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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Apr 5, 1999

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Apr 5 Note-2

I have added the doubles draw, etc, at the Chennai Open page .. They did give some wildcards to Indians in doubles - thank you! .. Fazal and Sargis Sargsian got one, Srinath and Mustafa got one, and Sandeep and Nitin Kirtanes got the 3rd .. Not bad! .. The doubles draw is rather weak there, though with no other regular top doubles teams taking part .. Actually, the pair that Fazal and Sargsian are drawn against, Grant and Middleton, and also the pair that the Kirtanes got, Carrasco-Velasco, are a couple of relatively regular pairs and are the tougher ones in the draw .. Since Byron Black decided not to play doubles, Wayne Black is playing with Neville Godwin and are the second seeds - not the team that W.Black-Stolle is, but Godwin is a very good doubles player too (he was LP's partner for some tournaments a few years back) .. Only a very light schedule in singles today, with just 4 main draw matches .. The 4 qualifiers must have been completed by now today, but I haven't seen the results and so I am not sure whom LP faces .. It won't be a very easy player anyway, with the final round of quals having the top 8 seeds in the quals - so it will be somebody near the top-150 .. Actually, unlike what people think, it's sometimes much tougher to face a qualifier who has just gone through 3 rounds of match play on the court and is well-adjusted - and LP will only get a day of practice there to get the grasscourts at Calcutta out of his system!

The tournament website (http://www.goldflakeopen.com) is much better that last year's, with some news articles, etc .. They have even updated the draw page with results of one of the comepleted matches (Ilie won) pretty soon after it was finished this evening .. The score updates were very erratic last year .. The scoreboard applet doesn't seem to work for me now, but that may be my computer's problem .. The only problem I have is that they use way too much of graphics, which makes everything too damn slow.

At the Estoril WTA event qualifiers in Poirtugal, Nirupama lost in the second round to Eva Bes of Spain (seeded 8th in the quals and ranked 150), somebody she has been running into a lot lately! .. 6-4, 6-4 .. She had beaten 185-ranked Andreea Vanc (ROM) in round 1 in a comeback, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(4) .. In the doubles qualifiers, Niru and Vanc are playing Studenikova and Cervanova, but I haven't got any results yet.

Apr 5 Note-1

The main draw action starts today at Chennai, even though the final round of qualifiers are also scheduled for today (Monday) .. Leander and Mahesh would probably be playing only on Tuesday .. In doubles, Leander and Mahesh are drawn to meet Vincenzo Santopadre (ITA) and Massimo Ardinghi (ITA) in the first round .. Nirupama moved up a a few of spots this week to 176 with the few points she picked up in the Dinans Challenger ..

Finally got hold of the full qualifier results, and I found that ATP also finally posted it - apparently there were some email problems or something from the communications office at Chennai that delayed the results going out .. Anyway, there was no great news to talk about, as no Indian pulled any upsets and only Vinod Sridhar reached the second round today .. He too lost .. In somewhat of a rarity on ATP tournaments, the final round will feature the 8 seeds in the qualifiers! .. 4 will advance to the main draw .. Harsh Mankad, the only one to pull an upset and reach the final round of quals last year, did not play in the qualies, this time .. I had hoped somebody would do well, but no such luck .. Both Sandeep and Nitin Kirtane ended up drawn against tough seeded players (Carraz and Behr) .. Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse put up some fight in their losses .. That was it .. Anyway, see the qualifier results and the main draw, posted at the Chennai tournament page ..

The newspaper correspondents continue to have fun at Mahesh Bhupathi's expense .. The poor guy is injured, and people are not being nice by acting as though it was a huge mistake for him to get injured .. He didn't plan to get injured, you know! .. Anyway, Mahesh, as usual has been quiet and not really saying a whole lot.

Apr 4 Notes

No news at all, yet, from the qualifiers at Chennai .. I am trying to see if I can get hold of the results. Hold on.

At Davis Cup today at Calcutta, India finished the 5-0 whitewash of China - [Match-4, Sun.] F.Syed d. Jiang Shan, 6-3, 6-3 .. [Match-5, Sun.] L.Paes d. B-Q.Zhu, 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-3 .. Leander was a bit unmotivated in the 5th match and dropped a set, but then came back and played better - but he made a lot of unforced errors, etc .. That happens sometimes against lower-ranked opponents, though a lot of people at Calcutta felt that Ben-Qiang is a rather talented 20 yr-old .. Fazal made it another straight sets win, easily of 19 yr old Jiang Shan .. Fazal has been really cooking lately .. Good to see that - he had such a poor streak during the Indian challenger/futures earlier this year .. A correction from the doubles yesterday - it was Jian Shan who played with Ben-Qiang Zhu, not Yu Zhang (the online ball-by-ball we had at the chatline during the match was based on the Doordarshan coverage, which apparently continued to show the wrong name throughout the match!) ..

There is a report that Mahesh has added an extra injury this week from practice (a stomach strain, I believe, from lunging once) .. Oh well .. The trainer, Bill Norris said that the hamstring seems fully healed - not sure how bad the new injury is, but it does not sound too serious .. We will know tomorrow, if he pulls out from Chennai singles.

Here is a very interesting article from Nirmal Shekhar in The Hindu today, calling outright for Jaideep Mukherjea to be replaced as DC captain .. Take a look!

More later.

Apr 3 Note-4

I have been getting a lot of emails from concerned fans about an article in the Indian Express a couple of days back about things not being OK between Leander and Mahesh, and why I had not commented on that .. I was a bit surprised - it was just three weeks back that I saw them both at Indian Wells - we were sitting together and watching Black/Stolle play and nothing seemed to be a problem .. Anyway, I just had a chat with Leander, who said it was miunderstandings, and that as careful as he is, sometimes things get blown out of proportion .. No, that particular newspaper article wasn't sensationalizing the story - some things did happen, as they always do between long-time friends .. Especially so, when there are so many other people around the two stars .. LP had told me even before about some people intentionally or unintentionally putting wedges between him and Hesh - he never told me who, but that doesn't seem important and I don't really care .. I wish people were more careful about the pressures these two always face, with the relentless pro tour, the expectations, and the injury problems .. Anyway, LP seemed to feel good about a nice long chat with MB today, and also about the Davis Cup doubles win .. LP's words to me - "Heck, you saw us both at Indian Wells just three weeks back - we are fine" .. So, let's just move on! .. Some pretty good tennis starting at Chennai for us to focus on!

Apr 3 Note-3

Mahesh said to reporters (PTI wire news) today that he *might* pull out of singles at Chennai and play just doubles .. He said his leg was fine, and he had no problem lunging and all that, but he also said that the leg was getting tired by the end of the Davis Cup doubles match today .. We will wait and see .. Anyway, the draw at Chennai was done today - Leander plays a qualifier (to be determined), and is expected to face 4th seed Byron Black (ZIM) in R2 .. Mahesh will face Richard Fromberg of Australia (#83, one of the top-10 players in the draw) and is drawn next to 6th seed Sjeng Schalken (NED, 56) .. As usual, Mahesh gets a tough draw .. LP and MB are in the same 1/4th of the draw in the bottom half .. In case Mahesh has to drop out from the singles after his medical examination tomorrow, the spot will go to a lucky loser from the quals (all freed-up spots go to lucky losers, once the qualies have started - those will be the highest ranked players who lose in the final round of the quals).

Qualifying rounds have started today at Chennai .. After all the hoopla that the Chennai publicity machine generated about how magnanimous they were in offering a wildcard to Vinod Sridhar for topping the domestic gold flake circuit, the qualy draw closed at #1233 - which means Vinod would easily have been in anyway!! .. Based on last year's experience, Cooney's cronies certainly knew this (see what I wrote on March 5 in the weekly notes, Mar-8 .. I had said right then that the wildcard for the domestic circuit winner was all just suspicious publicity stunt by the Gold Flaky Open guys, and that they would anyway be giving the WCs to Indians, as there won't be anybody else to give them to! .. Glad to see it turned exactly so!) .. Anyway, I have posted the matchups today in the qualifiers, etc, at the Chennai Open-99 page .. We should know some scores soon.

Not sure who will play the dead-rubber reverse singles today in Davis Cup .. Fazal and Srinath, probably ..

Nirupama is supposed to be at the qualifiers for the Portugal WTA tournament (Estoril, Por.) over this weekend .. No news yet on that.

Apr 3 Note-2

There were reports earlier that Fazal would be Leander's partner today (actually, even more stuff, which I don't have any first hand knowledge on, right now) .. Anyway, when the time came, it was our "dudes" who went out to take care of business and clinch the tie for us .. MB looked alright, according to those who saw the match on TV .. They did their usual stuff - jumped on the opponents early to go up 4-0, and win the first set 6-1 .. They seemed to play within themselves, and weren't doing too much of flashy stuff - no need for chest-butts and all that against the Chinese pair who are on paper the easiest pair LP-MB have played in a while .. The quick breaks brought some smiles between the dudes, but the match tightened up a bit in the second set with MB dropping serve in the 3rd game and the Chinese seeemingly adjusting to the surface and opponents .. Then, China had a set point, serving at 5-4, when they double faulted twice and gifted the break to India .. MB, curiously dropped serve again in game 11 .. Then China was serving for the set again at 6-5, and once again squandered the chance to let it go to tiebreaker .. That's when LP-MB really get into their elements. 7-0 was the score in tiebreaker! .. The 3rd set went with serve till the 7th game when Yu Zhang dropped serve .. That was that .. Paes/Bhupathi d. B-Q.Zhu/Y.Zhang, 6-1, 7-6(0), 6-4. (later correction - it was Jiang Shan, not Yu Zhang .. )

Apr 3 Note-1

The doubles starts soon - the start time is 12.30 at Calcutta (2 am Eastern time, USA), in a couple of hours .. the newspaper reports are that, since we won both the opening singles, Mahesh would not risk playing doubles, and probably Fazal will partner Leander .. Captain Mukherjea said he can change the doubles team up to an hour before the match, which is soon .. Come to the chatroom, where we should have somebody from India bringing score updates - the match is on TV (Doordarshan sportschannel).

As for our continuing crusade against exposing the lies and underhanded dirty tricks from the Chennai Gold Flaky tournament - I am glad to see that so far articles have appeared in today's The Hindu, Indian Express and the online rediff-news .. Hopefully we will see other newspapers writing on it soon .. The Hindu actually surprised me, publishing the story, they being the official newspaper of the tournament .. I say, more power to you! .. The good thing is that everybody have clear proof now, as they all mention Craig Gabriel, the media man there - he was the one who blatantly replied that it was "false information" about Andreas Vinciguerra, barely two days before they actually announced it [but don't blame Mr. Gabriel - he may just be the mouthpiece of the whole stinking group of conniving low-lifes] .. Talk about putting the foot and everything up to the knee firmly inside your mouth! .. The newspaper reports also mention that the news was known to the IMG agent in Sweden way ahead of anyone in India .. Good job by the press - but even more scathing attacks are in order against these foreigners who think we are all fools .. I guess it's their tournament and they can do whatever the hell they want to, but they shouldn't think we don't notice all the shameless shenanigans - and they should know that it's mostly Indian sponsors' money they are playing with .. I wish I were in Madras, to get a ticket and go in with a placard saying, "Where is Srinath ? Where is Fazal ? .. This tournament is not for foreign kids' practice" !! ..

By the way, as a side note, I should repeat that I hope Andreas does do well .. He is said to be a good kid, and he is not the one who is behind all this .. Nothing against the boy ..

The qualifiers must be just starting in Chennai .. Hopefully the newspapers will have some results tomorrow.

Just got the entry list for the Delhi challenger (starting the monday after Chennai) from AITA through a friend .. It is posted at the Delhi challenger page .. As of now Mahesh is the first man out in the entry list of 22 with Leander at #1 seed .. MB will surely be in, after a withdrawal or two .. Srinath should hopefully get a wildcard from AITA .. Fazal's name doesn't appear in the list, but I guess he can still get in with a wildcard.

Apr 2 Note-2

Doubles is scheduled for 12 am today at Calcutta, but before I go back to tennis reporting later, would you all mind if I call some people some names ? .. I almost never do that here, but I just have to -

Brian Cooney, and others who run the Chennai tournament are lying, cheating conniving little foreigner low-lifes who should be ashamed of themselves. ..

They announced the wildcards today, and they went to Mahesh Bhupathi, Jonathan Stark (#348, USA) and Andreas Vinciguerra (#421, SWE) .. Yeah right, wasn't it the media guy (Australian, what else?) who said to the press who called him two days back that the Swedish news I have been saying for the last 6 days was "false information" and nothing had been decided ?? .. Watch when exactly the players with the wildcards arrive in the city - if they had not been told early enough, why would they skip quals and show up only during the weekend - I even knew when one of them was flying in, by the way, and that he had been told months in advance .. Do they have any shame at all in Chennai ? .. Liers.

What is absolutely pathetic is that they can't even get a top-200 player to give a wildcard to ! .. They must have been looking all around for anybody with white skin from abroad to give a wildcard to, and could only come up with Jonathan Stark !! .. Are you kidding me ? .. These Cooney cronies are absolutely incredible .. Anyway, Srinath and Fazal will just watch stuff on TV once again.

This is what Brian Cooney said today - "It is always to watch exciting young prospects taking their first steps on the international circuit. (sorry sir, I like to see Fazal or Srinath take a step - many Indians do) .. This is a perfect time for an event like the Gold Flake Open to foster new relationships with young overseas players" (oh boy, we really do want to see white overseas skin, don't we? .. It's so important to get such "relationships") such as Andreas because they do remember the good deeds awarded to them .. They are so much more likely to return to tournaments that have treated them well as they make the break through to the upper levels of the sport" .. Yeah right, professional tennis players really do reward tournament offices - what great rewards are Jonathan Stark going to give us, I wonder .. How many of the 4 players they gave a total of over a million dollars (reportedly) last year to come to Madras "rewarded" them with return darshans ? .. This tournament has perhaps the worst record of getting any top player to return!

Does anybody in India have the guts to stand up to these guys ? .. Vijay Amritraj ? .. Ramesh Krishnan ? .. Where are you all ? .. I see both being mentioned prominently at the tournament website .. I am sure both are rather diplomatic in these things and may not want to get into any serious stuff, but I really don't know who can at least tell these foreigners that what they are doing is just pinning daggers into the hearts of our own Indian players, not to mention our pride as Indians .. It eats me up .. Doesn't it do that to anybody out there ? .. AITA really are silent spectators - I have never heard they have any control in anything .. But for the Indian spectators missing out on seeing them in action, I would have liked to even see LP and MB make a statement and skip the doubles in protest .. It may be difficult to get the spectators to hold a placard or two in protest - I don't think much of this is going out in the press either, though some reporters have been aware of the crimes, as editorial desks seem to be getting cold-feet in kicking up any storm from what I hear .. Where is the "fiercely independent" Indian press in exposing the Chennai shenanigans ? .. Doesn't any of the indian sponsors, ITC, etc, who help the International Money-Grabbers to make profits, care about this ? .. I guess not.

It's possible that they had to cut deals involving wildcards to get some top players to come - and they would give that as a reason .. The question is, why don't tournaments in other places never do this kind of blatantly unjust deals involving wildcards ? - because the tournament organizers know there are limits to how far they can go, and that the people in those places will stand up and ask them to explain.

If those of you who are wondering whether this kind of screaming injustice is done at other tournaments, I suggest that you take a look at the archived draws at Steve Gocha's site and show me one tournament anywhere last year where the wildcards were handed out to such lowly-ranked foreign players .. No, I am not saying these things without watching things rather closely .. Even at the couple of other tournaments run by people other than from the home country (Tashkent, Dubai, Singapore, etc) this was not done .. Only in India can they get away with this .. Brian Cooney knows it, and we Indians facilitate that .. Wildcards by themselves are not all that important - both Fazal and Srinath are really long-shots to get an upset win in the main draw (but both could use the experience and the $4K from playing), though so are Stark and Vinciguerra who got the WCs .. As I said before, what upsets me is the attitudes that cause this to happen. It's on the basis of some principles that I protest.

But then again, there are probably people in India who still believe that Gandhiji was wrong in starting "Quit India" against the Britishers! .. That's our attitude .. We would rather worship the foreign skin and gladly take the small prasadams they give us .. When will it get better ? ..

Apr 2 Note-1

It seems to have been a smoth ride for India against China today in Davis Cup at the Calcutta South Club grasscourts .. Two straight sets wins - [Match-1] Leander Paes d. Yu Zhang, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 .. [Match-2] Fazaluddin Syed d. Ben-Quiang Zhu, 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-4 .. Leander basically put the match out of reach winning 5 games in a row in the second set .. Fazal's match started in a close fashion .. He had a couple of break pts in the 9th game to go up 5-4, but didn't convert, but he came up big in the 12th game with an ace to avoid trouble after a double fault made it 40-30 .. He followed up winning bunch of point in a row to go up 5-1 in the tiebreaker and picked up the first set .. Then in the second set he opened up a 4-1 lead and it was a cruise from there .. Congrats go to "Tipu" as he is called by his team mates (as in "Tipu Sultan" ??) for his debut which couldn't have been in more ideal conditions, except for the hot sun, and he came out with flying colors .. I am sure the big confidence boost from this win for his country - a dream for him - will stand him in good stead at Chennai next week .. Oops .. wait .. forget it .. No Chennai for him .. He ain't worth it .. They don't look at Davis Cuppers from the home country .. One needs to be a teenage kid from some foreign land to get anywhere near there - that's how the Chennai shenanigans work! .. Back to Davis Cup - it seems Mahesh will be playing doubles tomorrow with Leander .. Hope they can finish it off tomorrow, so that LP won't have to play a 3rd match on Sunday ..

Apr 1 Note-2

The Davis Cup is all set to go .. The draw has Leander playing the Chinese #2 Ben-Quiang Zhu in the first match, and Fazal playing the Yu Zhang in the second match .. The first match starts at 10 am on Friday (8.30 pm PST, today, Thursday, in the USA) .. We may have score updates on the Leander page, but it would be nice if those of you in India who may get to see it on TV could come in and give us some ball-by-ball at our chatroom .. That will save phone calls to India to get score udpates!

15-year old Chandigarh kid, Sunil Kumar, on whom many have pinned a lot of hopes, has been selected by the ITF for a trip with an ITF developmental team of under-16 players to Europe .. The trip will be in May-June and he will take part in the following tournaments: Sporting International Tournament, Torino-Italy, Avvenire Memorial Tournament, Milano-Italy besides three other tournaments in France (source: Tribune, Chandigarh!) .. Congrats to him. His title at the ITF junior international in Delhi may have been a main reason for the selection.

Apr 1 Note-1

At Calcutta yesterday, the newspaper reports suggest that everything looked somewhat set for Fazaluddin Syed to make his singles debut tomorrow in Davis Cup .. Though Srinath who has been recovering over a few weeks from an achilles injury is ranked above him, Fazal is known to be more experienced on grass, and this is truly his home court, being from Calcutta .. He was practising with Leander on the main court .. Mahesh, Srinath and two hitting partners, Mustafa Ghouse and Vijay Kannan were practising on the side courts .. Things could still change, and Mahesh seem to have recovered rather well, but everyone seems to want him not to go with his heart, rightly, and stay away from singles to avoid any more problems to the hamstring .. Fazal can certainly handle the job, if he doesn't take it too seriously and get all nervous - his dad Syed Nayeemuddin and other illustrious personalities like Naresh Kumar and Akhtar Ali will all be in attendance to watch him. Captain Jaideep Mukherjea is as usual tight-lipped and said he will announce the team today, but it looks like a green signal for Fazal.

At Pattaya City (Thailand) yesterday, the top two Asian girls bowed out of the Grade-2 big ITF junior international - the top seeded Suchanan Viratprasert of Thailand and the 6th seeded Sheetal Gautam of India .. Sheetal lost 3-6, 3-6 to Marie Pelletier of Canada .. There are many top players out there from Europe and America - the competition must be truly fierce for these two girls to go out this early in the second round. I don't think the second round is completed on the boys' side yet - Kedar Tembe should be playing today ..

I had an email yesterday from an Indian press correspondent (I will *not* release the name!), who agreed with my continuing crusade for truth in advertising and basic integrity from the Chennai tournament office folks .. Regarding whether the Indian press would be able to do anything, the email says, "I doubt anything would come out, because things are very well controlled in Chennai as far as the Gold Flake Open is concerned. They seem to know a trick or two about handling the media there. .. I doubt whether a word would appear in print in protest about the happenings in terms of wildcards etc .. I also hate this subservient attitude. I do love my country and am proud to be an Indian, as anybody else. But I am repeatedly reminded that this is a third world country, because of many third rate people .. We can't change it so easily, though we may set ourselves very high standards in whatever field that we pursue .. Basically, IMG is taking away all the profit, and they want to treat this tournament as something Godsent for the people of Chennai. It is good to have a great event, but glamour is not everything" .. Very well put, I must say .. Tough to disagree with the email, and even tougher to fathom the fact that Indian people are the ones helping the foreigners keep the Indian press under some control .. Anyway, I also heard that one reporter did follow up and get something out in print today (though nothing seems to be in the online editions yet) about the Swedish kid being promised a wildcard, something apparently the tourney office claims as "false information" .. Yeah, Right! .. I know that the "false info" has also appeared online in Sweden, and I had my sources .. I did not just start this out of the blue .. I believe the word has also reached Calcutta about this - hope Fazal isn't too upset .. He has reasons to be, though - the best way to show it would be to take it all out on the Chinese, on court!

It's funny that it's all about a tennis tournament, though .. I don't want anybody to get the wrong idea - no, this is not a life-or-death issue like the war in Kosovo .. Neither will Indian tennis just wither away because the Aussies in Chennai hate giving wildcards to Indians .. I am upset, and so are a few others, only because of some basic principles and attitudes involved here, which may not have much to do with tennis as such.

Mar 31 Note-3

Today's press release from Brian Cooney, the ring-master of the Chennai circus of absurdity - after another bit of hype on how Moya could become number-1 after Chennai, the PTI wire continues - "According to Cooney, the Chennai Open has almost acquired the status of a grand slam as the cutoff for players is 131 ATP points (sic)" .. When will this man Cooney stop this nonsense ? .. Can somebody tell PTI to learn a thing or two about tennis reporting ? .. What the heck is going on ? .. Are these people all out of their minds ? .. Drives me wild to see Indians eating up this crap from a foreigner who thinks he can throw whatever bones at us .. But then again I shouldn't blame Cooney - I am sure a newspaper or two in India will publish that wire news today too.

No, I am no "Bharat-great-Swadeshi-only-Videshi-out" fanatic or anything .. After all, I am not even in India, and normally a pretty mild person .. I'm just someone who finds the arrogance of these foreigners in thinking they can get away with anything in India, a bit too hard to take .. And I find it even tougher to understand the "we trust you - your word is bible, sir" attitude of some folks in India, a country that paid for the conniving foreigners' rule for centuries .. Heck, if Brian Cooney and his cronies are making money from this tournament (I doubt they would be in India if they were losing money!), it's the money from Indian sponsors .. I would hope that at least they would demand better integrity from the tournament office of the event they sponsor .. So far no such indication.

The wire news continues with another bit for local consumption - "Vinod Sridhar has obtained a wildcard for the qualifying rounds" .. Oh, almighty how magnanimous - making him play for three weeks in a domestic circuit to reach that promised land of qualifiers .. And the main draw wildcards go to Swedish kids (or South African or German, or whatever) over Indian Davis Cuppers .. And our national championship runner-up from two weeks back, Nitin Kirtane, probably still is sweating it to see if he would get a wildcard to the qualies .. And for all I know, there are tons of hangers-on in Madras who are not even aware of any of this, and find the Aussie "Sahibs" who run the tournament so very nice ..

Mar 31 Note-2

I hear from India that the foreigners in the tournament office in Chennai are claiming to have decided nothing about the wildcards and they would do so only on Friday, but my sources from abroad tell me that a wildcard was promised to the Swedish kid, Andreas Vinciguerra, months ago ! .. Sounds oh-so-like what they did last year with Brian Phau and Wesley Whitehouse - like drop the news on us in the last minute, so there is no time for anybody to respond .. Sneaky foreigners .. Come on guys, speak the truth, will you ? .. Oh, but then again, perhaps they still have not decided - what if Sampras wants to play in the last minute (chuckle, chuckle) as the tournament director said in his press release (see Mar 29 Note-2 below) .. :-) :-)

If they had to do this kind of stuff to get Johansson and Tillstrom, God save them, and this tournament .. Anyway, why is news on these things known in Sweden, and Indians are blissfully unaware ? .. International Money-Grabbers!..

My offer, as always, to eat crow and say "kowtow" if this all comes to naught in the end.

Mar 31 Note-1

At the Mali Milk Cup ITF junior international yesterday in Bangkok, the first round continued - the only Indian to play was Radhika Tulpule, who lost to the 4th seed, Elena Baltacha of Britain, ranked in the top-70 in the world .. 6th seed Sheetal Gautam plays the second round today .. Kedar Tembe is in the boys' second round today, too .. The Nation, Bangkok had the story about a young boy from USA who lost to a Thai player in two sets .. the boy had three set points in the first set, aggressively rushed the net three times and got lobbed three times too .. the US boy's name - Prakash Amritraj .. I said to myself about the net-rushing, "must run in the blood!" ..

Here is a nice article in today's Deccan Herald about a hidden talent - Iciri Rai, 13 yr-old from Karnataka .. What caught my eye is that she is already 5-5 at that age .. Let's hope Bhupathi Sr can mould the talent .. Nice to see these kinds of articles on kids out there.

Mar 30 Notes

The Davis Cup Fever ! - Catch it !! .. Kidding .. But it's getting closer to the historic tie between the greatest two cultures in world history, for the first time .. Here is an article by SK John in the Indian Express on how nobody seems to know anything much about the three players who have come from China or about Chinese Davis Cup history - don't worry, China has been playing tennis for a long time - I even found records of China having played Davis Cup as far back as 1924 against Australia and in 1935 against USA (led by none other than the great Don Budge! - the tie was in Mexico City, of all places) .. They waited 14 years before winning even a match, and that was against New Zealand in 1938 .. they won their first tie, against Denmark in 1946 .. They were absent (for obvious reasons) from the world scene till 1983, and they won their second Davis cup tie in Sri Lanka in 1984 .. And China has one better record than India - they won a tie on foreign soil three years back - India has gone 6 years since the Frejus miracle, without winning a foreign tie .. In 95-96 they went 4-1 on foreign soil, beating Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Thailand and Indonesia, and losing only to New Zealand .. Perhaps the best Chinese team in recent memory (or any memory at all :-)), with Bing Pan and J.Xia ..

Anyway, about the Chinese team - Yu Zhang (that's the official ATP name, but in China the surname is said first, so he is Zhang Yu), ranked 812 is the senior player at 23 yrs age .. Ben-Qiang Shu, 20, is the #1 player, ranked 792 this week .. The 3rd player, Jiang Shan is 19 and unranked .. But the same team played New Zealand with Mark Nielsen, ranked 421 and Alistair Hunt ranked 592 .. Both Zhang and Ben-Qiang won one match each and scared the heck out of New Zealand in China .. I wonder what happened to Bing Pan, who was ranked as high as 175 about 4 years back .. The Chinese coach says he is taking rest .. Anyway, he had fallen off the ATP ranks sometime last year .. Apparently the Chinese like to play on white clay, and have no idea about grass .. Marcelo Rios swore that grass is only for cows - what would the Chinese say ? .. Are there any cows in China ? ..

March 29 Note-3

OK, time for some news .. The new rankings show Leander just outside the top-100 at 101 .. He lost 15 points from his first round win at Lipton last year .. Mahesh is at #322 in singles .. The team rtanking for LP-MB fell to #3, as Wayne Black and Sandon Stolle continued their winning streak with their second Super 9 title in a row to reach the no.1 rank (they beat Becker and Gambill in the final at Lipton on Sunday) .. The top ranked teams based on 1999 results are, Black/Stolle at #1 with 1279 pts, Bjorkman/Rafter at #2 with 951 pts, LP-MB at #3 with 918 pts, Woodies at #4 with 905 pts and Ferreira/Leach at #5 with 843 pts .. The individual ranks, which use a whole year of pts still show Mahesh at #2 and Leander at #3 .. Nirupama is at #179 in singles and moved up from #243 to #228 in doubles .. She picked up 20 doubles pts for her semi at Biel, but lost 7 pts from last year, and will lose another 7 pts next week to still stay inside top-250 ..

Leander, Mahesh, Srinath, Fazal, etc are all at Calcutta, practising for Davis Cup, which starts on Friday .. Mahesh did hit some ball there, with heavily bandaged left hamstring, but is still unsure of his status of singles at Davis Cup.

Did you know that this is the largest population of the world ever to be involved in a Davis Cup tie ? .. Yes - 40% of the world's population .. India and China have never played Davis Cup before .. The previous record for the above may have been the Chandigarh tie between USA and India in 1995 .. The Calcutta South Club grasscourts will witness the historic tie .. China is on paper a weak side with nobody ranked in the top-700, and is more of an underdog due to their inexperience on grass, but in Davis Cup anything can and often do happen .. The same no-name Chinese team made the New Zealand team with much higher ranked players sweat it out for a 3-2 win in China where NZL had to win both the reverse singles! ..

Our highest-ranked junior player, Sheetal Gautam, is at the grade-2 ITF international junior event at Pattaya City (Bangkok), Thailand - called the Mali Milk Cup, one of the most prestigious junior events in Asia .. She is ranked #82 in the world as of last week, and is the 6th seed at Bangkok .. She won today in the first round, over Orawan Lamangthong (THA), 7-5 6-0 .. She was also at a grade-3 international at Singapore last week, but I am yet to see any results out of there (will try to trace down some news) .. There are also a couple of other Indian kids at Bangkok .. Kedar Tembe squeezed out of a tight situation, facing match pts in the second set for a comeback win, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 against Tientawi Phomjamrat (THA) .. Sanchai Ratiwatana of Thailand had a comeback win over Akshay Vishal Rao, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 .. On the girls side, 15-yr old Liza Pereira of India lost to Dea Sumantri of Indonesia, 3-6, 4-6 .. The top seed on the girls' side is perhaps the hottest junior player in Asia now, Suchanan Viratprasert of Thailand who is on an unbeaten streak going back weeks, where she came up from neat 100 to inside the top50 ..

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.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Mar 29..