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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Mar 1, 1999

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Mar 1 Note-2

I don't think Nirupama ever went to Dubai .. That is surprising - I believe she would have made the direct entry there .. Anyway, there was a report from Bangkok after the final day about Niru saying she was feeling a bit weak in her win against Suwimol Duangchan of Thailand .. Will try to confirm if she is down with something.

Mar 1 Note-1

Leander is on one more week of vacation .. Here is the bottom half of the singles draw at the $50K+H challenger at Singapore:

 6-Marcos Ondruska (RSA)  vs    Marcelo Craca (GER)    \
   Gerard Solves (FRA)    vs    David Caldwell (USA)   / \
   Salvador Navarro (ESP) vs  Q-Oscar Ortiz (ESP)      \ / \
 3-Johan Van Herck (BEL)  vs    Mark Draper (AUS)      /    \ __ Final
 7-Jacobo Diaz (ESP)      vs WC-Mahesh Bhupathi (IND)  \    /
   Eyal Ran (ISR)         vs WC-Aisam Quereshi (PAK)   / \ /
   Alex Lopez-Moron (ESP) vs    Oleg Ogorodov (UZB)    \ /
 2-Alberto Martin (ESP)   vs  Q-Ishii Yaoki (JPN)      /

Mahesh plays doubles with Mose Navarra (I guess the tournament folks must have wanted him to play doubles - world #2 is always attractive - and he must have obliged, as they are giving him a wildcard into the singles - otherwise, it is a waste of time for him to play doubles there) and here is the doubles draw:

 1-M.Bhupathi/ M.Navarra    vs    B.Cowan/ W.Whitehouse \
   M.Ondruska/ J. VanLottum vs    Qualifiers/Qualifiers / \ __ Final
 4-A.Lopez-Moron/ S.Navarro vs    O.Ogorodov/ E.Ran     \ /
   A.Hamadeh/ A.Martin      vs WC-J.Bower/ J.Weir-Smith /

The singles wildcards went to Aisam, Mahesh and Wei-Jen Cheng of China (who has been in the top-20 for juniors and has been ranked after Aisam and Paradorn for for a while, but has never played in any of the tournaments in India, and I don't know much about him - this may be one of the first senior touraments for him) .. I believe MB only plays doubles today .. His singles match against Diaz should be on Tuesday ..

In doubles this week, Henman and Rusedski surprised everybody (and temselves too, as they said) by winning the title at the $800K London ATP indoors .. They beat Wayne Ferreira and Byron Black in the final .. Henman/Rusedski played together, basically to prepare for the Davis Cup tie against USA .. US will have a very tough time against these two .. Anyway, as for doubles rankings, there shouldn't be much change this week for LP, MB, etc ..

No news from Dubai, except that Wynne Prakusya is in the final round of quals being played today .. Niru was not in the qualifiers, and not in the partial schedule for Monday that I saw in Gulf-News, but she may be in the main draw.

I am not sure what Fazal's and Srinath's schedule is .. I will await news on where they play next.

Feb 28 Notes

Our trusted onsite fanclub correspondent (:-)) in Singapore, Kim Das, just sent this note on the $50K+H Singapore challenger (starting Monday) where Mahesh Bhupathi will be playing - Mahesh has a wild card as expected and sits on the bottom half of a particularly strong draw in this hardcourt affair. Luckily, the top half is where the sleepers are...Van Lottum heads the group with a #92 ranking and Motomura rounds it up at #223(direct acceptance that is). A lot of familiar names and faces lurking on the courts but I'm sure MB is looking to avenge the early exits both he and LP had last year. His first round will be the bigest hurdle till the quarters....his opponenent is the seventh seed, Jacobo Diaz (146). MB has that uncanny ability to draw a seeded player in the first round of these things...If memory serves me right he had the second seed last year! Jacobo is a primarily a clay court specialist (I believe) so hopefully that will work in MB's favor. Here is the bottom quarter of the draw: [(#7) Jacobo Diaz (146) vs (WC) Mahesh Bhupathi (274)] vs [(WC) Aisam Quereshi (593) vs Eyal Ran (224)], [Alex Lopez-Moron (167) vs Oleg Orodorov (189)] vs [Qualifier vs (#2) Alberto Martin (#106)] .. In doubles MB is partnered with Mose Navarra form Italy and they naturally are the top seed. They face Barry Cowan and Wesley Whitehouse in the first round. The order of play for Monday has not been posted as yet but they will fax it to me in the morning .. Thanks, Kim.

It seems like most of the top players who were at the Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) challenger this week will be there at Singapore next week .. Aisam Quereshi (PAK), Paradorn Srichaphan (THA), and Minh Le (Vietnamese from the USA?) had the wildcards at Vietnam this week .. Actually Aisam beat Rizvan Sabau (#190) in a 3rd set tiebreaker there, before losing in the second round to 7th seed Jacobo Diaz in three sets ! .. Paradorn had upset the 8th seed Van Garsse and was in the QF when I saw last .. Both Paradorn and Aisam certainly look to be the immediate future stars from Asia .. How about a Mahesh vs Aisam second round match ? :-) .. I am sure Aisam is dying to exact revenge for his loss to MB at the Asia Cup and Asiad and then to LP at the Calcutta challenger .. Both MB and Aisam have some tough customers to get past before that, though.

At Madurai yesterday, 4th seed Sandeep Kirtane had a grand double, winning the singles title over 2nd seed Vinod Sridhar in straight sets 6-4, 6-1 .. Sandeep had beaten top seed Vijay Kannan in the semis too .. He came back and beat the youngsters once more in the doubles final, where Sandeep and Saurav Panja beat Vijay Kannan and Vinod Sridhar .. Sandeep made Rs 36K total - Vinod made about 20K .. See results at the Madurai Goldflakes page ..

Today, both the Bangladeshi newspapers chose to drop the coverage of the junior international there - no idea how Radhika Tulpule and Pei Li Yang did in the doubles final .. The Bangkok Post reports that the second seed Suchanan Viratprasert (THA) beat the top seed Nicole Rencken (RSA) to win the girls' title .. Nicole had beaten 3rd seed Sheetal Gautam and Virat had beaten 6th seed Radhika in the singles semis.

Feb 27 Note-2

Yesterday's Gulf-News says that 7 players in the top-100 (Sarah Pitkowski,35, Natalie Dechy,43, Emilie Loit,59, Anne Kremer 70, Wang Shi Ting,79, Amelie Cocheteux,74, and Asa Carlsson,95) have confirmed their entries for the $75K Dubai women's challenger .. That means the original entry list, earlier announced to have closed at #129 has certainly fallen a bit .. Yesterday's Khaleej-Times (Dubai) reports that last year's champion, Kyra Nagi of Hungary (#209) is playing the qualifiers this time! .. The wildcards have gone to three Arab women - Selima Sfar (281, Tunisia), Bahia Mouhtassine (Morocco) and 15-yr old Feriel Esseghir (Algeria) .. They report Indonesia's Wynne Prakusya (#184) as one player in the qualifier, so I assume she is perhaps the top seed .. If so, Nirupama at #173 is in the main draw .. We will await further news ..

Forgot to mention that the National Games ended in controversy, with the hosts Manipur topping the points table in a photo-finish with Kerala who topped the Gold medal tally .. How does 52 G, 34 S and 22 B for Kerala be worth fewer points than 49 G, 24 S, and 39 B by Manipur ? .. What point system are they using ? [even a 5-4-3 system would place Kerala on top] .. Anyway, they say that one more bronze by Kerala would have made them the champions, but on the last day somebody (I guess you can figure out where his/her loyalty was :-)) managed to get the Kerala handball team disqualified from the semis, because a player from Kerala (Jose John) who was working somewhere else, couldn't be counted - Kerala alleges that would have disqualified a lot of teams ! Funny how it works .. See this report (Kerala 'robbed of' Championship) in the Telegraph, Calcutta .. The Kerala state Assembley was really up in arms and anguish, but it was all too late .. In any event, in my mind, my home-state won it .. Woof, woof .. :-) .. Brag, brag .. :-) .. I wonder how we can get some good athletes from Kerala to play tennis ? .. I don't know the answer .. Anyway, there is a small national tournament starting in Kochi, Kerala, on Monday (Rs 50K total money), according to the Indian Express .. Perhaps it's in reponse to AITA's call last year for state tennis Associations to conduct open tournaments - not sure.

Feb 27 Note-1

At the Gold Flake Aces circuit leg-1 in Madurai, Sandeep Kirtane beat Vijay Kannan in the semis, 7-5, 6-2, and Vinod Sridhar beat Saurav Panja, 6-2, 7-5 - they face each other in the final today .. In the doubles, Vijay and Vinod are up against Sandeep and Saurav in the finals too .. I think little circuits like this are a good idea - it gives a few of our top players (below the top-4) to play against each other and get some good fun and match practice, with perhaps enough money to just about handle their travel expenses .. The local players get to see some of the good national-level tennis and learn .. Other than Harsh Mankad, Mustafa Ghouse, Vasudev Reddy and Nitin Kirtane, most other top players are playing in this circuit .. See the results at the Madurai GoldFlakes page ..

In the Dhaka ITF junior international semis, Sheetal lost to the top seed Nicole Rencken (RSA) and Radhika lost to second seed Suchanan Viratprasert (THA) .. Radhika and Pei Li Yang beat Sheetal and Nida Waseem in the doubles semis .. See the Dhaka juniors page .. I had hoped for at least one of them to get an upset win in the singles semis, but it didn't happen .. So Sheetal finishes the 5-week subcontinental tour with 2 titles in Grade-4 tournaments (Colombo and Delhi), a final in a grade-4 tournament (Rajshahi), and two semifinals (Grade-5 Chandigarh and Grade-3 Dhaka) .. Not a bad showing, and her ranking after this week should be around #75 .. It's nice to see our juniors ranked in that range for two years in a row (Uzma was around #85 last year after this tour), and I am sure that Shruti and Radhika will continue the trend next year too .. If we keep producing players of that caliber year after year, we are in good shape .. With some coaching (and some good luck), we should see some of them making the Nirupama-style jump sometime (Niru was ranked as high as #28 in the juniors, after her ITF-sponsored trip to Europe - Uzma went up close to #60 after her trip to Europe) .. On the boys' side, Vijay Kannan reached top #60 rankings last year, but no 17/18-yr old has made a huge splash this year so far .. None of the boys played all five tournaments except perhaps Karan Doctor and AV Rao, who both have a year left (AV Rao is at #134 and Karan is at #180 right now) .. Kedar Tembe in his final year, started the year around #120 as our highest ranked player, had a couple of good tournaments, and kept his ranking at about the same .. Manoj Mahadevan was in the top-80 or so, as early as late 97 - had he continued in the juniors, he would have perhaps gone up inside the top-50 this year, which would have been his last .. 15-yr old Sunil Kumar made a big jump to #276 with the Chadigarh title, and he has a couple more years left too .. P. Vishal is at #234 and also has 2 years left .. We should be alright in the next two years with these players and a few others, and hopefully there will also be some surprises that develop in the future .. The same old question is - are they all getting the coaching and support for further development ?? .. Early rankings mean nothing, unless hard work is put in by the player (as well as the coach, if there is any!) ..

OK.. Back to regular ATP and WTA circuits for Mahesh, Niru, etc, next week .. More news on those things later.

Feb 26 Note-2

India finished the FED Cup trip well, beating Thailand 2-1 today .. So we end with 3 wins and a loss in 4 ties and at the second spot among five in the pool (that is 3rd/4th among the 10 nations) .. Chinese Taipei, who had won all 4 of their ties move on to the final tomorrow against South Korea who topped Pool B .. In today's matches, Monthika Anuchan couldn't do any thing against Uzma Khan, who raised her stellar Fed Cup singles record to 9-1 with an easy 6-3, 6-3 win .. Niru followed with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Suwimol Duangchan and won the tie for us .. In the inconsequential doubles match, Sai and Shruti lost to Marissa Niroj and Monthika Anuchan, 2-6, 6-7(4) .. India did at least as well as we could have realistically expected .. We remain in the regional group-I for next year .. Good job, Niru, Uzma, Sai, Shruti !

Feb 26 Note-1

At the Gold Flake Aces circuit in Madurai, the semifinals were all set after thursday, with a coupl eof nice matchups coming up - Vijay Kannan vs Sandeep Kirtane and Saurav Panja vs Vinod Sridhar .. Vinod had a good win over state-mate Manoj Mahadevan .. Manoj would probably be pretty highly ranked in the juniors if he had continued to play in the junior circuit this year, his last year of of eligibilty - he has chosen to hit the senior circuit - so far he's looked alright .. Sandeep had to go through a tough match against Jagdeesh Tanvar (a customs officer in Rajasthan, if I am not mistaken, who never really had the opportunity to play much earlier on, but is known to be a very tough fighter) .. The results are at the Madurai gold flakes page ..

Sheetal Gautam and Radhika Tulpule are in the semifinals of both doubles and singles at the biggest junior tournament in the subcontinent - the Grade-3 Dhaka ITF international .. Contrary to the confusing reports from the Bangladeshi newspapers earlier on, Sheetal is not the top seed there - pretty tough competition with South African girl Nicole Rencken (#62 in the world) and Suchanan Viratprasert (#75) of Thailand also there .. Sheetal at #85 is the 3rd seed and I believe Radhika at #185 is the 4th or 5th seed .. In the semis (Friday), Sheetal plays Nicole and Radhika plays Virat .. In doubles, Sheetal has continued with her partner at Rajshahi last week, Nida Waseem of Pakistan, and they are in the semis, and so is Radhika, who is playing with Pei Li yang of Taiwan .. Radhika, who has one more year remaining in the juniors, has come up very nicely, with her title at Chandigarh a couple of weeks back .. Sheetal, on the other hand is looking for a couple more wins (lot of points at stake here) to move up closer to top-70 in the world juniors and possible grand slam entries, etc .. It will be tough, as she is going up against Nicole .. By the way, I believe AITA has recommended her for the ITF junior developmental scheme to Europe .. In the past ITF had selected Nirupama and Uzma for such a tour, but ITF may have to make an exception (as in the case of Uzma last year) because she is now 17, which is perhaps a year more than what they prefer for the developmental squad .. Let us hope she gets it - if not, somebody needs to come up with some help for Sheetal to play a few tough junior tournaments .. On the boys' side in Dhaka, Indians have just not done that well - not too surprising though, considering the competition out there .. Akshay Vishal Rao and Karan Doctor went down in the second round - pity, I wanted them to get some good wins there .. Oh, well - they still have a year or two left in the juniors .. I haven't seen the complete first round results, but I don't think Kedar Tembe (currently our top-ranked junior in his final year) ever went there .. See all the results at the Dhaka juniors page.

Feb 25 Note-3

Nirupama is supposed to play at the $75K Dubai Challenger next week .. This was a $25K challenger last year, the first time they had a women's challenger there, and it has been upgraded now .. Niru was the top seed last year and had a first round loss there .. However, this time the field is much, much stronger .. The Gulf-News reported last Saturday that the early entry list closed at WTA rank #129 with #31 Sarah Pitkowski (France) as the top seed .. That is certain to change, as is usual in WTA .. May be due to the different withdrawal rules or something, compared to ATP, the WTA tournament entry-cut seems to fall a lot more from the early list by the time the qualifiers start (remember that the $75 Delhi challenger had a cut-off at #185 and it went down to #305 by the time the quals started..) .. Anyway, I will try to confirm if Niru has to play quals there - she may not be able to get there before saturday, since India is playing Thailand on Friday at the Fed Cup .. I expect her to make it into the direct entry at Dubai as of now.

Feb 25 Note-2

Yeah!! - Terrific win for Niru, Uzma and company out there at the FED Cup !! .. 3-0 over Indonesia .. Uzma started off with a darn good 6-4, 6-2 win over Irrawati Iskander Moerid, and then Niru showed the talented Wynne Prakusya (#184) that she's "not there yet"! .. 6-2, 6-3 .. Then our featured doubles team, Niru and Sai Jayalakshmi, won the match 6-2, 7-6(3) over Irrawati and Liza Andriyani [source: Hindu Newsupdate] .. I am happy to see that my doubts about how we would do in doubles in Manisha's absence have been proved unfounded .. By the way, this is also somewhat of a revenge for us, for the 0-3 loss Indonesia inflicted on us at the Asiad in the first round of the team events, where Niru lost to Basuki, Uzma lost to Prakusya and Manisha/Sai lost to Liza/Irrawati .. Alright, now we have Thailand left, and they should not pose Uzma and Niru much problems .. We seem to be assured of finishing in the top-4 out of the 10 teams, which is a very good showing for us, justifying our seeding too .. Uzma is now an impressive 8-1 in Fed Cup matches.

Feb 25 Note-1

Wire reports today (in All-India News online) says Calcutta has been picked for the Davis Cup tie against China in April first week .. That is a surprise, as Chennai, Mumbai, etc were mentioned in rumors earlier, and both LP and MB had said they would like to play on hardcourts and avoid traveling just before Chennai .. Not sure of the surface picked at Calcutta .. We should be getting more details soon.

AITA just announced that there will be a 4-week $25K satellites starting on May-17 for men, right after the 4-week women's circuit ends .. The legs will be at Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi in order - I think the masters week is also at .. Wow - this is terrific .. Looks like Kannan, Sridhar, Mankad, etc would never have to leave India to play internationals, if we keep bringing these futures and satellites .. Yeah, AITA has so far stuck to their promise of the "Spanish Model" .. We can perhaps expect slightly easier competition than in the futures, and that should let our players to pick up a few good wins and points too. Good stuff.

No news yet from the India vs Indonesia tie at the FED Cup today. Will know soon.

At Bangladesh, Sheetal, Radhika Tulpule, Sonal Phadke, etc have moved to final-16 of the junior ITF international ranking tournament on Tuesday .. Liza Pereira lost a tough three-setter, unfortunately .. I am not sure if all the boys' first round matches have been played yet - no news on Karan Doctor, etc .. Results are at the Dhaka juniors page (courtesy: Daily Star, Dhaka)

Feb 24 Note-2

LP and MB were reportedly in Delhi for a couple of days for some commercial shoot and a tennis clinic for young kids .. MB will get going to Singapore soon to play the challenger there .. LP comes to US at the end of next week to play quals at Indian Wells ..

At the FedCup today, Indonesia beat Thailand 2-1 .. Monthika Anuchan (THA) was able to upset 713 ranked Lisa Andriyani but talented 18-yr old Wynne Prakusya (top-10 in juniors a little while back, already in the WTA top-200, and touted to be the next Yayuk Basuki) tied it up and Indonesia then won the doubles .. India's tie tomorrow's against Indonesia will be very interesting and should rather even .. See today's results at the Fed Cup page ..

Forgot to mention the men's domestic circuit that is in full-swing at Madurai this week .. It's the Gold Flake Aces circuit, being organized by Tamil Nadu Tennis Association, with some decent prize money .. Anyway, quite a few top players from around the country are out there - Vijay Kannan, Vinod Sridhar, Sandeep Kirtane, Manoj Mahadevan, Saurav Panja, etc .. Not too many upsets so far, except for R Ramanand, a qualifier from Tamil Nadu beating the 5th seed Sansaruz Zaman, and now reaching the quarterfinal .. 7th seed Anjan Viplav went down today in the second round, but it's really not an upset as it was to Manoj Mahadevan who is unseede probably only because he is still only 17 and is starting on the senior circuit .. Vijay, Vinod and Sandeep are also in the quarterfinals .. See the Gold Flake Aces madurai results .. I believe this is the first leg of a multi-week circuit .. Looks like a good chance for match practice for everyone.

Also, a 4-week domestic circuit for women is again on the ITF calendar, for April-May ..Starting on April 19 at Mumbai and continuing through Bangalore, Delhi and Lucknow till May 16th .. Good to know that something is there for the women .. Though these 4-week circuits which give a maximum of only 5 WTA points (totally based on the final week) are not the best, I won't complain and say we should have futures .. Something is better than nothing ! - It is at least as good as four domestic tournaments worth Rs 2.2 lakhs in prize money each .. That is good news.

By the way, there was a somewhat critical comment in the guestbook page about the notes I put here - about whether they create problems for anyone, and also if I sound like putting opinions here to influence others' opinions .. I have no such agenda folks ! - this is a hobby for me - I have another job, you know :-) .. Anyway, I put in a long response out there that also explains some of the ground rules I follow carefully in what I say here .. Basically that I really try my best to be impartial and supportive of all players, and also try not to sound authoritaive without having personally seen any of the matches I report on - more so because I am just a compiler of info and not a tennis expert (never played the game much), though some may read the notes rather quickly and miss out on my carefully worded disclaimers that come up once in a while .. Anyway, if you have the time, check out the guestpage - It was actually nice to get some critical feedback .. The bulletin board is for everyone to voice their opinions - Why don't you all put opinions and criticism out there ? (thank you for all the kind words everyone put in there, but it shouldn't be just a goody-goody feel-good place!)

Feb 24 Note-1

First some sad news: Top doubles player Menno Oosting of Netherlands was killed in a car accident yesterday (was driving back home from France and was about 30 minutes away from home when the car hit a telephone pole, in the rain) .. Kempers/Oosting was a recent pairing I had a lot of respect for, but Oosting had a long career, playing Davis Cup for Netherlands, etc .. He has a French Open mixed doubles title, and several other titles .. Was as high as #20 in doubles and #72 in singles in his career .. He was a very good player, and I am sure the tennis community will miss him .. He was 34 and has three sons .. May his soul rest in peace.

Niru and company had a rest day today at the FED Cup .. They play Indonesia tomorrow (Thursday) .. This would be a crucial tie to ensure that we finish among the top-4 out of the 10 teams.

The Lipton tournament office told me yesterday that the early entry list they had released has changed a bit now with withdrawals etc, and Leander has made the cut .. So, he won't have to play qualifiers at Key Biscayne.

The ITF update yesterday says H.H.Cho of Taiwan beat Sheetal Gautam in the final at the Rajshahi (Bangladesh) junior international, but they did not have a score .. I had a note from her coach, Bhupathi Sr., that he had heard she lost in a close three-setter .. I guess that's fine - she is still continuing to have a terrific run. ITF still hasn't updated the doubles final, so I am not sure how Sheetal and Nida Waseem did in that .. On the boy's side, Mark Weaver of Britain won the title, and Weaver and Ahmed Wahla (PAK) won the doubles title .. It doesn't look like any of our boys had much success there (I am not sure if Kedar Tembe and Sunil Kumar ever went to Bangladesh, though).

More later with news from the Dhaka junior tournament which started Tuesday .. This is the highest graded tournament (Grade-3) in the subcontinent .. A few more top players from China, taiwan, Britain, Auystralia, etc are there .. Sheetal is still seeded tops in girls singles, though .. By the way, I am told AITA has poicked up the tab for Sheetal's airfare to Bangladesh, etc .. I say GO AITA !!! ..

Rumors are flying around aboout where our Davis Cup tie against China will be held - one newspaper mentions Madras and perhaps Delhi, and another says perhaps Mumbai .. Everybody seems to think that it will be on hardcourts, as LP and MB are scheduled to play hardcourts for several weeks before, and also at the Chennai tournament that follws Davis Cup .. Any added advantage from grasscourts may not be all that crucial against China .. LP and MB would definitely like to avoid excessive travel just before Chennai.

Feb 23 Note-3

Well, Taiwan is not #1 seeds for nothing! .. They just flat-out murdered India today at the Fed Cup .. Uzma lost the first match to Janet Lee (#104), 2-6, 2-6 - which was not a big surprise considering the youngsters' relative inexperience with such top-ranked opponents [.. but that may be Uzma's first loss in 8 fed cup matches?? - I will check on that] .. Niru's 0-6, 1-6 loss to Shi-Ting Wang (#79) in the next match is worse than I would have expected .. Then in the doubles, Niru and Sai Jayalakshmi lost 3-6, 2-6 to Wang and Lee - the fact that they did not even rest their top-2 for the doubles means that they wanted to fully take care of business against the second team in the pool .. Folks, that's what you call a complete domination-job! .. This basically takes out our chances for topping the pool, but that wasn't expected other than through miracles anyway .. I doubt anybody else in Group-A can beat the Taiwanese team, and they should be topping the group .. India should look for a placing in the top-4 though, which would require winning the next two ties against Indonesia and Thailand after a day of break tomorrow - Indonesia being the tougher foes.

Feb 23 Note-2

The entry list for Lipton (Super 9 - starting March 15th for two weeks) was released last week - and LP once again fell just out of that .. they used the March 1st rankings and and it closed at #86 .. LP was #94 then, though he came up to #84 the next week (but that doesn't help!) .. He will have to play qualifiers .. That is not a big problem at Lipton, however, as they have the qualies on Monday through wednesday of the first week and LP can get there after Indian Wells the previous week - LP should be ranked at least around 95 then, and hould be one of the top seeds in the quals, which means two wins would place you in the main draw .. Some of his best results in ATP tournaments have happened when he played the qualies, so this is not too bad.

Feb 23 Note-1

The new rankings show Leander and Mahesh one spopt down in team-rankings (these really change a bit during the early part of the year, as it restarts from 0 points on Jan 1s) .. They are at #3 now behind Bjorkman-Rafter and the Woodies .. The Woodies picked up another title last week, at Memphis .. The individual ranks remain the same at #3 for MB and #4 for LP .. Leander moved up a couple of spots to 81 in singles rankings, and MB is at 274 this week .. Srinath and Fazal stay at around the same ranks (377 and 575) ..

Mahesh has got a wildcard to play next week at the $50K+H Singapore challenger .. It would be a good time for him to pick up a few points - he has 32 points to defend from three Asian challengers over the next three weeks (9 falls off next week, 10 the week after and 14 on Mar 15th) .. If he does not move down too much, he will have a chance to play the qualifiers at Lipton in 3 weeks time .. We have a couple of our trusted fans out there in Singapore, and we should be able to bring results from there .. LP should be coming to US next week, and will be playing the qualifiers at the Indian Wells tournament over the Mar.6-7 weekend .. LP has 74 pts from Bangkok falling off on Mar 8th and he will be down to the 90s on March 8th, but he should be fairly highly-seeded at the Indian Wells qualies.

It appears that Fang Li of China is not at the Fed Cup, unlike what I said yesterday (the Indonesian newspaper report I saw must have been wrong), and that explains why China is not seeded #1 or #2 .. Li Ting and Ding Ding played the singles for China yesterday .. Looks like it's all for the taking for Taiwan (Chinese Taipei, TPE), if we follw the rankings .. No news on today's IND-vs-TPE tie.

By the way, the Bangladesh newspapers did not have a monday edition, due to a national holiday .. That means I have no idea if Sheetal won anothjer singles title in the International Junior event in Rajshahi on Sunday - she was in the final .. We will just have to wait for ITF to tell us sometime what happened .. This week the kids are all at Dhaka - from experience last year, Dhaka had much better coverage than Rajshahi .. This is a grade-3 event, the only grade-3 in the subcontinent, and thus has a few more foreign players in the entry list .. Sheetal Gautam at #82 in the world is still the top seed in singles, though.

Feb 22 Note-2

India started well today at the FED Cup in Thailand, beating Uzbekistan 2-1 .. Uzma started it off with a 6-2, 7-6(1) win over the UZB #2 player, Lilia Biktyakova .. She was down 1-4 in the second set but came right back and was "unbeatable after that", according to the PTI report in the Times of India .. Niru then played Natalie Nikitina, "made her run all over" and won the match in under an hour, 6-2, 6-0 .. Then we had our doubles team, probably experimenting a bit as we had won the tie already, Sai Jayalakshmi and Shruti Dhawan, who lost 3-6, 4-6 to Nikitina and Biktyanova .. Nirupama is reportedly in good form .. The big tie is tomorrow against Taiwan, the top seeds there .. #1 vs #1 would pit Niru against Shi-Ting Wang (#79) and the other match should be Uzma vs Janet Lee (#104) .. This will be very tough .. Niru *can* beat Wang if all goes right, but beyond that miracles need to happen .. I would have felt much better if we had a regular doubles team out there - Niru has not played with any of her team- mates (I keep hoping that not taking Manisha there wouldn't come back to haunt us badly) ..

In today's matches, the one that I found noteworthy was the 6-4, 6-0 shellacking of Indonesia's talented Wynn Prakusya (#198) by Shi-Ting Wang .. Ms.Wang seems to be in form .. Janet Lee struggled a bit and needed three sets to beat Liza Andriyani ranked as low as 713 ! .. May be that gives us some hope in Uzma's match against Janet (whom Niru had beaten at the Asiad - and also once earlier) .. No new withdrawals or anything there - China is full strength with Fang Li (#41), and beat Hong Kong 3-0 in the other group .. Korea won 2-1 over New Zealand, though Sung-hee Park (#163) got upset by Leanne Baker (392) ! .. All the results I have seen are at the Fed Cup Results page.

In other news, I am told the $50K Women's challenger scheduled for the last week of March is now cancelled .. This is just terrible news .. We have not had any futures for our women in over a year (and none is scheduled for any time soon either) and at least our women players could have played the qualies and got some point at Delhi .. Now that is also gone .. We have been doing a pathetic job when it comes to women's tournaments in India .. Now the domestic circuit is also gone. It is a mess.

More later with the news rankings, etc.

Feb 22 Note-1

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.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Feb 22..