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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Feb 23, 1998

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Feb 23 Note-2

More good news.. All three Indians who played today advanced to the second round at the $10K ITF Womens' tournament in Mumbai. The biggest surprise was wildcard Archana Venkataraman upsetting the 7th seeded Kelly Liggan of Ireland in straight sets. She certainly made full use of the last-minute wildcard that came her way after Uzma Khan decided not to come to Mumbai. Archana does not even have any WTA ranking and Kelly is ranked inside the top-550. Even better, Archana today also won a doubles match and qualified for the draw with sister Arathi Venkataraman. The other two singles winners were Jahnavi Parekh and Rushmi Chakravarti, both over higher ranked opponents. Nice to see jahnavi getting a good win. She has been missing from the scene for a while. Rushmi has an easy 50 minutes win, but she now has to face the #2 seed Abigail Tordoff of Britain in round 2. The other four Indians in the singles draw will all play tomorrow (Tuesday). Arati Ponnappa has the toughest match, against the #1 seed Yoriko Yamagishi of Japan, who became the top seed after Benjamas Sangaram of Thailand withdrew because she couldn't get on to a plane on time from Bangkok (strange excuse, if you ask me, but that's the report!) .. anyway, Yoriko has flown in today. See the complete results from Bombay.

Mahesh's points from last year's Tokyo challenger fell off the computer and he is down to #258 in the rankings. If he puts together a couple more wins at Vietnam, he will get most of those points back. He gets 9 points from today's win. In doubles rankings LP and MB dropped one spot each after Kafelnikov jumped ahead of MB with his title (with Wayne Ferreira) at the Antwerp tournament last week. LP's singles points remain at 280, and his rank is down a couple at 162. Team ranking remain at #3. The Woodies have just regained the #1 spot from Eltingh/Bjorkman, after their title at Memphis. Carbonnel/Roig has cracked the top-10 at #10 with their finals at Antwerp.

Feb 23 Note-1

Hot news (from coach Enrico "Rico Suave" Piperno, at Hochi Minh City, via Kim Das): Mahesh won his first round match at the Vietnam challenger, a couple of hours back, against Andrei Cherkasov (#170). 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. Nice to see him coming back strongly after disappearing in the second set .. I think this is his biggest win since he defeated Daniel Nestor (#128 then) at the LA Infinity, last July. He will now face the 3rd seed Alex Calatrava (#111) whom he took to three sets last week at Singapore .. Time to get revenge, Mahesh ! MB and Tramacchi will be playing their first round doubles match (probably tomorrow) against Oscar Ortiz and Alejandro Hernandez of Mexico .. Leander plays tomorrow .. Here is the partial draw in singles (will update the rest later, if more details come in):

1-Juan A. Marin (95)    vs.  Gerard Solves (196)        \
Qualifier               vs.  Attila Savolt (178)        / \
??                      vs.  ??                         \ / \
??                      vs.  ??                         /    \ _
Tran                    vs.  Qualifier                  \    /  |
Stephane Huet (200)     vs.  8-Oscar Burrieza (149)     / \ /   |
3-Alex Calatrava (111)  vs.  Frederic Fontang (196)     \ /     |
Andrei Cherkasov (170)  vs.  Mahesh Bhupathi (218)      /       | _
??                      vs.  ??                         \       |
??                      vs.  ??                         / \     |
??                      vs.  ??                         \ / \   |
??                      vs.  ??                         /    \ _|
7-Stephane Koubek (145) vs.  Andre Sa (168)             \    /
Leander Paes (160)      vs.  Peter Tramacchi (188)      / \ /
Marcio Carrlson (177)   vs.  Marcelo Charpentier (202)  \ /
Andrei Merinov (179)    vs.  2-Alberto Martin (109)     /

Not too bad .. LP has quite a winnable draw to get to semifinals and beyond, if he plays like he can .. How about an LP/MB final ?? ... :-) ... Go LP ! Go MB !

Feb 22 Note-3

Reetu Sethi from Bombay pulled an upset today, over Monique Le Sueur of South Africa to qualify for the $10K ITF women's tour event starting at Mumbai (I have been calling it a WTA event .. Technically it is an ITF event, as in the case of the ITF futures, though one gets WTA points there). Arathi Venkataraman, Sonal Phadke, and Joy Rodriguez also were in the final round of the qualifiers, but lost to foreign opponents. Joy Rodriguez did make it in as a lucky loser, along with Monique Le Sueur. That makes it 7 Indians including 2 direct enties (Rushmi, Jahnavi), 3 wildcards (Arati Ponnappa, Sai, Archana) and 1 qualifier (Reetu) and 1 lucky loser (Joy). I have posted their first round opponents' names in the ITF-Mumbai results page, along with the qualifier finals results.

Feb 22 Note-2

Some more news: Kim Das at Singapore just sent some info he got from Saigon. Mahesh is actually playing doubles also there. MB is playing with Peter Tramacchi (ranked #192 in doubles .. he is a pretty good doubles player, and normally plays with fellow Australian, Michael Tebbut) and they are seeded #1 in doubles. ATP may have a rule prohibiting top-10 doubles teams from playing challengers, as they have for singles, and LP/MB are not playing together.. It would be utterly unfair for the top-3 team to play doubles there, anyway .. We will try to squeeze out some draw information soon, if all goes well.

Feb 22 Note-1

Hot news: Leander Paes is drawn against #188 Peter Tramacchi and Mahesh Bhupathi is drawn to play #170 Andrei Cherkasov in the first round at the Heineken Vietnam Challenger in Ho Chi Minh City. Mahesh plays on Monday and Leander plays on Tuesday. #95 Juan Antonio Marin is the #1 seed (as he was at the Singapore challenger this week) and #109 Alberto Martin is the #2 seed. That's all the news I have now. Mahesh certainly has a much more beatable opponent than the #111 Alex Calatrava last week (whom he took to three tough sets), and I would say Leander also has a better opponenet (though Bernd Karbacher was ranked #186, he is a much better player than that, having been in the ATP top-50 quite consistently for a while before his injuries which he seems to have recovered from, now. Tramacchi is certainly beatable for LP).

Feb 21 Notes

No news from India. None about LP/MB in Vietnam, either.

Pacific Oceania is the other team, with India, who are promoted to Group-I for next year after the Fed Cup at Bangkok. They beat Tajikistan, 2-0, to finish #2 among the nine Group-II teams. In the super league of the separate Group-I competition, Korea defeated New Zealand to top the 9 teams and qualify for the world group. New Zealand, by the way, has a top junior doubles team (currently #1 or #2 in ITF junior rankings) in Leanne Baker and Rewa Hudson (..their win over the hosts Thailand in the subgroup league basically pushed Tamarine Tanasugarn's Thai team out of contention..). Watch out for those Kiwis in the future in Group-I .. The two teams demoted to Group II for finishing at #8 and #9 in Group-I are Philippines and Uzbekistan.

Some ATP doubles news: The Woodies are in the finals at the $700K Kroger St.Jude tournament at Memphis, Tennessee, US. The significant news there was that Eltingh/Haarhuis played together for the first time this year. They were seeded #2, and had a first round bye, but lost their first match in round 2, against the wildcards, Rios and Enqvist. Haarhuis had not played for a while due to having had a newborn baby recently (if I am not mistaken).. Elt/haar will get it back together soon.

Feb 20 Note-3

Indian women did their job of moving up from Group II, in style.  India beat Pacific Oceania in the Super League tie 2-0, to finish at the top of the 9-team Group-II .. Uzma Khan beat Paiao Short 7-5, 7-5 and then Nirupama Vaidyanathan defeated Tagifani So'Onalole 6-2, 7-5 .. And I am still wondering where Pacific Oceania is (I guess somewhere in the Pacific Ocean!), and what the heck they are doing beating teams from Malaysia and Singapore and reaching the super league, not to mention making Uzma and Nirupama earn their wins ! .. Anyway, India's record is 8-0 in singles (4 by Uzma and 4 by Nirupama) and 2-1 in doubles (all three played by Rushmi and Arati) in Bangkok.

The wildcards have been announced for the $10,000 Mumbai WTA circuit tournament next week. As I had expected, Sai Jailakshmi and Arai Ponnappa have got wildcards, but the surprise is that Uzma has decided to go to a Junior ITF tournament (of grade-3 level) in Bangladesh (source: Indian Express). I don't really understand the point, unless she wants to just keep beating up the juniors and racking up some ITF junior points. Anyway, that opened up the 3rd wildcard spot for Archana Venkataraman and it's a deserving selection.

Absolutely no news about Leander and Mahesh, who should be in South Vietnam by now, for the Ho Chi Minh City (old Saigon) challenger next week. Will have to wait for any of our sources to happen to get a call from them, to get any news... I doubt if we will find much newspaper coverage of that tournament, and we have no fan club members in Vietnam.

Feb 20 Note-2

Some US College tennis news: Manisha Malhotra (currently in her final semester at the Univ of Tennessee) has moved up from #14 to #8 in the lastest US national collegiate rankings. Her partner is Margie Lepsi. They have been in the top-10 last year but had fallen off earlier this year.  She moved up from #18 to #17 in singles as well. Expect to see her partnering Nirupama Vaidyanathan in some WTA doubles later this year once she finishes her studies at Tennessee. Nirupama has been starving for a regular doubles partner and has mentioned many times how Manisha would be a good match (so similar to what LP went through for 4-5 years knowing he would be a killer in doubles in the company of the right partner) .. Another one to make a move is Vikrant Chadha at the Univ. of Mississippi. He moved into the collegiate national top-50 at #50 for the first time.  According to the Ole Miss news, Head Coach Billy Chadwick said, "Vikrant's debut in the rankings reflects how hard he's been working. For us to accomplish our team goals, we will need all of the members of this young team to continue to improve." Vikrant is #3 in the Ole Miss team, currently ranked #3 nationally. He has had some injuries (back problems, I believe), and has not had that terrific a season so far, compared to how promising he looked at the end of last season with a long win streak .. He fared pretty badly at the three ITF Futures in India, as well, but he still shows some promise.

Feb 20 Note-1

Sorry for not posting any notes for a couple of days. Was having problems with Windows 95 at home (..yeah, that strange animal that is so loving when things are going alright and turns into a merciless beast once something goes wrong.. Then the beast turns loving again, and one has no idea what was wrong in the first place ! :-)). At least the beast attacked when nothing much has been going on. No real news for a couple of days anyway!

The Indian women have won the first tie in the super league at the Fed Cup in Thailand, and is pretty much ready to get selected for promotion from Group II to Group-I .. Out of the nine teams in Group-II, India, Pacific Oceania, and Tajikistan topped the three subgroups after the first 3 days of competition, and these three are in the super league. India defeated Tajikistan, 2-1 on Thursday. Uzma Khan b Eugenia Silantieva 4-6, 6-0, 6-0; Nirupama Vaidyanathan b Ioulia Roudkovaskaia 7-6 (7-4), 6-4; Rushmi Chakravati/Arati Ponnappa lost to Silantieva/Roudkovaskaia 6-4, 7-6 (7-0) (scores courtesy: The Nation, Thailand). If India beats Pacific Oceania on Friday, we get promoted back to Group-I (we were demoted to group II last year)..

In other news, Rushmi Chakravarti and Jahnavi Parekh are in the main draw for the $10,000 WTA tour event in Mumbai next week. Rushmi is 19th and Jahnavi is 24th out of 25 direct entries (their rankings around the 600-700 range in WTA were enough to squeeze them into the draw). There are three wildcards and four qualifiers to be determined.  One would expect that Uzma, and Arati Ponnappa (who are at the Fed Cup now) will be two of the wildcards. Players like Sai Jailakshmi and may be even the talented junior Shruti Dhawan would hopefully make it in through qualifiers. The highest ranked player there is ranked around #335. Nirupama is not competing, as this is almost a satellite/futures type event and she won't get much points (and it will be unfair to other players for her take part !)

The Baroda (ok, Vadodara) challenger is on, according to the latest report from Indian Express yesterday. There were doubts that it wouldn't come through, but AITA has announced the $50K+H challenger to be during the week after the Chennai Gold Flake Open in the 2nd week of April. This will be a grass challenger. Leander is confirmed for it, and I assume Mahesh will be there too. No Barodites (Barodans? Barodees), you won't see the top-3 doubles team in the world playing together there! ..

Feb 17 Note-2

India has moved on to the Super-league stage of the Group-II competition at the Fed Cup in Thailand. India defeated Iraq 3-0 and have topped the group-A of three teams (India, Pakistan, Iraq). The other team to have advanced is Tajikistan. One more team is to be determined after Wednesday

According to The Times of India, On Tuesday, Uzma and Nirupama took the first two singles against Iraq, and in the doubles the Arati-Rushmi duo trounced M. Saad and Lahmed 6-0, 6-0. Uzma defeated Mina Saad 6-0, 6-1, while Nirupama downed Israq Ahmed 6-0, 6-0 .. India thrashed Pakistan 3-0 on Monday, Umza Khan and Nirupama Vaidyanathan winning their singles in straight sets. Uzma defeated Haleema Rahim 6-1, 6-1, while Nirupama beat Nida Waseem 6-0, 6-1. In the doubles, Arati Ponnappa and Rushmi Chakravarthi beat Haleema and Nida 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1.

The Tuesday's results are as follows Group II Group A: India beat Iraq 3-0, Group B: Malaysia beat Singapore 3-0, Group C: Tajikistan beat Kazakhstan 2-1. Group I Group A: Chinese Taipei beat Uzbekistan 3-0, Group B: Korea beat Hong Kong 3-0, Group C: Thailand beat Philippines 3-0 .. (source: The Bangkok Post) .. So Malaysia in Group-II and Thailand in Group I are trying desperately to stay alive after their losses on Monday, and their fates will be decided on Wednesday when they await the results of the 3rd league match in their groups. Thailand is almost sure to miss the boat as New Zealand is ready to move on from their group. Pity for the home team, who have such a plight despite having Tamarine Tanasugarn in their team (she won both her matches, but that upset loss to NewZealand on Monday in their second singles did them in). I think these 3-team leagues are a farce, unless one team is so clearly dominant over the other two (in which case, why bother with the league matches?). You need a minimum of 4 teams to get any reasonable results ..

Feb 17 Note-1

Double-whammy.. Such a bummer.. Ouch, it hurts.. but life goes on. Both lost. Here is the report from a dejected (and we can understand) Kim Das who was planning on watching some more matches and sending us reports. He and Arvind Kumar stayed on till 1 am to bring us the sad news. Kim says:

What can we say ? .. There will be better days.. And, soon, I am sure. Off to Hochi Minh City (or however you spell that place.. let's just call it climb-back-victory city !) next week ... Thanks, Kim. Sorry you couldn't see more of them. Wait till October, they will be back there in Singapore for the big tournament.

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 !