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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Mar 22, 2004
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Mar 22 Notes
 
The qualifying rounds started at the Miami Masters today .. Both Prakash Amritraj and Neha Uberoi went down, but the latter played a smashmouth match .. Prakash did not have a good match today .. He started with an ace and held serve at loive to styart the match, but from then onwards, nothing seemed to go right for him, as the 15th seed Brain Vahaly (USA,188) beat PA by a score of 62 61 -- that Vahaly won 53 points to 28 by PA shows that it was pretty much a one-sided affair .. Hopefully the thigh injury is not bothering him and he is playing his way back to form .. In an earlier match today, Neha Uberoi (USA), who has India in her mind, showed fully well in a match that she is getting ready to start beating some top players soon - Neha went down to the 20th seed Tara Snyder (USA,111), 46 57 .. The straight sets scoreline does not show how close this match became .. Neha was down a break early and broke back to even it in the first set before dropping serve again late in the first set .. She was quickly down by two breaks in the second set and looked set to bow out meekly at 46 03 .. But Neha had other ideas, as she broke Tara in the 4th game and started a furious comeback .. She had a break point in the 6th game but could not punch it in .. She finally broke Tara again when she served for the match at 5-4 .. At 5-5 she was down 15-40 and saved one break point with her second ace of the match - but she dropped serve in the next point ..  Neha was still not done as she fought for about 12 minutes in a superlong last game that went to many deuces where she forced two break points and saved several match points on Tara's serve .. She fell in the end, but the bottom line result shows that the girl who turned 18 only a month back won 73 points against Tara Snyder who won 78 points .. The match was that close .. Despite the loss, this will go as a good match for her .. By the way, Neha got the wildcard to the qualies at Miami because of her incredible run at the Orange Bowl grade-A tournament in December, when she became the first American girl in over a decade or something to reach the final of that event!

Neha's elder sister Shikha Uberoi (who will turn 21 next month, and is ranked around where Neha is) went down in the Q1 of the qualies at the $25K Redding challenger .. 62 46 46 to Monique Adamczak (AUS,252) ..  Sunitha Rao (USA) has a wildcard to the main draw of the challenger, as her dad seems to have patched up (somewhat) with the USTA ..  Shikha is in the entry list for next week's Mumbai $10K event (I believe Neha also was there earlier but she's not in the list now) .. I assume she will be going to Mumbai.

The whole group of top Indian juniors are at the grade-1 Amata Cup ITF juniors in Thailand this week .. Tushar Liberhan and Tara Iyer have joined the group that played last week in Malaysia .. Almost all of them are seeded and have byes in the first round that started today .. Neil has posted all the scores in the forum thread on our juniors.

The Indian Davis Cup team for the Japan tie, starting in about 17 days, has not been announced yet .. We should be hearing something soon ..

Mar 21 Notes

Nothing at all happening in Indian tennis, except for the AITA event at the High Court - Central Excise grasscourts in Kolkata .. Kamala Kannan beat VM Ranjeet and Geeta Manohar beat Sandra Sasidharan in the finals, to take the titles there ..

LP and MB will be at the Miami masters, where the doubles draw starts only by the coming weekend.

Mar 19 Note-1

Indian Wells has probably been the worst masters for both Leander and Mahesh, as neither has really been able to do much of their magic down here at the Palm Springs desert .. If I am not mistaken, this is the only masters event where neither has won a title or even reached the final, together or separately ..  That did not change this year, as the second seeded Mad Max got upset rather uncharacteristically yesterday .. [SF] (2) M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi l. W.Black/ K.Ullyett, 46 46 .. I couldn't get up there for the match, so no details .. Shoot, I was planning to go and do a complete internet commentary of the final from the press box today :-( .. Oh well, off to Miami for LP and MB.

At the grade-1 in Malaysia, Sanaa Bhambri went down 26 26 to the second seed Wen-Hsin Hsu in the semis .. Good job still by Sanaa to reach the SF and pick up 60 points, as she has 60 and 80 points falling off this month from last year's Asian circuit.

Mar 18 Notes

Nothing much happening today .. Mahesh and Max will be playing Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett, the Olympics team for Zimbabwe, in the semis at the Indian Wells Masters .. Those guys got a retirement at 62 00 from Kiefer/Schuettler today .. The Indian Wells schedule has this match for 10 am tomorrow, when there will probably be three guys (two if I don't make it up there) and a few crows watching the match ..  I doubt I will be able to go, as I had work scheduled for morning thinking the semis couldn't be before evening .. I guess they are trying to avoid scheduling doubles at night after prime time singles like they used to do .. Whatever ....

Good and bad news from the Mayasia grade-1 .. The good news is that 3rd seed Sanaa Bhambri has reached the semifinal of singles; the bad news is that top seed Karan Rastogi got upset by #49 Joel Kerley today in the QF .. Sanaa and Madura went down in the doubles QFs .. Navdeep/Sanam, Divij/Rupesh, and Karan/Young all reached the semis and now Karan and Donald Young are in the final of doubles .. Neil and I have posted all the Indian kids' results at the forum thread for this set of Asian junior tournaments.

No much else going on .. The AITA "Central Excise" grasscourt ranking tournament is going on in Kolkata and a few good players are playing there .. I will round up the result soon.

Mar 17 Notes

Mahesh and Max had a relatively easy passage to the semifinal today .. [QF] (2) M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. Rafael Nadal (ESP)/ Tommy Robredo (ESP), 76(4) 64 .. I could not go there, and so no match report today .. Their semfinal opponents will be decided Thursday in the match between Black/Ullyett and Kiefer/Schuettler .. The top seeds Bryans went down in the second round in an upset by Clement/Grosjean .. The 3rd seeds Bjorkman/Woodbridge had gone down in the first round to Kiefer/Schuettler too ..

Sunitha Rao went down at the Orange challenger to Sybille Bammer (AUT,140), 16 26 .. Sybille has been playing quite well over the last few months, as her ranking  shot up with 5 consecutive challenger finals (and four titles!) she had late last year .. Sunitha said that it was still her own mistakes all through this match which caused such a loss, though Sybille was playing very well .. By the way, Sunitha, who was not fully aware of how closely we Indian fans had followed her, thanks everyone in the fanclub for all the support .. She is now quite aware of how things went sour in the talks between her dad and AITA .. As far as she is concerned, she wants to just focus on tennis for now, and bring her ranking back up over the next few months before thinking about any of that .. I did have a chance this week, though, to impress upon her how Indian fans have nothing against her and that the doors should all remain open .. She understands that and is appreciative of that .. Basically nothing succeeds like success, and once that happens, it wouldn't matter how things went last year when they considered playing for India for the first time .. In my view, all of that went too fast and not everybody looked closely into the real crux of the matter, the focus going too fast towards money issues, resulting in completely divergent understandings on the promises and then the hard views and the undiplomatic handling of the press, driven by frustration .. Sunitha felt that the Indian press hardly helped her cause, almost suspecting that the whole thing was a set-up which ended up making her side look totally bad .. I am however sure that she gets my point when I said there was nothing like that .. I told her that even I had written against her dad's comments then .. Basically the Indian press that does not let go of a chance to go after our national sports associations would have been more than willing to go out and bat for her, but were left with no choice thanks to how the views were expressed by her side .. In defense of Mr.Manohar Rao, he probably did have some reasons to feel frustrated like that - mostly because he too may not have understood that Indian tennis and what can drive her career in the future is so much more than AITA who are at best only facilitators and have their own limits on what they can do .. I think AITA could not convey this properly, and that should have been expected - no association is going to speak much about their own limitations, especially when they are trying to attract a player to play for us .. So it loooked as though they were playing games about promises of how much support she can get .. Nothing in India works THAT fast, and though there is money, it takes a while to shake it loose .. Perhaps if she had an agent from India (say like a Globosport, PaesEnSport or the Indian IMG) rather than the German agent with no Indian background (who did not get involved in this at all, I think), things could have worked better .. Very often, it is better that talks on issues like this are done by people not too emotionally close to the matter!

In any event, it was good to hear her side and now I am convinced that Sunitha was not looking at it like a mercenary or anything .. Far from it - she is a just a nice girl, who was simply focusing on improving her tennis and about how to ensure support for that .. You see, when you are shooting to go very high in the tennis world, you have to also be able not to cut corners on what it takes .. She was just not willing to say "chalta hai" on that, and needed to feel some clear assurances - which, for nobody's fault, was not going to come easily from India .. We are not Brunei, where the Sultan can write a cheque and that will be that .. Heck, a Dubai TV company had to go all the way to our supreme court to shake loose money from India for cricket coverage - a shameful saga, but that's another story .. This is what I meant when I said it all went too fast last year .. In my view, the girl has grown up breathing tennis and was perhaps not aware of the kind of opportunities she could get in the ancestral country .. Hey we have Indian multinational companies sponsoring International Federations now (FIH had a world press release yesterday about signing up Sahara Parivar as one of the 4 big international sponsors for international field hockey along with those like Rabobank and Sumsung, if you noticed in the middle of the cricket hooplah!) .. We have companies willing to plonk down big money to fly down those like Anna Kournikova to sell houses for them in Amby Valley! .. That is where the opportunities are, and those like Sunitha and Neha, completely of Indian genes, have the ability to excite the Indian sports fans who are perennially feeling inferior to the world about our hackneyed "genetic limitations" which (supposedly) holds back our sports achievements - another angle which Sunitha was unaware of, by the way .. All it takes are world class results which we have hardly had much of .. This is why Paes-Bhupathi became such a phenomenon in India! .. Does anybody remember that Mahesh basically grew up abroad and learned almost all his tennis abroad too? .. That is the point .. Anyway, let us see where Sunitha's career goes - my sense is that it will be up and up, quite high .. And then we will see what all transpires .. For the foreeable future, she will just concentrate on her tennis, as well she should .. She will be at the Redding challenger next week .. 15th in the qualifying list as of this monday, and should be a seed in the qualies in the end.

Mar 16 Notes

At the Indian Wells Masters, Mahesh played a fantastic match (among the best I have seen him play) to advance to the quarterfinals today .. [R2] (2) M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. Martin Garcia (ARG)/ Sebastien Prieto (ARG), 75 63 .. I went down there today and watched the match .. Here is an onsite match report - [Set 1]  Max started serve .. Not much drama till the 5th game when two double faults from Prieto gave our guys a triple break point .. A beautiful touch crosscourt forehand drop from Mahesh gave them the break at 15-40  to go up to 4-2 .. In the next game, back to back volley mistakes at the net by Max and MB saw them face a 30-40 BP .. Prieto placed one shot very skillfully in no-man's land to get the break back .. The match tightened up here and Mahesh started his patented hard shots .. Actually one thing about Hesh that we all know is that he is not really into cutting down on aggression in the shots, though he is one of the best out there in touch shots as well (unlike Max who always seems like he is scared of his own power and pulls back a little, other than on his serves) .. It is shear beauty when MB takes those huge back swings and goes for those back to back hard ground strokes .. There were about 5 deuces on Garcia's serve in the 8th game, with Mahesh going bonkers with hard shots and Max continuing to messing it up .. Max is like that; quite mistake-prone often, though he has a knack of coming through in crunch without mistakes .. Anyway, mishits and netted sitters by Max, one on a clear "kill" shot that he inexplicably tried to finesse at the one break point they had .. Anyway, MG-SP held .. The match got interesting again in the 12th game .. A hard ground stroke from Max (probably his first all day, as he was generally messing around till then :-)) brought up a break point .. Then came that super-return from MB to Garcia's feet - simply untouchable! .. They took the set 7-5 .. [set-2]  Again no drama till 3-2 when MB again went bonkers with two angled returns to bring up deuce from 40-0 .. At AD in, Mahesh got a bit lucky as a high shot graced Garcia before going way out and it was decuce again .. A double fault gave our guys a break point which they couldn't convert .. Finally after about 5 deuces, Preito held again .. Then came a bit of trouble, as Mahesh was down 0-30 .. That is when we saw how he can take charge when the chips are down .. An ace to the corner and a service winner .. Very good serving by Mahesh today, actually .. A sizzling return from Garcia gave them a break point, but Hesh's beautiful backhand crosscourt drop again came to the rescue .. Max stopped making volley mistakes at that point and punched one in, which was followed by a classic string serve-and-one-volley point from Hesh to hold serve .. 4-3 .. Now it was time to go after Garcia again .. This our guys did well ..  A running volley from Max and a hot return from MB helped to give them 15-40 break points .. Mahesh went for the kill on the next serve - untouchable return again .. Break, 5-3 .. Then it was all up to Max to serve it out .. An ace and two service winners, case closed! .. The match took an hour and 16 minutes.

The QF is against what looks like a promising Spanish team for the Olympics who have been doing well lately, Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo .. I have to teach a class tomorrow at the same time as the QF match, so I will have to miss that one .. If any of the California friends will be there, please give us a match report .. Looks like I will miss the semifinals on Friday too ..

On to Sunitha Rao .. Don't forget this girl, though his dad and AITA could not come to the same page about her playing for India .. I have had a chance this week to see her play here -- she is a fabulously talented player and hopefully something can still work out to get her to wear Indian colours .. She is staying with me this week and playing at the Orange challenger .. She beat #247 Suchanan Viratprasert, 64 63 in the Q3, to make the main draw of the $50K challenger, though she was among the last couple of entries in the qualifying draw .. I caught a set of that match as well today (too much of tennis for me :)) before driving off to Indian Wells .. Sunitha is finally playing injury-free again .. She was completely in control in all three of the matches she has played, seemingly raising her gameat will as and when needed and winning in easy straight sets against top 200-300 players .. If she keeps it up, the 18 year old will be back near #150 again soon, like she was before injuries hit her hard about 8 months back .. She plays #140 Sybille Bammer tomorrow.  I had a full day of tennis today - I will have to get back to my regular job and skip tennis events tomorrow, so probably no match reports fromher challenger either.

I had a nice chat today with Mahesh Uberoi, the father of the talented Uberoi sisters, who was at Indian Wells .. Neha has got a wildcard to the qualies at the Miami WTA next week .. Neha's wildcards are a direct result of how well she did in December at the Orange Bowl grade-A where she became the first American girl in so many years to reach the final .. Elder sister Shikha, who is 20 now and does not have Neha's reuslts though she too is ranked about the same, had to play a pre-qualifying event for a wildcard at Miami .. She won 6 rounds and lost the final today, according to Mr.Uberoi - ooh, that's tough .. Shikha will be going to the Redding challenger in California next week for qualies.

Also ran into Prakash Amritraj today .. He says his injury is not bothering him now .. One concern is that Vijay is finding it increasingly difficult to accompany him everywhere as the coach; he will need to look into other coaching options .. He has a wildcard to the Miami Masters.  Then it will be Busan challenger and Davis Cup for him ..

Somdev Dev Varman will have to take a six week break after the big title last week .. He has some unfinished business to take care of once and for all .. Doing his 12th exams from Apr 2 to 29th .. That is a valid reason for time off .. He will get back on court full steam after that.

In other news,  top seed Karan Rastogi, 7th seed Rupesh Roy, 3rd seed Sanaa Bhambri and 9th seed Madura Ranganathan have reached the final 16 with one wins each (they all had first round byes before that) at the grade-1 Malaysia ITF juniors .. Seeded Navdeep and Divij got upset and unseeded Sanam and Punam Reddy lost, the latter to the 8th seed .. See the scores Neil has posted in the Asia junior events thread in our forum.

Mar 15 Note-2

Good and bad news from Indian Wells .. First, LP got back with David Rikl for the first time since the Montreal masters 7 months back .. Can't believe ioot was that long ago .. Anyway, Rikl himself had not played for several months, having had the birth of a baby daughter in January .. The 7th seed got upset by a pretty talented guy (!) and a good doubles guy .. The highest ranked two Swiss players who may be starting to get prepared for Olympics - Roger Federer (#44) and Yves Allegro (#57) .. No luck today for our guys, as I assume David may have been understandably a bit rusty .. They played a close match though, and that is encouraging - I am sure they will be fine from Miami onwards .. [R1] (7) L.Paes/ D.Rikl l. R.Federer/ Y.Allegro, 67(5) 57 .. LP-DR reportedly came back from a break down to tie it at 5-5 in the second but could not push it further ..  I had to teach a class at the same time as the match and couldn't go to watch it ..

Mahesh and Max also played around the same time this evening .. After some hiccups in the second set and a bit of problems at break points (3 of 14), they advanced today .. [R1] (2) M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. Julien KNowle (AUT)/ Michael Kohlmann, 63 36 61 ..

Sunitha Rao (USA) advanced to the 3rd round at the Orange challenger qualies with a 63 64 win over Tiffany Dabek (USA, 287) .. No news yet on the juniors in Malaysia.

In other news, I forgot to say here that the Indian challengers scheduled originally for June and moved to May are now off the AITA calendar .. ATP office told me that they have asked KSLTA to conduct the challengers at a later time this year.. They were all praise for the "fantastic job" KSLTA did last year and said they really wanted AITA to do more challengers this year .. Apparently the May 3rd and May 10th weeks were not good because they are too soon and also because the second week already has 5 challengers.

I believe Prakash Amritraj has got a wildcard to the Miami masters qualies next week - that is good news...

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.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Mar 15 ..

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.