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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Mar 15, 1999

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Mar 15 Note-1

Leander did not get into the main draw at Lipton, and ended up next in line .. This morning, he also did not get into the qualifier draw, as he had not sent an entry for that 3 weeks back, and there probably wasn't any withdrawals from that draw either - from now on, any main draw withdrawals will be filled with luckylosers from the quals .. That means there will be no singles for him for two weeks .. Actually, the week after these two at Lipton, is the Davis Cup week, which means he will play ATP singles next at Chennai in 3 weeks .. That means he will need to basically defend all of his 74 points at Channai to make it into the French Open draw, which closes the day after Chennai tournament .. this week's rankings are not out, but he loses 7 from a challenger last year, and loses another 15 more next week from last year's first round win at Lipton (he was ranked 125, and got into Lipton as a lucky-loser then) .. He may be just out of the top 100 when he gets to Chennai .. The good thing about this may be that he gets some more time to get his strength back and avoid any dangerous reinjuring of the groin and heal - playing tough singles matches one after another starting from the qualies is sometimes rather hard .. The bad thing is that he truly has his back against the wall once again in singles .. Doubles matches for LP-MB will not be till next Sunday.

Nirupama is at the $25K Reims challenger in France this week - she is a direct entry, but the draw will be made only later today and the main draw matches start only on Tuesday .. By the way, I have a late report on some good wins in doubles last week for her at the Biel challenger in Switzerland .. She was ranked #246 in doubles, and with Lubomira Bacheva of Bulgaria (#196) reached the semifinal, losing a close 3 setter to Nora Koves (HUN,172) and Dragana Zaric (YUG,201), 6-4, 6-7(3), 3-6 .. In the QF, NV-LB beat Flora Perfetti (ITA,273) and Anca Barna (GER,237), 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 .. Their best win was in the first round over a pair ranked much higher than them - Maria Fernanda Landa (ARG,136) and Alice Canepa (ITA,103), whom they beat in a comeback, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 .. This gives Niru her first doubles points in a long time, perhaps since her final at the Lexington challenger last August - Niru has had a terrible time findng any steady partner for doubles .. She gets 20 doubles points and should move up about 35 spots to just inside #210 this week .. I have only seen the new singles ranking so far, and she is at #175 .. By the way, the points from the Mumbai and Delhi futures last year have fallen off - So Sai Jayalakshmi (now #509) lost two points and is tied with Manisha Malhotra (#507) with 13 points .. We had three in the top-500 on March 1st (Sai at #479 and Manisha at #499), and now we have only one! :-)

At Calcutta, the grasscourt nationals start today .. Vijay Kannan is the men's top seed, followed by Vinod Sridhar, Kirtanes, Saurav Panja, Manoj Mahadevan, etc .. Harsh Mankad has skipped this, as he has his High School final exams this week, and a US college scholarship hinges on that .. On the women's side, Saiu Jayalakshmi is the top seed, followed by Manisha Malhotra, Rushmi Chakravarti, etc. Uzma may have skipped this - she is also on her way to US college soon .. It would be interesting to see how well Vinod Sridhar, who won the gold at the National Games and topped the points in the Goldflake circuit, does there - if I am not mistaken, he is not a grasscourt player (he trains in Madras, and grass is not common down there) ..

Mustafa Ghouse had another first round doubles win (with Justin Layne of US) at the Philippines F2 futures last week, but they lost in the second round .. He gets another doubles pt there (they had a win in the previous week too).

Mar 14 Note-2

Paes was still the next in line for a main draw spot in the Lipton Super 9 at Key Biscayne, Florida, as of late evening .. There is a further problem that he is not in the qualifier draw which has just been made (at 9pm Sunday there), as he had not entered 3 weeks back (there are some changes in the qualifying entry procedure this year that I am not sure of - one now seems to have to enter for it separately, 3 weeks ahead .. The main draw entry deadline stays at 6 weeks ahead, as before) .. He still remains as the next in line for the main draw, which means nothing once the qualifier starts tomorrow morning at 10 am, because after that any withdrawal from the main draw will be filled with a lucky loser from the qualies .. Leander had left from California this morning and was expected in Florida by evening .. If there is a withdrawal from the qualifier draw (somwwhat possible, I would think), he could sign in and get in tomorrow morning .. I believe he will get in, as everyone above his #98 ranking are hopefully either in the main draw or the qualifier draw already .. Seems like a strange mixup though - had he entered the qualifiers 3 weeks back, he would be among the top 5 or 10 seeds in the 48-size qualy draw !

What it all means is that, LP is not playing the qualifiers as of now, but we won't know till tomorrow mornning .. In case any of you Leander fans in Florida are wondering whether to go for the qualies - just go down and take a chance, and you might see him play tomorrow! - If I hear anything new I will report it here.

The qualy draw closed at around #160, so MB will not be playing singles for two weeks. The doubles at Lipton do not start before Thursday or Friday, but since our pair are the top seeds witrh a firt round bye in the 48-team doubles draw, they will not be playing till next weekend !

Mar 14 Note-1

Here is how the semifinal match at Indian Wells went last night .. Ellis Ferreira started the match, and was quickly down 0-30 after two volleying mistakes .. A strong return down the middle from Leander gave our guys triple break points .. Things started going wrong from that point onwards .. On the first break point, the umpire missed a let call and all 4 players had stopped after hearing the sound .. He awarded the point to the other team .. LP argued a bit but to no avail .. On the next point, LP made a baseline move but guessed wrong and was caught offguard by the serve .. Then Ferreira served an ace - which looked like another blown call, and LP was really getting annnoyed at the ump .. Anyway, they held .. At 0-1, MB started with a double fault, but some nice net play got our boys out of any trouble .. Then our boys continued to put pressure on EF-RL, and had another break chance at 30-40, but Rick Leach managed to avert that with a nice touch volley .. It all looked rather even at that point with LP serving at 1-2, when another major argument with the umpire started, as he called LP's serve in, and then reversed it, etc, etc .. LP showed his displeasure, to the umpire - "I don't trust you man" .. "Use your head", etc .. The crowd seemed to agree with LP as the ump had looked a bit shaky thus far! .. Anyway, it didn't look like LP was letting that bother him, but perhaps wanted to pump himself up a bit - if so, I believe it backfired, as the Indian Express did not seem to ever hit a stride in the rest of the match ..

The problem, which perhaps was with them throughout the week here, was that MB continued to have trouble with his first serve .. With experieced teams like Leach and Ferreira, it's not easy to win more than half of the second serve points .. If a double fault or two are added in, it is disaster, and that's exactly what happened in game 6 with MB serving at 2-3 .. Two good serves, one of them an ace, mixed in with two great returns on second serves from Leach, and two double faults from MB - our guys were broken, 2-4 .. From that point onwards, absolutely nothing seemed to go right for LP-MB, as they lost the set 3-6 .. Leander continued to serve well, but his returns seemed to lose its sting .. He jut didn't seem to be able to generate any pace on his shots - I don't remember too many backhand topspins, which was his strength the previous night .. Perhaps this had something to do with the opponents not giving him anything right to hit .. Any time he tried for a hard return, it seemed to go a bit too far or too wide .. MB on the other hand was following each nice return or serve with an error every time .. In the first game of the second set, he did not get a single first serve in, all the way to three deuces .. They somehow held, with some nice volleying from MB, though .. At 2-2, with MB serving again, it became clear that nothing at all would go right - MB had finally got his first serves in after a long time, and three of them in a row too, but it was LP's turn to make two errors, with shots falling two inches out on either side - it was 0-30 .. A volleying error from MB and they were a break down at 2-3 .. Our pair didn't seem to give up and kept trying to hit the shots .. They were talking to each other to pump themselves up for a comeback, but the veterans had the screws nicely tightened by now .. It was over with LP dropping serve the next time .. 3-6, 2-6 ..

It was just plainly, simply, a bad day for our guys .. There is nothing physically or otherwise wrong with them .. They are both injury-free, and in good spirits .. Hesh needs to get his service back .. I am sure he will - after all, that's is his bread and butter stuff - like they say, "can't keep the cork down too long - it will always float to the top sometime" - our team will be back, as will be Hesh's consistency.

Then I heard some unexpected news - LP told me that he is not in the singles draw at Lipton Key Biscayne Super 9 yet (it's a two week event - quals start monday, the main draw on wednesday, I believe) .. He is the first one waiting in line, as of a couple of days back, he says .. This surprised me - the tournament office lady had told me a couple of weeks back that he was in (which I didn't believe, as he was 6 or 7 out when the draw closed at first - but when I insisted that she check, the lady still claimed he was in) .. Will try to find out what's up .. If he misses the main draw, which is based on the ranking 5 weeks back (about 85 for LP at that time), he will not be among the top seeds in the qualies, which is based on the Monday ranking, which will show LP at just outside #100 .. The lower seeded one is, the less the chance for lucky loser entry etc, and one would need to win all three rounds of qualies .. We will see .. LP may be ready, physically, to do well in singles .. His service has been excellent throughout this week, and that's a good sign .. Will find out the latest from Lipton soon.

Mar 13 Note-3

Bad day .. bad day .. Good start negated by bad calls .. Very low first serve percentage, shots falling too long, too wide or too low, etc, etc .. LP-MB lost to the 5th seeds Ellis Ferreira and Rick Leach, who played a steady game and rarely made any mistakes .. 3-6, 2-6 .. There isn't much more to write about, but I will try to give some details tomorrow morning.

Mar 13 Note-2

Today's semifinal for the Indian Express at the Indian Wells Super 9 is scheduled as the second match in the afternoon session starting at 3 pm .. So, the match should start by about 4.30 pm PST (6am Sunday, India) .. Our guys are meeting Ellis Ferreira and Rick Leach for the 4th time in a year .. LP-MB beat them in the final of the Rome Super 9 in last April, lost to them in the semifinal at the Toronto Super 9, and then beat them in the semifinals at the Australian Open in January .. There is no surprise factor in anything, and whoever comes ready to play will win! .. I will have my onsite report later tonight, but meanwhile have fun in the chatroom, following the match ball-by-ball at the ATP live page.

At Coimbatore, today was the grand finale of the Goldflake domestic circuit that has gone on nicely over three weeks with reportedly no serious problems .. Vinod Sridhar won the 3rd leg title over Saurav Panja, 6-4, 6-4 .. That places him at the top of the point list with 64 AITA points, earning him a couple of nice goodies - a round-trip air ticket to London and back, and a wildcard into the qualifiers of the Chennai Open (though I believe he would have made the draw, or deserved to get a wildcard into it anyway) .. Vinod has one title, was in another final, and also reached a semi over the 3 weeks .. By my calculation, the point list is (1) Vinod Sridhar, 64, (2) Sandeep Kirtane, 60, (3) Saurav Panja, 46, (4) Nitin Kirtane and Vijay Kannan tied with 42 each, followed by Manoj Mahadevan and Jagdeesh Tanwar with about 36 pts .. I hope I used the correct point table .. Anyway, Vinod topped the list ahead of Sandeep for sure .. Sandeep and Saurav won the doubles title here .. That makes Sandeep the doubles-king too with all three titles (2 with Saurav and one with Nitin) .. See the final leg results at the Coimbatore Goldflakes page .. This circuit was a great idea, giving a lot of the players some good match practice. Except for Harsh Mankad, who had to skip this to take his final exams, everybody else showed up for it too. Hopefully a couple of such circuits will become a permanent fixture in the domestic schedule .. Next up is the grasscourt nationals in Bengal next week.

Mar 13 Note-1

Just got back after another evening watching some good tennis at the Indian Wells Super 9 .. One thing that became amply clear in the doubles quarterfinal last night was how much reserve the Indian Express can call into service when things are not going right .. All great doubles teams have that quality of somehow raising the level to counter adversity .. The problem was that Mahesh was having a roller-coaster night when he went hot and cold at times .. Leander seemed to raise his game to a higher level though, and for most of the latter part of the match he was just simply dominating the proceedings - LP was in his elements, and he showed how difficult our team can be when they are determined win .. Haarhuis and Galbraith were playing well, mind you - but that was just not enough!

The match started at about 9 pm and it was quite chilly out there .. For the first few games, both LP and MB seemed to be in no groove at all .. Haarhuis started out serving very well, and Galbraith came up with a couple of reflex volleys to break MB in the second game itself .. MB was having trouble getting his first serves in and both MB and LP seemed to have trouble with low volleys from Galbraith .. They even looked uncharacteristically confused on a lob from Haarhuis on the break point .. They tried to get the break back in the next game, but on a break chance, MB netted a volley and it was 0-3 soon .. It went with serve after that till the 8th game, when Mahesh suddenly seemed to get a bit aggressive and started getting his backhand returns in .. By the 9th game, LP seemed to be hitting a stride with his topspin backhand returns .. Galbraith hit one too long and our guys got the break back at 4-5 .. Then MB served the next game at love with an Ace .. It went to a tiebreaker soon .. In the tiebreaker, in typical style, LP went for broke with another screaming return on the very first serve from Haarhuis to get a minibreak .. That set the tone .. Mahesh, who was playing very well by now, served an ace and had one of his favorite backhands down the line .. A double-fault from Haarhuis gave us the set 7-6 (7-1) ..

At the beginning of the second set, MB again went cold, and got broken immediately .. That is when Leander took matters into his hands - one could just see it in his eyes .. LP started hitting those tremendous returns one after another - whacking the hell out of the ball, basically! .. Galbraith was a broken man, and it was on serve again at 1-1 .. Hesh started picking up those half-volleys too, and things were going our way .. The shot of the match was in game 7 - a forehand flick by LP on a sprint to the right that dropped in and just died .. LP was in a zone by now .. In the 8th game, he even went back and called off MB to hit a screaming return off a lob - he was really "feeling it" .. Bad idea, though, as Haarhuis made him pay with a drop shot that LP couldn't handle after a 30 feet sprint - that was fun tennis .. Then in the 10th game, Mahesh did the job on some absorbing rallies, the best being the final point when he caught up with one nicely placed drop from Haarhuis and scooped it over the net for the game, set and match .. 7-6(1), 6-4 over Paul Haarhuis (NED) and Patrik Galbraith (USA) .. As I was walking out from the empty tennis complex half an hour later, MB and his new Australian trainer were out on a court, with Hesh doing lap-sprints, at 10.30 pm!! .. Thought I would mention that here - it may help any young tennis player with future dreams to know how much hardwork is involved in reaching the top .. No easy shortcuts.

They have picked up 196 points so far including the 12 bonus points from the last match and 24 more from this win .. They also get $43K to share .. Up next in the semifinal are the 5th seeds, Ellis Ferreira (RSA, 11), and Rick Leach (USA, 13) on Saturday - at about 4.30 pm .. More on that later ..

Mar 12 Note-2

LP-MB play the second match of the night at the big stadium court where the night session starts at 6.30 pm .. the estimated start of the diubles QF is 8.30 pm .. You can all have fun in the chatroom, following the match ball-by-ball at the ATP live page .. I will be cheering our guys out there, with a bunch of other fans, in what promises to be a close fight with Galbraith/Haarhuis .. Will post a match report as and when I get back.

By the way, now that the #1 team Bjorkman/Rafter and #2 team Woodies have lost in their first matches at Indian Wells earning no points, a win today wil place our guys back at #2, and one more win to reach the final will be enough to make them the #1 team .. If they lose today, and Ferreira/Leach or Black/Stolle win the title, our guys could fall to #4, I believe ..

At Coimbatore today, 17-yr old Manoj Mahadevan (he turns 18 only in a couple of months) could not continue his giant-killing form against Vinod Sridhar in the semis, but then Vinod has been doing this to a lot of people lately .. There was somewhat of a surprise in the other semi, where 5th seed Saurav Panja (19 yrs old) upset Sandeep Kirtane to reach the final .. Saurav is also in the doubles final, in Sandeep's company, and they face the Chennai Chinnais, Manoj Mahadevan and Avinash Arun .. See all the results in the Coimbatore Goldflakes page ..

A few of you wrote to me with the correct answer to the trivia from a couple of days back (see Mar 10 Note-1) - the minimum number of strokes needed to win a set is 12 .. That would be 12 Aces to win three service games, with the opponent granting you three games with 12 double faults .. It also means that you can win a set without making a single return! .. This was in the Rueter news this week because some TV game show in UK gave the prize to somebody who did not have the answer correct, and said 24 .. That would be enough to win a whole match!

Mar 12 Note-1

Upsets galore in doubles Thursday evening at Indian Wells .. The 2nd seeds Bjorkman/Rafter were taken out by the Bryan Twins, Bob and Mike, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 .. As I said yesterday, the Bryan twins are creating some noise .. Then the 4th seeds Woodies lost to Novak/Rikl, who were also one of my dark horse picks (bragg, bragg .. three of the four dark horses I mentioned for the bottom half in my Mar 8 notes are now in the QFs) .. No seeds remain in the bottom half .. The top half still has 1, 5 and 7 alive, after 3rd seeds Knowles/Nestor lost in R2 .. LP-MB play the 7th seeds P.Galbraith/ P.Haarhuis today (Friday) at about 8.30 pm PST (10 am Saturday in India) .. This will be a very tough match for LP-MB .. The #1 doubles player in the world, Paul Haarhuis, no longer has Jacco Eltingh with him, but Pat Galbraith is nobody to sneeze at, as his new doubles partner .. I happened to see Galbraith/Haarhuis beating Kafelnikov/Vacek on Tuesday, and they seemed to be playing very well together, but then so are our dudes.

Mar 11 Note-2

The 5th seeds Ellis Ferreira and Rick Leach have advanced to the QF today at the Indian Wells Super-9 .. Second seeds Bjorkman/Rafter play the talented young Bryan twins (USA) who have been making a lot of noise lately, in a featured night match .. LP-MB's potential QF opponents, Galbraith/Haarhuis also play later in the evening, as do the 4th seeds Woodies, to try to advance to the QFs scheduled for tomorrow.

At Coimbatore, Nitin Kirtane's 6 match win streak was snapped in the quarterfinals today by 18-yr old Manoj Mahadevan .. That is a terrififc win for Manoj, who was considered the best talent around till over a year back when he eased off a bit, focusing (reportedly) on studies for a while .. Manoj has certainly has established himself among the big boys in this circuit .. He next faces yet another tough matchup in the semis, against the 2nd seed Vinod Sridhar .. Vinod easily beat Jagdeesh Tanwar who had advanced earlier today after winning the final two games against Vijendra Laad in a postponed three-setter .. Sandeep Kirtane is also in the semis .. Meanwhile, Rishi Sridhar, who upset top seed Vijay Kannan yesterday, seems to have had some bad luck injury or something - he conceded his match against 5th seed Saurav, and also the douobles match where he partnered Vijay .. See the results at the Coimbatore goldflakes page ..

Mustafa Ghouse and Justin Layne of US had a good doubles win last week in the Philippines futures over Paul Harsanyi (USA) and Alex Sugai (JPN) but lost in the second round to the 7th seeds Hermansson and Lindstedt .. Mustafa still picked up one ATP doubles point .. He has lost in the singles first round this week, but I have not seen how he is doing in doubles ..

Gaurav Natekar, known earlier as the son of the great badminton player Nandu Natekar, but one who later certainly made a name for himself, officially retired from professional tennis yesterday .. He had said he was effectively retired a while back, but he did make himself available for Maharashtra at the National Games last month .. This is the end of a fine career that he can be proud of .. Two gold medals at Asiad 94 (doubles and team) was perhaps his finest show, not to mention being part of the Davis Cup team that pulled one of the greatest upsets in the Cup history at Frejus, France, in 1993 .. I believe he was as high as about 270 in ATP singles and about 170 in doubles .. He will focus on coaching from now on - he has already been doing a lot of coaching and did not want anymore distraction .. He is an Arjuna award winner too .. Indian tennis certainly appreciates everything he did, and let's all wish him all the best in everything he plans to do from now on ! .. Thanks, Gaurav!

Will find out tomorrow how Nirupama is doing in doubles at the Kiel Challenger at Switzerland ..

Mar 11 Note-1

Yesterday was rather dry and warm in Indian Wells, Palm Springs, but it turned chilly quickly by evening .. The doubles top seeds were in no mood to be chilled out of the place however, on a day when the men's and women's top seeds were packed off .. The match started under lights, over an hour later than expected, with three of the previous matches going to three sets there .. Several of us fans were in attendance cheering, at a small court - our boys looked happy to see all of us .. The Indian Express started off well with Mahesh serving a good game and deftly placing volleys catching WF/KU out of place .. Leander showed his intentions early with a tremendous inside-out forehand shot in game 2 to try for an early break .. Ferreira held, and we went to game 8 on serve, when our boys ganged up on Kevin Ullyett - a well-chosen deep lob from MB gave them the break .. Hesh served it out for a 6-3 lead .. There was no let-up early in the second set with MB serving game 2 at love, and LP coming up with an angled backhand volly that went across almost gracing the net all along its length, falling at a spot where only the ballboy had a chance to touch it - it prompted the fan sitting next to me to say, "haven't seen that shot since the Bob Hewitt days" .. In game 3, an aggressive forehand crosscourt from LP gave our guys three break pts, but just when it looked like our guys were going to finish it off fast, Ferreira decided to make a match of it, with some terrific low groundies .. They held.

It became a tight match from then on .. In game 5, MB was hit on a sensitive area where men don't like to be hit (:-)) and he went down in pain, though he was quickly up and alright .. In game 8, LP was down 0-30 after a couple of down the line shots from Mahesh went too long, but LP pulled out two aces at unplayable angles to force a deuce .. A couple of low volleys from Ullyett to MB's backhand side, and all of a sudden the champs were down a break .. LP showed his intention to get that break back rightaway, as he aggressively moved across the baseline for a terrific return down the middle in no-man's land to go up 30-0 on Wayne Ferreira's serve .. This was the game of the match, as it went to 5 deuces and about 3 break chances for us .. MB's volleying made the difference here, and we got the break to be on-serve again .. MB then served two aces to go 5-5 .. In the next game, we were up 30-0 off Ullyett after a couple of backhand down the line beauties from Hesh, but he then also made a hash of two volleys allowing them to hold .. A nice kick-serve and a Ferreira shot that went too long got LP out of any potential trouble in game 12 and it was tiebreak time .. Once again, LP's aggression was evident rightaway as he guessed right and did his baseline move to tee up on Ferreira's first serve for a return that gave us the minibreak .. An Ace from MB followed .. The champs smiled at each other and knew they were cruising at 3-0 .. It was over at 7-3 ..

The quarterfinal will be against the winner of Galbraith/Haarhuis and Broad/Koenig to be played today .. That means our boys will be in action next on Friday .. 3rd seeds Knowles/Nestor lost yesterday .. 2nd seeds Bjorkman/Rafter and 4th seeds Woodies play their R2 matches today ..

At the Goldflake Aces in Coimbatore, the first genuine upset of the circuit occurred yesterday - Rishi Sridhar beat top seed Vijay Kannan in three sets .. Kannan had his chances and was up 5-2 in the 3rd set .. Known for his big fighting qualities, Vijay has also shown a tendancy lately to let things slip after being on top, as reported by The Hindu a couple of days back .. He said he is a bit tired after "too much of tennis," which is probably true in his case - he has been travelling and playing virtually non-stop from October .. Rishi has beaten Vijay before, but not any time recently .. The match was of high-quality, based on the report in The Hindu .. 8th seed S.Zaman went down to young Rohan Bopanna .. There is also what appears to be a tough fight between 7th seed Jagdeesh Tanwar and youngster Vijendra Laad, which is tied 4-4 in the 3rd and will be finished Thursday .. Vinod Sridhar, the Kirtanes, and Saurav Panja have advanced to QF .. See the results at the Coimbatore goldflakes page ..

Mar 10 Note-2

Just got back from Indian Wells and it's 11 pm - thought I would give the score of the match before going to bed .. If you haven't seen it yet, LP-MB won 6-3, 7-6(3) .. The match got a bit tight late in the second set, but our dudes played well .. I will type in a detailed match report a few hours later .. 3rd seeds Knowles/Nestor got upset by Sanchez/Roig .. In singles, Sampras got upset by Mantilla, Philippoussis surprised Corretja and Hingis got upset by Chanda Rubin ..

Mar 10 Note-1

LP-MB play their R2 match against Wayne Ferreira (RSA,63) and Kevin Ullyett (RSA,26) today .. It's scheduled as the fifth and last match on court 3, and should be starting as early as 4.30 pm (PST, USA, .. 6.00 am Thursday, India) - may be as late as 6 pm .. Since I will be at Indian Wells, there will not be score updates here .. but don't worry, ATP provides ball-by-ball updates for all Super 9s at their site now .. You will find java scoreboards with ball-by-ball scores and also a frequently updated live-draw sheet at .. There should be some fans following the match at our chatroom .. I will post a report after I get back late evening from there.

Ferreira/Ullyett beat Carbonnel/Johnson, 6-4, 7-6(1) late last evening .. Both Ullyett and W.Ferreira play doubles with various partners (Ullyett played a lot with Grant Stafford last year) .. These two may be playing with each other for the first time .. I don't know how difficult this team will be, but both are very good players ..

An early reminder - the National grasscourts tournament starts at Calcutta next monday (Mar 15) ! .. This will be fun - we have not had grasscourts nationals since Dec 97 .. I have not updated the domestic schedule at this site for the next couple of months, but a press friend should be sending us the schedule soon.

A trivia question: What is the minimum number of strokes needed to win a set in tennis ? [There was a Reuter wire bit on this in today's newspapers] .. Answer tomorrow.

Mar 9 Note-4

Some interesting results at Indian Wells today .. 5th seed Rafter lost in the second round in three sets to Kiefer .. Bjorkman had lost in the first round yesterday to Schalken .. So, there is a good chance that they (the second seeds) will play doubles very seriously at Indian Wells, considering also that the singles matches at Lipton do not start till next wednesday .. Also losing today were Woodforde (to guess who? .. Lleyton Hewitt), Woodbridge (to Todd Martin), Kafelnikov (to Kuerten) and Vacek (to Woodruff) .. The doubles scene could get really interesting from tomorrow onwards with all these guys with only doubles to do now! .. 5th seeds Ferreira/Leach are winning right now .. LP-MB's second round opponents will be decided in a late evening match.

At the Coimbatore Goldflakes, the rest of the first round matches got done today with no upsets .. The top two seeds Vijay Kannan and Vinod Sridhar moved on with no-fuss straight sets wins .. The only drama was KG Ramesh falling prey to a ligament injury and conceding the match in the 3rd set to Shailesh Dhoble .. See the results at the Coimbatore Goldflakes page.

Mar 9 Note-3

Bad news day, today .. Nirupama just lost to the 5th seed Flora Perfetti (ITA,146) in the first round at the $25K Biel Challenger in Switzerland .. She is also playing doubles there, with Lubomira Bacheva of Bulgaria, ranked 196 .. They have a tough first round doubles match too, against Maria-Fernanda Landa (ARG, 136) and Alice Canepa (ITA, 103) .. It has been a while since Niru picked up any points in doubles, and her ranking has been around #250 for several months .. It would be nice to pick up some points in doubles .. The tournament office tells me that they will play the doubles match probably on Wednesday.

Mar 9 Note-2

Mustafa Ghouse made it to the main draw at the Philippines F2 futures, but lost today to Minh Le, 2-6, 2-6 in the first round (source: Manila Bulletin, Mar 10) .. I am not sure if Mustafa had to play the qualies this week to get in .. He was a lucky loser entry last week at the Philippines F1 .

A correction on what I said below (Mar 8 Note-2) - Lleyton Hewitt did not win the Scottsdale title - Jan-Michael Gambill won the close three set final (Gambill had beaten Sampras on the way, and Hewitt had beaten Rafter) .. Hewitt was in the final .. I shouldn't type anything just before going to bed :-) .. Anyway, still a good show by Hewitt, and he jumped about 25 spots from #91 last week ..

Mar 9 Note-1

The Carbonnel/Johnson vs Ferreira/Ullyett match is one of the last ones scheduled for today at Indian Wells .. The winners will play our dudes - probably tomorrow (Wednesday) .. There was one upset yesterdy - the sixth seeds Lareau/O'Brien went down to Florent/MacPherson, 2-6, 3-6 .. Surprising scoreline .. Only three doubles matches were done yesterday - most of the first round matches are scheduled for today.

Mahesh is at #292 this week in the rankings, with 122 points .. Of course, 63 of those points are from 2 of the 3 tournaments he has played singles at, this year .. He has 14 points falling off next Monday (from the Kyoto challenger last year) and then has just 39 points to defend for the rest of the year! .. He has a good start for the year .. If all goes well, he would get to play singles at about 15 tournaments more (He has only played 11 in the last 12 months!) .. He can probably find about 7 to 10 challengers without much problems .. In addition to Chennai Open, where he has direct entry, he will need to qualify into 3 or 4 ATP tournaments somewhere, and that's not easy with them often playing doubles semis and finals over many of the weekends when the qualifiers are on at other places.

Mar 8 Note-2

It looks like LP-MB will be playing only on Wednesday at Indian Wells.

The new rankings show Leander 13 spots down at #98, as 74 points from last year's Bangkok challenger title fell off .. The dooubles rankings for MB and LP are at 2 and 3 respectively .. I have not seen the full rank list yet .. LP has 524 points now .. He has 96 points to defend by the Monday after the Chennai tournament when the French Open entries close .. He needs to pick up at least 50 odd points at Key Biscayne and Chennai, or he will miss the cut for French Open.

Nirupama was supposed to start a European swing starting this week .. She had said that she would be at two challengers in France next two weeks .. I'm trying to find out if she has gone to the Biel challenger in Switzerland this week. Will know soon.

At the Goldflake Aces at Coimbatore today, there were no surprises .. Both the Kirtanes won, and Manoj Mahadevan advanced beating the 8th seed Praveen Sreenivasan of Karnataka .. This is the second week in a row that he is taking out a seed .. Actually, Manoj, 18 yrs old and starting out on the senior tour has had trouble only with the top guys like Sandeep, Nitin, etc - that's a good sign .. He is now doing first year commerce at Loyola college in Madras, according to the Indian Express .. Top seed Vijay Kannan and second seed Vinod Sridhar play their R1 matches on Tuesday .. See the results at the Combatore Godlflakes page ..

By the way, did you all see that 18 yr-old Australian kid Lleyton Hewitt won the Scottsdale, Arizona, title (he beat Rafter on the way) ?? .. He was being (and I believe still is) coached by Bob Carmichael, who is LP's coach .. He had travelled a bit with LP too .. The dude is in the top-100 and is moving up really fast .. This is not his first title - you may remember that he won the Adelaide title in Jan 98 too - he had taken a year to get used to the big tour, and is looking like another big find for Australia now. Jan Michael Gambill, Cecil Mamiit, Paul Goldstein, etc are some of the other younger folks making some noise lately - though they are all a few years older than Lleyton.

Mar 8 Note-1

Here is the doubles draw at the $2.2M Indian Wells Super 9:

 1-M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes      vs    Bye                   \
   T.Carbonnel/ D.Johnson  vs    W.Ferreira/ K.Ullyett / \
   N.Broad/ R.Koenig       vs WC-J.Courier/ C.Woodruff \ / \
 7-P.Galbraith/ P.Haarhuis vs    Y.Kafelnikov/ D.Vacek /    \_ To Final
 3-M.Knowles/ D.Nestor     vs    Bye                   \    /
   F.Roig/ J.Sanchez       vs WC-A.Corretja/ A.Costa   / \ /
   J.Grabb/ J.Palmer       vs    B.Black/ J.Eagle      \ /
 5-E.Ferreira/ R.Leach     vs WC-C.Moya/ M.Safin       /

The bottom half of the draw has 2nd seeds Bjorkman/Rafter (who are the defending champions here), and the 4th seeds Woodbridge - Woodforde, 6th seeds Lareau/O'Brien and 8th seeds Adams/DeJager .. The bottom half also has darkhorse teams like Reneberg/Stark, Black/Stolle, Bryan/Bryan andf Novak/Rikl .. Kafelnikov/Vacek is a troubling unseeded team in the upper half .. Basically, every top team is out there, as we expect at top Super-9 tournaments [Indian Wells is the world' 6th biggest tournament, after the 4 grand slams and the Lipton] .. The winning team here will get 370 pts plus bonus (each player), and $155K (shared) .. LP/MB have not had a title in the last 4 tournaments they played, ever since their big win over Eltingh-Haarhuis for the title at the Paris Super 9 .. But for that determined run to the final at the Australian Open, they have gone out cheaply at four other tournaments during a 5 month period when LP has been mostly injured (Stockholm, Hartford, Doha, Dubai) .. It would be nice to get a title again - even better if it's with a win over Bjorkman and Rafter in the final .. A lot of tough teams to get past before all that though. The Carbonnel-Johnson vs Ferreira-Ullyett match is not in today's schedule, but that may change .. It looks like our guys won't play till wednesday.

The new rankings are not out yet - we will have to wait and see if LP stays in the top-100 this week.

Mar 7 Notes

Not much news to report today .. I have not seen the doubles draw at Indian Wells yet - it should be out by tomorrow morning .. Leander is feeling fine, free from all the injuries after a very long time .. He had reached Indian Wells only late night on Friday, after a delayed flight - I had guessed that, once I saw the score of the qualifier match on Saturday morning! .. Anyway, though the injuries are healed, LP has had to wait before doing full-fledged strength training .. He has lost a bit of weight and needs to regain that now, with a good training regimen .. He feels fine with his tennis form, and is looking forward to the doubles at Indian Wells.

The Goldflake Aces domestic tour will be in its third and final leg at Coimbatore, starting Monday .. According to The Hindu, Sandeep Kirtane leads the points table with 42 (one title and one QF) .. Vijay Kannan and Vinod Sridhar, each with a semi and a final appearance have 34 points each, followed by Nitin Kirtane with 30 (one title - he played only the second leg) .. It seems that there is more benefits in topping the points tally - in addition to a qualifier wildcard at Chennai, the topper will also get a round trip airticket to London and back !! .. Hmm, not a bad idea if it's used to go and play a couple of futures in UK - may be even on grass! .. I have posted some qualifier results from today, at the Coimbatore Goldflakes page.

By the way, the Davis Cup tie with China, 4th weekend from now, will be on grasscourts at the South Club in Calcutta.

Mar 6 Note-3

It took me a while to get back from Indian Wells .. the bad news is that LP lost rather cheaply to Sebastien Lareau, 3-6, 2-6 .. After getting stuck in traffic, I got there a few minutes after 12 pm, when they said the match would start .. The problem was that the first two matches got done in under an hour each, with Sargsian beating Damm 6-1, 6-2, and then LP losing .. So, all I have is hearsay report that LP looked "out of it" today .. So, that does it for singles this week .. LP will lose 74 pts by Monday and will fall close to #100 in ranking .. Then there are 6 weeks with about 125 more poits to defend (7 at Kyoto, 15 from Lipton, 74 from Chennai and 30 from Vadodara) .. He will just have to buckle down and get some points at Lipton, Chennai and at the Delhi challenger where he will be in the next 6 weeks .. He needs to pick up at least 75 points or so to be sure of getting into the French Open draw .. If he picks up no points (very unlikely), he will fall to as low as #120 or so .. Then he gets three months with absolutely nothing to defend, though ..

The doubles draw is not out yet, at Indian Wells.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Mar 8..