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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Mar 29, 2004
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Mar 29 Notes

What a way for Sehwag to become the first Indian with a test triple century -- sixer lofted over the midwicket fence to reach 301 !!! .. We are not worthy! We are not worthy!! ..

Harsh Mankad probably noticed that the Indian Davis Cup team list showed him as #5 though he is second in ranking and has been in form lately .. Probably wanted to show  in his own mild way that he is playing some good tennis -- Mankad beat Rohan Bopanna 64 64 to reach the second round of the $37.5K Busan challenger this afternoon ..  I don't have any details of the match, but this is the 8th win in 10 challenger main draws for Mankad within the last year, starting from his run to the semifinal of the Bangalore challenger last April .. He has actually picked up more challenger wins than any other Indian in that period (Parkash with four wins in 7 challengers and Rohan with 5 from 12 challengers) ..  Mankad's second round opponent is yet to be decided, but could probably be the 2nd seed Alexander Peaya (AUT,145)

OK, talked to Harsh and got some details on the match -- Harsh says Rohan was playing quite well, especially once he got his rhythm in the second set .. RB was down 3-5, 0-40 with HM having match points .. Hit a big serve and a couple of big forehands to stay in the match .. HM said he was under a bit of pressure in his service game at 6-4 5-4 and RB really made him work for the win .. He said that one or two points the other way could have turned the match around, and HM knows that Rohan is always dangerous when he gets on a bit of a streak in hitting big shots and serves .. But then again, I suppose HM is quite a bit experienced in handling such situations now .. Good to see a nice match between the two ..  RB's problems in the earlier futures were probably mostly due to rust from the long layoff and he is playing fine again .. That's good news .. Congrats to  Harsh Mankad for a good win today..

Update on some excellent results by Indian-Canadian Kavitha Krishnamurthy that I kept on forgetting to report this week - she reached the final at the $10K ITF event at Yarrawonga, Australia on grasscourts .. 22 year old Kavitha, who was a Canadian #1 junior a few years back and was playing college tennis at the Princeton University till last June, has been on the tour for the recent few months .. Mixed results for quite a while for her and this was her first big final .. She beat Lauren Cheng (AUS,653) 64 76(4), Arpi Kojian (USA,850), 61 62, Christina Horiatopoulos (AUS,692), 36 62 60 and 3rd seed  Sophie Ferguson (AUS,447), 64 76(5), before falling in the final to Emily Hewson (AUS), 76(4) 67(6) 36 .. Good show by #760 Kavitha who is in the list for the Mumbai $10K now .. Congrats!

Mar 28 Note-2 

Leander and David got back to their winning ways today with a pretty good win today at the Miami Masters where they were runner-up to Federer and Mirnyi last year .. [R1] (7) L.Paes/ D.Rikl d. Sebastien Prieto (ARG)/ Andre Sa (BRA), 64 61 .. They were up a break in the 4th game early in the match .. Then it became even at 4-4 with abreak on Rikl's serve in the 8th game .. They went ahead immediately with a break in the 9th game and then didn't step off the pedal, taking the second set with three more breaks and not even facing a break point .. They were a very efficient 5 of 6 in break points and the match took only an hour and 4 minutes ..

The draws at the $10K ITF women's event in Mumbai are posted in our forum ..

News from the $15K USA F9 in Mobile Alabama .. Arun-Prakash Rajagopalan, the current Asian Juniors champion who along with Somdev was our best two juniors joining the pro ranks this year, went down to the 4th seed in the Q2 .. In the Q1 he beat Kenneth Sciara (USA) 61 62 .. He then lost to Carlos Salamanca (COL, 905) 67(4) 67(5) today .. Arun has been with the Randy Mani Academy in the US and doing it the very tough way in the US futures circuit qualies ..

Mar 28 Note-1

LP and David Rikl are to play their first round doubles match at about 1 pm today at the Miami masters against Prieto and Sa ..

The draws came out at the $37.5K Busan challenger where the first round starts on Monday .. Interesting stuff (actually I hate this kind of stuff) -- Rohan Bopanna and Harsh Mankad face each other in the first round .. Now, who the heck am I going to root for? .. May the Indian guy win! .. The winner will advance to face possibly the second seed Alexander Peya .. Prakash Amritraj gets a qualifier to be determined, and he will play only on Tuesday .. In doubles also there are interesting things .. Rohan and Prakash are playing together .. That should be a good pairing .. They await a qualifying pair, as it looks like Prakash Amritraj's luck with the draw has returned after a couple of weeks of terrible draws in the US .. Harsh Mankad is playing with George Bast (SUI) .. Bastl used to be ranked much higher earlier in doubles (around #75 in 2002) but has not played a whole lot lately and has fallen to #571 in the rankings now ..  They face the top seeds Jun Kato and Thomas Shimada - that will be tough.

At the grade-1 Thailand ITF juniors, Tara Iyer gave it a good try in the final but came up short in a 63 26 36 match against the world #7 Yung Jan Chan .. But still a wonderful week of work by Tara.

Mumbai $10K satellite is set to start soon .. A spate of withdrawals due to injuries and other reasons  dampened things a bit though .. Isha. Megha. Neha. Shikha, etc all withdrew .. Rushmi and Sai are in the main draw list, as is Sonal.

Mar 27 Notes

At the Miami masters, the doubles draw finally came out yesterday .. MB-Mirnyi are the second seeds and play Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler of Germany .. Paes-Rikl are the 7th seeds and play Sebastien Prieto and Andre Sa in the first round .. The two teams are both in the bottom half of the draw and can potentially meet in the semis .. LP-Rikl is in the quarter with 3rd seed Bjorkman-Woodbridge and MB-MM have 5th seeds Knowles-Nestor in their quarter .. So, the draws are not easy .. Neither team is on the schedule for today.

Terrific news from Thailand .. Tara Iyer has made the final of the grade-1 ITF "Amata Cup" juniors with an excellent upset of the second seed and last week's  runner upo Pichittra Thongdach (THA,37), 76(2) 36 60 .. Pichittra has been playing very well lately (you might remember her reaching the finals of all thre Indian ITF events a few weeks back) .. This is Tara's second grade-1 final .. She had lost to Sania last year at the Philippines grade-1 in early April when she was just a 14 years old ..  Tara's reaching that final goes as perhaps the most amazing performance I have seen from Indian girls! ..  Today's win gives Tara 100 points which will raise her rank to around #45 next week, though she has the Philippines points falling off in a couple of weeks .. So, a very timely run by her .. In the final she runs into a very tough in-form player who is among the biggest talent Asia has seen in recent years - Yung-Jan Chan of Taiwan, a 14 year old who is already #7 in the world and was the winner of last week's Malaysia grade-1 .. Go Tara!!

Mar 26 Notes

Good and bad news from Thailand .. 15 year old Tara Iyer won a nice match to make the semifinal to continue the top form she has shown since late last year .. [QF] (6) Tara Iyer (IND,69) d. (13) Stefanie Rath (AUT,117), 63 26 63 .. Stefanie had upset the 4th seed yesterday and is another good quality player that Tara has beaten this week .. A correction from yesterday when I typed that Tara was 16 -- that was just an oversight; she is of course still only 15 and will be so till July .. She and Sanaa are expected to be leading our Junior Fed Cup (u16) team this year - Sanaa turned 16 this month, by the way .. Tara has been in the US for the last few years and is being coached by Vesa Ponkka in College Park, Maryland .. Ponkka is a former Finnish national team player (and a US college doubles national champion in 1990 as well) .. Very nice to see her doing so well in the last few events she has played .. Tara is a bit of a power player and has a lot of potential, from all I hear.

Now to the bad news -- Karan Rastogi went down to Martin Pedersen (DEN,127) 36 57 .. I don't really worry too much about Karan because at this time what is really important for him is to work on things he wants to improve in his match-play, rather than to look for points (which he doesn't really need at these events, being ranked #5 in the world) .. He can look for ITF points at the bigger grand slam events, where he can play just to win matches.. At these types of good grade-1 events players like him should probably be focussing more on working to improve the details of one's match-play against good competition .. Low percentage shots and strategies - if you don't try some of those things in good matches and become accurate at it, they will never become high-percentage weapons in your quiver! .. He has the luxury to do these things, and I hope he is doing just that .. This is why I was quite glad that he decided to continue a bit more in the juniors rather than jump too fast into the pros where you have no such luxuries to work on improving the game from match-play (though deficiencies in the game are sometimes better exposed against pro players - which is the counter argument) .. All just my armchair opinions .. Anyway, Karan did win the doubles semi with William Ward (NZL) and reached his second consecutive doubles final today .. They beat Andrew Coelho and David Galic, 63 63 ..

18 year old Sunitha Rao (USA,262) went down in an up-and-down but close match 67(1) 62 26 to Kelly Liggan (IRL,208) at the Redding challenger PQF yesterday.

Mar 25 Notes

One more withdrawal by thrusday night in the $37.5K+H Busan challenger list -- now Rohan Bopanna has made the main draw for next week! .. With Prakash and Harsh already in, I believe this is the first time ever that three Indians have made the main draw directly at a foreign challenger .. Hey, a couple of years back I thought such things would never happen!  ..

At the Thailand grade-1 Amata Cup ITF juniors,  Karan Rastogi and Tara Iyer have reached the quarterfinals! .. Today's results -- [PQF] (1) Karan Rastogi (IND,5) d. Martin Sayer (HKG,128) 63 61 .. [PQF] (5) William Ward (NZL,30) d. (11) Rupesh Roy (IND,58) 62 62 .. [PQF] (5) Tatjana Malek (GER,60) d. (10) Madura Ranganathan (IND,101) 61 62 .. [PQF] (6) Tara Iyer (IND,69) d. (11) Septi Mende (INA,95) 64 75 .. [PQF] (2) Pichittra Thongdach (THA,37) d. (16) S.Punam Reddy (IND,149) 62 63 .. So no upset surprises today .. Very nice job by Tara Iyer to get past a good player, Septi, though .. 16 year old Tara has been coming on strong since her big run into a grade-A quarterfinal (the first ever grade-A QF by an Indian girl) in Mexico in December .. Great timing for her to pick up 60 points with a QF (hopefully she will go further for more), as she has 100 points falling off in a couple of weeks for a runner-up finish at the Philippines grade-1 last year .. That was then followed by a long period of not much success, the next big results coming only from December onwards .. Karan has been cruising so far .. This brings up [QF] (1) Karan Rastogi (IND,5) vs Martin Pederson (DEN,127)  and [QF] (6) Tara Iyer (IND,69) vs (13) Stefanie Rath (AUT,117) .. Martin upset last week's runner-up Joel Kerley and Stefanie upset the 4th seed I-Hsuan Hwang today ..

In doubles at the Thai grade-1, [QF] (1) Karan Rastogi/ William Ward d. Richard Wire/ Elliot Wronski 26 62 76(7) .. [QF] Philipp Oswald/ Kristofer Wachter d. (6) Tushar Liberhan/ Navdeep Singh, 64 62 .. [QF] Michaela Johansson/ Hanne Skak Jensen d. (3) I-Hsuan Hwang/Madura Ranganathan, 61 67(4) 62 .. [QF] (7) Bianca Bonifate/Elizabeth Plotkin d. (2) Sanaa Bhambri/Tara Iyer, 62 62 .. So, not a great show by Indians, except for Karan who is the only one remaining in doubles ..  Earlier results in doubles - [R2] Rastogi/ Ward d. Xiao-Peng Lai/ Martin Sayer, 61 75 .. [R2] Liberhan/ Singh d. Alexander Gjesten/ Martin Pedersen 63 62 .. [R2] Jamie Murray/ Tom Rushby d. (3) Rupesh Roy/ Divij Sharan, 64 64 .. [R2] Hwang/ Ranganathan d. Seul Ki Chin/ Shana Claes, 64 34 .. [R2] Bhambri/ Iyer d. Ratchaya Chaichanachaicharn/ Zena Williams, 60 75 .. All had first round doubles byes .. The only R1 match with an Indian was this one - [R1] Andrew Coelho/ David Galic d. Luka Ocvirk/ Sanam Singh 63 64 ...

Mar 24 Notes

There were a couple more withdrawals at next week's Busan challenger, and now Rohan Bopanna, who was 7th out from the main draw as the entry closed, is 3rd out.  That makes him effectively the first player in the wait list, because there are also two special exempt spots in the draw which will probably go unused and two guys ahead of him will make it in .. Hopefully, by the time the qualifying draw is made friday night, RB will be in. [Addendum: The special expempt spots were released just now and Rohan is now the first out from the main draw!]

There was news today from Globosport that Sania Mirza has been awarded a wildcard into the main draw of the $110K (Tier-5) WTA event in Casablanca, Morocco, starting on April 5th, week after next .. Apparently the King of Morocco took a personal interest in this, according to the press release from Globosport .. I assume being Muslim also helped in this, especially because Sania picked up a rather rare title by a Muslim player on the tour when she won the doubles title at Hyderabad, which made her the youngest Indian to ever win a tour title .. The Globosport release also said that she is the first Indian to receive a WTA tour main draw wildcard outside India .. That is correct, though Niru had earned a wildcard to the Australian Open for being the highest ranked Asian in the top-200 ranks who missed a direct entry (who did not have a country mate in the main draw already - that was the criterion in 1998 for the Asian wildcard which now goes to the Tashkent Asian championship winner) .. Technically Globosport is correct in what they said, because the AO is an ITF event, not a WTA event! .. The Morocco event being the lowest grade event, one tier below the Hyderabad WTA, the field would be somewhat weaker - hopefully Sania would get a kind draw and can pull something off there .. She would be playing on clay after a very long time, though.

Results from the Amata Cup ITF Grade-1 juniors in Thailand -- [R2] (16) S Punam Reddy IND d. (Q) Sasirin Bowornchokchai THA 62 62 .. [R2] (11) Rupesh Roy (IND,58) d. David Jeflea (AUS,106), 63 76(4) .. [R2] Tristan Farron-Mahon (IRL,131) d. (16) Navdeep Singh (IND,70) 76(1) 61 ..[R2] (Q) Andrew Coelho (AUS,171) d. (8) Tushar Liberhan (IND,40) 75 64 .. This is THE toughest boys' event I have ever seen in Asia, which is clear when you see eight players from the top-40 and 16 from the top-70 .. Tushar's loss surprised me a bit, still .. Now that the second round is completed over two days, we have Karan, Rupesh, Tara, Punam and Madura in the PQFs.

Wildcard Sunitha Rao (USA,262) upset Rika Fujiwara (JPN,214), 64 63 in the first round at the $25K Redding Challenger in California and plays Kelly Liggan (IRL,208) in the seocnd round.

Mar 23 Notes

The Davis Cup team was announced today .. No big surprise - LP, MB, Prakash, Rohan and Harsh .. The tie is outdoors on hardcourts in Osaka startiing on the Friday just over two weeks from now .. I am not sure which four are in the official four-member team specified to ITF as that is required at least 10 days ahead .. That doesn't matter because Leander has time till an hour before the draw on April 8th thursday afternoon to give the names of the final four .. Go India!! .. All three, PA, HM and RB will be at the Busan challenger next week .. Mankad was in the main when the entries closed, but became one out after  ATP put in somebody who was left out by mistake .. After a withdrawal this week, HM is again in the main draw as the last direct entry .. There was one withdrawl behind HM, and so Bopanna is currently 5 out from the draw (effectively third out, as two special exempt spots should clear up by late this week) .. Hopefully RB will also make the main draw and won't have to play qualies.

It was announced in Thailand today that the BEC Tero group that manages the Bangkok Open ATP coming up in september has signed up Vijay Amritraj to promote the event for five years .. Along with Paradorn Srichaphan, Vijay will be selling the tournament "and Thailand as well" abroad, as he said today in Bangkok, abroad ..

Neha and Shikha are off the list from the Mumbai $10K starting next week .. Shoot, it would have been nice to have them play there ..

At the grade-1 Amata Cup ITF juniors in Thailand, the top seed Karan rastogi reached the 3rd round (PQF) after an R1 bye and a win over qualifier Richard Wire (GBR), 64 75 .. 7th seed Divij Sharan had the misfortune of running into a red-hot player in Tom Rushby (GBR,47) who is unseeded this week based on last week's rank, though he has come way up due to the title last week .. Divij lost 67(7) 26 .. Sanam K Singh, who had beaten Khunpol Issara (THA) 64 62 in the first round, went down to the tough 4th seed Sun-Yong Kim (KOR,23), 36 26 .. I believe #8 seed Tushar, #11 Rupesh and #16 Navdeep haven't played yet in their R2 matches after R1 byes .. There was bad news on the girls' side as well - 3rd seed Sanaa Bhambri (IND,42) who had a first round bye fell in the second round to Michaella Johansson (SWE,120), 63 46 57 .. Sanaa had beaten the same girl in three sets last week in the QF, but a tough fighting loss today .. 6th seed Tara Iyer (IND,69)  beat Ratchana Chaichanachaicharn (THA), 62 63 .. 10th seed Madura Ranganathan beat Jiraporn Jarasphongpisuth (THA), 75 61 .. Both had R12 byes and are in the R3 .. 16th seed Punam reddy plays Sasirin Bowornchokchai (THA) in the R2 ..

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 ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Mar 22 ..

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.