Notes for the week ending on Mar 25, 2002
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Mar 25 Note-1
LP and Gimelstob play the second round at the Miami masters at 11 am today, against the 8th seeded Bryans .. MB-MacPhie are not in the schedule for today.
Rohan Bopanna, Sunil Kumar, Nitin Kirtane, Radhika Tulpule, Sonal Phadke, etc have advanced in the first round of the Grassourt Nationals at Kolkata .. More later.
Mar 24 Note-2
The seeds came out firing, then napped for a while, and finally did the job, I guess - #7 M.Bhupathi/ B.MacPhie d. D.Adams/ S.Huss, 61 36 63 today at the Miami masters.
Harsh Mankad must have said enough is enough with his mini slump - after dropping the first set in his road game against #68 Jamie Gresh of PennState Univ, he came back in a 46 64 76(4) win to raise his season record to 18-3 with a 13-2 record against top-100 college players (#117 Prakash Amritraj being the only non top-20 player he has lost to) .. According the PSU website, their coach said, ďItís always great when you get an opportunity to play one of the top players in the nation. Gresh had an outstanding match, but in the end Mankad just came up with some amazing points in the tiebreak that could have gone either way. Watching two of the top players in the nation is always amazing and most of all exciting for the fansĒ .. Okeedokey! .. This US college season has been fun to follow, with an Indian player going around and making headlines.
Some news on Sunitha Rao, the 17 yr old US girl (future player for India?), who had a very good challenger this week in Juarez, Mexico [across the border from El Paso, Texas] .. She had the biggest win of her career in upsetting 118th ranked top seed Rika Fujiwara in the second round before falling in the QF .. 463 She was unseeded in the qualies and had pulled three upsets over Andrea Nathan (USA), 7th seed Maria Fernanda Alves (ARG,318) and Dominika Luzarova (CZE,338) to reach the main draw and beating the Mexican wildcard Erica Clarke in the first round before the big R2 upset of Fujiwara, the biggest win for anybody with an Indian name other than Nirupama in a long time .. She picked up about 16 WTA points for the whole show, which should raise her ranking from #443 to about #350 .. Count on her moving up quite a bit higher in due course of time.
Speaking of Nirupama, here is a Hindustan Times article by S.Kannan on her plans to return by July .. As for Sunitha Rao and the possible plans with India, here is an article by Akshay Sawai in the Times of India last month when she played in India .. Here is another good article on Sunitha Rao, by Prajwal Hegde in the Deccan Herald a couple of weeks back.
Here is an interesting (and important) article from a couple of days back in the Times of India .. This one from Sukhwant Basra who seems to be one of those tennis correspondents who does not consider anything in the Indian tennis establishment to be "too holy" or "too divisive" not to write about - and that is not a bad trait for journalists, if they are doing it without malice! .. The matter about there being two "camps" in Indian tennis is probably a reality .. I don't have reasons to believe that the two camps have any big enmity towards each other, and there are good people on both sides, but they are "camps" all the same .. I am an optimist and a believer in the basic goodwill among people, and so I believe that the "camps" will work things out for the benefit of the players involved .. AITA has an opportunity to make sure of the player's development with proper actions here, and should avoid becoming a 3rd "camp" and add to the problems - whether they are real or perceived ..
Mar 24 Note-1
Mahesh and Brian MacPhie, seeded 7th, play their first round today at the $2.95M Miami masters against David Adams and Stephen Huss ..
The grasscourt nationals are set to start tomorrow at the South Club lawns in Kolkata, co-organized by Paes en Sport and the Bengal Tennis Association (BTA) .. The menís wild cards have been given to Uppal, Rohan Gajjar, Saurav Panja and Vinod Sewa .. Vishal is actually the runner-up though he is ranked quite low in AITA die to having not played much in the last year .. Here are the seeds ó Men: Rohan Bopanna, Nitin Kirtane, Vinod Sridhar, Vijay Kannan, Mustafa Ghouse, Rishi Sridhar, Manoj Mahadevan, Kamala Kannan, Punna Vishal, Vasudev Reddy. Women: Radhika Tulpule, Sonal Phadke, Sai Jayalakshmi, Sheetal Gautham, Shruti Dhawan, Archana Venkatraman, Radhika Mandke, Ankita Bhambri, SK Tara, M. Kamini .. I assume Sunil Kumar will be playing there .. The notable names missing are Srinath, Harsh, Manisha and Rushmi ..
March 23 Notes
LP and MB are not on today's schedule at the Miami masters where serious doubles starts normally only in the second week ..
How about our man Rohan Bopanna?? .. The dude finished the Indian futures series in big style, winning the title (and double crown) at Delhi today in a tough match where he had to come back twice from deficits .. #6 R.Bopanna (IND,576) d. #5 Dmitri Mazur (UZB,549), 76(5) 57 64 .. Here is the agency news item - "Bopanna's temper was always on the boil. But the same hot-headedness also provided the Karnataka lad the steely resolve, which helped him come from behind twice in the match .. In the first set, after dropping serve on the seventh game, Bopanna broke Mazur back in the tenth game to push the set into the tie-breaker .. He did it again in the second set, breaking Mazur twice before himself losing serve while on the verge of victory. Perhaps, nerves got the better of him. However, he broke back in the opening game of the third set and then never looked back thereafter to clinch the title". .. Hot-headed ?? .. Oh yeah - enough with all the soft Indian stereotype - Go Rohan! Be Bopa Blaster Bopanna!
With a cannon for a serve, Rohan may be expected to go places in the ATP tour once he gets more tour experience under his belt .. Now, don't start expecting him to go up into top-100 in 2 months .. Those things don't happen .. It takes a good 20-30 tournaments on the tour on different surfaces, in different places, against different types of players before anybody can make the move up from #500 to top #150 even when the talent, tools, temperament and desire are all there .. That is a good two-year process for even the best ones in the pro tour .. Let us hope Rohan who turned 22 this month will get there within the next year or two - and let's give him all the support! ..
Emergence of Rohan Bopanna has been the best story in Indian tennis in the last few months -- between him and Harsh Mankad (who is 4 months older), we do have a pair of guys who could keep India at least at a decent level for the next few years
The rare record of having coached an Indian to a futures title for the first time in a very long time goes to the brand-new coach, Srinath ! .. The AITA had asked Sri to be the traveling coach for Sunil Kumar and Rohan Bopanna at the two futures events in India .. I don't think Indian coaches had much to do with Fazal's title at Chandigarh a few years back and Harsh's title in Canada last year ..
By the way, there was a news item a couple of days back that AITA will be supporting Rohan and Sania Mirza for two years .. Great idea! .. I have not seen the details of how much cash support they are considering .. Here is the news release - "AITA is taking full responsibility for Sania's training and tournaments and has decided to support her completely for the next three years. AITA acknowledges the support given to her by GVK Industries. The credit for promoting Sania till now goes entirely to GVK Industries and AITA is grateful for their continued support .. ALL India Tennis Association (AITA) in another step for promotion of tennis players in India, has entered into an agreement with Rohan Boppana, a promising young player, to promote his career in tennis. Presently he is ranked No.2 in India and 576 in ATP Rankings .. AITA is taking full responsibility for his training and tournaments has decided to support him completely for the next two years. AITA acknowledges the support given to him by CGK Bhupathi in bringing him up to the present level" .. Terrific!
Now some interesting news .. Every now and then I go after PTI for some silly reporting .. Here is one from today that gave me a laugh -- The Prakash win over Harsh was reported as some big tournament title -- "Amritraj downs Mankad for title - Chennai, March 22 (PTI), Up and coming Prakash Amritraj scalped Indian Davis Cupper Harsh Mankad 61 76(3) to clinch the title in the final of the US Amateur tennis championship in Los Angeles yesterday .. Prakash scored one of the biggest upsets in recent times in the event for Universities in the US. This is the first win for Prakash in his first year in the 18 years age group .. Harsh was the defending champion .. Vijay Amritraj told PTI from Los Angeles that Prakash won the first set rather easily with breaks in the third and fifth games at 6-1 and was leading 3-1 in the second set before Mankad fought his way back into the match with some fine play" .. I have no idea where PTI made up all that stuff about this nonexistent "US Amateur tennis championship" and all that -- I don't think they got that from Vijay! .. It was not the first win for Prakash, there is no age group business in college tennis, and Harsh was not the defending-champ or anything either .. It was just a non-conference spring break tie between two US colleges which counts for rankings but not for conference standings or anything else .. PTI gives me a chuckle every now and then, but it's great that they give coverage to tennis, so I won't complain! (By the way, AITA also reported this PTI news item at their web site which I hope will be corrected)
Mar 22 Notes
At the Miami masters, LP and Gimselstob won their first round over Albert Costa and Marat Safin in a tough one - 64 67(6) 63 win .. Next up for them are the 8th seeded Bryans .. Neither LP nor MB is playing today on Friday ..
Rohan Bopanna is on a roll! .. Today, he and Vijay Kannan won the doubles title at the Delhi futures with a 64 64 win over Sancai and Sonchat Ratowatana of Thailand, and he has a chance for a big double crown, as he reached the singles final with a win over Meir Deri of Israel, 63 76(6) .. He had lost to Deri in the second round last week - so this was good revenge for Rohan .. He picked up 8 more points to add to the 33 ATP points he has, which will put him right inside #525 in rankings .. He is #376 this week .. This is the first futures final by an Indian since Harsh Mankad's title in Canada last summer .. I will add the results pages for both Indian futures later today.
Harsh Mankad on the other hand is in a mini-slump I guess .. When the player who had started the college year 15-1 with some 13 top-100 wins and dropping just three tiebreaker sets all year, goes 2-2 in a week, that is a mini-slump .. I saw a very good match (well good for a set), between Harsh and Prakash Amritraj yesterday at the Univ of Southern California .. Prakash, ranked #97 this week but about to move up a lot, has really started coming on strong, as he is learning some of the patience needed to win in college tennis .. He had just moved up to the #1 spot in the USC team in somewhat of a surprise this week, but he cemented his position with a 61 76(3) win over Harsh Mankad .. Harsh was just not playing his best game - he was off by a few iches on every winner he was trying to hit .. With a big athletic guy like Prakash who is not afraid to come up and play solidly at the net, Harsh needed his groundies deep and to the corners, and had to have his passing shots working - but till late in the second set when he came back from 1-6 1-3, Harsh's shots were just not there .. Prakash was fired up, as was the USC fans (Vijay Amritraj of course being there to watch the biggest match of his son's young career) .. The first set was over before Harsh could get a good measure of PA's game and the courts (he seems to be one who needs some time to adjust to new courts, especially outdoors) .. When HM made his move on PA, it seemed like the young guy would fold under pressure - but not so, and this was the impressive part .. The big point of the mach was when Harsh clawed back from 1-3 and had a set point at AD out off PA's serve in the 12th game of the second set .. A huge service winner right down the middle clinched the issue there for Prakash .. The crowd went wild out there .. In the tiebreaker, two unforced errors by HM was the difference, as PA continued to play totally mistake-free tennis which was a great to see .. I had told Prakash before the match that I had to root for Harsh, as PA already had his big cheering squad - but Prakash made me root for him a bit in in the end! .. The second set was fun to watch .. After the match, Harsh was quite down about having gone 3-3 with a loss each to the #3 and #97 players .. He had great compliments for Prakash - especially for the temperament he showed in front of some pressure from Harsh in the second set .. Prakash's game is solid - and if there is one player who will benefit a lot from the grind and patience that US college tennis teaches, it is Prakash .. Papa Amritraj was justifiably proud of the win, giving PA a big bear-hug after the match and all that .. By the way, Prakash is a well-mannered, good, kid - we should watch out for him ..
It was quite something to go to a tie between two US colleges and to find the #1 vs #1 match listed on the scoreboard as Amritraj vs Mankad .. Two of the greatest names in Indian sports! .. I don't think the people out there had much of an idea how it felt to see that, for an Indian sports fan.
Despite some struggle this week in the warm southern california, Harsh said that he is fine and healthy .. He is looking forward to New Zealand, and wants to get there warly and get adjusted to the conditions - which will be tough in windy Wellington .. He said that with a couple of days on the courts out there, his game should be 100% .. Speaking of Davis Cup, it was announced today that Srinath Prahlad is back in the team, replacing Vijay Kannan .. So it is LP, MB, Harsh, Rohan and Srinath .. I think Harsh still has the second singles spot, but captain RK has a couple more very good options, with both Sri and Rohan in good singles form. I think we have the team to beat NZL.
None of the Indian kids got past second round at the grade-2 Malaysian junior ITF .. The Easern circuit has always been extremely difficult for all the Indian kids - I have not been able to figure out why it becomes SO difficult.
Mar 21 Notes
Just getting restarted .. LP and Gomselstob play the last match on court-1 today against Albert Costa and Marat Safin, at the Miami masters .. Actually, both LP and MB have found good matching partners this week in Gimelstob and MacPhie (who were a pair themselves earlier) ..
Rohan Bopanna had a good win over Ben-Qiang Zhu of China, 64 62 to reach the semifinal today at the Delhi $10K futures .. Zhu had beaten Nitin Kirtane in the previous round .. Actually, despite his 900+ ranking, Zhu is a top-500 quality player, from my memory of his earlier results/rankings - so this goes as a good win .. Rohan is the only Indian in the semifinal, as Srinath went down to the second seed Lee Childs (GBR,484) 46 67(3), and Vishal Uppal also fell today .. Lee next plays the Indian killer Dmitri Mazur (UZB,546) seeded 5th .. Following his earlier wins over Sunil Kumar and Manoj Mahadevan in the first two rounds, Mazur beat Vishal Uppal, 64 64 in the QF .. The other semi will be between Rohan and Meir Deri (ISR,843) who upset the 7th seed Branislav Sekac (SVK,607) 62 76(5) today .. Rohan Bopanna and Vijay Kannan reached another doubles final, with a win over Yu Wang and ben-Qiang Zhu, 63 62 in the SF .. They play the Thai brothers, Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana in the final .. Good show by Coorgi power player, Rohan.
#1 US collegiate player Harsh Mankad, who had been on a big win streak of 9 matches (some 8 of those against top-50 players) had his win streak snapped by the 3rd ranked NCAA player, Al Garland of the Pepperdine University, in a road match at Pepperdine, Malibu, on Tuesday .. The Univ of Minnesota team is on spring break in southern california .. A lot of college teams are in southern california, playing each other in dual matches .. Harsh had a win over the #42 player (of Yale Univ) on Monday and had a win over Stan Smith's son Trevor Smith (Princeton U.) yesterday as well .. His record stands at 17-2 for the year .. I saw Harsh's match against Garland on Tuesday -- close match .. Just being a little bit off in his volleying on a very slow court was his main problem - but it was a terrific match, as it was billed to be with the #1 payig the #3 squaring off - it went back and forth with some 6 or 7 service breaks altogether .. Harsh is playing with a lot of confidence and may have pulled it off had 2-3 points gone the other way .. He also fought through 4 match points before a shot fell one inch out, off Garland's serve in the 10th game of the second set .. Harsh is playing outdoors for the first time since last August actually - and the practice is excellent for playing NZL in two weeks in Davis Cup .. UM plays Univ of Southern California today - and it is possible that Harsh may play Prakash Amritraj today - Prakash, who was playing #3 spot for USC, played #1 yesterday n a college tie - if that was not a temporary thing, he may play Harsh today .. I will have a report anyway, as I am going to USC to watch these guys .. Harsh says that he is healthy and feels good about the upcoming NZL tie, especially after playing outdoors, with mild windy conditions in some good matches this week (Pepperdine courts arenear the Malibu beach, up in the hills - one of the most beutiful college tennis setting, actually) .. The NZL tie will be in windy Weelington, outdoors .. Despite the loss to the #3 player, he may keep his ranking inside the top-3, as he had a good lead on everybody else already with all the wins he has under his belt this year.
More later, if I find anything on how the Indian kids are doing at Kulala Lumpur in the Grade-2 junior ITF event.
Mar 20 --- I am almost ready to restart the notes - probably by tomorrow .. Done with my tough project .. Quick update - At the Miami masters, LP is playing with Gimselstob - they will play A.Costa-Safin in the first round .. Mahesh playing with McPhie - seeded 7th and has a first round bye .. Doubles matches start by thurs/fri at the 2-week event .. This week has gone well for Indians at the futures .. Vishal Uppal had a big upset of 3rd seed Mark Hilton .. He, Rohan Bopanna and Prahlad Srinath are in the QFs .. At Malaysia Grade-2, Karan lost in the first round to the 4th seed, but Tushar (lucky loser), and Jaco reached PQF .. Isha is in the PQF and Sanaa went down in R1 ..
Mar 16 --- I will be busy for a couple more days more - sorry about no updates for so many days (first time I have done this in 5 years while not traveling - so I was on to some important-enough other work) .. Hold on, I will be back soon .. LP lost in R1, MB lost in R2 with their partners at Indian wells .. Srinath lost in the semis and Bopanna-Kannan were the doubles runners-up at F1 in Chennai .. F2 in Delhi - qualies starting .. Indian kids got to Indonesia only in the last minute - and Karan and Tushar went down in the first round at the Grade-3 .. I expect them to do better next week, when I believe Isha also joins (?) based on the entry list - not sure if AITA is sending others .. Over and out!
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on Mar 18 ..
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.