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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Mar 15, 2004
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2003)

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Mar 15 Note-1

LP's and MB's first round doubles matches are scheduled for late afternoon today at the $2.9M Indian Wells Masters .. As I have a class to teach at that time, I will have to skip going there .. Hopefully one of our California friends will be there and give us some match reports.

AITA's Sunil Yajaman got inspired to write an article on Somdev Dev Varman and his heartening show last week .. Take a look at this article .. Good job, Sunil! - at least you did something for the youngster who deserved much better froim the Indian press than he got.

Yes, I am absolutely mad at the Indian newspapers for seemingly stopping their sports news operations completely because of the cricket series against our little neihgbour "bug" country .. How silly India looks when it comes to cricket, is what makes me mad .. Yes, we are all cricket fans, but  do we have to act like we are all fools drunk on cricket? .. And why do we keep giving so much importance to our bug neighbour? .. If we were playing one of the best teams in the world like an Australia, I could understand .. Pakistan is not that good (and if we lose to them, we are probably not as good as we think we are, either!) .. Get a grip, people .. The Times of India online has not put up a single tennis story since last Tuesday .. The Telegraph, that normally coveres some tennis from Kolkata chose to skip some of the days of the futures (an event conducted well by Jaideep Mukerjea and others there) there and relegated it to "In the City" snippets .. Here we have one of the most notable events - to use PK Basu's rundown in our forum, on par with Mankad reaching the US college #1 in 2002, Bopanna reaching the Asian championship final in 2002, Sania's wimbledon junior doubles last year, etc .. We just had the youngest futures winner, and Somdev's work went totally unnoticed .. The Hindu online covered most of the days well, but even they slipped in their coverage and skipped a day, something almost never done by that quality newspaper once it starts covering an event ..

We have a horrific event in Madrid, and the newspaper headlines are about what some silly Pakistani thinks about how good Sachin is .. We have an election about to happen, but the news is about two Gandhi kids watching cricket in Pakistan .. We have a football world cup qualifying match last month and it is not even telecast live - shocking as it would be, to any sports fan in the world .. Then the country looks even sillier when the TV broadcasters can't figure out how to cover some cricket matches and make money together .. They fight like kids, running to the Supreme Court! .. Are you kidding me? .. Doesn't anybody find it absolutely shameful what kind of a bananas republic we have become when our Supreme Court has to mediate in this? .. Where will this madness end?

I took a look at the Malayalam newspapers to find something on whether India's football world cup qualifying tie with Oman in two weeks in Kochi had been moved out of there due to field problems .. Nary a mention of anything -- these are newspapers that till two decades back hardly talked cricket at all in the then football mad Kerala (nobody over age 30 knew much about cricket in Kerala except in Thiruvananthapuram and Thalasseri then) .. Kerala newspapers which used to cover football, volleyball and athletics with a passion now have reporters in Pakistan and have colums written by washed up old cricket players .. Kerala sports seems effectively DEAD thanks to this silly cricket madness, and many other parts of India are no different .. My 75 year old grandmother, whose husband was a university level football player once and knew how the old man used to detest cricket, now sits and watches ODIs .. We have become a country ODing on ODIs .. Give me a break, will you all? ..

Anyway, as my press friends know, my complaint is not against the tennis correspondents themselves - they cover Indian tennis with some passion, but the editorial desks at these newspapers are another story .. The editors know where the money is, and that is in cricket, and the press responsibility goes out the window!

Back to tennis --- I have posted some match reports in our forum thread about seeing Sunitha Rao and Neha Uberoi at the Orange challenger here in Southern California yesterday .. Sunitha pulled an upset and Neha went down against a seed.

Our juniors are at the big Malaysia grade-1 ITF this week .. Sanaa, Madura and Punam on the girls' side, and Karan, Divij, Rupesh, Navdeep and Sanam on the boys' side .. Tushar and Tara are not on the list - I suppose they will be joining for the later events.

Mar 14 Notes

Who woulda thunk? .. Here was a teenager playing his first claycourt futures, who was coming off some time away due to illness - and we though he would be in bad shape, as he felt he was not ready to play the Delhi futures two weeks back .. But Somdev Dev Varman had other ideas .. He completed his 5th upset in a row and completely took out the 4th seed Yordan Kanev (UKR,458) by a 64 62 score to win his first title and become the youngest Indian to ever win a futures .. The only other Indian with a claycourt futures title is Srinath Prahlad who won the Indore futures in 2001 (Sri also had a satellite leg title on clay in 99 and a couple more clay finals as well) .. This is nothing short of an incredible show by Buji, especially how dominating his wins have been against much higher ranked players .. He gets 12 points to take his total to 20 .. His ranking will rocket up by nearly 300 spots to about #685.

The most impressive thing is how he beat five foreigners with good clay credentials - two Indonesians, a Bulgarian, a French and an Ukranian ..  Here is a list of some of the top players Buji has beaten in the last 10 months .. Todor Enev (#283), Aisam Qureshi (#306), Orest Tereshchuk (#345),  Yordan Kanev (#458), Jonathan Erlich (#473) .. In terms of top-600 quality players, the wins over Febi Widhiyanto, Prioma Simpatiaji, Ajay Ramswami etc would qualify .. That is a very impressive record .. The young man has always had the proverbial "fire in the belly" that I have always written about, he has the ability stay focused and work hard and he has the talent and tools .. I think we have got a good one in Buji .. Go dude go!

Well, enough of feeling good .. This is time for action .. Time for AITA to come through (RIGHT NOW!) with some funds to get the guy on tour before he loses steam .. He is the first once since Srinath and perhaps Mankad with the game and attitude needed to win on clay .. He should go to Europe and play against top quality players .. That he beat a couple of good European players this week on clay (and I am told the Saturday club claycourts are actuallly close to red clay and this goes a sa true clay win) is an indication that he may do well on that surface .. I am not saying that Somdev is a claycourt specialist - he is actually quite an allcourt player, with pretty good grass and hardcourt skills in volleying and creativity like most Indian players - that is natural for our players anyway .. But what you learn on clay only helps on other courts and his best education would be to play in Europe SOON .. While we are at it, let us also send him down to the Sanchez academy in Spain or Brett Academy in Italy or somewhere for a  short stint for some adjustments on his game .. No monkeying around .. The pro tour does not wait for anybody - and we need to move fast when a player is doing well .. Need to think big .. I believe Buji already does, but we need everybody else to think big and come through for him.

The Indian Wells schedule today does not have LP or MB playing .. By the way, 18 yr old Sunitha Rao is here in southern California, playing the qualies for the $50K Orange challenger .. She was ot get a wildcard into the qualies, but made the draw directly .. Neha Uberoi (USA) got a wildcard .. #262 Sunitha plays #201 Marie Eve Pelletier (CAN) and #398 Neha plays #185 Shuai Peng (CHN) in the qualies first round today.

Mar 13 Notes

"Buji" is among the very few players in India with the guts to list "Clay" as the favorite surface .. Well, he was not joking when he gave that for his profile at the ITF site .. The teenager reached his first futures final today at the $10K ITF "ONGC" Kolkata futures .. SomDev "Devastator" Dev Varman was in top form once again today as the wildcard entry pulled his 4th consecutive upset, 62 63 over Jordann Doble (FRA) .. His third straight-sets win in a row .. He has become the youngest Indian in a futures final, beating out Sunil Kumar who had reached a final in Canada when he was 19 years and 2 months - Buji is 19 and a month old .. Let us hope he can become the youngest winner as well, again surpassing Sunil Kumar who won the first of his two futures titles at 19 and 4 months in India .. Buji plays the 4th seed Yordan Kanev (UKR) who beat Vinod Sridhar in the other semi, 62 63 .. See the Kolkata futures page for all scores .. The final gives Buji 8 points, doubling his point total to 16 .. His rank will move up about 220 spots up, to inside #750 now .. That keeps him safe for entries from now on to most $10K events around the world - and he wouldn't have to play qualies like he had to, when he came down to California and stayed with me last September to play his first foreign futures .. Go Buji, Go ..

In doubles, Mustafa Ghouse and Vishal Uppal continued their fine run with their 3rd title in a row  .. In fact they have reached the finals of the last 5 futures in India .. By my count these two have had 11 futures/satellite finals together and they own 7-4 record in them .. They also have an Asias bronze medal and a challenger final to their credit and deserve a lot of credit for having played doubles with tremendous focus and having produced the best results of any Indian team other than the Express .. Vishal Uppal of course is the most successful doubles player in recent times at this level among Indians, having won 13 titles from 20 finals, which is quite a load of great doubles results .. I think he has 2 or 3 titles with Mankad, 3 or 4 with Nitin Kirtane and a couple with Vijay Kannan as well ..

At the Benalla $10K in Australia, Rushmi Chakravarthi and Liza Andriyani (INA) lost in the QF of doubles, 36 26 to the second seeds Lauren Breadmore (AUS) and Kaysie Smashey (USA).

Mar 12 Notes

The draw has come out at the Indian Wells for doubles and LP and MB are back with their regular partners .. David Rikl finally gtes back to tour with Leander - they are seeded 7th and have a wildcard pair to face first, though not necessarily an easy pair - Yves Allegro and Roger Federer of Switzerland (a possible Olympics pair there?) .. MB and Mirnyi are seeded 2nd and they play Julien Knowle (AUT) and Michael Kohlmann (GER) .. The bad news is that LP and MB are in the same quarter of the draw and they could face each other in the 3rd round (QF) .. No doubles match on the schedule for Saturday.

The big news was all at Kolkata today -- Two Indians were in the QFs and both pulled upsets to reach the semis .. When was the last time you saw all Indians in a round pull upsets .. I can't remember when .. Somdev Dev Varman continued his heartening run, with a fantastic straight sets upset of the top seed Todor Enev (BUL,283), 62 76(4) .. That is a nearly unbelievable upset from Somdev who turned 19 only recently .. Note that Enev is higher ranked than even those like Mankad and Bopanna .. The newspaper reports are all praise for Somdev's confidence, talent, and fitness .. Then Vinod Sridhar upset the 8th seed Norikazu Sugiyama (JPN,565) to also reach the SF round .. Sridhar had upset the second seed and #345 Tereshchuk earlier (incidentally, Tereshchuk was the previous biggest scalp in Somdev's career, last year at the Delhi challenger qualies) and had upset Vijay Kannan as well .. Both these guys are having a fantastic time there .. Hope at least one would make the final tomorrow! .. Ghouse-Uppal are in another final, albiet with a bit of luck today as the opponents conceded due to injury despite winning the first set .. See the Kolkata futures page for all scores.

I have not seen the result of Rushmi's friday semifinal match in doubles at the Benalla $10K in Australia yet.

Mar 11 Notes

At the Kolkata $10K futures, Somdev "Buji" Dev Varman continued his good record in futures event - he has reached the second roiund or better in all but one of the 7 futures he has played since leaving the junior tour last september .. That is a really good record for anybody starting off on the pro tour .. Today he reached his second QF, and this was with a nice upset of the 6th seed Febi Widhiyanto (INA,526), 75 64 .. This gives Buji two more points taking his total to 10 ATP points and his ranking should move up over a 100 spots from #967 .. Keep it going, Buji! .. Also reaching the QF was Vinod Sridhar who beat Vijay Kannan .. See the Kolkata futures page for all scores.

At the $10K Benalla ITF in Australia, the 4th seed Rushmi Chakravarthi was upset in the second round by Cindy Watson (AUS,520), 64 60 .. Rushmi and Liza Andriyani (INA) beat Diana Julianto (INA) and Montinee Tangphong (THA), 76(3) 76(4) to reach the doubles QF, where they run into the 2nd seeds, Lauren Breadmore (AUS) and Kaysie Smashey (USA).

Nothing much else going on .. ATP corrected the entry list for the Busan challenger with an extra name (somebody who had a higher injury protected ranking I believe) .. So HM is one out from the draw .. As there probably won't be a special exempt entry there, Harsh is still effectively inside the cut, but Rohan moved one spot away to 7th from the cut.

Mar 10 Notes

Well, I made the 2 hour drive to Indian Wells today to watch Prakash Amritraj .. Though he lost, I would say I came back reasonably happy that the guy is playing fine .. Actually more than fine, considering that he is coming back from a 2 months injury break due to a serious triceps muscle tear and was playing the world #66 .. [Q1] P.Amritraj (IND,261) l. (2) Fernando Verdasco (ESP,66), 46 46 .. When I walked in, it was 1-1 in the first set and Prakash proceeded to lose 8 straight points to drop to 1-3 .. I thought it was going to be over before I settled down .. Well, I was wrong .. PA played much better than I expected .. He did not show much of an effect of the injury though he still had a thigh wrap .. It didn't seem like it was affecting his movement on court much, which was good news .. There was simply a lot of rust in his game, which is what showed when he dropped serve early .. He played superbly in patches too, like when he came back to break Verdasco right back to even it at 3-3, converting the first BP at 0-40 with a superb forehand down the line shot .. A couple of mistakes including a complete mishit on a second serve (rust showing!), caused trouble in the 9th game when he dropped serve again .. Verdasco was playing solid tennis and not making many mistakes except in the 6th game .. He closed out the first set .. Prakash started serving noticably harder in the second set, though his first serve percentage seemed to fall a bit ... His forehand seemed very strong and solid and the volleying was superb too - I think he hardly made a volleying error all day, though a couple of times he chose the wrong time to do it and Verdasco came up with some dandies on his own to leave PA stranded .. I have seen PA in the past making so much more of volleying errors than he did today .. Except for about 4 or 5 mishits on the forehand side, most of the mistakes were on the doublefisted backhand side .. Verdasco hits the ball with so much spin and in fact he is VERY good at it .. PA had trouble all day in getting a handle on the away moving ball on the backhand side .. Though it may not be a strength, PA does not have much of a backhand weakness based on what I have seen in the past - I believe this was mostly Verdasco's spin and perhaps a little bit of rustiness by PA .. I think he missed about 7 or 8 shots on that side and made about 4 or 5 other unforced errors including 5 double faults, and that was the only difference ..

The one thing I found very impressive was how he was able to at times pin Verdasco back with extremely accurate deep shots .. He usually never plays rallies longer than about 8 or 10 shots, but at 1-2 in the second set and facing a 30-40 break point PA came up with 4 corner shots in a row all just 2 inches inside the baseline and that was quite nice to see .. If he can keep up that kind of accuracy and cut down the errors a bit more, he will be just fine .. Back to the match, it got very engaging at about 2-2 in the second set with some high quality tennis on display .. One thing I must say is that PA's tennis is fun to watch .. I do like to watch old style serve and volley though I always talk about Indians needing to learn to win with patience than with S&V .. Verdasco, who is a shorter athletic type, was quite up to the task, but PA may have won an even number of points on S&V and Chip-&-Charge .. PA's service returns were quite good too, and he did a very decent job of smothering the pace on the serve and accurately returning it deep .. It was a very even match till PA went up 4-3 in the second .. I think PA went for broke in the next game with some chip and charge on Verdasco's serve and probably lost a bit of focus as it didn't work and VA held at serve for 4-4 .. This is one thing Prakash should avoid, which is his tendency to become overaggressive and overcommitted to certain strategies; At crucial junctures it messes him up mentally .. I don't think he gets nervous/timid or feels pressure; just that he needs try not to do too much at key junctures .. In the next game, Kash was broken to 4-5, and I believe a poor call on a first serve affected him a bit and forced him into a double fault (again, I think he wanted to do aggressive serve and volley there and badly wanted that good first serve -- that is what I meant by overcommiting to a strategy) .. To be fair to Kash though, he really could not have done much against Verdasco who simply played incredible tennis in the last three games .. The best was the exchange that got him the match point .. PA had him on the ropes at 30-30 and running up, left and back with some really good volleying .. The way he ran back and played a crosscourt drop to PA's right was the shot of the match -- the very old American gentleman next to me (who was constantly distracting me with questions on Kash, Vijay, Ramesh etc, and comments about seeing Rod Laver in the 60s and about how mice it is to see the style of tennis kash plays and all that) went -- "I have seen tennis for a long time and I have never seen a shot like that" .. I have not seen Laver and all, but I too think that was one of the best I have seen .. PA instinctively applauded FV for that effort before realizing it was match point .. Fernando himself looked a bit shocked that the shot went in and started laughing .. Anyway, the match ended on a service winner on the next point .. It took an hour and 18 minutes .. 3 of 6 in BPs for FV and 1 of 1 for PA .. 64 points won by FV and 46 by PA .. Basically about 6 or 7 fewer errors from PA would have made a big diffference.

The good news is that from what I saw, PA is pretty much back - he just needs a few matches to get sharper .. Of course he needs to get experienced in his decision-making on going to the net which is still not top-notch, though it is much better than I have seen over a year or two back ..  Had a nice chat with Vijay and Kash after the match .. I felt really good about my acute eye for tennis details (:-) :-)) when the first advice from Vijay to PA was about how to play the away spinning ball on the backhand side! .. Vijay was quite happy with how well Prakash played .. I agree with him that this was a pretty good performance .. Encouraging return from injury .. PA said he will be at the Miami masters qualies week after next and then will be off to Busan where he was looking forward to hooking up with Harsh and Rohan before the Davis Cup.

I will round out other news soon .. Sunil got upset but Vinod upset the 2nd seed at Kolkata .. Vishal and Mustafa also won - so we have 5 in the PQF at the Kolkata futures ..

Mar 9 Note-2

Prakash Amritraj was not too lucky with the draw at the Indian Wells.  He is drawn to play the second seed in the qualies and one of the hottest players out there right now .. Fernando Verdasco (ESP,66), the young Spaniard who reached the Acapulco ATP final as an unseeded player and saw his rank shoot up by 37 spots .. Hopefully Prakash has recovered from his injury and Fernando will have trouble focusing on the match after the big high this weekend .. The match is at 10 am in the morning.

Mar 9 Note-1

The Indian Wells Masters singles qualifying starts tomorrow at 10 am .. The good news is that Prakash Amritraj made the cut as the second-to-last entry.  They will make the draw by tonight .. I am not sure if PA will be playing though .. I assume he is, because I believe ATP was trying to confirm who would be playing as the cut kept dropping from about 179 a couple of days back to about #293 as of now .. Prakash has not withdrawn, and so I think that is good news -- hope he is back to playing shape .. I will try to drive down there and watch the match tomorrow if possible, after seeing the schedule for the day.

Pretty good upset win again by Somdev Dev Varman at the $10K ITF "ONGC" futures in Kolkata .. 967th ranked Somdev beat #693 Prima Simpatiaji (INA), 61 36 63 .. Simpatiaji is a good player - you may remember his reaching two finals in the Indian satellites last June .. He has not been playing as well lately, but this still goes as another good win for Somdev who is just starting out on the pro tour .. Rohan Bopanna's struggle continues though, and that is the bad news .. 3rd seeded Rohan was upset again in the first round, this time for a 16 26 score by Rainer Eitzinger (AUT,783) .. According to the report in The Hindu, Rohan was struggling with his serve and it looks like the injury issue has not fully gone away .. Hopefully a couple of weeks of rest would solve the problems and he will be ready for Davis Cup ..  Vijay Kannan beat Manoj Mahadevan .. Vishal Punna went down to the 4th seed .. 17 year old Tushar Liberhan, who is looking more and more impressive with his consistent perforfmance in these futures, gave a good fight to the top seed Todor Enev in a 46 67(3) loss .. That is quite impressive actually .. See the Kolkata futures page .. By the way, one more note of appreciation for the website folks at the Saturday Club, Kolkata, for putting up the scores really fast during the day at their website  - even within minutes of completion of matches .. Having followed a lot of tennis websites over the years, I can easily say that this is among the best futures website in the world - and certainly the promptest in score reporting!.

Both Prakash and Harsh have made the main draw for the $37.5K+H challenger in Busan, Korea, in three weeks, the week before Davis Cup .. The entries closed yesterday and Harsh made it in as the last direct entry! .. Rohan is 6th from the cut, but effectively 4th because there may not be any special exempt entries there .. I think he too might make it in the end without qualies .. It would be nice for all three of them to be together at Busan just before Davis Cup (Hey, Leander, why not ask for a wildcard and play some singles at the Busan challenger? - it would be a lot of fun, and you could get some nice singles practice for Japan too!) .. The Busan challenger appears to be the best I have seen in Asia, as far as the Asian participation is concerned .. Except for #11 Paradorn and 3306 Aisam Qureshi, every Asian in the rankings from #87 Hyung-Taik Lee to #338 Harsh Mankad have entered there .. #129 Lu, #149 Udomchoke, #164 Wang, #199 Suzuki, #261 Amritraj, #268 Motomura, #269 Iwabuchi, #303 Kim, #313 Iwami, and #326 Kutsenko are all there, as Asians picked up 12 of the 22 direct entries!  I don't remember such a clean slate of Asian participation anywhere ..

At the $10K Benalla ITF in Australia, 4th seeded Rushmi Chakravarthi easily beat Stacia Fonseca (USA,703), 61 64 .. She plays the winner of the match between the Australians, Cindy watson and Beti Sekulovski ..

Navdeep Singh, who is normally based on UK and get coached there, was at the qualies for the Wrexham challenger over the weekend .. He went down in the Q1 round to Jamie Baker (GBR, 1197), 26 16 though.

The entry list for the $10K women's ITf event in Mumbai (Match 29 start) is now posted in our forum (thanks Jiro!) .. See the thread for that event .. Nice to see both the Uberoi sisters in the event .. The sisters are quickly moving with their India plans .. Their presence will add a lot more competition to the event as well ..

Mar 8 Notes

This is the first week of the Indian Wells Masters, and it is the first time that it is a 2-week event .. The men's main draw only starts by saturday and doubles rounds will mostly be next week .. As of now, Praksh Amritraj is effectivley inside the cut for the singles qualifying .. Not sure if he has recovered well enough from the injury two monthsa back to play this week - but he has not withdrawn from the list yet .. I will try to find out tomorrow and will try to make a trip up there if he us playing in the two-round qualies on wednesday and thursday .. The qualifying draw itself will be made only Tuesday night .. The doubles main draw for LP and MB would be made by around Friday.

The India F2 $10K ITF "ONGC" futures is underway at Kolkata .. The qualifying rounds got done today, with 6th seed Jaco Mathew and unseeded Gurmehar Singh making it in .. Gurmehar had a pretty good upset of the 8th seed in the qualies .. The main draw wildcards went to Ajay Ramaswami, Somdev DevVarman, Manoj Mahadevan and Tushar Liberhan .. Rohan, Sunil, Vijay Kannan, Mustafa, Vinod, and the two Vishals are in the main draw directly .. See the Kolkata futures page .. By the way, the Saturday Club that is hosting this event has a really nice website for the event .. Compact, elegant, crisp and informative website .. The jazzy and cumbersome websites at the big pro events (and the utterly useless, worst website of the whole ATP tour, the one at Chennai Open) should take note ..  I noiticed that the Kolkata futures website had a creative new thing - a blinking spot with the upset results, which is a first I have ever seen on any tennis website .. It's a small thing but I wish more websites would consider doing things like that for the serious tennis fans! .. Kudos go to tournament director Jaideep Mukherjea and the web ffolks there for the website .. Some of the qualifying matches were done at the South Club also, but the main draw is at the Saturday Club.

Harsh Mankad is off this week, and actually for the next two weeks as well .. On the women's side, Rushmi Chakravarthi continues in Australia .. At the $10K Benalla event, she is seeded 4th and faces Stacia Fonseca (USA) in the first round .. In doubles, after two first round losses with Dittman, she has changed partners .. Rushmi is playing with Liza Andriani of Indonesia and they play Diana Julianto (INA) and Monthinee Tangphong (THA) ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Mar 8 ..

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 player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.