to play .. The heart is never a question mark for LP and MB when they play for India - but even that isn't enough sometimes .. This time they simply failed in handling things in Korea - and they knew exactly what to expect out there too (excpet may be bad citrus drinks) .. I am sure LP and MB would agree that they somehow fell short .. Oh well, that's how it goes.

India has been in quite a bit of funk in Davis Cup after being on so much of a high for so long - the valleys follw the peaks, always .. We will be up again .. I am sure LP and MB would like to be there for more peaks before they are done.

Feb 21 Note-1

The comeback is well underway in Sogwipo, Korea .. India has tied it up at 2-2, after Leander's straight sets win, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 today over Hyung-Taik Lee .. It's all down to Mahesh now, and it is 3-3 in the first set of his match against Yong-Il Yoon, right now (12.45 pm there) .. Stay tuned - I may have a score update or two at the Mahesh page - Go Hesh!!!

Feb 20 Note-3

Reports from Nirmal Shekhar (The Hindu) and Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald) today say that LP-MB played a very good match against Hyung-Taik Lee and Dong-Hyun Kim today, and that LP did not show any signs of the bad-stomach problems he had yesterday .. The mood certainly is upbeat, and Bill Norris, former ATP-trainer who is the Indian team's trainer now, said it best - "this is just the beginning" .. That's the right spirit .. The temperature was as cold as yesterday, but the wind was making it even worse today .. It would be nice if it gets a bit better tomorrow .. I am not sure if LP has ever played Hyung-Taik Lee, but MB has played Yong-Il Yoon in some satellites and has a 1-1 record against him .. Actually, Yoon is 2-0 over LP now, and beat Srinath in the semis at Asiad in december - MB may be the only Indian with a win over Yoon ? .. perhaps .. Let us hope LP ties it up and gives MB a chance to go 2-1 over Yoon! ..

At the National Games in Imphal, the womens's singles Gold went to Rushmi Chakravarti (no surprise) of Tamil Nadu .. She beat Janaki Krishnamurthi of Maharashtra in the final .. Young Sonal Phadke of Maharashtra won the bronze .. On the men's side, top-seed Vinod Sridhar beat Mustafa Ghouse (Mah) in three sets to reach the final (tomorrow) .. Vasudev Reddy (AP) suddenly seems to have found his form, as he beat Manoj Mahadevan (TN) in two easy sets to reach the final - Vasu had a couple of bad losses for AP in the team events (against Vijay Kannan and also to Mustafa Ghouse) .. By the way, I have not seen the scores of the earlier rounds, and don't know what happened to Vijay Kannan in the singles events .. It's safe to say that Vinod Sridhar is looking more and more like he would like to take away that "torch-bearer for future" label from Vijay .. Vinod is 19 yrs old and trains, if I am not mistaken, at the Krishnan Tennis Center in Madras.

Talking of "torch-bearers" and all that, there was an extremely well-written and well-researched article from Sarda Ugra yesterday in The Hindu - Check it out here .. Lots of comments from different people on whether it's a good idea for our upcoming players to play all these international events and often lose in the early rounds in India .. That same old argument (mostly from old-timers) that the domestic circuit is the way to go, keeps coming up .. The argument may clearly sound logical about moving up step by step in tennis - but the fact of life lately in tennis is that one normally proves whether one has it or not by the age of around 18-20 and then starts playing the senior circuit .. This stuff about playing domestic tournament for a few years and then graduating to satellites and then challengers, does not really happen around the world anymore (well, show me examples of those in the top-150 who have done that.. very rare). The steps are no longer in the seniors - they are in the junior ITF circuits .. Get the kids into tennis early (India does have a pretty good system in place at least in the tennis pockets around the country for this) - give them support to play tough competition when they are 14 to 18 years old (India *does not* conduct top-graded junior internationals, and here there is a big problem), and then some of them will just need to take the hard decision to put academics to a lower priority for a couple of years at least and test the senior waters .. If you don't show positive signs by around 20, it's over - this is how it's happening around the world .. Tennis world no longer waits for anybody for too long .. You don't prove yourself by a reasonable time, you are done - time to look for another job .. I may sound really harsh here, but it's reality ..

There is another *very important* point - which is about coaching .. We did a terrible mistake this year in not appointing at least one coach to travel with a select group of youngsters and improve them with proper tips, as they went through the tough futures, and challenger qualies .. One elder stateman of tennis, Naresh Kumar, had rightly talked about this at Calcutta a few days back (along with his classic "these kids float aimlessly like kites" comment) .. If we look at this past season, the one time when a couple of our kids pulled some upsets together (3 or 4 of them by Vijay Kannan and Harsh Mankad) was in the satellite masters, when somebody was travelling with them (Gajendra Singh at that time - not sure if he was really acting as a coach - more like a manager then, perhaps, but even that makes a difference!) .. Articles such as the above one from Sarda should be read carefully - AITA has done a lot of good things lately, but some more changes next year will make things much more productive in India's effort to groom the "torch bearers" .. I sincerely hope that we won't just stop what we started this year and revert to old ideas again, just because our youngsters did not have big breakthroughs this year - the reasons for that, I feel, are somewhere else - traveling coaches being the most important (also, the timing, which caused the futures/challengers to have such top-competition with no futures anywhere else in the world) .. By the way, one thing which should not be overlooked is the interaction between the Indian coaches with those who accompanied the foreign players to India - coaching is a a dynamically changing part of tennis, and our coaches certainly benefit from having many foreign coaches come to India (though admittedly many of them may not be top-notch or anything) .. As always, what I say are just my opinions and what I have heard from many in the tennis circles - so you MUST take it with big pinches of salt. I am the definition of an arm-chair analyst - a self- proclaimed "expert", like most ardent sports fans, you know! :-)

The on-now-off-now coverage on the Rajshahi junior international was off today in the Bangladeshi newspapers - we will have to wait till tomorrow to see if Sheetal has reached yet another final in her terrific run.

Feb 20 Note-2

The win streak has started - the 9 match losing streak in Korea is history! .. Though the win was expected, it just feels so much better to finally see India only one match away from tying it at 2-2 .. Leander and Mahesh just won 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 over the Korean pair (who I believe was Hyung-Taik Lee and Dong-Hyun Kim, but not sure) .. Now, we need to win both the matches tomorrow .. The doubles match took only slightly over an hour and half today, which is good news - how much one gets tired from a match increases sharply as it goes past a couple of hours .. Leander should be alright for the crucial reverse singles tomorrow morning at 11 am .. Let us hope that they will keep all citrus drinks away from him tomorrow !

I am an eternal optimist - and this time something surely tells me that we will see something special from our two warriors on Sunday .. Watch out.

Feb 20 Note-1

Doubles starts soon, by 1 pm in Korea (9.30 am Saturday India, 8 pm PST, Friday, USA) .. Korea may decide to just concede this point and rest one or both of their top two to keep them fresh for tomorrow - we will see.

I really don't want to summarize Leander's loss but read this article in The Hindu today by Nirmal Shekhar - bone-chilling cold - bad citrus drink - gastritis - throwing up - bad call on match point - etc, etc .. If anything could go wrong, it has gone wrong in Korea .. for nine losses in a row .. I predict that the fortunes are going to change - it just has to, some time - why not now ? .. LP and MB should put all worries away and just go after the Koreans now - as in that old Tamil song, "Ponal Pogattum Poda" (loosely translated, "if it goes, to heck with it - big deal!") .. What do we have to lose ?

Finally some news from the ITF junior international at Rajshahi, Bangladesh .. they have reached the SF in the girls events and the QF in the boys events out there, according to the Independent, Dhaka .. Sheetal Gautam is once again in the semis of both singles doubles .. Interestingly, she is playing doubles with Nida Waseem of Pakistan (Shruti did not go to Bangladesh, that means) .. On the boys' side Karan Doctor and Saif Ali are alive .. All the results I found are at the Rajshahi juniors page.

Feb 19 Note-4

Apparently LP even had a match point on Yoon's serve in the 10th game of the 3rd set before all hell broke lose and he proceeded to lose 15 of the next 18 games (actually he was up 2-0 in the 4th - so he lost 12 of the last 13 games) ! .. I have not got any reports of injury or anything, but we will wait for the newspaper reports to come up to see what happened to LP .. This makes it the 4th loss in a row in 5-set matches for LP after his win over Ivanisevik in Davis Cup in 95 (losses to Bjorkman in 96 Davis Cup, Pioline at USO 97, Rusedski in 98 Davis Cup and now this) .. This loss hurts the most, as it puts India in the worst kind of hole .. If we lose this tie, we will have to play somebody later this year (I believe China, but I can't figure out who has the homecourt for that tie - we may have never played China before) to avoid relegation to Group-II for next year .. Oh my goodness! - that is how fast the mighty can fall in Davis Cup .. Let's pray that LP is not troubled by the shoulder injury or anything, as we want our dudes to pull a huge comeback in the worst way! .. We need to win the doubles Saturday, then need LP to beat Hyung-Taik (supposedly the tougher of the two Koreans now to beat) in the reverse singles, and then have MB win the last one over Yoon .. A very tough assignment, but not impossible .. Let's not give up yet, but I am having a very tough time trying to recover from the shock and disappointment of this loss.

This is the 9th loss in a row in Davis Cup for us in Korea - can you believe that ? .. We have also lost three 5-set matches in a row there, including 2 doubles losses - truly min-boggling stats .. It's the right time to start a 3-match win streak .. This thing has to turn around some time - why not now?

Feb 19 Note-3

Big apologies, folks! - I went to bed after a telephone conversation with a person at the Korea tennis Federation who said LP had won the match - but not true, and disaster struck in the worst form, as LP lost the 3rd set 5-7, and proceeded to lose the next two sets 2-6, 1-6 .. I woke up just now and now I wish I hadn't woken up to this nightmare! .. 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 2-6, 1-6, LP lost to Yong Il Yoon.

India is 0-2 behind .. It's bleak as hell, but who knows, it's not like we *cannot* win the reverse singles .. But this is incredible, what has happened - and my tough luck continues with anybody who tells me a score over the phone too!

Feb 19 Note-2

Leander has just won, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 over Yong-Il Yoon to tie it up at 1-1 .. No other details yet .. Doubles tomorrow .. This tie is turning out to be very interesting now .. Let' wrap up the doubles next.

Feb 19 Note-1

News from Korea - not great ..

In the first match today, the Korean #1, Hyung-Taik Lee beat Mahesh Bhupathi, 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 .. In the second match, Leander Paes leads 6-4 after one set as of now .. No other details .. Let's hope LP can put order back into this thing!

Feb 18 Note-2

The Davis Cup draw has Bhupathi playing the Korean #1 Hyung-Taik Lee (#261) at 11 am there Friday (Thursday evening in the US) .. Leander takes on Yong-Il Yoon (#325) in the second match of the day .. Doubles will be on Saturday, with LP-MB facing Yoon-Lee .. On Sunday in the reverse singles, LP takes on Lee first followed by MB facing Yoon .. The reverse singles matchups could change if one of the teams has clinched by then. OK, it's excitement time again..

Feb 18 Note-1

We are less than 12 hours away from the first match of the IND-KOR Davis Cup tie .. Haven't seen the draw yet, on who plays whom first .. The first match starts at 11 am in Korea (7.30 am India .. 6 pm PST Thursday, USA) .. Been exploring if there is any way to bring some news/scores during or right after the matches - not much luck yet .. but stay tuned!

Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu got one Gold each in tennis team events at the National Games today - In the men's event, TN beat Maharashtra 2-0 (Manoj Mahadevan, TN, bt Mustafa Ghouse, Mah., 6-3, 7-5 .. Vinod Sridhar , TN bt Asif Ismail Mah., 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-1 .. Doubles not played) .. In the women's event, Maharastra beat TN 2-1 (Sonal Padke , Mah., bt T. Yamini, TN, 6-3, 6-0 .. Rushmi Chakravarthi , TN, bt Janaki Krishnamurti, Mah., 6-0, 2-6, 6,3 .. Doubles:- Janaki Krishnamurti / Radhika Tulpule , Mah., bt Rushmi Chakravarthi / Sumitra, TN, 7-6, 6-3) .. Vinod Sridhar's comeback win over Asif Ismail looks impressive .. At the games, Kerala with 26 Golds (56 total), Punjab with 17 Golds (52 total) and hosts Manipur with 14 Golds (54 total) lead the medal tally now.

A news story out of Delhi says that Uzma Khan will probably skip the national grasscourt championships in Calcutta in March (which is a delayed version - we didn't have one in 1998 - the last one was at Duliajan, Assam, in Dec 1997 where Uzma won the final against Manisha Malhotra in a 2.5 hour three-setter) .. Uzma is expected in the US soon, and may chose to try some futures, etc, to gain WTA points .. It doesn't sound like a bad idea - it's time for her to test the senior waters seriously - she did not play the satellites in India and only played two futures events the whole year, leaving us with uncertain data on where she stands in the higher level of competition .. I am looking forward to Uzma doing well in the US circuit (she reportedly has a brother now in the US which will help a lot) .. We will try to follow her progress here closely.

Here is a strange story from Pakistan - from News International, Karachi: Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) says it will demand an explanation from Davis Cupper Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi for playing against Israeli players in India. In a statement issued here on Tuesday, PTF, however, said that it had nothing to do with the Indian Challenge Cup tournament in which Aisam participated and played against the Israelis. PTF said that it did not send Aisam for participation in the Ahmedabad tournament. "Aisam competed in the tournament in his personal capacity." .. Aah, give the kid a break! .. This guy is the first real talent to come out of Pakistan in donkey's years and look how people kick up controversy .. Not that my heart yearns to see Pakistan do well .. :-)

Feb 17 Note-3

The reports in Thursday's The Hindu (by Nirmal Shekhar) and Deccan Herald (by Prajwal Hegde) both talk about the weather being not too bad at the beautiful South Korean island where the Davis Cup will start in a couple of days. The temperature was up in the 13 degree celsius range and not exactly freezing as the Indian team had expected. It is a small court with just about 500 people capacity. The team had some good practice. Leander's heel is not hurting at all, but his shoulder hurts a bit (such nagging injuries are a part of life for him) .. Captain Mukherjea is happy with the physical condition of the players. The courts are a bit slow and they are using heavy balls, not preferred by LP and MB .. Everyone is talking about how tough Korea is to beat in Korea. That is true, and the Indians are not taking them lightly at all.

At the national games, there were a couple of matches worth mentioning. Vijay Kannan had a loss yesterday against Asif Ismail in straight sets, as Delhi lost to Maharashtra to be placed #2 in group A .. Well, the veteran Asif can still beat most players in India, and it's not an upset .. Today (wednesday) in the semifinals, Delhi had another loss - to Tamil Nadu .. Vinod Sridhar beat Vijay Kannan 6-3, 7-5 (including a comeback after he was behind 0-5 in the second set), after Vishal Uppal had won the first match against TN's Manoj Mahadevan .. Then, that pair I said earelier would be tough (Vinod and Manoj - wish they had played together a bit in the satellites/futures!) beat Vijay/Vishal in the 3rd match to place TN in the final against Maharashtra which had an easy 2-0 outing against Karnataka in the other semi .. It's rather mind-boggling, the number of losses Vijay Kannan has racked up lately .. We will just have to wait for him to pull himself out of this terrible funk .. By the way, Vinod Sridhar has had a few very good wins this season, and perhaps deserves more attention from everyone (he is the #5 Indian in the ATP list) .. On the women's side also it's a TN vs Maharashtra final and it was already underway today .. They were tied at 1-1 after the singles (no more details - I would guess Rushmi and Radhika won their respective singles) and the doubles match is at 6-6 in the first set (to be completed tomorrow) .. See our national games tennis results page .. [results source: G. Rajaraman in the Hindustan Times] .. Oh, by the way, Kerala is leading the medal tally, with a ton of them from the water-events (see how a bit of sponsorship to a few good ones can help ? - with all the water all around in Kerala, this should have happened long back, but if I am not mistaken some private sponsors have recently helped in the water events - and they have suddenly become a big force in that too) - I am not sure if they would end up at the top when it's all over though ..

*Still* no news from Rajshahi, Bangladesh on the ITF juniors there .. We will continue to wait .. I have high hopes for Sheetal Gautam to pick up another title or two (she is at aroun ItF world #80 right now, and will directly qualify for grand slams this year by moving up another 15 or 20 spots) .. By the way, there is a report in the Times of India about Uzma Khan, (who had a streak similar to Sheetal last year, her final year in the juniors) looking forward to her time in the US college .. I am not sure where exactly she has a scholarship offer from, but I think it may be Arizona State University (don't quote me on that, though..). Apparently Uzma is also interested in trying to see if she could have a stint at Bolletierri's academy in Florida .. All the best to her.

Feb 17 Note-2

An interesting newsbit - the Bangkok Post reports that Thailand's top player, Tamarin Tanasugarn, ranked #56 now, will not be playing for Thailand in the Fed Cup next week at Thana City, Thailand .. She is apparently re-enrolled in the university and has to take her exam next week, to finish her degree! .. Now Thailand will be led by Benjamas Sangaram ranked #404 .. Their team will have Benjamas Saengaram, Suwimol Duangchan, Marissa Niroj and Monthika Anuchan .. Hmmm .. That's not bad news at all :-) .. .. In an article today in the Times of India, Nirupama is quoted to have singled out the toughest three foes at the Fed Cup to be Taipei's Wang Shi-ting, Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn and China's Fang Li .. Well, now it is one less, added to another top-100 player, Yayuk Basuki of Indonesia, who will not play due to her pregenancy ..

Feb 17 Note-1

It's getting closer to Davis Cup now .. The Indian team is already in South Korea at the city of Sogwipo .. My doctoral student from Korea tells me that it is pronounced "sog-yu-po" .. On the only island province of Korea, about a hundred kilometers south of the tip of the Korean main land (250 km from Seoul) .. The island is called "Cheju" and has a volcanic snow-capped mountain (Mt. Hellasan) rising over 5000 feet .. I am told it's a beautiful island with some of the best scenery in Korea - it is a hub of big tourism with nice beaches and golf courses .. Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald) had an article from there yesterday talking about how cold it is, and how it can affect the Indians not used to playing outdoors in the cold .. It's true that Leander mentioned how they did not like the cold weather at Nottingham for their Davis Cup against UK .. It's really no evil design by the Koreans .. Though it's pretty cold out there, as my student tells me, they have picked perhaps the warmest place in Korea right now! ..

Not much details in the newspapers on Tuesday's matches at the national games, except that Maharashtra had a win over Andhra on the men's side, with Mustafa Ghouse beating Vasudev reddy in three sets .. The official site says that Maharashtra also beat Delhi yesterday to top group A - I assume that means somebody must have had to get over Vijay Kannan .. Maharashtra and Delhi reached semis as 1st and second from group A .. In Group B, Tamil Nadu beat Karnataka 3-0 (Vinod Sridhar and Manoj Mahadevan is a tough pair too) .. They reached semis topping the group, along with Karnataka at second .. All the results I have collected from various sources are posted at the National games page .. Today's news is that Maharashtra has beaten Karnataka 2-0 in the semifinals - No news on the Delhi-TN semifinal .. We will await details later .. On the women's side, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra topped their groups with Arunachal Pradesh and Karnataka behind them .. Today Tamil Nadu beat Karnataka 2-0 in the semi and Maharashtra got an SF walkover from Arunachal Pradesh - so it will be TN vs Maharashtra in the final for women .. Rushmi Chakravarti and Radhika Tulpule in the respective teams .. Should be interesting.

Absolutely no news from the two online Bangladesh newspapers about what happened Tuesday at the Rajshahi ITF junior tournament .. Will have to wait.

Feb 16 Note-2

Are you all primed for the National Games ?? .. Just kidding .. Actually, though it perhaps doesn't get huge attention from the sports fans in India it is an important part of sports development, and it's nice to see it happening at some irregular regularity (:-)) .. This one at Imphal is the fifth installment of what was started in 1985 at Delhi .. Followed by Kerala in 1987 .. The last one was at Bangalore (97) .. By the way, there is a very well-done website for the games at http://www.nationalgames99.com .. Check it out .. The daily news for yesterday lists the tennis scores too .. Rushmi Chakravarti, Radhika Tulpule, T. Yamini, Janaki Krishnamurthi, etc are also there .. The tennis fraternity has indeed taken the games very seriously, and that's good .. But, if you go to the official website, be warned that the names appear in all kinds of strange forms .. V.Khanna of Delhi is actually Vijay Kannan .. Mututa Ghosh of Maharashtra is really (trust me!) Mustafa Ghouse .. Basudev is actually Vasudev Reddy and Badali is V.Kameshwari of AP .. Thank God Bijoy Army-trash isn't playing anymore! :-) .. What is interesting is that there were *nine* double bagel losses yesterday, which shows how poor the tennis standards in many states are .. The fact is that we still find tennis stars coming out of only Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Calcutta, Bangalore, Mysore and Pune (OK, Kovaiputtoor too, thank you, Niru!) .. Time for Kerala athletes to start playing this game .. Hello, anybody in my homestate listening ? .. (There are a couple like Sandra Sashidharan, Gayatri Ramesh and Nirun Raj that I have seen in the juniors lately, and that's it from that state of the athletically gifted!) .. OK, you can see this is a pretty tennis-free week when I start talking about all these .. Later, with any Davis Cup news.

Feb 16 Note-1

The women's team for Fed Cup group-I competition next week at Bangkok (Feb 22-27) has reportedly started practising at Delhi now .. The team remains as Nirupama, Uzma, Sai Jayalakshmi and Shruti Dhawan .. Manisha is still listed as reserve, in what could be the worst decision by the selectors in a while .. Still no info if anything has changed on that .. How can our national #3, ranked #506, be kept out like this ? .. It beats all logic .. She is the one with at least some experience in top-level competition and it serves no purpose to throw a young Shruti to the sharks this early .. Manisha needs to be there - period! - or we are in deep trouble (and I mean no disrespect to the three fine players joining Niru - both Uzma and Shruti certainly do not have the experience in very competitive tennis, and Manisha at least has some serious US college experience and coaching) .. This is the Fed Cup Asia-region Group-I, for crying out loud! .. Look at the other teams out there: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, New Zealand, Pacific Oceania, Thailand, and Uzbekistan .. Of these, China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand have top-100 players, and most have at least two in the top-200 .. I did see the news that Yayuk Basuki is pregnant and will not play for Indonesia (she is now the non-playing captain!), which hurts their chances seriously. Having said all that, Thailand and China have their #2 players beatable, and if Niru can hold up her end and we can win the doubles match, who knows what will happen ! .. I still believe that Niru and Manisha should be the doubles team and that Sai/Manisha/Uzma should split time for #2 singles, even though Uzma will probably get the nod (and she does perhaps deserve it, based on some pretty good wins in Fed Cup, though none over top-300 caliber players that she will face here) .. Shyam Minotra is the captain, and I hope he gets a chance to watch our players at Delhi and see where they all stand (by the way, why the hell don't we have a regular women's coach and captain ? - Nandan Bal had done very well last year when we moved up at Bangkok from Group-II to Group-I .. He was the non-playing captain then). The practices this week are under Gajendra Singh's watch at Delhi (source: The Statesman) .. Anyway, take a look at this article, titled, Manisha: Good for Asian Games, not for Fed Cup ? by S. Kannan in the Hindustan Times last month .. It pretty well states the problems .. And, we still haven't heard of Manisha's situation ..

We will know later this week about which group we have been placed in, for the Fed Cup .. Two groups of 5 teams each play round robin for 4 days, then the #1 and #2 of each group play each other to decide the two teams advancing to World Group qualifiers.

It appears that the Grade-4 Dhaka ITF junior tournament is starting only today, and did not start Monday .. The Independent from Bangladesh reports that AV Rao and Sheetal are the top seeds .. Sheetal is the defending champion from last year (Vijay Kannan had the title for boys then) .. Will report news from there, as well as from the Imphal national games later today.

Feb 15 Note-4

The ATP site seemed to be giving me trouble earlier today - they were probably updating the database as I was checking the ranks .. Anyway, MB did move down a spot, to #3 in doubles, a bit behind Jacco Eltingh, who, though retired, will have his points start to fall off only after a couple more weeks..

More details coming out from Imphal .. Looks like a lot of top guys are there for tennis at the National Games .. Maharashtra had Vijendra Laad and Mustafa Ghouse play singles for them today against Arunachal Pradesh and they won their matches without dropping a game .. Rather than cancel the doubles, Arunachal decided to play it and got their wishes - out came Asif Ismail and gaurav Natekar (ouch!) and they tacked on another 6-0, 6-0 loss .. :-) .. Same story with Tamil Nadu playing Manipur .. Manoj Mahadevan and Vinod Sridhar administered double-bagel losses to them .. The field looks stronger than I expected .. Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, etc, can all win it - and Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh cannot be written off either .. For singles, Vijay Kannan is seeded #1 for men, and TN's Rushmi Chakravarti is #1 for women. On the women's side, I believe Maharashtra beat Manipur 3-0, and Tamil Nadu beat Andhra Pradesh 3-0 ..

Feb 15 Note-3

The Davis Cup at Sogwipo, Korea, will be played on outdoor hardcourt, according to a newspaper report .. That is a surprise, as I thought most countries would pick clay against India .. By the way, if India wins this tie, the next tie against New Zealand will be at Christchurch on synthetic hardcourts, as decided by New Zealand today .. They had a huge fight between Waikato and Christchurch for hosting the tie, but looks like money guarantee won out in the end! (source: New zealand newspapers).

Feb 15 Note-2

The Davis Cup team left today for South Korea from Delhi .. LP, MB, Srinath, and Fazal (Vijay Kannan is the standby, but he is playing for Delhi at the national games at Imphal, Manipur) .. Rico Piperno, the coach, Jaidep Mukherjea, the captain, and Dr. Vece Paes, the team doctor, are accompanying the team .. All four are in good health, which is one good thing ..

The new rankings show Leander at #83 and Mahesh at #270 .. Srinath is #376 and Fazal is #573 .. The team ranking for LP-MB is still #2 .. They have 721 points to 561 for the Woodies, who have moved up behind them to #3 now, after theuir San Jose title .. The individual ranks also remain the same at #2 and #4 for MB and LP .. Nirupama stays at #173 in singles and #242 in doubles ..

I have added the patchy results from the two AITA mini- and sub-junior (under-14 and under-16) tournaments at Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai over the last two weeks, to the results page (see the Thiru. & Chenn. results page) .. Anant Sitaram of AP was in the finals of both u-16 events - he lost at TVM to Pratim Parikh, but won the next leg title .. Mekha Vakharia (Mah) won the girtls' u-16 title at both places, over Sasha Abraham and Isha Lakhani .. The u-14 titles went to Chatwinder Singh of Chandigarh and Arun Prakash (TN, from the Krishnan Center) .. The funny (may be not-so-funny) story was about the second leg final, where Chatwinder Singh conceded the match after falling behind 0-6, 1-2 to Arun, as his dad took his bags and left - the boy had to apologize and concede the match ! (source: Indian Express) .. The girls' u-14 titles went to Sasha Abraham (AP) and Isha Lakhani (Mah), who both did well by reaching one u-16 final each too .. So, this is what our real young kids were up to, when the 16-and-up kids were at the ITF tournaments in Delhi and Chandigarh ..

The national games have started at Imphal, Manipur - only patchy news so far on tennis there .. Vijay Kannan had a 6-2, 6-2 win for Delhi today over Vasu Reddy (AP) .. What has happened to Vasu - he has been totally away for a while and did not compete in any of the futures and challengers (he was at the satellites last november) .. Good win for Vijay! .. RK Bhat and company are representing Karnataka in Srinath's absence (Sri had the gold last time when it was at Bangalore) .. If I see enough results that we can make sense of, I will add them into a page and archive it .. Depending on who have gone there, Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, etc would be contenders .. Vijay and Vishal for delhi would be a tough pair, but if both the Kirtanes and/or Harsh Mankad is playing for Maharashtra, they would be tough too.

The Bangladesh leg of the ITF junior circuit must have started today - stay tuned, and I will post any news that comes by .. Nomi Qamar has gone back to Pakistan, but Nida Waseem has gone to Bangladesh .. Not sure which Indian kids have gone there .. By the way, I saw a newsbit last week that AITA came up with Rs 1 lakh for travel to tournaments for 15-yr old Sunil Kumar, whom we have a lot of hopes on .. Certainly a thoughtful gesture.

Feb 15 Note-1

The South Korean team for the Davis Cup this week, as announced by ITF is, Hyung-Taik Lee (#259), Yong Il Yoon (#326), Dong-Hyun Kim (#811), and Hyeong-Keun Song (#1079) - don't let those rankings fool you - Yong Il Yoon has been up in the 150s before and has wins over Leander and Srinath (at Asiad 94 and 98), and their doubles pair Lee-Yoon beat a damn good Bhupathi-Fazal team at this Asiad .. Their captain is Won-Hong Joo .. The matches start at 11 am on Friday and Sunday, and at 1 pm on Saturday (doubles) at Korea ..

Some history over the last 22 years - Korea leads India 3-2 .. The first was a white-wash of Korea 4-1 in India by Vijay, Anand, Shahi Menon and Ramesh Krishnan (perhaps the best ever Indian Davis Cup team, names-wise?) .. Menon was leading 2-1 when he retired for that one win Korea had .. They did not get a set off India in the four wins, including one by the young Ramesh .. Korea got revenge in Korea in 1979 against a Nandan Bal, Shankar Krishnan, Shashi Menon team 3-2 .. They beat us again, in India, in 1989, over a Zeeshan Ali, S. Vasudevan team, 4-1 .. Then the huge 5-0 demolition by Korea in 1990 on clay in Korea against a team with Zeeshan, Vasudevan, Rohit Rajpal and Leander Paes, 5-0 .. To this day Leander talks about that one when he was just 16 yers old - he and Zeeshan lost 7-9 in the fifth set of the doubles! .. Leander got his revenge the next year, 1991, in India when he pulled off a win in the 5th match, after Ramesh had lost the 4th match to Chang of Korea in the 5th set (Ramesh had won his first singles and LP had lost his, but RK-LP won the doubles to put us up 2-1 before Korea came back) .. From then on, India has basically been in the world group for most of the years and had not played much Davis Cup in Asia .. This is the 6th tie between these two - once again we can expect slow clay out there waiting for us!

Davis Cup Roundup - New Zealand had a huge scare in China, but won it 3-2 at Sen Zhen in China - Mark Nielsen had to beat Yu Shang in the fifth match to advance New Zealand to the final round (against the IND-KOR winner) to decide who gets to play a September tie for World Group qualifying for 2000 (against somebody in the World Group in 1999) .. Brett Steven, their top player was there for the doubles with James Greenhalgh, but I am not sure why he did not play singles (which were by Alistair Hunt and Mark Nielsen) .. Anyway, they await their opponent in April, and hopefully it will be India .. Two teams from Asia-Oceania will play the September World Group qualifier, and the other team will be decided in the April tie between Uzbekistan and Japan - who both won this weekend .. Uzbekistan beat Pakistan 4-1 (Aisam had one upset win - over Vadim Kutsenko! - and I believe Aisam was also hampered by a knee injury), and Japan beat Lebanon 4-1 - Mahesh's old doubles partner for the US collegiate national championship, Ali Hamadeh had a rather surprising win over Satoshi Iwabuchi, but that's all Lebanon could do .. Those two ties were played this past weekend - The NZL-CHN tie was played a week earlier and the IND-KOR tie is being done a week late (after ITF and Korea agreed to push the dates by one week, which allowed LP and MB to play in Dubai, and Srinath and Fazal to be at Lucknow) ..

In other Asian Davis Cup matches, in the lower groups (reminder - there are some 3-4 levels (groups I, II, etc), each with about 8 teams, in each region - Asia-Oceania is one of the 4 world regions .. Each year, a couple of teams play to qualify to the higher group for the next year - the worst couple of teams get demoted to a lower group - India is in the regional Group I, trying to qualify for the World group comprising 16 teams from all regions) .. Thailand, who got demoted to Group-II after a tough fight that featured Aisam and Paradorn earlier which put Pakistan into Group-I, had an easy win this weekend over Kazakhstan .. Sri Lanka lost to Iran 3-2 in Group-II, and I believe Iran plays Thailand to pick one team that moves to group-I .. Indonesia beat Qatar 5-0 in Group II .. Philippines beat Chinese Taipei 3-2 in a comeback, which was a minor surprise - Ling-Bin Chao (former Benny Widjaya of Indonesia, now with Taiwan) lost his 4th match (retired hurt) which would have clinched it for TPE and would have had him facing his former team-mates of Indonesia in April, to try to move up to Group-I in Asia-Oceania .. The 4 losing teams of Group-I will play later this year to decide who moves down to Group-II .. As usual, read that very carefully, if you are not sure of how Davis Cup works - I know, everybody gets confused by Davis Cup, which is the fun part, actually.

In the other regions of the world, here are some interesting results - Canada lost to Colombia in their Group-I tie in the American Zone, in a surprise .. Nestor was there, but not Lareau (both are top-110 players - Columbia only had #271 and #519 ranked Hadad and Tobon!) .. Canada didn't even know who would be there by the weekend for the Davis Cup, as that depended on whether Lareau and Nestor would get into the San Jose ATP tournament draw and lose early enough, during the week :-) .. Nestor missed the draw by a spot and reached Cali, Colombia and Lareau played at San Jose .. Anyway, Simon Larose, Jocelyn Robichaud, and Fred Niemeyer played against Colombia who had Miguel Tobon and Mauricio Hadad .. By the way, I remember Fazal beating Larose in canada last year and losing in three sets to Tobon .. The key win was Tobon upsetting Nestor in the first singles .. Then Larose lost to Hadad before Nestor and Robichaud won the doubles for Canada to stay alive .. Then Hadad beat Larose (as Nestor was strangely rested) to clinch it for Colombia .. Jocelyn Robichaud won the dead singles in the end .. I am sorry, but Canada has no business losing to Colombia .. They would have played Chile in the world group qualifier next .. I thought I would mention it here to show how some treat Davis Cup, and how unexpected results occur .. India has always had the tradition of our best showing up if they can stand up and serve the ball, though .. Anyway, Chile was without the injured Rios, but their young brigade led by Nicholas Massu was enough to get over a Mark Knowles-led Bahamas (you might remember Massu coming to India in late 97, the last time they played a world group qualifier and lost to India - the way Massu has looked lately, I probably wouldn't want to play them now!) ..

In other news, the Woodies won the San Jose tournament doubles .. I believe they were defending a title there and their rankings wouldn't change much, individually .. They should move up to #3 in team ranks .. Wayne Black and Sandon Stolle won the Dubai title .. LP and MB will lose some 200 points off their totals as they didn't defend their points at Dubai last year, but their rankings won't change ..

More later, with new rankings, junior info etc.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Feb 15..