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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Mar 27, 2000

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Mar 26 Note-2

Gosh - what a wasted trip this turned out to be for Leander in Miami .. The sixth seeds LP and Wayne Arthurs lost today in the second round to Damm and Hrbaty, 63 57 46 at the Ericsson masters at Key Biscayne ..  I was out and couldn't follow the game online - not sure what caused the loss .. That's two tournaments in a row that Hrbaty has been the nemesis for Paes-Arthurs (with Federer, he upset 5th seed WA-LP at Indian Wells last week too) .. That's the end of that .. Hopefully Lee can go up to Orlando and do some training before proceeding to India for Davis Cup - his singles form always improves when he spends time working out in Orlando..

Mar 26 Note-1

Nothing much was there to report for a couple of days .. No news STILL from Japan on how Fazal has done there this week in the futures, no news from Singapore on how the junior event is going either - the Asian newspapers generally stink when it comes to tennis reporting, except in India and Thailand .. At the Key Biscayne masters, yesterday was the big day of second round singles and hardly any doubles matches were scheduled.

LP finally plays at the Ericsson today .. After a first round bye, the 6th seeds Arthurs and Paes face Martin Damm (CZE,43) and Dominic Hrbaty (SVK,84) in the second round .. Those guys had beaten Arnold and Garcia in the first round in three sets on Friday .. Hrbaty seems to be in a pretty good form - as the 24th seed in singles, he had a 61 61 win in the second round yesterday .. Arthurs, who was a qualifier, lost his second round singles match yesterday and is available for full-time doubles duty with LP during the second week of the tournament .. The doubles match is scheduled for around 1 pm there (10 am PST, USA .. 11.30 pm India) - you can find online score updates at the official scoreboard page, if you are interested.

Mar 24 Notes

Here is the upper half of the doubles draw (the 16 seeds having first round byes in a 48-size draw) at Ericsson Masters in Key Biscayne, Florida ..  Paes-Arthurs are the 6th seeds:

 1 O.Brien/ J.Palmer         vs [Q R.Federer/ A.Vinciguerra vs   J.Grabb/ R.Reneberg   ]
16 W.Ferreira/ Y.Kafelnikov  vs [  G.Ivanisevic/ D.Vacek    vs Q T.Shimada/ M.Wakefield]
10 J.Novak/ D.Rikl           vs [W J.Blake/ T.Blake         vs   B.Haygarth/ A.Kitinov ]
 7 D.Adams/ J.L.DeJager      vs [W L.Jensen/ M.Jensen       vs   T.Carbonell/ E.Taino  ]
 4 P.Haarhuis/ S.Stolle      vs [W P.Goldstein/ C.Woodruff  vs W J.Courier/ J.Stark    ]
13 P.Norval/ K.Ullyett       vs [  N.Marques/ T.Vanhoudt    vs   M.Hood/ S.Prieto      ]
11 O.Delaitre/ F.Santoro     vs [W G.Kuerten/ A.Prieto      vs W J.Balcells/ A.Corretja]
 6 W.Arthurs/ L.Paes         vs [  L.Arnold/ M.Garcia       vs   M.Damm/ D.Hrbaty      ]
The bottom half of the draw has 5th seeds Bjorkman/B.Black, 12th seed Knowles/Mirnyi, 14th seeds MacPherson/Tarango, 3rd seeds Woodies, 8th seeds Gimelstob/Lareau, 9th seeds W.Black/Kratzmann, 15th seeds Prinosil/Tillstrom and 2nd seeds Ferreira/Leach in that order .. There seem to be a couple more wildcard teams (seven of them) than is usual - actually ATP had said late last year that they would increase the number of wildcards into the doubles draw to get some top singles players to show up and add some color, but I hadn't noticed any changes like that so far this year .. There are four brother-brother pairs in the draw, perhaps a first in an ATP tournament -- the Jensen brothers (Luke and Murphy), the Blake brothers (Thomas and James), the Bryan twins (Bob and Mike) and a new pair, Lapentti brothers (Nicolas and Giovanni) .. There are also the Black brothers (Byron and Wayne) but they are playing with other partners as usual .. A very talented young team made it in through qualifying rounds - Federer and Vinciguerra, the youngest team in the draw now, who get a first round match against one of the oldest pairs, Grabb and Reneberg .. I doubt the kids are serious about any doubles career at this time - they probably wanted to have some fun getting practice over the weekend playing doubles qualies (many top singles players often like playing doubles to avoid the boring hitting practice for singles) .. Federer looked very good in doubles last week at Indian Wells and was having a lot of fun with Hrbaty upsetting Novak-Rikl, Paes-Arthurs, and the Woodies on the way to the quarterfinals after LP upset his plans for singles in the first round of qualies ..

Paes-Arthurs' second round opponents will be determined today, as Arnold/Garcia are scheduled to play Damm/Hrbaty .. The first round doubles matches are scheduled for tomorrow also, and the earliest WA-LP will be playing would be Sunday.

Mar 23 Note-2

Manisha Malhotra is back in action again .. Just found out that she was at the qualifying rounds for the $25K Atlanta challenger (Stone Mountain) over the weekend .. She beat wildcard Alexandra Smith (USA) in Q1 by the score of 61 62, and then fell to the top seed in the qualies, Rossana de Los Rios (PAR,266), 46 46 .. So, Manisha seems to be in decent form after the thumb injury lay off she had for over a month .. We will see if she will be playing the qualies at the Norcross (Georgia, US) challenger this coming weekend.

Mar 23 Note-1

Doubles draw at Ericsson hasn't been released yet .. Also, no news from Japan on how Fazal is doing, but the main draw matches were scheduled to start on wednesday there.

The South Korea Davis Cup team playing India at RK Khanna Stadium grasscourts (Apr 7-9) has been announced, according to AITA - it is, 1. Hyung-Taik Lee (#199), 2. Yong-Il Yoon (#298), 3. Hee-Sung Chung (#759), and 4. Sang-Hoon Lee (#1086) .. Won-Hung Joo is the nonplaying captain for Korea ..  No big surprises there, as Lee and Yoon will be carrying the load for them .. Korea does have a couple of players in the 400-600 ranking range who were not selected for this tie .. The #3 and #4 players for them may not get to play anyway .. The top two are certainly not easy players .. Yong-Il Yoon has not had as much of great pro results lately as he used to have a couple of years back, but he seems to still come up with great effort in Davis Cup matches .. Let us hope that Fazal is in good enough shape to pull an upset win on grass to give some breathing room for Leander who may end up having to play and win three matches otherwise, the doubles being an area of concern too.

Talking of Davis Cup, Srinath is also reportedly at the 15-day AITA camp for our top second-string players, at CGK Bhupathi's Tennis Village at Bangalore .. Here is the Deccan Herald report on the camp .. The article doesn't list Vinod Sridhar who I thought was supposed to be there too, though .. Bhupathi Sr has been making them sweat a lot so far, from what I hear :-) .. That's good, though a 15 day camp can only do so much .. The article mentions that he is giving special attention to AD court doubles play also, to get those like Vishal Uppal ready to actually even play with Leander in the doubles match, if Ramesh Krishnan wants to try that option rather than have both LP and Fazal play three matches each .. Would be interesting to see if anybody picks up that double-fisted backhand down the line signature shot that Mahesh learned from his dad (if I am not mistaken, Krishna Bhupathi was the first or among the first in India to use double-fisted backhands, no? -- not sure; not my area of expertise :-)).

The Hindu had found some results from the Singapore ITF junior tournament and published it today .. It is nice to see Indian newspapers making the effort to track down our players' results - thanks go to the press friends at The Hindu .. The news isn't great once again on the girls' side though .. Both Radhika Tulpule and Sonal Phadke lost surprisingly badly in the first round .. #69 Sonal lost 16 26 to qualifier Tomokoa Yonemura of Japan and #100 Radhika was upset by Da Jung Hong (KOR,162) 62 64  - Hong had lost to Sonal in three sets last week .. Both Sonal and Radhika were seeded this week  .. I am not sure what is bothering them both that causes this kind of listless losses .. Especially Radhika, who had just won the national grasscourts two weeks back - and had generally beaten a lot of quality players in the juniors for over an year .. Liza Pereira is the only one to advance to second round, beating Cheryl Naruse of Singapore 63 63 .. On the boys side, the big ones (Sunil Kumar, Vinod Sewa, Parantap Chaturvedi and Shivang Mishra) are seeded and had first round byes into the round of 32 .. Vishal Punna had a good win over Ahamd Wahla of Pakistan 64 62 .. The disappointing loss was by u-16 national champion Amanjot Singh (#151) to Sun Peng of China - again, the 0-6 0-6 scoreline suggests to me that something may not have been right with Amanjot either (he is certainly better than that!) .. Nikhil Vijay Murali had lost in the final round qualies to the same Chinese boy 26 26, but made it in as a lucky loser before losing to Josh Burman of the US 46 36 .. We will wait for results from Sunil, Vinod, Parantap and Shivang later.

A correction on what I wrote below about Sania Mirza, who is the youngest top-200 junior player in the world .. The 13 year old is actually the Indian #1 in under-14 AITA ranks in February - I had said Isha Lakhani was ahead of her, but I was looking at the wrong rank list from December .. Isha has since moved to u-16 levels this year, where she is #2 behind Megha Vakharia ..

The AITA press release today gives some calendar corrections: (a) The U/14 & U/18 Adidas Tournament scheduled to be held in the week of 10th April at Bangalore has been postponed to 3rd July 2000 .. (b) The venue of the U/14 & U/16 tournament has been shifted from Lucknow to the Tennis Complex, Motilal Nehru Regional Engineering College, Allahabad (Entries can be sent on telephone 0532-659749) .. (c) The U/14 & U/16 tournaments scheduled to be held at Chennai on 8th May has been cancelled .. (d) The U/14 & U/16 tournaments to be held at Chennai on 5th June has been postponed to 21st August 2000.

Mar 22 Notes

The latest ITF junior rank list shows a whole bunch of Indians in the top-200 .. Ten of them .. Vinod Sewa has come up to #131 with his QF points at Kuala Lumpur .. Sunil Kumar (122), Shivang Mishra (125), Parantap Chaturvedi (138), Amanjot Singh (151), AV Rao (182), P Ravikrishna (184), CS Mohanty (193), Vivek Jhaveri (194), Nishank Mishra (196) are the 10 juniors in the world-200 .. All well and good, but we have to see a good number inside the top-100, and at least somebody inside top-50 where nobody has gone in since Harsh Mankad three years back, I believe ..  On the girls's side, Sonal Phadke (69), Radhika Tulpule (100), Liza Pereira (153), C Nandita (172) and Sania Mirza (192) are the five in the top-200 on the women's side .. Sania from Hyderabad is the most impressive among the bunch, based just on her age - as she is just 13 years and 4 months old according to ITF (she is #2 in the AITA u14 ranks behind Isha Lakhani who has not played any ITF events yet) .. Sania is currently the youngest player in the ITF world top-200, but the two Chinese girls Su-Wei Hsieh and Shuai Peng, both a few months older at 13 also, are ranked #65 and #66 which is very impressive - there are a couple of other 13 year olds also in the 100-200 range .. The rankings at that age are not all that reliable though, because some of the tough European players don't start playing the circuit till they are about 14 .. No news yet on how things are going for the Indian juniors at the grade-3 Singapore ITF event this week ..

Finally got the result from the AITA South India Open men's final at Chennai last week (from a press friend -thanks!) -- #1 seed Vinod Sridhar beat #2 seed Vijay Kannan in a close affair, 7-6(3) 7-5 ..

The doubles draw is not yet made for the Key Biscayne masters .. Leander is expected to play with Wayne Arthurs, but the doubles may start only on Friday or Saturday .. I heard that LP did not enter on time for the singles qualifying and that's how he missed out on that and ended up having to sign in and wait as the first alternate [I had a few emails from people asking whether ATP deliberately messed him up or anything - no, nothing like that!] .. I need to find out from LP how the mix-up happened, but it is not all that rare for players miss an entry deadline, as the deadlines keep coming week after week .. This must have been four weeks back when Leander was in India .. As I often say, a lot of his planning goes haywire whenever he is there :-) ..  Unfortunate though - and I am sure he feels bad about missing a chance to play singles .. With his current form I would have expected him to make it in, as the qualies had players in the 100-175 rank range .. But that's how it goes sometime ..

We should be hearing something about how Fazal is doing this week at the Japan F2, soon.

Mar 21 Notes

Mahesh's rehab is progressing well .. He was able to hit for up to two hours at a stretch yesterday, and feels no pain or anything - the arm does get tired after that, that's all - and that's normal after a layoff like that .. He is expecting to start serving in a couple of days if a checkup tomorrow goes well .. He plans to play in the tour by May first week, at the Orlando ATP (clay) event .. He may only play doubles there, as the doctors' advice is to play a few doubles events first before pushing hard in singles to bring the shoulder along .. Mahesh said that coach Carmichael had talked to him recently - he believes Leander is also expecting to be at Orlando ATP that week .. It's too early to say that they will play together there .. Leander may have to skip doubles there, to avoid missing singles qualies over the weekend for Rome masters that follows .. If Leander's ranking is not high enough to make it to the qualies at Rome, or if MB is feeling strong enough to do well in doubles already, then I guess they may use that week to restart doubles together anyway and get ready for the big Rome masters and then French Open afterwards - that's my guess .. Too early to say, but as of now Mahesh feels good enough to push his return date to a week earlier than originally thought .. I will update more next week once he starts serving practice .. So, that's at least some good news.

Fazal is the 3rd seed at the Japan F2 futures at Shirako this week - he gets Ben-Qiang Zhu (CHN,639) in the first round .. Fazal has beaten the same guy on grass in straight sets at Calcutta last year in Davis Cup .. Ben-Qiang had however managed to beat LP in the Asia Cup last November, though that was during the period when LP was completely out of form .. If Fazal can get past the Chinese, he gets the winner among two qualifiers (Suwandi Suwandi of Indonesia and Kenji Fujiwara of Japan) .. I am told the matches are in freezing cold weather which has been giving Fazal problems.

Mar 20 Note-3

Leander did not play today in the qualies and waited as the #1 alternate, as nobody withdrew there in the qualies -- I am told that a couple of matches are still to be played in the first round, postponed to tomorrow due to rain, but it looks like LP won't get to play .. If I were to guess, something got messed up and he didn't get entered in the list for the qualifying rounds three weeks back - because, the cut was actually #182 from three weeks back, and LP would have easily made it in .. He would have been the 14th seed in the qualies .. I haven't heard from LP about what caused this .. I will find out, but it doesn't matter now, as yet another tournament seems to have gone by - and this was the masters series event with the lowest qualifier cut-off .. We will have to wait a while to see where he will play next .. Ericsson Open continues next week, with Davis Cup the week after and quite possibly an offweek after that .. Except for two qualifying matches at Indian Wells, that would be a 6 week off period for LP from ATP singles .. Just when he had had one of his better wins (over Federer) and was looking pretty good in singles! .. What can I say ? -- this is how things have often gone in LP's career - the momentum gets lost suddenly for weeks for various reasons .. He loses 48 points for his Delhi challenger title in 4 weeks and will be ranked near 140 once again (will have to qualify at French Open - which would have been tough to avoid and he had to pick up about 100 points from Indian Wells and Key Biscayne for that) .. Not that it was certain for him to have picked up points from Key Biscayne, but it would have been nice to see him having a chance at least .. Doubles starts later this week - I believe only by Friday or so .. He couldn't have played singles anywhere else though - this week's challenger is in New Zealand and only a clay challenger in Italy is there for next week .. So it is doubles time for him.

Leander is #117 in ESP ranks and #91 in race ranks this week .. He finally lost the #1 doubles ranking with Jared Palmer of USA becoming the new #1 player, the first time since 1994 August that a US player has been #1 in doubles (Jonathan Stark was #1 then) .. Palmer has had titles in successive weeks - at Scottsdale with Reneberg and at Indian Wells with O'Brien .. LP is #3 with 2854 pts, behind Palmer with 3187 points and O'Brien with  2894 points .. Mahesh has now fallen to #10 with 2306 points .. MB is at #470 in ESP with 49 points - but most of that will fall off in a couple of weeks, as the points from his final at the Delhi challenger last year goes off the computer .. Srinath is at #335 and Fazal is at #443 .. Nirupama is at #213 this week in singles and #187 in doubles.

Mar 20 Note-2

Well, the ATP person at Key Biscayne tells me that the qualifier entry closed three weeks back at #144, and Leander was not ranked high enough to make it (which is incorrect, because he was ranked #134 then) .. I don't know what the deal is - but anyway, LP is not in the qualifier draw .. He is the first alternate and he is waiting there, they said - but nobody has pulled out .. Quite  frustrating to see this kind of crap - I don't know what the heck messed him up this time .. Not a good idea to go three weeks without playing singles (actually almost 4 weeks till the Davis Cup, as it looks) .. Just when he was beginning to look good in singles .. Anyway, I am quite upset about it right now .. Hopefully he will get in - but the first set of matches have just started there already and nobody has pulled out.

Mar 20 Note-1

I just saw the initial qualifying draw at Key Biscayne, and for some reason Leander Paes is not in it .. I have no idea why not, as he would have made it based on current rankings as well as the ranks six weeks back (which is also used for automatic entry into qualifying rounds in a confusing procedure that ATP has been using for qualies during the past year) .. The main draw has 96 spots and the qualifier draw has 48 spots, but with wildcard spots - but with wildcards, the absolute minimum of 130 spots in the main draw and qualies there .. If Leander missed it by a whisker, I am pretty sure he will get in by the time it starts today .. The masters events have become even tougher than they used to be in this regard, as everyone basically shows up .. I will try to find out soon what is going on.

O'Brtien/Palmer won the Indian Wells doubles, beating Haarhuis/Stolle in the final .. H/S had beaten Federer/Hrbaty in the semis in three sets .. O/P are looking really strong - perhaps the only team that has appeared to be in a dominating class so far this year, like the Indian Express last year.

Funny that not one online source I have checked including every newspaper's online site (Indian Express, The Hindu, Deccan Heald, Hindusthan Times, The Telegraph, The Pioneer, Statesman, etc) failed to report the finals scores at the AITA South Indian Open at Chennai on Saturday .. The only result I saw was in the Chandigarh Tribune, which said Sai Jayalakshmy beat Archana Venkatraman, 67(4) 62 63 but did not say anything about the other results .. No news on the Vijay Kannan - Vinod Sridhar men's singles final .. If anybody has the scores, let me know.

At the Kuala Lumpur ITF junior tournament, Yeu-Tzoo Wang of Taiwan who turned 15 only last month but already ranked 31st in the world and the best junior in Asia in my opinion based on results,  won the semifinal over 17 yr-old Ronald Paz of Philippines who is ranked only 381 but has suddenly had a great tournament .. Incidentally, it was Paz who sent out Sunil Kumar 61 63 in the first round out there .. I guess Sunil lost to a good player, but that also shows why everyone should back off the boy and let him play a lot and improve .. I just typed a lot more on Sunil Kumar's "situation", and decided to not post it - suffices to say that I am personally quite saddened at the continued disagreement in the tennis tennis circles, with good-intentions from all parties to the extent I know (but with everyone suspecting everybody else's intentions), on how to go about developing this kid - I will just stay away from this rather messy topic! .. Sunil will be playing at the Singapore grade-3 ITF juniors this week - and now he is running out of time in picking up points if he wants to qualify for Wimbledon juniors .. Sunil has not shown great results on grass yet though - and there has been criticism on him not playing the grasscourts two weeks back .. Actually I had hoped that he would make it to the French Open juniors as well .. Would like to see how he does on that clay (tough to get anywhere in world tennis without some experience on the dirt, these days, right? - FO has the best dirt :-)) ... But first things first - he needs to win something at least at these grade-3 and grade-2 events and prove something to us before we start looking for anything bigger .. For now, let us wish him best.

I have added the ranks and corrected some names from yesterday's report below on the results from the Kuala Lumpur juniors .. The only Indian to reach the QF there, Vinod Sewa, lost 36 67(3) in the QF to 2nd seed #55 Stephen Mitchell (RSA), who then lost the semis to Clinton Jacobs (RSA,153) who was to face Yeu-Tzoo Wang in the final .. Quite a creditable show by Vinod Sewa, especially for that very good win in the first round against a seeded #126 player .. Something tells me that Vinod, also from some humble background is showing a bit more hunger for success than some of the other kids ..  The girls final was betwen Dea Sumantri (IND) who beat Su Wei Hsieh (Taiwan) and Taekushi Ayano (JPN) who beat Martha van Niekerk (who beat Radhika in R2) in the semis [courtesy: The Star, Malaysia]

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Mar 20 ..

I am getting some enquiries 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 enquiring 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 enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.