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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Mar 29, 1999

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Mar 29 Note-2

Here is more incredible stuff out of Madras - today's PTI wire report (exceprts - see full at AllIndianews) says, Pete Sampras, who regained his #1 spot this week from Carlos Moya, faces the prospect of losing it again to the latter, unless he chooses to play in the Gold Flake Open .. Moya is the top seed here and it would be enough if he reaches the semifinal here to regain the coveted rank, tounament director Brian Cooney told PTI .. There are no other tounrmanet on hand, in view of Davis Cup during the first week of April .. Sampras' entry even at the last minute will not be a problem as wildcards will be decided only after spotting the qualifiers on April 3rd and 4th, said Brian Cooney .. Chennai has generated a lot of interest as the cutoff for it is 131 ATP points (sic), just three short of a grand slam, Cooney said, adding that last year it was 189 points (sic) ..

This is released to the press for public consumption, I guess .. This man Mr. Cooney, must think that Indian tennis fans are all just absolute star-struck fools ! .. Hello, Sampras to Chennai ? .. Give me a break ! - they can't even get him to play Australian Open .. And where does he come up with that blatant piece of misinformation that it is the only tournament next week ? .. There are three tournaments next week (Salem Open in Hong Kong and Estoril Open in Portugal are also there - it's actually one of only 9 weeks when there are more than two tournaments this year!) .. Wildcards are not decided ? .. Then what's this I am hearing from Sweden ? .. And that stuff about "only three spots below Grand Slams" is just simply outrageous .. This tournament had the lowest cutoff of any tournament with over $400K prize money last year, and though 131 is better than 189 (and by the way, they are ranks, not points - PTI mistake, perhaps) it's still one of the lowest cutoffs anywhere .. Most tournaments, by the way, have draws closing much above grand slams (which close between 105 and 115) - this is well-known to most readers here I am sure, and it's because there are only 32 spots in other tournaments and grand slams have 128 !! .. Holy Molly ! .. Can you believe this kind of blatant hype ? .. What does he think Indians are ? .. Like we all fell off the turnip truck yesterday and found this game called "tennis" when these international money-grabbing sports conglomorates came to India ? .. Huh ? .. And why is PTI giving this crap publicity ? ..

I know you are all thinking - "Come on Jay, Give it a break!" .. But, how can I stop laughing when I see that stuff above ?

Mar 29 Note-1

It's time for the annual dog-and-pony show in Madras .. Just got word from Sweden (thanks!) that Andreas Vinciguerra, 18 yr-old Swedish player, has been given a wildcard to the Chennai Open starting next Monday .. You may remember me mentioning him a few months back as I heard that he was considering going to India for our satellites/futures earlier .. He was a top-10 junior player last year, and many consider him the next big talent from Sweden .. Nothing against him, but seriously, what the hell is up with the Chennai tounament organizers ? .. Does anybody care about our own national players, who will be at Davis Cup and unable to even play the qualifiers ? .. This means bye-bye to the Chennai Open once again for our #4 Fazaluddin .. I am sure Mahesh will get one wildcard, and I don't know about who gets the third wildcard - will the Australians who run the show (and the spineless Indians who say "yessir") give the remaining one to our #3 Srinath ? .. Don't hold your breath - they can easily give it to somebody else and we will all just sit and watch .. Jesus, this tournament makes me wild every year .. In case you are wondering, only tournaments in small countries with no real players ever give WCs to foreigners (and rarely to anyone not in the top-100) .. Show me a foreign tournament that gave a wildcard to Leander when he was #1 in the world juniors, and you know why I get mad about this .. [Heck, if you *have to* give it to a junior talent, give it to Pakistan's Aisam or Thailand's Paradorn, and I would at least feel we are helping those in Asia, who nobody else cares for] ..

Last year we gave wildcards to guys like Wesley Whitehouse and Brian Phau (#300 and #421after a year - not exactly setting tour on fire - either of them) .. Read the gory details of how Srinath and Fazal were royally discarded and why I started calling this tournament the Gold "Flaky" tournament in this page - just a collection of notes from last year .. Our press did not write seriously about this last year, except for one article I saw then - I hope they do better this time .. I feel bad about criticizing the only world series tournament in India, but do we have a choice ?

I hope Andreas does well - all the best to him, but I feel sad for Fazal .. Andreas is ranked #494 from 10 tournaments and Fazal is ranked #574 from 12 tournaments .. The Indian lost out (he could have certainly used the few thousand dollars for playing in the tournament) .. Neither may have any big chance to win anything, but playing the top players is something that helps build one mentally .. Andreas has played one big tournament this year, the Copenhagen Open, where he lost 1-6, 3-6 to Nicklas Kulti .. Fazal has never played a big tournament .. He will be at Calcutta playing Davis Cup next weekend (he missed qualies at Chennai last year too, because of Davis Cup in Italy), and will sit and mull over rejection from his own country's tournament, for a week - unless they give him a wildcard for doubles .. I had heard that Mahesh was trying to help and get Fazal a good player as partner if they would give a doubles wildcard - no idea what is the latest on that ..

Again, I have not seen the official announcement of the wildcards in the news yet .. So, take the above as unconfirmed info for now.

I will write about other things later .. Right now I am too upset.

Mar 27 Note-2

Nitin Kirtane won the Indian Oil Servo Invitational at the Krishnan Tennis Center in Chennai today, in style .. He beat Vinod Sridhar, 6-4, 6-1 .. It has been a while since anybody got Vinod to surrender that meekly, so Nitin must have been on top of his game today .. Nitin has played some excellent tennis in the few weeks when he was healthy (he missed some time due to an injury at the Gold flake circuit earlier this month) .. He had also missed a lot of time last year due to injuries too. Anyway, this tournament was a very good way to get the players used to the Madras conditions - the Big Chennai Open qualies start next Saturday .. Some stuff on Davis Cup vs China, etc, coming up tomorrow .. Good night.

Mar 27 Note-1

At the Indian Oil Servo invitational in Chennai yesterday, both the semi finals were closely fought .. Nitin Kirtane was down 0-6 after one set but came back with a break in the 11th game to win the second set at 7-5, was down again at 0-3 in the 3rd set before winning the final six games to advance 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 over Vasudev Reddy .. In the other semi, Vinod Sridhar won 7-6(5), 7-5 over Saurav Panja .. It should be a good final today .. See the Chennai invitational page .. I will post the final score later today .. Mahesh Bhupathi is still keeping his fingers crossed - our Davis Cup trainer, Bill Norris, will make a decision on next thursday before the draw is made .. MB said it may be a 40% chance that he will play, and Bill said that doubles was a distinct possibility, according to newspaper reports.

To follow up on stuff I wrote yesterday on the state of affairs in Indian women's tennis, I found an article that came up in the Indian Express (just about at the same time I posted that - looks like great people think alike at the same time ::-) ), titled Roses for men, Petals for women, by Shankar Ramachandran - there are some things in that article which will make your jaws drop .. After the details on how few tournaments are offerred to women, the article continues, .. When contacted, AITA secretary Ramesh Desai rejected the claims of the women players. He said, ``I think there are enough international tournaments happening. Players like Arati are complaining because they are on the fringe and are not doing well.'' When asked if he knew how many tournaments were held for women since the May petition, Desai said he could not say off-hand. .. I could not believe that, unless he was misquoted .. Sir, it was 7 weeks total in the last 12 months, of which only 4 were internationals .. Hardcourt and Grasscourt nationals, the $75K challenger which was too big for most players to do anything at, and 4 weeks of a developmental circuit .. That was the "international" event, the smallest grade tournament available from ITF that only India and Mexico have tried to hold -Two Thai players and one Russian player made it an "international" .. That's it sir .. Nothing more, None .. Nada .. Zip .. Oh yeah, yes, there were a couple of other small domestic tournament - one in delhi and recently that humongous Rs 50,000 (that is $1300) tournament in Kochi - the winner SK Tara made Rs 6500, others probably made enough money for auto-rickshaw expenses ..

If I can say (as I am sure many of you readers can, too) in a split second what exactly was on the plate for women, why can't AITA ? .. Manisha is extensively quoted in the article .. She certainly has reasons to complain - she played two or three tournaments offering WTA points (reached the final of a UK futures and then upset a couple of good players to qualify into the $75K challenger) to go up to top-500 with about 20 points .. She has not had a chance to play anything else - she could have played in the developmental circus and picked up 3 to 5 points more, but she chose not to waste time .. And, now we find that AITA folks don't even know how many tournaments were provided ? .. 4 weeks of "internationals" .. Boy, it upsets me to see this .. It underscores what I was saying yesterday about the need for somebody to take over as "in-charge" of women's tennis - at least somebody who can remember how many women's tournaments we have had in a year, if not help organize them ..

Those like Gold Flake (ITC?) have sponsored so many men's events .. It's not like the men are so much more highly ranked and marketable than the women either (oh, OK.. may be women don't smoke there :-)) .. In fact, other than LP and MB who don't play domestic tournaments, Srinath and Fazal are the the only top-750 male players - we have three in the top 650 on the women's side (Manisha, Sai, Archana) who would play Indian tournaments .. 5 in the top-900 on the men's side, and 6 on the women's side (which don't even include Janaki Krishnamoorthi, Uzma or Shruti, who don't have rankings as they haven't got to play enough tournaments) .. Why is it so difficult to get a sponsor for women's events then ? .. I don't know - well, probably, not knowing how many tournaments you have organized for women could explain ? .. If you don't know that you aren't doing anything, you won't find yourself doing something !

Perhaps I should qualify my comments .. IE may have interviewed Mr. Desai and caught him off-guard - there certainly are folks in AITA who know where exactly things stand - I had heard about them lining up some sponsors and things falling apart in the last minute on the $25K challenger which was supposed to be this month - but at the same time, it all points to a certain pervasive lack of appreciation of how critical the situation is, with regard to tourneys for women - I said yesterday that the schedule wasn't exactly thread-bare, but it isn't much better either ..

It has been ages since we had any women's tournaments in South India (forget that banana chips tourney in Kochi) .. Sai, Rushmi, Archana, Arati, Uzma, etc are all from the South .. Why not ? .. Why can't Coimbatore or Chennai have a tournament ? .. If you really need some name recognition, why not ask Niru to make an appearance (say in doubles or something) when she is around - or have a tournament in conjunction with a men's tournament .. It's positively frustrating .. I challenge the male-dominated tennis establishment in India to open up their eyes and show that it's not just men who matter in India ..

No wonder Bud Collins wrote that article about how Nirupama was such a pioneer .. Here is what the hall-of-fame American tennis writer wrote last January: "No snake charmers wended their way to the outer fringes of the Australian Open, to remote court nine yesterday, and directed their cute cobras' attention toward the enemy, Magdalena Grzybowska. Nor did fakirs in loincloths seek out barefoot comfort on steaming coals and spiked beds while cheering for Nirupama Vaidyanathan ... Forget the cliches about Mother India - dried dung courts, tandoori with chutney at the changeovers, sacred cows munching on the net, coaches with Kama Sutra playbooks, losers sentenced to the Black Hole of Calcutta. None of them applies to Nirupama, modern woman on a mission that defies a very old culture ... Hers is a journey never before taken by an Indian woman" .. I was actually pretty upset that Bud was giving a rather skewed impression of women and women's tennis in India .. But you know what, he wasn't .. The cliches about India often just get proven right .. In no small measure due to the callousness of the male-dominated establishment .. We need to do better ..

Mar 26 Notes

At the Indian Oil Servo Invitational at KTC, the top-seed Vijay Kannan went down to Vasudev Reddy, and Saurav Panja upset Sandeep Kirtane, both in three-setters .. Vijay once again seems to have fallen apart after a good start winning the first set (though Vasudev Reddy is never an easy foe) .. The way he has picked up losses lately whenever he has gone up against the top few players, I really wonder if anybody is helping the kid to improve through the losses - I don't know if any coach or anyone is advising him on that count .. I have heard from everyone that he has excellent potential, but how come I never hear a thing about anybody travelling with him or coaching him (he has been away from Dhaita, playing in the circuit for about 5-6 months now) .. Hello, what's going on with our top junior prospect from last year ? .. Are we going to hear a repeat of the Harsh Mankad kind of story of everyone jumping off the bandwagon once our junior players reach the seniors ? .. I hope not, and I hope he starts winning a few good matches - to be fair though, he has rarely lost to anybody but the best few in India, and I am told he is a bit tired after all the tennis too .. In the QFs at Chennai, Vinod Sridhar (#2 seed) had to fight for three sets against Vishal Uppal, but pulled through .. Nitin Kirtane had no problems against young Rohan Bopanna .. It will be Vasu vs Nitin and Vinod vs Saurav in the semis today .. Will have news on today's matches later today .. See the Chennai invitational page ..

In other news, Arati Ponnappa of Karnataka, previous national champion and only in her early 20s has retired from active pro tennis .. She gave the lack of domestic tournamants for women as one reason for the decision .. sorry to hear that .. Let's wish her the best! ..

Arati's decision to quit makes me think about the state of affairs in women's tennis in India .. I still feel AITA needs to do a bit more to bring in some enthusiasm and morale to the women players .. The domestic circuit is not exactly thread-bare, with 8 weeks of developmental ITF satellites, each worth #5K (roughly about a Rs 2 lakhs each week), and the hardcourt and grasscourt nationals, and one challenger (where most top women get to play the quals) .. But the players have just not been too enthusiastic about the satellite weeks - for one thing, almost no WTA points, and for another, there is way too much of travel involved, costing them money .. That brings me to another thought - why not have somebody to oversee women's tennis in India ? .. Somebody who argues for it, somebody who nurtures the players, stays in touch with their concerns, helps plan the calendar and all that .. Certainly somebody who is excited about women's tennis and not one who does part-time duty and looks at women's tennis as a necessary evil, and worries more about the opportunities on the men's side for coaching, travel, etc .. It may even be nice to have a woman do this, but India does not have a recent woman player like a Yayuk Basuki (who has taken over as the women's tennis czar in Indonesia) for that .. We can go one step further and have this person appointed for a long enough period as a manager or non-playing captain for Fed Cup too (BTW, nothing against Shyam Minotra who did a fine job at Thailand where we finished near the top in Fed Cup regionals) .. Again, I am not sure if we have any women coaches with good enough stature to be a Fed Cup coach ..

Talking of former players, Nirupama Mankad is the first one that comes to mind with a resume at the highest level including grand slam appearances .. She has not been an active coach, but to her son .. Of course, in the glorious Indian tradition of neglecting, forgetting, and discarding those former players we should respect, I heard second or third-hand info on how Mrs.Mankad was treated at an ITF camp for coaches two weeks back at Mumbai - "You have a slice forehand, so you ain't worthy", was the gist .. Perhaps the forehand slice has been out of tennis since the her days, and Mrs. Mankad would be the first to agree too .. but, come on!.. Is that how we treat someone who was our national champion for decades ? .. Shouldn't somebody have told the ITF people who she was ? .. Wasn't there a more decent way of doing things than to humiliate her ? .. Once I heard of this story, I rang her up, but she hurtfully laughed it off .. I respect her for going there and showing the willingness to play a few shots in front of everybody to "prove" that she knows a bit of tennis .. I wasn't there and I don't know any more details [See this Indian Express article on the camp] .. I believe there were two women including Mrs.Mankad who went for that camp with about 50 men, and it suffices to say that only a handful of men were selected as worthy to be anointed as good coaches, in that camp .. By the way, the camp was a great idea, and the men who were selected for advanced training were certainly good ones .. We need more of such camps on modern tennis coaching - and the newly formed coaching committee of AITA is serious about their job .. My complaints are only based on things we should avoid in the future .. We shouldn't forget the past, rather we should use those like Nirupama (both of them, for that matter :-)) for inspiration to develop women's tennis .. I know I am talking about stuff I barely know much about, so these are strictly my opinions, uneducated as always - but I thought I would use that to kick up some dirt and start another topic for conversation .. Sound off with your opinions on our bulletin board .. What should be done to bring in some spirit and enthusiasm into women's tennis in India ?

Youn know it's a slow week for tennis news when I bring up these kinds of things :-)

16th seed Damm/Novak lost to unseeded Kulti/Tillstrom, and Becker-Gambill beat Bryan/Bryan (who were bothered by an injury to one of them) at Lipton .. So, there is only one seeded team, 7th seeds Stolle/Suk, in the semifinals.

Mar 25 Note-2

Nirupama lost today in the second round at the Dinans challenger to Virginie Razzano, a 15 yr-old unranked French girl !! .. That must sound pretty bad, till you find out who Razzano is - She is is the #2 junior player in the world (behind only Jelena Dokic of Australia who has already hit the pros), and she is the champion at the Australian Open juniors .. She had also upset #146 and seeded Eva Bes in the first round before meeting Niru .. Watch out for this girl now - it's amazing how some of these countries are producing these superhuman 15 year old tennis prodigies .. She appears to be playing in one of her first pro tournaments, which is why she has no ranking in WTA .. Anyway, V.Razzano d. N.Vaidyanathan, 6-2, 6-4 .. (I got a suggestion recently to highlight the score, for those who don't want to read the whole yacketti-yack stuff I type) .. Yesterday in the doubles, Niru and Bacheva lost to Richterova/Zdenovcova, 6-7(5), 3-6 ..

Mar 25 Note-1

The Indian Oil Servo invitational tournament, in its second year, has started at the Krishnan Tennis Center (KTC) .. 16 players are invited and the prize money for the title is among the best in India .. The winner gets Rs 45,000 and the runner-up Rs 22,500 .. SF gives Rs 14,000, QFs Rs 9,000 and the PQFs Rs 6,000 - a total of Rs 1.79 lakhs .. "Like last year, the idea is basically to provide an opportunity for our boys who wish to participate in the ATP Gold Flake Open tournament here the following week. We didn't want to dilute the event by enlarging the field, and kept it to the 16 best,'' said Ramesh Krishnan, about the tournament (source: Indian Express) .. It is on synthetic hardcourts under lights, and gives good experience for these guys for the Chennai Open quals next weekend .. All the top guns are there, except for Mustafa Ghouse and Harsh Mankad - not sure if they were not invited, or if they decided not to play .. The first round had no big surprises, except that Manoj Mahadevan failed to do his usual upset act, against Saurav Panja, who won a comeback three-setter ! .. Avinash Arun of KTC gave three sets of trouble to Nitin but lost .. Vijay, Vinod, Sandeep, Vishal, Vasu and Rohan are also in the QFs .. See the results at the IOC Chennai invitational page ..

AITA announced the teams for the World Junior tennis (14 and under) and World Youth Cup (16 and under) teams a couple of days back .. The World Youth Cup regional (Asia-Oceania) qualifiers will be at Hiroshima from April 25 to May 3 and the under-14 regional qualifiers will start at Jakarta from May 3 .. You may remember that last year our 16 yr-olds (AV Rao, Karan Doctor, etc) qualified, went to Italy for the final-16 and finished #9 in the world with only one loss in 4 ties .. Hope Sunil Kumar and company repeat the job .. The teams are, Boys (u-16): Sunil Kumar, Benjamin Xavier, Anant Sitaram. Reserve: Pratim Parekh. Boys (u-14): Vikrant Sane, R Arun Prakash, Chatwinder Singh. Reserve: Devendra Singh Bhusari. Girls (u-16): T Yamini, Lisa Pereira, Megha Vakharia. Reserve: C Nandita Girls (u-14): Isha Lakhani, Sasha Abraham, Sania Mirza. Reserve: Lata Asudani .. Pretty good teams, in my opinion.

Black/Stolle reached semi at Lipton Super 9 yesterday .. Bryan/Bryan vs Becker/Gambill in a featured QF today ..

Will report later today news on what happened in Nirupama's second round singles match at the Dinans challenger.

Mar 24 Notes

The carnage of seeded teams continues at the Key Biscayne Lipton Super 9 .. Only 5 seeds made it to the 3rd round (pre-QF), and only one in the upper half, Ferreira-Leach, who have since lost .. It got worse yesterday with the 2nd seeds Woodies failing to reach QF losing in three sets to the 16th seeds Florent/McPherson .. Also losing yesterday were the 4th seeds Ferreira/Leach to Kuerten/Lapentti, which puts the 7th seeds Wayne Black and Sandon Stolle as the highest seed in the QFs !!.. Black/Stolle are certainly the hottest new team this year, already with a couple of titles, at Dubai and recently at the Indian Wells Super 9 .. Merklein/Coupe lost to Bcker/Gambill, who are in the QFs .. Only three seeded teams (#7, #13 and #16) are in the QFs now .. Since the Woodies did not reach the QF, they get only 42 pts here and will stay a few points below LP-MB next week, but both will get pushed down to #3 and #4 in team rankings - Guess who the new #1 will be ? - Wayne Black and Sandon Stolle !! .. Bjorkman/Rafter will be #2, a few points ahead of our pair and the Woodies .. Of course, the team rankings only consider the results from January .. In terms of the individual rankings over 52 weeks, Paes- Bhupathi are the #1 team and will almost surely stay there, till after the Monte Carlo and Rome Super 9s.

On the men's side, Moya lost in the 3rd round (to young French guy Sebastien Grosjean) and Sampras in the 4th round (to Krajicek yesterday), and so Sampras will be back at #1 with about 20 points over Moya .. Logjam at the top everywhere .. Kucera appears to end up as #10 next week - so we should have two top-10 players at the Chennai Open in 2 weeks.

Mahesh must be reaching India in a few hours .. Bhupathi Sr is quoted in today's newspaper to be confirming that MB has no plans of skipping Davis Cup altogether, and will definitely be with the team .. He will probably not be in playing shape, but it is nice to know he is available if anything strange happens on the first day (hopefully we will win both the first two singles and he won't have to rush it).

Some US collegiate news - Jahnavi Parekh has cracked the top-100 all the way up at #62 .. She seems to have been playing only from January, and was unranked in the last rankings a month back .. I was not even aware that she had reached the Baylor University and had started playing (BU "Bears" are in Waco, Texas - they are in the Big-12 conference - one of the top conferences) .. She has been on an incredible hot streak and is 10-1 in her singles matches so far, with wins over a couple of top-50 players .. What is impressive is the way she has been winning .. I see that about 7 of those wins were all 6-0 or 6-1 in the final set, and most were of the 6-1, 6-1 variety! .. She is only a freshman and is already playing #1 singles for Baylor .. Most of her wins have been against the #1 or #2 player of the opposing universities .. We have had an Indian player in the womens' collegiate top-100 for the last few years here, with Divya Merchant and then Manisha Malhotra - nice to see Jahnavi keeping it going .. Jahnavi just turned 20 .. On the men's side, Vikrant Chadha is no longer in the top-100 .. He was in the top-75 two years back and had cracked top-50 last year .. They still like him at the U. of Mississippi and he is known to pull off tough wins for them (so says the university's online news), but he has lost a few too this year - probably still bothered by some injuries he has carried for a long time .. Salil Seshadri (Columbia U.), Ajay Ramaswami (Charleston Southern U), etc, are all doing fine, but have not cracked the top-100 - mostly because neither gets many chances to play and beat many top-100 ranked players I believe (that is one benefit in playing in the top college conferences like SEC, Pac-10, Big-12, Big-10, etc) .. OK, time for me to finally bragg about my own university, the Univ. of California, Irvine .. We have gone 10-1 in college ties, and have reached #41 in rankings, which is pretty damn good - perhaps the highest since the heady days around 1990 when "El Tank" Trevor Kronemann was playing for UCI (remember him playing at Hartford doubles in 97? - he has since retired, I believe) .. We do have one Indian player in our roster too - Jay Patel of Ahmedabad, who is a freshman .. Jay has played well in all his matches, but he will need to "pay his dues" on the bench a bit, so to say, before becoming a regular starter for UCI - that happens to even the best of freshmen players, unless one starts with a huge bang like Jahnavi has done so far .. Go Anteaters !! (believe it or not, that is our UCI mascot - second in originality only to the "Banana Slugs" of UC Santacruz!) ..

I will see if any news comes my way about Nirupama's doubles match at the Dinans challenger in France today .. Otherwise I will wait till tomorrow and trace dwon the news after her second round singles match.

Mar 23 Note-3

Small correction - Nirupama actually won today when Sophie Georges retired at 4-3 in the first set .. Hey, what's with all these injuries ?

Mar 23 Note-2

Time for some good news .. Nirupama won the first round singles today at the $25K Dinans challenger in France .. Nirupama beat Sophie Georges of France, 6-4, 6-3 .. She is in the part of the draw with seeded player Eva Bes of Spain (#146), who could be her next round opponent .. R2 will be on Thursday .. In doubles, she is again playing with Lubomira Bacheva .. They play the R1 match tomorrow (Wednesday) against Ludmila Richterova and Magdalena Zdenovcova (both of Czech Rep.).

Mahesh said today that he has not ruled out doubles at the Davis Cup in Calcutta next week (Apr 2-4) .. He will be with the team, and will give it a shot in doubles, if needed, and if the hamstring is fine .. MB leaves for India in a couple of hours.

Mar 23 Note-1

Talked to Mahesh last night, and the news isn't good .. The pulled hamstring is not all that minor, and he is being advised to basically take rest and not aggravate it for a while .. Probably in two to three weeks he will be fine, but it's too early to tell .. At this point he is not sure whether he can play in the Davis Cup, primarily because he has to stay away from any tennis practice for the next 2 weeks (Davis Cup starts after 10 days) .. He is hoping that he can still manage to play the Chennai Open, which will give him an extra 4-5 days more .. He is being told horror stories by other players and trainers about how rushing it with a hamstring pull can land you in serious trouble for several months .. We will see how things will shake up .. He is leaving for India rightaway and will evaluate it day-to-day .. In my opinion, both our guys should stay as far away from Florida as possible  (:-)) .. Almost an identical situation as in Leander's case last year at this time, when he had his shoulder injury at Lipton .. We should still be able to manage even without Mahesh against China at Calcutta (I hope so) if it comes to that in Davis Cup, unlike the Italy situation last year .. Incidentally, Fazal, who is in the US right now, was with Mahesh the last few days and has been practising with hium .. Fazal will be leaving soon for India too, and will have to be ready to do what's needed at the Davis Cup .. LP is in good shape for now, and Srinath also is reportedly recovered from the achilles problem that he had a few weeks back .. Anyway, Mahesh has not confirmed pulling out of Davis Cup yet, though .. He is disappointed, but has learned to accept these things as all part of life in the pro tour ..

Mar 22 Note-3

The media office at Lipton tells me that it was a pulled left hamstring injury to Mahesh that forced them to retire .. I will get hold of MB later and convey the best wishes for recovery from all us fans ..

Mar 22 Note-2

Oh, my .. Snake-bit again .. Mahesh had picked up a hamstring injury from practice this week, and from what I can guess so far, it appears that it got worse and they had to retire from the match right after losing 3-6 in the first set .. In the match, everything looked fine through 5 games, and then suddenly MB lost serve in the 6th game to fall 2-4 .. LP's service games seemed to go smootly, and he held to go 3-5 .. In the next game, it was 30-40 when the scoreboard got stuck .. A few phone calls revealed that they had retired hurt from the match .. So, Merklein/Coupe, who seemed to be serving well and not giving anything to our pair, once again picks up a lot of bonus points for beating our pair .. B.Coupe/ M.Merklein d. LP/MB 3-6 (retd.hurt) .. I will talk to MB and get an update on the injury situation .. He does have his trainer Wil Upton of UK, with him .. Hopefully 10 days of rest from now till the Davis Cup at Calcutta will be enough to get over the injury .. If it's a pulled hamstring, it's the kind of injury that lingers on for 2-3 weeks .. Let us wish him well .. That's it for this tournament.

Mar 22 Note-1

LP-MB play the 4th match on court 3, where action starts at 11 am .. We can expect the match at about 4 pm Eastern time (1 pm PST, USA, 2.30 am Tuesday, India), plus or minus half hour .. We will have live score updates from the ATP live page, and will be following the match in our chatroom .. Come on over ..

So, who are these guys LP-MB will be playing today ? - Brandon Coupe and Mark Merklein, both of USA, ranked 69 and 89 .. Coming to Lipton, this pair has one win and two losses in two tournaments they have played this year .. But that one doubles win was their career best though, over .. uh .. hmm .. Bhupathi and Paes! .. That was in the first round at the Qatar Open (Doha) in January .. LP-MB definitely have a score to settle with these two .. I have some stats on how our dudes do against those who have beaten them in a previous match, but for the sake of not jinxing them, I will withhold that for now.. Geoff Grant was Merklein's regular partner last year, and I believe Paul Rosner used to be Coupe's partner .. They had a very good three set win in the first round here over two experienced doubles players, Kempers and Siemerink, - the new partnership is perhaps working .. Merklein is pretty popular around there, being from Florida and having played college tennis at the Univ of Florida too (he was the US collegiate national champion in singles in 94).

Doubles action heats up at the Lipton Super 9 now, with the draw reaching the second round .. There were two second round matches played on Sunday and already two seeds have crashed and burned - 5th seeds Lareau and Obriien, and the 6th seeds Haarhuis and Galbraith .. Since Haarhuis has lost without picking up any points, Bhupathi and Paes can reach the #1 and #2 spots in doubles rankings by winning the title (Paul Haarhuis has 4169 points to MB's 3905 and LP's 3864 .. PH has nothing to defend here and so his points will remain the same .. LP and MB also have nothing to defend here, but MB will be replacing 98 points and LP 92, at the 14th tournament spot .. The winner will make about 450 or more points here including bonuses) .. Interestingly, Indian Express had an article that came up yesterday saying LP and MB could reach the top two spots this week with a title - but that required an early loss by Paul Haarhuis, which curiously enough happened yesterday when the 6th seeds Haarhuis and Galbraith got upset by Lan Bale and Grant Stafford in definitely a big surprise! ..

Here is the final-32 doubles draw:

 1-M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes        vs   B.Coupe/ M.Merklein     \
15-J.Grabb/ J.Palmer         vs   B.Becker/ J.M.Gambill   / \
10-J.Bjorkman/ J.Eagle       vs   M.Barnard/ B.Haygarth   \ / \
 8-O.Delaitre/ F.Santoro     vs   B.Bryan/ M.Bryan        /    \_
 4-E.Ferreira/ R.Leach       vs   T.Carbonell/ D.Johnson  \    / |
14-J.Novak/ D.Rikl           vs   G.Kuerten/ N.Lapentti   / \ /  |
11-Y.Kafelnikov/ D.Vacek     vs   P.Albano/ F.Montana     \ /    |
   L.Bale/ G.Stafford        bt 6-P.Galbraith/ P.Haarhuis /      |_
   N.Kulti/ M.Tillstrom      bt 5 S.Lareau/ A.O'Brien     \      |
12 P.Norval/ K.Ullyett       vs   C.Moya/ M.Safin         / \    |
13 M.Damm/ C.Suk             vs   C.Haggard/ P.Nyborg     \ / \  |
 3 M.Knowles/ D.Nestor       vs   R.Reneberg/ J.Stark     /    \_|
 7 W.Black/ S.Stolle         vs   F.Roig/ J.Sanchez       \    /
 9 D.Adams/ J-L.DeJager      vs   D.Flach/ J.Tarango      / \ /
16 A.Florent/ D.MacPherson   vs   M.Mirnyi/ A.Olhovskyi   \ /
 2 T.Woodbridge/ M.Woodforde vs Q-G.Grant/ T.Middleton    /

Becker and Gambill are playing doubles here .. Apparently Gambill was hanging around at the tournament office when a call came and somebody said Becker was looking for a doubles partner - Gambill said he would do it, and they are playing! .. They already have had a good win over Gimelstob and MacPhie, in the first round.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Mar 22..