Notes for the week ending on Apr 1, 2002
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Apr 1 Note-1
The Indian Davis Cup team must be all assembled at Wellington, NZL, by now .. The draw will be as usual on thursday and the matches start on Friday. There was a news item in the New Zealand press on their #1 Mark Nielsen joking about being driven to the Wellington tennis center by an Indian taxi driver .. He said he did not invite the driver to the Davis Cup because he expects the Indian community to be out in full force anyway - and he wanted the Kiwi faithfuls to show up in large numbers .. He also commented about the conditions in Wellington and how he liked there being no wind problems at the tennis center .. That surprised me - I thought they wanted to have chilly and windy conditions on court (Wellington is one of the windiest places out there, actuallY) .. Nielsen by the way has had a terrific month recently, reaching two finals and a QF in the NZL futures series and then reaching a QF in the challenger also. He is going to be a handful if he comes with that kind of form into the Davis Cup ..
Sunil Kumar was listed in the qualifying entry list for the two futures in Uzbekistan this week and next .. No news from there yet.
Prakash Amritraj has a wildcard into the first round of the Tarzana ATP challenger in California this week, organized by Vijay Amritraj .. He plays the 5th seed Kenneth Carlsen tomorrow.
Another news item from the US .. Rajeev Ram, the top junior in the US domestic rankings for a while, won the prestigious invitation junior tournament attached to the Key Biscayne masters .. he was unranked and upset the top three seeds there in a row to win the title - he beat Dustin Brown (JAM,67) 64 63 in the first round followed by the 3rd seed Tomas Berdych (CZE,20) 26 64 64 in the QF, 2nd seed Brian Baker (USA,12), 67(4) 64 76(6) in the SF and then the top seed #1 Luka Gregorc (SLO,11) 61 62 for the title .. Rajeev is only ranked #57 in ITF juniors as he has been playing mostly pro satellite qualies etc lately - he could easily be a top-20 ITF world junior player, probably top-5, had he played the circuit .. In the post-title interview he mentioned how he had a mental edge over all the players out there and how that is the most important thing in tennis .. You will almost surely see Rajeev in the ATP top-100, may be higher in the next 2-3 years .. He turned 18 last month.
At the Mitsubishi Lancer junior ITF grade-2 event in Manila, Philippines, the main draw starts tomorrow .. The girls draw is particualrly tough, with 6 top-50 players .. Sania and Isha are the 5th and 6th seeds .. The boys draw has three top-50 players .. Divij Sharan was the 2nd seed in the qualifying rounds and reached the main draw with a good win over the 7th seed Chueh-Cheng Shih of Taiwan, 62 63 today.
Mar 31 Notes
Forgot to update you on some good doubles showing by Isha Lakhani this week .. She and Adriana Szili of Australia reached the semifinals at the grade-1 Thailand ITF juniors .. They were seeded 5th and had a first bye they beat Motinee Tangphong and Thassha Vittayaviroj 62 62, upset the 3rd seeded Indonesian pair Sandy Gumulya and Septi Nindya Yutami, 64 60 to rach the SF, and then fell 26 26 to the top seeded Dutch pair, Silvana Bauer and Elise Tamaela, the eventual champions .. It gave isha 50 points to raise her 6-best double point total up by 35 points and her rankings up by about 20 spots from #80 next week .. The Indian team will be in Manila from tomorrow for the grade-2 there - Sania Mirza joins them.
Harsh Mankad took off to New Zealand last night after winning another college match friday to raise his season record to 19-3 .. I believe the Indian team assembles in Wellington by Monday and will be ready for the Kiwis by Friday.
The 4-week $20K developmental ITF women's satellite circuit starts in Mumbai tomorrow .. Radhika Tulpule, Sai Jayalakshmi, Sonal Phadke, Sheetal Gautam, Archana venkatraman, Liza Pereira, Geeta Manohar, Ankita Bhambri should be the seeds in that order - according to the latest entry list from early this week. #1185 Eveline Rusdianto (INA), and unranked Danielle Plant (GBR) are the two foreigners in the main draw [actually, due to some strange mistakeat the ITF, #153 SuWei Hsieh of TPE is listed as the top entry - I am sure she won't be coming for this] .. As usual, this is effectively a $9 lakh 4-week domestic circuit - and the primary intention is to provide the women players a chance to play against each other for some decent money and get match practice .. Only the 4th seek of the circuit gives WTA points (5 pts for winner) .. Pity that Shruti and Megha are not playing this circuit (Rushmi would have been nice too - but she has done enough of these circuits!) .. Isha and Sania would have to miss it because of the junior events abroad.
Mar 30 Notes
Well, I was guarding the news I had got from a few sources who wanted to wait till Mahesh announces it -- that Max Mirnyi is the new partner for him .. Mahesh did not tell me in an email even yesterday that this is a set deal, so I am not sure if there is still some loose ends to be fixed .. Anyway, tomorrow's Telegraph (Kolkata) says that Piperno has let the cat out of the bag that it will be Mirnyi (they will play in Estoril and then will rejoin from Hamburg onwards, inluding the remaining three grand slams of the year according to Rico) .. Just quoting the newspaper .. Till Mahesh tells us that all is set for the new partnership, I guess it is not set! .. The Telegraph also quotes Dr. Vece Paes to be saying that Leander is also pretty much set on a new partner, but is waiting for some things to be sorted out by that guy with his old partner .. So, we will wait .. As I said earlier, The Indian Express (RIP!) is done - and I don't expect the train to be running for a long time .. Whatever the "mature reasons" are, and they may all be valid reasons, I cannot be anything but sad about it .. But again, we move on .. There is only so much fans can do about this .. As they did make an honest attempt at getting back and playing together after the last split, we just have to let them do what they want to.
Max Mirnyi of Belarus is a terrific doubles player and is one of the very few top-notch singles players who likes it and plays doubles with some commitment .. He also has a grand slam doubles title (with Hewitt) under his belt .. Known as "The Beast", the 6 ft 5" guy can form quite a forceful team with Mahesh .. Then again, one can never say whether two guys will be a a top-3 caliber doubles team, however good they are individually in doubles - because that takes a lot of perfect harmony .. Let us wish MB best if Mirnyi indeed does become the partner for the rest of the year ..
I would hope that LP and MB will both form top doubles teams with other steady and committed partners .. Would be nice to see both finish within the top-8 and play the WDC in Bangalore! .. That won't be easy this late, but 7 masters events and three grand slams remain to be played still.
At the grasscourt nationals, two Tamil Nadu players pulled off titles .. Hey, are there are any grasscourts in Tamil Nadu ?? .. The ones from there are not supposed to know grasscourt tennis .. But Manoj Mahadevan and Sai Jayalakshmy became the grasscourt national champions today .. Sunil Kumar fought hard, coming back from a set and a break down to take it to a 3rd set but ultimately fell to the serve and volley of Manoj, who reportedly played with confidence in the end breaking Sunil in the 11th game of the 3rd set and serving strongly in the final game for a 64 46 75 win .. Though Sunil has done well on grass courts, I don't think he is a "grass" player, and he does well mostly because he is just very talented .. He is mostly a baseline player (Leander for intance talked about how much better Sunil's ground strokes are, compared to LP at the same age when he was junior #1) .. That Sunil did well at the Wimbledon juniors and here says a lot about his abilities to adjust his game and win matches when it counts .. And, as for Manoj Mahadevan - hey, what a great story! .. The Hindu says - "Mahadevan made little errors as served strongly and was equally efficient with approach shots that earned him crucial points while pinning his opponent to the baseline" .. He has finally has got over the hump and placed his name right at the top of talented Indian youngsters .. It was about time, I would say .. Some of us have waited for a long time to see him have a break-through like this and it is great to see that .. Sai Jayalakshmi's abilities on whatever court she plays on are all well-established .. While in form, she could be expected to beat any of the Indians and over the last three matches at this event, she seems to have regained her lost form .. She simply outplayed Radhika Tulpule for a 60 64 win which was reportedly without drama .. Nitin and saurav Panja beat Bopanna and Kannan for the doubles title in a close comeback after dropping the first set .. Sai picked up her double crown winning the doubles title with Radhika, beating Sheetal and Liza .. See the Kolkata grasscourt nationals page.
Mar 29 Note-2
Here are the partners for a few events for Mahesh Bhupathi .. He will play with Max Mirnyi at Estoril (Portugal) starting Apr 8th, with Jeff Tarango at Monte Carlo (Apr 15) and with Todd Woodbridge at Barcelona (Apr 22) .. Then he will take a week off before the Rome masters - not sure who will be the partner there.
I always have trouble tracing down Leander, and so I have no idea where his plans stand.
Here is some news on Sania Mirza, courtesy the Deccan Chronicle today .. GVK Industries will continue support to Sania Mirza, according to GV Krishna Reddy, who has provided very good sponsorship for her over time, at a function .. In fact Anil Khanna, AITA secretary, was there too - he was in Hyderabad to see the new tennis stadium being prepared for the National Games there .. He thanked the support for Sania from GVK - "It is a big move indeed from a corporate house like the GVK. Such a nice gesture deserves to be appreciated and hopefully more corporate houses take the cue and encourage Indian tennis", he said .. He reportedly also had good comments on the state's preparation of the stadium, which he said would be a candidate for Davis Cups in the future if we select a synthetic surface .. On the future Davis Cup players, Anil Khanna said "Vijay Amritraj's son Prakash, Anand's son Stephen, Harsh Mankad, Rohan Boppanna and Sunil Kumar will be ready by the time Mahesh and Leander retire from the game" .. Okee dokey, that sounds good!
Sania's new coach CGK Bhupathi was also there and spoke highly of his latest pupil. "She is a gifted player and with the right kind of training, can go places", he said .. Sania will take time off to go to Bangalore for coaching stints under Bhupathi .. Bhupathi considers Sania's physical fitness and the serve as areas which require improvement. "However, her psyche is good. Everyone gets nervous playing in front of big crowds but regrouping is important. One shouldn't choke", he said according to Deccan Chronicle .. He doesn't have to worry about that last part - I don't remember choking as a problem for her at any time .. Physically also, she is not a weakling or anything -- but those who have seen the muscles of 16 year old world top-100 junior players know that physical development is never enough!
After a break for the 10th exams recently, Sania is all set to get back to court with the Grade 2 tournament next week in the Philppines .. She will move on to Japan, and then to Chinese Taipei where she will take part in a Grade-3 event starting on April 15 .. She will be back home and go through coaching for about 3 weeks .. Then she will be in action in the junior Fed Cup (new ITF name for world youth cup) regionals in Indonesia .. After a couple more weeks of coaching, she will go to the Astrid Bowl tournament in Belgium (May 25) and proceed to France for the French Open juniors .. Then it will be time for coaching to prepare for the Wimbledon juniors ,. Her warm-up tournaments will be in Morocco and then Tunisia .. Hey, the girl is all set, it seems! .. Good show.
By the way, a kind-hearted supporter from the US, an NRI high up in a firm here, who wanted to remain anonymous (so I will keep his name out) had also recently offered to provide Sania with support if needed .. Not sure if "Team Sania" (which is basically what it takes to develop a top-notch player in pro tennis now - a TEAM) will be using that source yet .. I thought I would give that news to encourage upcoming youngsters .. Aspiring Indian players should keep in mind that if you show something - that will be noticed! .. Work hard and do not complain - and good things will happen, usually .. Not that such support will be uniform and that they will always match the results .. They won't, but there will be support nonetheless - it could be from AITA, of from domestic sports management groups or industrial sponsors, or from a foreign source .. The bottom line is -- show talent, attitude (determination and "fire in the belly") and RESULTS.
In other news, Rajeev Ram of USA (already considered the Sampras heir apparent by a few) was at a prestigious invitation junior tournament attached to the Miami masters event, the 5th largest tennis tournament in the world .. He pulled a big upset over the 3rd seed there, #20 world junior Tomas Berdych (CZE) yesterday to reach the semifinal .. Rajeev has not played a steady ITF junior tour and is not ranked that high, but he is among the very best youngsters in the US .. Sources tell me that he is joining the college team of a big midwestern university (as I root against that university normally, I don't want to mention them :-)) this fall .. I am not sure if Rajeev has as much interest in possibly playing for India as say somebody like Prakash - but that's just my hunch and I may be wrong .. I don't personally know Rajeev, who is a very nice kid I am told.
Mar 29 Note-1
Some guys have a knack of coming up big at the bigger events - and once again 18 yr old Sunil Kumar shows that he has that, in reaching the grasscourts nationals final .. After winning the hardcourt Delhi (DSCL) nationals in 1999 and finishing runner-up in 2000 at the same event, he had not played many senior national events .. He skipped the Kolkata grasscourt nationals last february and the Chennai claycourt nationals last August (as he was in the ITF junior circuit), and had lost to Bopanna in the R2 of DSCL in October .. This is his next nationals and he is again in form .. Today he reached the final, beating one of the best grasscourts players in India, last year's runner up Vishal Uppal, 76(1) 64 .. Up against him now is the "unsung talent" in Indian tennis, 20 yr old Manoj Mahadevan - who is in his first senior national final, if I am not mistaken .. 6th seeded Manoj upset the second seed Nitin Kirtane today 76(1) 36 63 .. After leaving the junior ranks in late 1998 (a year earlier than he should have, as I said then), he has had a long climb ever since .. He has however steadily improved over time, reaching the AITA #15 by 1999 end, #14 by the 2000 end, and #10 by the 2001 end .. He is still standing, and still moving up - the finals at Kolkata will finally place him in the AITA top-5, among the elite group of a handful of youngsters with potential in India - nice to see him hanging in there and doing it the tough way .. On the women's side, the good news is certainly Sai Jayalakshmy's "comeback" .. After a good win yesterday, she followed it up with another easy straight set win over the second seed Sonal Phadke, to face Radhika Tulpule in the final .. Radhika beat Sheetal Gautam today .. See the Kolkata grasscourt nationals page.
Mar 28 Note-2
Knowles-Nestor have been on a good tear this year, and they did not give Mahesh-MacPhie much of a chance today, though the match was rather close .. #7 M.Bhupathi/ B.MacPhie l. #2 M.Knowles/ D.Nestor, 46 46 .. MB-BM could not convert the one break point they had, in the first set and the other guys converted 2 of 6 break chances in the match .. Mahesh now goes to New Zealand in a couple of days.
6th seed Amanjot Singh went down 76(4) 16 16 to the 11th seed Robert Haybittel (AUS) in the PQF to end the Indian challenge at the Grade-1 Amata Cup ITF juniors in Thailand .. Haybittel was a runner-up last week at Kuala Lumpur, and so he is a tough player - but that's yet another three-set loss for Indians there .. 5th seed Go Soeda of Japan (winner last week at KL and seemingly coming on strong this year) is the only Asian in the QF .. On the girls' side three Asians against whom Indians have had pretty decent success in India, Pichaya Laosirichon (THA), Sandy Gumulya (INA) and Diana Julianto (INA) are all in the QFs - it seems like Indians are the ones who have had a particularly tough time there. Oh well .. Now they go to the Mitsubishi Lancer grade-2 ITF event in Philippines next week .. Let us hope for our youngsters to do better there.
Mar 28 Note-1
Mahesh and MacPhie play 2nd seeds Mark Knowles (BAH) and Daniel Nestor (CAN) today at 11 am in Miami .. If they advance, theyw ill come back later for an SF match against Max Mirnyi and Roger Federer in the evening at 6 pm.
Due to Holi, the players got a day off today at the Kolkata grasscourt nationals .. They will be back tomorrow for the semifinals.
Mar 27 Notes
At the Miami masters, MB and MacPhie await the winners of today's R3 match between Ljubicic-Pioline and 2nd seeds Knowles-Nestor (this year's hottest doubles team) .. The QF may be tomorrow.
At Kolkata, unseeded 18 yr old Sunil Kumar beat the 7th seeded youngster Kamala Kannan to reach the semifinal .. Also taking his expected spot in the semi is wildcard Vishal Uppal, after scalping the 5th seed Vinod Sridhar .. 6th seed Manoj Mahadevan advanced in a minor upset of Vijay Kannan .. Nitin got past a fighting youngster Vishal Punna (who has been quietly improving, in my opinion, and I thought might even upset Nitin) .. Anyway, all four winners on the men's side had to come back from dropping their first sets, it seems! .. On the women's side, the top 4 seeds moved into the SF .. Radhika had a good win over Shruti .. Sai Jayalakshmy seems to have played her best match in a very long time (perhas 6 months!) today, against a decent Radhika Mandke - who was in good form having not dropped a game in her first two matches! .. Sai beat her 60 62, which is a good sign .. Normally this won't be surprising at all from Sai, but the way she has been struggling in singles, I had expected this to be a tough match .. See the Kolkata grasscourts nationals page for the results.
I keep getting emails asking when LP and MB will get together .. No idea, folks! .. If I were to guess, they are not going to be playing together other than for India for quite a while .. Call it just a hunch .. I will wait to see if they pick up other regular partners .. Sometime soon we should be hearing of whom they plan to play with during the clay season - depending on who those may be, we will be able to guess if there's a chance for them to get back together this year .. I doubt they will - but again, as Mahesh put it in his email to the press, "in life you cannot predict anything" .. As for their partners, I keep getting some news from some sources but I will wait for them to announce .. Let's move on.
Mar 26 Note-2
MB and MacPhie moved on to the QFs at the Miami masters after another three-setter that ended rather easily - #7 M.Bhupathi/ B.MacPhie d. J.Knowle/ M.Kohlmann, 75 46 61 .. The match took an hour and 45 minutes .. MB-BM converted 5 of 12 break chances and the other guys 3 of 6 ..
I have added all of today's results from Kolkata in the grasscourt nationals page.
The news is terrible from the Grade-1 Thailand ITF juniors (called the "Amata Cup", rather than "Mali Milk" Cup which was the name of the prestigious event for the last few years) .. 4th seed Isha Lakahani, 8th seed Saurabh Singh and 10th seed Jaco Matthew - all got upset in the round of 32 after first round byes .. 6th seed Amanjot Singh beat unseeded Marco Beeler of Switzerland 63 64 and became the only Indian in the round of 16, out of quite a few who had gone there .. Isha lost to Yurika sema of Japan, 63 36 57 .. Saurabh lost to Chris Guccione (AUS) 57 26 .. Jaco lost to Fotis Fotakis (AUS) 64 26 26 .. Unseeded Sanaa Bhambri lost 75 26 26 to Septa Nindya Yutami (INA) yesterday in the round of 64 .. Unseeded Rishi Behl, who had a creditable 64 62 win over Tushar Liberhan in the first round seems to have played the match of his life against the 3rd seed Bas Van Der Valk (NED) today, but he too fell, 76(4) 46 57 .. Nothing positive in doubles either - Unseeded Tushar Liberhan and Divij Sharan lost 67(4) 62 26 to Sun-Yong Kim and Woong-Sun Jun of Korea .. Rishi Behl and Karan Rastogi lost 26 61 46 to Ruben Gonzales and Phillip Simmonds of USA .. Earlier in the qualifying rounds, 4th seed Nihal Advani was upset by Woong-Sun Jun (KOR) 60 64 and 6th seed Divij Sharan was upset by the 10th seed Joel Kerley (AUS), 62 63 .. Karan Rastogi lost in the first round yesterday to Strahinja Bobusic (AUS) 26 16 [the same boy that Karan played late last year and led in a three-setter when he retired due to the back injury - after which he still has not regained the form and confidence, though the injury problems itself are gone now] .. Anyway, the eastern tour has been nightmarish so far for everyone .. The most disappointing thing (to me) has been the back-to-back upset losses by Isha Lakhani, who had such a phenomenal run in the subcontinental circuit - this is really Isha's first tour outside the subcontinent and that may also have affected her .. By the way, Sania Mirza did not go on this tour, and if I am not mistaken, she has her 10th std exams at this time .. Also missing from the tour is Somdev Dev Varman - I am not sure if he was selected for the trip; if not, it was unfortunate - he deserved to go too, I think ..
I always look to the Thai Mali Milk Cup as an important event, only to get disappointed, because rarely have our players done what they are capable of, out there - 16 yr old Harsh Mankad's runner-up finish in a 3-setter to Paradorn Srichaphan in 1996 was the last time I remember us doing anything there; though Sania, Sunil, Amanjot and Prakash all reached QF last year and fell .. By the way, a nice complete run-down of last week's grade-2 Kuala Lumpur event is in this article in The Hindu .. I hope the kids will take it in the right spirit and learn more about where they all stand with respect to world class competition and about what they need to work on (the number of three-setters dropped by our kids itself says a lot!) ..
Mar 26 Note-1
7th seeds Mahesh and MacPhie play Julien Knowle (AUT) and Michael Kohlmann (GER) in the 3rd round at Miami this morning at 11 am (starting, as I type) .. Knowle-Kohlmann had upset the 12th seeds Prinosil-Damm in the second round.
Big Upset news out of Kolkata .. Sunil Kumar pulled off perhaps the biggest upset since turning pro today at the Rs 500K Indian Oil Servo grasscourt nationals in Kolkata, over the top seed Rohan Bopanna, 36 61 64 .. Like mentor, like ward, I guess .. Sunil was never known as a grasscourt player, but based on his Wimbledon juniors show and now this, he seems to be doing LP proud on grasscourts .. Bopanna probably was a bit tired too after some 10 matches in the last week or so, but this is the kind of win that can boost the confidence of the 18 year old Sunil Sipaeya (though he has a big DSCL national title and a runner-up finish under his belt, that was when nothing was expected of him - but this is different, as he is now with the "big boys") .. According to the news item in rediff.com, there were no other upsets today except for Vishal Uppal beating 5th seed Rishi Sridhar, which is really not that unexpected, knowing Vishal's grasscourt game .. I will await detailed results of the day ..
Mar 25 Note-2
Heartbreak loss for LP and Gimelstob in a very close match today at the Miami Masters in the second round - J.Gimelstob/ L.Paes l. #8 B.Bryan/ M.Bryan, 46 75 67(5) .. The match took 2 hours and 10 minutes .. The stats were rather close .. 2 breaks converted out of 5 each by each team - that means it was a good competitive match .. 8 aces and 9 double faults by JG-LP, to 4 aces and 4 DFs by the Bryans .. 99 points by JG-LP to 103 pts to the other guys .. LP will now be going to New Zealand by about the next weekend for Davis Cup.
The national grasscourts started today without any big fireworks .. All seeds advanced and there were no upsets at all, except for SK Tara coming close to pulling one on Shruti Dhawan .. See the Grasscourt nationals page for all results.
I have added the latest AITA calendar at the results-calendar-rankings page .. By the way, it's been a while since I updated the rank lists .. Will do sometime soon.
The news from the east (Thailand junior ITF) today is not that great, as Karan Rastogi who is getting back to competitive tennis after the injury break still seems to be nopt in his best form .. He lost in the first round .. Rishi Behl beat Tushar Liberhan and Sanaa lost in three sets, I believe .. Isha, Saurabh, etc are playing their first round matches tomorrow .. I will get more details soon.
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.
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Mar 25 ..
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.