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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the week ending on Feb 27, 2006
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2006)

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Feb 27 Notes

Fabulous work by Neha, Shikha and Prakash in qualifying into the main draws of tour events today .. In the matches at the $600K Tier-II Dubai WTA and $380K Las Vegas ATP,

[Q3] (9) Shikha Uberoi (IND,160) d. (6) Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR,117) 36 63 63
[Q3] Neha Uberoi (USA,333) d. Elena Baltacha (GBR,216) 63 67(5) 63
[Q3] Prakash Amritraj (IND,241) d. (5) Brian Vahaly (USA,164), 26 63 61

Impressive show by all three to ho9ld their nerves and finish off the job in three-set matches! .. The first round matches tomorrow.

The new rankings have come out and there is a new #1 on the men's side - Rohan Bopanna, ranked 230 .. Prakash is at #241 and Harsh is at #270 .. HM lost the points from the satellityes last year in UK and dropped 48 spots today ..

Feb 26 Notes

OK, now some good news .. Prakash Amritraj, and the Uberoi sisters have all reached the final round of qualies, at the Las Vegas ATP and Qatar WTA, respectively, today! .. Scores: ..
Prakash Amritraj (IND,246) -- [Q1] d. (WC) Ryan Gormley (USA,NR) 61 62 .. [Q2] d.(3) Rok DeVoest (RSA,149), 63 36 63 ..
Neha Uberoi (USA,341) -- [Q1] d. Ekaterina Dzehalevich (BLR,283), 60 62 .. [Q2] d. Tian Tian Sun (CHN,122), 61 63 ..
Shikha Uberou (IND,161) -- [Q1] 9th seed, bye .. [Q2] d. Andreea Vanc (ROM,NR) 62 63 ..

Prakash just pulled off a big upset over DeVoest, who made a second set comeback on him in a two-hour match .. PA could not convert a couple of match points at 5-2 in the third and then held his nerves very well to save three break points while serving for the match at 5-3, to pull through ..  2 hour match, and the key stat was that Kash saved 13 of 16 BPs on him and converted 4 of 8 he had .. He faces 5th seed Brian Vahaly (USA,162) tomorrow morning, which will be a tough match ..

Neha's two wins have been absolutely amazing because of the way she completely dismiantled players muchhigher ranked than her! .. Coming on the heals of the great show last week at Bogota, I think Neha is really beginning to create the kind of noise that we have all been waiting for (and knew would be coming!) .. Her Q3 is against Elena Baltacha (GBR,221) ..

Good to see Shikha having a quiet match .. She was to play the 8th seed Kyra Nagy at first but the draw had to be redone in the last minute and Shikha got a seeding and a bye .. She now plays 6th seed Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR,142) in the Q3 ..

At the $15K USA F4 futures, Mankad got some consolation from winning a doubles title yesterday .. Here are the scores -- [R1] (1) H.Mankad/ Jeremy Wurtzman (USA) d. Daniel Garza (MEX)/ Carlos Palencia (MEX), 60 76(5) .. [QF] d. Michael Quintero (COL)/ Daniel Wendler (AUS), 76(3) 61 .. [SF] d. (4) Henry Adjei-Darko (GHA)/ Adriano Biasella (ITA), 64 75 .. [F] d. Stephen Mitchell (RSA)/ Izak Van der Merwe (RSA), 36 63 63 ..

Feb 23-25 Notes

Sorry for a late update .. Partly because I was busy, but partly because I was rather upset at nothing much good happening in the last 3 days ..  But there is good now with Prakash, Neha and Shikha recahing the final qualifying rounds of tour events .. There was also some good news with Harsh winning a doubles title in Texas, though he had gone down in the singles earlier.

First For quick update, after an R1 walkover, MB and Moodie went down in the QF at the Rotterdam ATP to Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel, 57 67(4) on Friday .. At the same place, LP and Damm had gone down in the R1 earlier .. Following the singles R2 loss at Dubai, Sania played two doubles with Maria Vento Kabchi (VEN) but could not go past the QF, losing 36 26 to the 3rd seeds Hantuchova and Sugiyama .. They had won the R1 by a 36 46 score over Kirilenko and Myskina on wednesday .. Yesterday in the qualies for the $25K+H Wolfburg challenger in Germany, Karan Rastogi lost to Clint Thomson (AUS), 64 26 36 .. Harsh Mankad, still not hitting a stride in his singles in his game, lost on wednesday in the R1 at the USA F4 futures to Johan Brunstrom (SWE), which is really a disappointing loss - what cab you do? -- when you are in a slump you are in a slump! .. HM has withdrawn from next week's USA F5 futures to do some tests on his knees - he had played five weeks on the trot and needed to be careful .. At the Bogota WTA where Neha had earlier qualified in and lost in the main draw, she played doubles also .. She played with Maria Frnando Alves (BRA) and went down to the secon seeds Agnes Szavay (HUN) and Jasmin Woehr (GER) after a tough fight, 76(3) 26 26 ..

Finally, none of the Indians reached the semifinals at the Delhi satellites, despite 4 of them being in the QFs on Thursday .. Nice run by Navdeep and Vishnu, but nothing much else to talk about .. In fact, Indians lost the doubles semis also on Thursday and went 0-6 in the matches there .. See the scores in the Delhi satellites leg-1 page ..

Also, Sania withdrew from next week's Doha WTA to watch her elbow, as well .. Generally a terrible time till yesterday when the Uberois and Prakash started doing something and Harsh won a doubles title.

Feb 22 Note-1

Mahesh and Moodie advanced to the QF today at the Rotterdam ATP without sweating, getting a walkover from Novak Djokovic (SCG) and Andreas Seppi (ITA)

Excellent work by J.Vishnu Vardhan (IND,968) and Navdeep Singh (IND,1048), as the two unseeded players reached the PQF of the first leg of the Indian satellites today .. Wildcard Vishnu upset Torres (ITA,647) with a touogh third set tiebreaker, and Navdeep won a 75 76(7) upset over Jacob Melskens (DEN,803) .. The only two seeded Indians, Vishal Uppal and Vinod Sridhar, have also reached the QF .. Vijay Kannan and wildcard Divij Sharan fell in the second round to the 6th and secopnd seeds in very one-sided matches though .. See the Delhi satellite leg-1 page for all the scores.

Feb 21 Note-2

Terrible day today .. At the $1M Dubai Tier-II WTA, [R1] Sania Mirza (IND,36) l. Martina Hingis (SUI,50) 36 57 .. At the $175K Tier-II WTA in Bogota, [R1] (Q) Neha Uberoi (USA,351) l. (Q) Sara Errani (ITA,293), 67(4) 36 .. At the $750K Rotterdam ATP, [R1] (1) L.Paes/ M.Bhupathi l. Mario Ancic (CRO)/ Thomas Johansson (SWE), 67( 7) 67(5) ..

Sania's problem today was that the bandaged elbow was reporrtedy bothering her a lot (she said later that she is expecting to withdraw from next week's Doha WTA) .. She was unable to serve with newer adjustments made in Australia and was reverting a bit to the earelier mechanics .. Anyway, by my count, in all but one service game she was down facing 15-40 break points .. Saved a couple of those game and broke Hingis a lot of times too (once when Martina was serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set to prolong it) .. She did hit quite a few of those "ooh-aah" shots but this seemed like a losing battle against a superb player who is among the best WTA has ever seen in making variations .. Point-wise, this match was still quite close, though .. About 75 to 85 points ..  Sania's ranking will drop to about 45 next week but she has hardly anything to defend for 3-4 months and should be able to do well once the injury goes away and she spends another couple of months working on that serve and adding other little wrinkles to her game ..

Neha's match in Bogota was a true heartbreaker .. She was up quickly by two breaks at 4-1 and 5-2 .. Served for the first set three times, at 5-2, 5-4 and then after another break of Errani at 6-5 .. Neha had at least TEN set points which all went wasted .. Not sure what was going wrong .. In a way it was impressive to see her come back again and again after dropping three or four SPs in a row to earn more set points, but in the end she just could not close the set, as she got broken after long deuce-filled battles in each of the last three service games of the first set .. It was to be expected that she would lose spirit and the match would slip away after that - and it did .. There are times in one's tennis career when one just has to stay strong, suck it up and laugh it off .. This is one of those times for Neha .. Of course she could have won the match and should have, but heck, it happens.  She should look at the three very nice wins she had in the qualies and look to the next match .. Just remember the old Texas saying -- "the breaks even up - the sun don't shine on the same old dog's rear end all the time!" ..

I have no details of the Leander doubles match -- but the doubles tour has become quite a minefield these days .. First of all, there are quite a few of the singles players (some very good at doubles like Ancic) who are playing at least a round or two with some seriousness .. Then there are all these new rules of no-AD scoring and supertiebreak and all that. Many matches are becoming toss-ups, with one or two points seemingly to turniung things around - other than in the grand slams where they would still use the older more elaborate version.

At the $15K Brownsville futures in Texas, USA, Harsh Mankad and Jeremy Wurtzmnan won the R1 yesterday with a 60 76(5) win over Daniel Garza and Carlos Palencia of Mexico .. Harsh plays the singles first round against a former top-600 player on return from injury - wualifier Johan Brunstrom (SWE,932) tomorrow at 3 pm.

At the Delhi satellite leg-1, two wildcard youngsters, Navdeep Singh and J.Vishnu Vardhan had impressive first round wins .. Navdeep, whose getting a wildcard I complained about (shows what I know!) fully justified the trust in him by pulling off a fabulous 61 57 61 upset of the third seed Philipp Mullner (AUT,477) .. Vishnu got a gift as the 5th seed Briuan Wilson was a no-show and beat the lucky loser, Dmitri Makeyev by a 63 67 63 score .. Unfortunately, Vivek Shokeen aned Sanam Singh could not get past their opponents .. Another wildcarded youngster, Divij Sharan also had a good win over qualifier Kondo ..Arindam Datta lost in straiught sets once again - but what is new? .. Six Indians are in the final-16 .. See the Delhi satellite leg-1 page for all the scores.

Feb 21 Note-1

Sania's match against Hingis is at 7 pm Dubai (8.30 pm India) .. I am told there is no TV coverage in India .. Do come to our chatroom (link above), as we should have some score updates there .. We should also have score updates from Bogota, Colombia, as Neha Uberoi (USA,341) plays Sara Errani (ITA,293) at exactly the same time (10 am in the morning there) ..

The world #2 ranked team, Leander and Damm, get back on court today after a 2 weeks break since their runner-up finish at the Australian Open - they play the featured center court doubles match today at the Rotterdam ATP at about 5 pm ..

The $25K+H India-1 satellite (all four legs at Delhi) first leg main draw started in Delhi yesterday .. Only two main draw singles matches were done yesterday with 7th seed Vinod Sridhar winning and Ashutosh Singh falling .. I have added all the results in the satellite first leg page .. Kamala Kannan, who runs into the 6th seed Julien Maes (FRA) was the only Indian to make it in through the qualies, which turned out to be one of the toughest I have ever seen for an Indian satellite circuit .. One thing that left me very sad was that 20 year old ArunPrakash Rajagopalan, Asian Junior champion in 2003, could not even get a wildcard to the qualifying rounds and ended up missing it .. That is unpardonable, when we consider that there were seven wildcards handed out to the qualies and some went to those like Partha Bhattacharya and Vikram Chitkara who are eminently undeserving of such largesse from the organizers .. Heck, APR should have got a wildcard to the main draw if you ask me -- and two of those four went to Arindam Datta and Navdeep Singh .. The former is utterly undeserving of any wildcard to any event and the latter (a good player) has got a lot of wildcards so far and could have been asked to play qualies this time ..

It is nearly scandalous that this Arindam Datta has got some 10 wildcards in to Indian events in the last 18 months .. He is 3-24 in pro matches in the last two years, the three wins coming in the Q1 round of some futures! .. And he has won just THREE sets total in those 24 losses .. Are you kidding me? .. Who the heck is he, and why does he continue to get wildcards? .. He got wildcards to all three possible rounds of the last India satellites to the main draw .. He got MD wildcards to the Inda F3 and F4 futures last year .. The previous time he played in India was in late 2004, when he again got three wildcards to the first three legs' main draw .. I am really quite reluctant to talk whine about wildcards in the futures and satellites, and waited patiently for ever in bringing this up .. But when I see that a very deserving player like ArunPrakash has missed outr on even a qualifying wildcard and guys who should have quit tennis a long time back, like Arindam Datta are getting wildcards, I have to bring this up .. I hope AITA will get to the bottom of this matter and put it to rest .. If we see Arindam getting one more wildcard, I am reporting somebody to CBI :) .. Kidding, but this is crazy ..

I hope you can see my anguish after having waited for 4-5 years to see this talented youngster APR getting a break somewhere ..  He was a junior #1 a few years back .. Then somebody advised him not to play ITF juniors (or he had financial problems - not sure) when he was about 16 .. Tried a few futures and satellites too early .. Fell out of national reckoning .. Then somehow he ended up at the Randi Mani Academy in New York, and they started helping him .. Suddenly, when he was just turning 18 in 2003 he starts playing in the ITF circuit in the US and wins big, taking the international grasscourts title at Philly etc .. From out of nowhere he brought up his junior ranking into the top-60 in some 4 months flat .. He finished his junior career in 2003 with a smashing title at the Asian Juniors with wins over those like Somdev Varman, going up to junior #35 .. He beat players who would soon be ranked junior #1,  #4 and #12 during those few months of junior play .. Then we start waiting to see how he would get going in the pros .. And we hear all these rumors that the academy was not thinking of letting him play the "lowly" events and wanted to break him in with a bang into ATP events or something .. He was "under contract" it seems, but he hardly plays anywhere .. All this while, there is no talk of the guy in India either - and except some of us diehards in the forum, nobody even rememberes the guy .. Then we heard last year that he has left from New York and he is back in India .. Heard he got injured and there was some problem with health insurance or something like that .. I am just not sure of any of this, because I have not had even indirect contact with the youngster or anybody who knows him .. Then we heard of a similar case last year when he could not make the futures or satellite draw in India .. Man, how many things can go wrong in a talented youngster's career ? ... I am sorry, we do not have a factory assembly line for top talents in India, and we cannot afford to waste talents like this ..

Somebody needs to get this guy some help and while we are at it, satellite wildcards would be a nice start .. I guess I may have upset some people in Indian tennis with that harangue .. I hope I have not caused the young man more trouble with the outburst, and hopefully nobody would now have ego issues in going back and trying to see what we can do to help this guy .. I don't know him or any of his people at all - and this is all just me talking (with the support of some of us the other APR-optimists in the forum) ..  Not that APR is destined to become a Sampras or anything - but we ought to try to see what he can be.

In any event, Arindam Datta should stop getting wildcards .. I am normally not interested in the blame game, I really don't know how he is getting WCs, and I really don't want to know any details either [Heck, he managed to get WCs even in Europe, so he has some magic, if yuou know what I mean :)] .. Just fix this issue and I will shut up and just give kudos to everybody like always do when things are done right!

Feb 20 Notes

There is a news report today that Leander Paes was in Mumbai and has decided to have the next Davis Cup tie, against Pakistan in early April, at the CCI club courts in Mumbai on grass .. It is great to see the Davis Cup move to a new place .. I have criticized LP and AITA quite a bit her and in our forum for not moving the Davis Cup ties to different venues, and I have also been after the Mumbai tennis folks for a while about their not bringing big events to the big city ..  I guess I get both my wishes with this! .. It hasn't made to sense to me why Mumbai has been unable to conduct a men's challenger for years or a Davis Cup for decades - though the latter was probably never really their fault! .. I have been getting sick of the Kolkata-Delhi shuttle service for years and we have all complained for a while in our forums about Davis Cup "not moving south of the Windhyas" .. It will help to take Davis Cup to more cities and get the fans (and more importantly the aspiring kids in those cities) to have some fun rooting for India with tricolor on their faces and drum beats in the stands - something the fans in Delhi seem too jaded to do these days, reportedly! .. What better than a tie against Pakistanis? ..

I don't think there are any grass courts at CCI currently, though .. They may have to put in some grass in a hurry, I suppose .. It is a no-big-advantage type of decision against Pakistan who also have grass courts as their preferred surface .. I had always believed that it is worth trying a hard-slippery clay surface like at the Madras Gymkhana in Chennai - at least Mankad and Bopanna are comfortable on that surface, and it is good to have some other strange surface options with us - not just grass .. On the other hand, the Pakistanis are not much worse than us in playing on clay either; so who knows! .. Sometimes I feel that we overstate how good our players are on grass though .. PA, RB and HM are certainly very comfortable on grass and will generally beat anybody under top-200 without grass experience, but against very good grasscourt players, we are yet to see them pulling off upsets like LP and MB have done in the past .. Aisam Qureshi is a very good grass player and Aqeel Khan generally seems to perform much better on grass than on other surfaces .. Hvaing said that, Aqeel did look quite alright at Madras Gymkhana last year when he played the futures (which Mankad won; but Aqeel had a top-350 win and reached the QF there) .. I guess the bottomline is that generally no surface is particularly more advantageous than any other, if we are playing Pakistan .. So, this is a safer pick - in that we would otherwise take Prakash out of the equation if we pick anything but grass or hard .. I might have preferred a hardcourt surface actually, come to think of it, for this tie.  But no big complaints - and as you can see, I am quite indecisive on what would work this time .. We will trust LP's judgment I guess .. Heck, the fan fervor should be enough for our players to beat Pakistan even if we play the match on moon-rocks .. If you can't get up and ready to beat the little bug-country next to us on whatever surface, you shouldn't be playing Davis Cup for India .. Go Leander and party, get going with your plans ..

Leander and Mahesh are both at the $782K Rotterdam ATP this week -- [R1] Mahesh Bhupathi/ Wesley Moodie (RSA) vs Novak Djokovic (SCG)/ Andreas Seppi (ITA) .. [R1] (3) Martin Damm (CZE)/ Leander Paes vs Mario Ancic (CRO)/ Thomas Johansson (SWE) ..

Sania Mirza is set to play the featured high-octane evening match at the Dubai WTA tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7 pm against Martina Hingis .. Sania is in the doubles draw there with Maria Vento Kabchi (VEN) and they play a tough first round (probably wednesday) against Maria Kirilenko and Anastasia Myskina of Russia ..

Sania moved up to a career-high #73 in doubles in today's rankings, with the doubles title at Bangalore .. She is #36 in singles .. Making nearly a 100 spot jump in the singles ranking was Isha Lakhani with her R2 at the Bangalore WTA - Isha moved up to #388 ...

The big news today is the impressive run by unseeded Neha Uberoi through the qualifying rounds at the Tier-III Copa Colsanitas Seguras Bolivar WTA (yeek, that is a mouthful for a tourney title!) .. In Bogota, Columbia .. 341-ranked Neha upset the 258-ranked 4th seed in the qualies, Tina Schiechtl of Austria, by a stunning 61 62 margin .. That is the third straight set win by Neha in the qualies.  She also got some help in the main draw, as she now runs into a fellow qualifier, Sara Errani (ITA,293) .. I am sure she has it in her to upset Errani for her first WTA main draw win too .. Go Neha!! ..  I assume her match will be on wednesday - not sure .. This is the second time that she is qualifying into a WTA main draw; she had done that at the Hyderabad WTA two years back ..

Harsh Mankad (IND,222), in the last week with a top-225 ranking (he is expected to drop to about #270 next week after 38 points fall off from his current total of 159), is at the $15K USA F4 futures in windy Brownsville, Texas .. He is the second seed and faces a qualifier Johan Brunstrom (SWE,932) in the first round .. In doubles, Harsh is playing with Jeremy Wurtzman (USA) and they are seeded first .. Their R1 is against a Mexican pair, Daniel Garza and Carlos Palencia .. HM will play two weeks of futures and then will try to see if he can get into the qualies of the big Indian Wells masters.

Rohan Bopanna (IND,231) was to be at the AUS F2 futures in Wollongong this week, but seems to have withdrawn .. I saw the draw just now and he is not in it .. Will need to find out what is up with Bops.  Hope he is alright .. Looks like the Kyoto challenger in 2 weeks is the next one for Bops (and also Prakash) ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on Feb 20, 2006 ..

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