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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Apr 8, 2002
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2001)

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Apr 8 Note-1

ITF will announce the seedings for the world group qualifying rounds on Tuesday and will do the draw on Wednesday .. Actually India may really have a small chance at being the 8th seed .. They say that they will use their newly introduced ranking (which should have us moving up a spot or two, I think, form #18), as well as ATP ranks and the doubles team .. Two of the three criteria are good for India, I think.

Here are a couple of interesting articles from New Zealand ..

Here is an article in the Sunday Star Times before the 4th match between Paes and Nielsen .. About the doubles match (excerpts),

"It was getting a little hard to see out there towards the end, especially with Leander and Mahesh hitting the ball a little harder than our guys and they are crisper with their volleys," said the captain Glenn Wilson ... "I thought our guys played pretty well but you could see, just like in the singles match on Friday (Paes v Hunt), when they got to a certain position they just raised the bar enough to make a break." ... The Kiwis last night would have been thinking of ways to prolong the doubles but the result looks inevitable. At times, the reaction time of the Indians was unbelievable. Their anticipation skills illustrated why they are former winners of the French Open and both are ranked among the world's top 10 doubles exponents...
Hey, they are not "former" winners - they are the current winners! ..  Here is an article on the Paes win over Nielsen, in the Dominion:
The rain break lasted three hours and when the players returned to court the match was dramatically transformed with Nielsen taking four of the next five games to win the set 6-4 ... With his confidence rising by the minute Nielsen raced through the fourth set in 25 minutes, at one point winning nine successive points, winning 6-2 and levelling the match ... At that point the experienced Paes called a toilet break, changed his shirt, collected his thoughts and returned to win the fifth and deciding set 6-1, though it was much closer than the scoreline suggests.  A disappointed Nielsen had no doubts that a call for a toilet break by Paes, who was rushing after being calm and methodical in the first two sets, was a tactical ploy that worked for the Indian.  "I don't think he needed a toilet break. He was trying to interrupt my rhythm," Nielsen said ... "He (Paes) is a tremendous player. He has probably got the fastest hands in the world after Pat Rafter." ... Paes' first comment after his third win in three days was that New Zealanders should be proud of the way Nielsen played ... "It was closer than the scoreline suggests. He blew me off the court in that fourth set," Paes said.
LP knows all the tricks in the book, when it comes to Davis Cup .. Toilet breaks and shirt changes and everything .. Ultimately of course it is heart that wins! .. Here is an interesting article in the Evening Post about Onny Parun (ah, there is the man -- nothing against him, but it is nice to know that he has noticed that we have finally paid back New Zealand for all his crimes :-)) lamenting the state of NZL tennis now .. Excerpts - Parun said New Zealand was not in "shooting distance" of competing with the sport's super-powers, like India ranked 18th in the world. "To operate at Davis Cup level you have to have players ranked in the top-100, that's the bottom line," he said ... "None of ours are within shooting distance of that mark and that's why we will continue to struggle. We are a few years away too. It's hard to say exactly when we'll be there but the calibre of players we have are just not good enough on the world scene." ... Parun thinks India is a tennis "super-power"? .. Come on, man :-) .. Odd that Parun picked a loss to India as the time to make that observation on top-100 players .. India has continuously played in the world group or at least reached the world group qualifying round (ie top-24) almost continuously for more than a decade, except one year .. Since RK left in 93, we have had just ONE year with a player in the top-100 and only a few months with even a second player in the top-250 .. But then what India has been doing in Davis Cup is something totally incredible .. Not that we have had tremendous success against the world group teams except for some home-cooking in mid 90s, but just staying at the edge of the world group or just outside for so long itself is something that so many other countries with so many more higher ranked players have not accomplished .. And don't forget the 11-2 doubles record of LP-MB, and their continued streak of 10 wins now including a road upset of the world #1 team last year in USA, etc ..  We have just come to expect a win from them every time and we forget that many top doubles teams have rarely had such a streak in Davis Cup - check out Novak-Rikl losing to Santoro-Llodra this weekend that effectively lost the world group QF tie for Czech Republic (though 36th ranked Santoro and 31 ranked Llodra are higher ranked as a team this year, #11 Novak and #9 Rikl has been up there for many years) .. To have never been upset in Davis Cup doubles is a great record that Hesh and Lee have.  Sometimes Indian tennis fans should think about how lucky we have been with the heart our players show.

While I am at it, let me pay my respect to Daniel Nestor and Canada for their huge upset of Rios and Chile .. Nestor and Niemeier won 5 setters against Rios and Fernando Gonzales, both in 5-setters and they won the doubles next day to upset Chile on the second day itself .. Hmm .. Probably even more incredible is what Finland did against Italy, this weekend too .. Both upsets are about as ridiculously unexpected as say a Sampras losing on grass at home to say a Spaniard clay monster or something, say after winning the first two sets -- but wait, that too happened! .. Ah, the beauty of Davis Cup ..

Apr 7 Notes

OK, you want details on whom we *may* play next in the qualifier tie for world group 2003 .. Here is the situation .. The following are the 2002 WG first round losers, new regional qualifiers and their ranking after the last round .. These rankings will change a bit after the current weekend's ties and I think the new rankings will be used for seeding to decide the matchups for the WG qualifier ties in september .. Whether we will be playing them away or at home is also indicated ..

2002 World Group First Round Losers
AUS (2)   -- away
BRA (8)   -- home
NED (7)   -- away
GER (14)  -- away
SVK (15)  -- toss
SUI (16)  -- away
GBR (17)  -- home
MAR (21)  -- toss

Regional qualifeirs
BEL (13)  -- toss
IND (18)
ROM (22)  -- away
THA (26)  -- home
CAN (28)  -- toss
VEN (29)  -- toss
ZIM (30)  -- toss
FIN (36)  -- toss

As it stands, based on the current rankings,  though it is a world group loser, Morocco will not be seeded, and Belgium coming through the regionals will be, with India as the top unseeded team (close but no cigar, that is) .. I think there is a chance for Britain to flip-flop positions with India in the new ranks next week though, in which case, we COULD end up as the 8th seed and things could be great! .. But that depends on how the new rankings would be (I could actually calculate the new positions, but I am lazy to work through ITF's not-so-easy rolling formulas -- we will wait for the new rankings coming out next week) .. On the other hand, I don't think ITF has said clearly that they will be using only these rankings for seeding criterion .. They can and most probably will use ATP rankings also, in which case GBR will get seeded and India won't .. I don't expect India to be seeded, in the end .. You can see that it is not straight-forward to guess what our odds for a home tie is .. Looks like it is not great, but something like 3.5 out of 8 .. With our luck, as it stands, we will get drawn to play Australia down under, or Germany/ Switzerland on some slow clay out in Europe ..

Apr 6 Note-4

INDIA WINS THE DAVIS CUP 4-1 !!!

This one became tighter than expected after the rain delay, as LP's match against Nielsen went to a 5th set with LP dropping the 3rd and 4th sets! .. It looked pretty bad, but Leander decided that he would bring out his ultimate weapon .. what else? .. THE DRESS!! .. He changed to his original dress from the doubles tie and came back out to win the final set 6-1 and end the drama .. I am not joking, this is true - and as reported by New Zealand Tennis .. Look, the looks count, OK ? .. I am going to tell Leander about the lungi option for one of the future ties .. If all else fails, we will throw them off with our dress .. But, seriously, man - is there a better money player in Davis Cup than Leander Paes? .. Nielsen is no easy foe - and I am not saying that just because of his annihilation of Mankad the other day .. The guy was a top-200 player two years back and is on the way back up now - and he knows how to play .. Things did look quite bleak after LP dropped serve quite a few times starting from late second set and lost the 4th set quite badly .. But when the real pressure started, the real Leander was back there and he wouldn't settle for anything but a win, just like in the 5th set against Suzuki last year in Japan .. So there you have it .. Leander, Mahesh, Harsh and Rohan have pulled off something that three Indian teams in the past, made up of Vijay Amritraj, Anand Amritraj, Shashi Menon and Ramesh Krishnan could not pull off in three ties in the past even with two of them in India -- that is to beat New Zealand .. And we have finally done it !! .. We have exorcized the demons .. I can finally erase the name Onny Parun from my mind - I remember the heartbreaks against him that India had in the late 70s when I was a young boy .. Had to wait all these years and we finally did it! ..  GO INDIA!! .. Add another feather to Leander's Davis Cup cap ..

Harsh Mankad came out and completed the work with a casual 75 63 win over James Shortall, too .. So we won it 4-1 ..

Hello World Group qualifying round! --- here we come again! ..

Make no mistake about it, regardless of whom all we have been playing, it is no easy job to pull off 4 away ties in a row in the tier-1 group of the region (wins obver China, Japan, Lebanon and New Zealand over the last two years) .. Including the 2000 loss to Sweden, now we have finished 6 away ties in a row  with a 4-2 record .. I am sure it is one of the longest away streaks in Davis Cup history -- I wonder what is the record .. Technically every other tie, or one in 3 or 4 ties at least should be at home .. But we haven't got one in ages, and the chance for getting 6 in a row in 0.5 probablity Bernoulli trials (for those statisticians amongst you) is less than 2% .. And we have had to play in an indoor court with frozen ice around where the Chinese said they didn't know how to work a heater, and on the bone-chilling windiest outdoor court in the world that the Kiwis took us to .. And one man, Leander Adrian Paes, keeps on delivering, time after time after time wherever he is asked to play .. All superlatives that one can come up with have all been used up in describing Leander's Davis Cup show over the years, so I will leave it at that.

OK, now we wait till tomorrow for all the ties to get done to know the 8 regional qualifiers moving to world group qualifying round .. They will be pooled with the 8 first round losers from this year's world group 16 .. Eight among the 8+8 teams teams will be seeded and each seed will be drawn against a non-seed .. Most seeds are normally the world group losers from earlier (but not necessarily all of them) .. I don't think India will be seeded unless they use the ITF Davis Cup rankings which is a three-year rolling ranking in which India is quite high because of we continue to reach world group playoff (this is the 3rd year in a row) .. I believe India has a 4 out of 8 chance for a home tie in the WG qualifier if the seeds are all the world group losers .. But then again, we have had higher odds the last two years and have had to go abroad and that too against the strongest seeds .. At least Leander and company have done their part literally weathering the storm!

Apr 6 Note-3

LP was up comfortably on Nielsen, 64 63 32 (on serve) when rains came down again at 1.05 pm ..  They say they will start the match by 3.15 pm in 15 minutes (8.45 am India) .. Lp was broken for the first time in this whole tie, in the second set of this match in the 6th game, but he has been frequently breaking Nielsen .. LP was up a break early in the 3rd but Nielsen made it on serve soon too - he is to serve when play restarts .. The next update here would be around 11.30 am or noon Indian time .. If you can't wait to find out - go to http://www.tennis.org.nz and they should have an update within half hour after the match ends .. Go LP, finish off the Kiwis!

Apr 6 Note-2

India is up 2-1 after LP-MB won the doubles just now, 64 63 64 ..  They broke Dan Willman in the 3rd game and stayed up for the rest of the match ..

LP's match starts at 11.15 am (4.45 am India .. 6.15 pm SAT New York) ..

Apr 6 Note-1

The postponed doubles match is scheduled to start at 9.40 am Sunday (3.10 am India .. 4.40 pm SAT New York) .. Come to the chatroom for scores .. I am not sure how much rest time LP will get after the doubles match before the 4th match (the #1 vs #1 singles between Leander and Nielsen) starts .. All I heard is that he will be give "enough time" .. I think the ITF rule may be for 60 or 90 minutes .. We will see.

If you want to see video highlights of the first two days, see the following links from XTRA sports, New Zealand .. Day 1 and Day 2 ..

Young Samrita Sekar who turned the table on Radhika and Sonal continued her remarkable giant-killer run with her first big title today at the first leg of the $20K Indian satellites in Mumbai .. She won 61 36 75 in a tough match .. Hmmm .. If you haven't taken Samrita seriously, it may be time to do so .. Forgot to mention that the top seeds Radhika and Sai had won the doubles title yesterday against Samrita and Archana (and they had to fight for three sets in that against the scratch combination) .. Samrita/Archana had upset the tough 2nd seeds Sheetal and Liza earlier too - So Samrita must be really playing very confident tennis right now .. See the Mumbai satellite page.

Apr 5 Note-3

Well, Good news! .. They were supposed to postpone the tie at 4 pm, but as it turned out they waited and actually started play at 5 pm there .. As of now at 6.05 pm in Wellington, LP-MB have won the first two sets over Willman-Shortall, 64 63 .. It is getting pretty dark .. They have now postponed the 3rd set to tomorrow .. LP-MB will need to come back and play (hopefully only) one set tomorrow ..  One break each in each of the first two sets - so the Kiwi scratch combination has played quite decently against our guys.

LP-MB forced a break in the 10th game of the first set and again in the 8th game of the second set, both on Dan Willman's serve .. While serving for the second set, the Kiwis took Mahesh to a decue but our guys came through with the set.

Apparently Leander wouldn't pay much attention to the fashion critics out there - he came out today with the same combination as yesterday (phew, I was worried that he would add a monkey cap or an old PLO-terrorist face-mask to cover his face too this time :-)) .. MB played in a track suit, according to New Zealand Tennis - they all seem amused by the Indians' cold weather outfits.

Apr 5 Note-2

Rain delay in New zealand .. Almost surely a postponement to tomorrow, it seems .. It is drizzling as of 2.45 pm .. They are to take a final decision at 4 pm, but there is only very little chance for the courts to dry by then and for them to play .. This is bad news I guess, because LP may need to play two matches back to back tomorrow, starting at 10 am (Sunday in NZL, SAT in the US), with I think a required 90 minutes break .. On the other hand if the rain just stays on and delays everything to late monday, then we play indoors and that could be a HUGE advantage for India in the 5th match if it ever comes to that .. But that is all a remote possibility, and it looks like LP will be called upon to do the real tough job tomorrow .. How about throwing Hesh and Rohan in for doubles tomorrow and keeping Lee fresh for singles? .. Just a thought - RK will be hard at work on the strategy I am sure.

I will confirm the postponement soon after 4 pm there.

Apr 5 Note-1

The doubles match starts at 1 pm (6.30 am India .. 8 pm New York) .. Come to the chatroom for scores.

Here is an AFP picture of Leander at New Zealand yesterday .. Man, that looks ugly :-) .. No wonder the New Zealand press wrote about it .. I am sure Hunt lost a few points just from being unable to stop laughing at that combination of colors, stripes, sleeves, sweater, rolled-up socks and all that! .. Whatever works, I guess .. Go for it Lee! .. The New Zealand press wrote about even captain Ramesh Krishnan being shocked to see Leander's outfit when he walked out!

leander at the Davis Cup in NZL against Alistair Hunt (courtesy AFP)

At the Mumbai satellites, Samrita Shekar is making big waves - she had upset the 2nd seed Radhika yesterday and today she went after the second 4th seed Sonal Phadke, 64 60 .. Hmmm .. That is one more player to add to the upper echelon of players who can improve by playing each other - and that's good! .. Sai continued her win streak with a three-setter against Sheetal, who always puts up a good fight and makes the right effort, but often falls to the top 2 or 3 players .. See the Mumbai satellites page.

Sanaa Bhambri also went down in the QF at the Philippines grade-2 juniors, to the 4th seed Elise Tamaela (NED,27), the runner-up at the grade-1 last week .. I don't know the score of the match yet, but the two upsets Sanaa had already were impressive (the 20 extra points will raise her world rank from #150 to about #125, which is good for somebody who just turned 14) .. In the semifinal today, Su-Wei Hsieh, the #15 ranked top seed, beat Tamaela by a score of 60 60, and that shows how well thae Taipei girl is playing .. She will face another Taiwanese, Chin-Wei Chan, who upset the 3rd seed Szuszanna Babos (HUN) .. I continue to be amazed at the constant production of these top players from Taipei - this is really too much! .. I guess Isha's 26 16 loss to Su-Wei in the QF doesn't look as bad now! :-) .. Anyway, at least three of our girls reached the QFs and only lost to the top 3-4 girls there.

Apr 4 Note-3

Here is the news release from New Zealand Tennis on today's matches -

Leander Paes beat Alistair Hunt in less than two hours in straight sets scoring a 6-3 6-4 6-4 win .. Paes showed his high-ranking skill but little fashion sense, wearing striped leggings under his shorts and never removing his jacket, in an effort to ward off the cold winds buffeting the centre court ... Paes played smoothly to beat Hunt.  Hunt fought back in the second, serving up three aces but his whole game was plagued with double faults and Paes won after 37 minutes ... "It is a fair result. I would have been happier if we were 2-0 ahead," said Indian captain, Ramesh Krishnan ... Continuing his run of dominance and with the sun finally shining through the clouds, Paes was unperturbed with the midway score in the third set of Hunt leading 4-3 and took only 42 minutes to win. Out of the 29 games, Hunt broke Paes' serve only once, delivering eight double faults to a total of twelve aces from Paes ... "I struggled with my rhythm the whole time, with the wind I never felt that comfortable," said Hunt ... Hunt praised his opponent, who he once toured with as a junior but said the match was probably closer than the score suggested. "He's a little bit quicker around the court than I am. I thought he played really well, but really there was only a couple of points in it."  .... Earlier in the day, New Zealand Mark Nielsen won against Harsh Mankad the second Indian seed, with a 6-4 6-0 6-1 score in extremely windy conditions. Nielsen was too consistent for Mankad and out-powered his more inexperienced opponent in most facets of the game ... The doubles match will be played at 1pm New Zealand time on Saturday with Mahesh Bhupathi and Paes, the world doubles number five and eight respectively, taking on the Kiwi scratch combination of Dan Willman and James Shortall. However it is expected that the more experienced pairing of Nielsen and Hunt could be called in at the last moment to play the doubles for New Zealand.

Hey, Leander didn't have fashion sense, they say! .. Keep it up Lee .. As long as you are winning, go ahead and wear a lungi over the striped leggings and play if you want  - we won't complain! .. (hey, I can teach you the malayali way of wearing lungi for soccer if you are interested :-))

Apr 4 Note-2

Honors are even after the first day, as India and New Zealandare tied at 1-1 .. No big suprise, except how Harsh's tennis totally fell apart today - [Match 1] Harsh Mankad l. Mark Nielsen, 46 06 16 .. [Match 2] Leander Paes d. Alistair Hunt, 63 64 64

First the Harsh match .. As I have been a long time supporter of Harsh, I am sure my critics in our forum will come after me and say that whatever I write will be excuses :-) .. No excuses here - I think Harsh just does not have the game now to do well in the kind of conditions he played today - I talked to the media coordinator of New Zealand Tennis who was talking about how the wind was causing hell out there .. Mark Nielsen reportedly said yesterday that all he planned to do was to hit the ball right up the middle, as he had no idea where the wind was going to take it .. Exactly the kind of thing that is tough for Harsh to do without booming serves and power strokes, as he instead relies on rhythm and timing to feed off the power from the other side .. If he can't hit the corners and lines, anticipate well, and position himself in rallies, he loses - he does not have too many weapons to pull out when things start going south either .. Mark Nielsen in his post-game comments said (according to Tennis New Zealand) that he thought Harsh did not like high bounces on his forehand side, also .. A technical issue again, if the ball was keeping high - these are the kind of things that a player needs to get good at - and Harsh has a lot more work to do .. He was broken three times in the first set, and broke Nielsen two times .. I think he held serve three times in the first set, and was broken every time afterwards .. He broke Nielsen once in the 3rd set .. Did RK make a mistake and should have tried Rohan in the first match? .. I don't know - we can't second guess the captain, who has seen them all in practice against each other in the windy conditions this week .. Had Rohan even had his feet wet in a Davis Cup match at Lebanon, which didn't happen, we could have been a little bit more comfortable in throwing him out there for a debut match .. I will await more details on the match, if we get any ..

It's always sad to see one of our youngsters having a nightmare match like today - I hope Harsh will let it go and work on improving his game on everything he couldn't do well today .. The worst thing to do is to brood over such losses and lose all the confidence .. Anyway, it's Interesting that it is the same Mark Nielsen who lost in 4 sets to Indonesia's Peter Handoyo (#9 ranked US college player) in their last Davis Cup tie in New Zealand .. Harsh had beaten Handoyo outdoors at the Canadian futures a few months back .. So I thought he had at least a fighting chance against Nielsen .. But transitivity does not always work in Tennis, I guess! ..

As for LP's match, I have not seen any details yet - based on the score updates we found during the match, he seems to have been ahead a bit all through the match.  Once again LP has to carry a big load for us.

Apr 4 Note-1

I saw a video clip from TV-1 in New Zealand which covered the Indian team's practice session and the draw ceremony .. "This is Davis Cup practice - Indian style" started the clip which showed a chair on the tennis courts for stumps and Leander taking guard - playing cricket of course .. Mahesh bowling his stand-up spin and LP executing a perfect GR Vishwanath square cut! .. The Indian Davis Cup team never leaves home without a cricket bat .. That is what they do to relax during the practice sessions .. The clips showed LP and MB doing some nice doubles practice also .. RK is quite strict about the practice sessions and the word I heard from LP and Harsh last night was that they are both sharp and ready to go .. Harsh mentioned flying in after a long flight at noon on Monday and RK getting him out on court by 2 pm .. Hey' that's the way to do it .. The wind was pretty sstrong on Monday and Tuesday but had gone down a bit after that ..

The matches start at 10 am FRI there (about 5-6 hours from now, as I type) - 3.30 am India, 5 pm THU New York .. It will be shown live on Sky Sport TV in New zealand .. I don't think there is any internet broadcast, but if any of you would be watching it live, I would like to hear from you .. Our chatroom will be open during the matches - and any sort of score updates will be nice .. As of now, I expect at least updates after each set, courtesy Tennis New Zealand .. Or we will call up the tennis center and get updates.  So come and join the chat.

There was a big upset at the Mumbai staellites today, as the 8th seed Samrita Sekar felled the 2nd seed (actually the highest seed) Radhika Tulpule, 64 75 .. Sai, Sonal and Sheetal advanced without problems to the semis .. See the women's satellite leg-1 page.

5th seed Sania Mirza put up a big fight against the 3rd seed Szuszanna Babos (HUN,23) at the grade-2 Philippines junior ITF tourney, but fell in the QFs, 64 26 76(3) .. Sania has this habit of losing focus a bit in the second set, which I am sure she will work on in the future .. She was down a break at 3-4 in the 3rd, but fought hard to get it back and send it to a tiebreak but fell in the end .. Isha Lakhani went up against the virtually unbeatable top seed Su-Wei Hsieh, ranked #15 in the juniors but perhaps even better than that based on her WTA records lately - Isha lost 16 26 to Su-Wei who is a good friend of hers according to the Taipei newspaper which reported the match .. I have not seen the score for Sanaa today.

Apr 3 Note-2

The Davis Cup draw was completed a couple of hours back .. No surprises ..

Match 1 -- NZL #1 Mark Nielsen vs IND #2 Harsh Mankad,  10 am FRI (3.30 am India - 2 pm THU Los Angeles, USA)
Match 2 -- NZL #2 Alistair Hunt vs IND #1 Leander Paes, following the first match.
Match 3 -- NZL James Shortall/ Dan Willman vs IND Mahesh Bhupathi/ Leander Paes, 1 pm SAT (6.30 am India - 5 pm FRI Los Angeles)
Match 4 -- NZL #1 Mark Nielsen vs IND #1 Leander Paes, 10 am SUN
Match 5 -- NZL #2 vs IND #2

The doubles combinations and the reverse singles players can be changed later by the captains, but the first day's lineup is set .. We should be having set-by-set updates at least, at this web site.

S.Kannan of Hindustan Times has just written this article about Leander's new partner - John-Laffnie DeJager (RSA) .. LP said to Kannan that he was not concerned much about how highly-ranked his partner would be, but about how well he could communicate with him .. Excerpts - "De Jager's style of play suits me since he plays the left court. Like Mahesh, he too has a big serve and a strong backhand. We are certainly going to try it out till Wimbledon and see how things fall in place," said Leander.  "We need to give each other time and not look for instant success.  Leander does seem relaxed now after the turmoil of "splitting" with Mahesh. But right now, it is Davis Cup which is top priority for him .. Glad to hear that .. DeJager is a long-time veteran on the doubles tour (a long-time partner of Koenig) .. He is also a tall guy, like Mahesh's partner Mirnyi .. 6 ft 4 inches .. Dejager has 7 doubles titles in his career and is 2 months older than Leander .. He is fromTransvaal RSA .. His #56 ranking is a bit of a problem for now, though .. It would need to go up a few spots for them to get seeded comfortably at the masters events and all that .. I ams ure it will come up in the company of somebody like Leander .. Though they lost in the first round at the Indian Wells masters, I feel they played well.

No upsets today at the Mumbai women's satellites .. Sheetal was almost down and out in the 3rd set at 1-4 and facing serve at 0-40 but somehow she came back to beat Ankita Bhambri .. Sheetal is easily one of the toughest fighters out there .. Her doubles partner Liza Pereira also had to play through a three-setters but all other seeds advanced easily .. See the leg-1 scores page.

Here is a very well-written article about Sunil Kumar, by Kadambari Murali in today's Hindustan Times .. A very good look into what that kid has gone through - it hasn't been easy, certainly for him.

Great news from Philippines .. Unseeded Sanaa Bhambri (who turned 14 only three weeks back) had another big upset win to reach the QFs! -- She upset the 7th seed Beier Ko (CAN,56) for an amazing score of 63 62 .. That is a very highly ranked girl, 2 years older, that Sanaa beat today - and look at that scoreline! .. This is one of the biggest wins by an Indian girl in recent times .. I said Wow yesterday, and I should say Wow-Wow today for Sanaa! .. The same Beier Ko had beaten Sanaa in three sets in the first round at the Malaysian G2 event two weeks back .. Sanaa runs into another top player, the 4th seed Elise Tamaela (NED,27) who was the runner up last week at the Thailand G1 .. Also advancing was the 5th seed Sania Mirza who beat Maya Rosa (INA,225), 63 75 .. Sania runs into Zsuzsanna Babos (HUN,23) the 3rd seed, next - somebody she has lost to, in the past .. I think the 6th seed Isha Lakhani also won today, over Sandy Gumulya (INA,104) to reach the QF but I have not seen the score .. If she won, she will be playing the top seed Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE,15) next - and that will be a very tough match .. It is very nice to see all three girls reach a grade-2 QF round .. On the boys' side, #95 Saurabh Singh played a good close match, but fell 67(1) 64 46 to a talented Craig Evans (GBR,82) who had upset the top seed and last week's G1 winner Go Soeda of Japan in the first round ..

Apr 3 Note-1

It is already Thursday early morning in New zealand .. The Davis Cup draw will come out by the aftrnoon there - we should know by evening US time .. Both teams have practised outdoors in the chilly conditions .. The New Zealand #1 this time may be Mark Nielsen who has gone ahead in ranking to Dan Willman .. Actually, the buzz in the newspapers from there seems to suggest that for #2 they may go with veteran Alistair Hunt  - who was instrumental in the last tie against Indonesia, pulling off a tough win when the chips were really down .. Alistair reportedly was critical of the NZL decision to play in the outdoor windy conditions - he asked why they did not select an indoor venue .. None of them are that comfortable with wind .. On the other hand, I think NZL unknowingly may have made a right decision in going outdoors, especially if Harsh Mankad is playing for India .. Harsh has played so much indoors in college and beaten some really tough top players that mentally he thinks he is unbeatable on any indoors courts - and at least on paper they may have netralized a bit of it .. Harsh played a good amount outdoors in the last 2-3 weeks and left with much better confidence in playing outside than he may have had a few weeks back, though .. Mark Nielsen is also not known to be great in windy conditions, according to newspaper reports from NZL .. I think this tie is really a good toss-up .. Leander will be the key as usual - if he is in good health and form, as usual this tie is NOT a toss-up and India will win regardless of what our #2 does , though ..  On asked about his split with Bhupathi, he had no comments to the NZL press .. He did confirm playing doubles with MB there .. His quote, "In Davis Cup, I don't care whom I play against, or whom I play with - my job is to win" .. That's the spirit, Lee! .. Another key to this tie is how fast the surface is .. Fast surfaces suit Leander always, and actually Harsh as well, as his timing and "fulgurating returns" (using the Lebanese newspaper term :-))  work better on faster surfaces .. I have not heard much about how fast the surface is ..  Then again, it is not a given that RK will pick Harsh in this tie to play #2, as Srinath and Rohan are both in good form as well .. It may come down to how they all looked in practice ..

By the way, forgot to mention that Rohan Bopanna may officially be the AITA #1 ranked player in India this week .. By my calculations he went ahead of Leander based on the new ATP points added to his ranking this week - which is up to #501 now (he also has points from the title and runner-up finishes in the claycourt and hardcourt nationals - which is as good as 21 ATP points in AITA's  point calculations which give 5 national points for each ATP point) .. Rohan, LP, Sri, Nitin and Manoaj Mahadevan are the top-5 this week by my calculations .. AITA may release a new rank list soon.

I saw Prakash Amritraj play the 5th seed Kenneth Carlsen (DEN,123) at the $50K Tarzana challenger and was once again impressed with his talent and abilities .. He seemed to be playing on instinct most of the time .. Was up a break in the first set before Carlsen broke back and went ahead to win the set 6-4 .. In the second set they went toe-to-toe till the very end - actually Prakash played a great game at 5-5, forcing a break point on Carlsen's serve which he could not convert .. In the next game, two terrific returns from Carlsen and one volley mistake by Prakash caused him to drop serve at 30-40 .. Carlsen was serving unusually strongly and came up with two aces and two service winners in the final game to close it out .. I think Prakash has all the tools to play at the highest level .. Though known for his good serve and aggressive moves to the net, his ground strokes and baseline play (when he shows patience) are solid .. His style of instinctive tennis would require more time and a lot of matches to get fine-tuned though .. Slightly better shot selection yesterday would have helped him pull off a big win against a top-150 player .. Anyway, with a 4-6 5-7 match to such a player, Prakash did justify getting a wildcard into the main draw there .. In doubles, he is in the main draw with Rick Leach ! .. Rick is of course the son of Prakash'c college coach Dick Leach at Univ of Southern California .. They go up against a qualifying pair, Nick Rainey and Michael Joyce .. Nick is of course the same Nick who is a long-time member of the fan club here (he got impressed by LP-MB when he was a just a school kid and has been a member here for a long time) - he is one of the best doubles players in college tennis himself and he is also at USC as Prakash's team-mate .. By the way, as I had misplaced prakash's email address and was looking for it to find out when he was playing at Tarzana, I ended up with this web page at USC - Amritraj Rackets - interesting stuff .. No, he has not started a company or anything - this was just some class project stuff .. Don't forget to check out his "peoples" page to read about his partners in the "company" .. I guess it is a real racket for sure - Stephen, Sunil and Amanjot .. See their bios too - gave me a chuckle :-)

In the boys' section at the Philippines junior ITF on Tuesday, Saurabh Singh reached the second round with a good 64 64 win over world junior #108 Artem Sitak of Russia .. Good to see saurabh coming through .. Qualifier Divij Sharan went down to Chris Guccione (AUS,115), 36 36 .. Karan Rastogi seems to be still playing under tremendous pressure of not having won matches in a long time - he went down to #138 Sratha Saengsuwarn (THA) 26 06 .. Sratha is a good player, but Karan needs to get his confidence back .. I think the layoff from injury has set him back a lot .. He is very young and has a lot of time to get over the current problems though - I am sure he will be back before long .. Amanjot Singh lost to the 3rd seeded Tai-Wei Liu (TPE,54), 26 26 .. #167 Tushar Liberhan played a good match against 8th seeded Yu-Da Shieh (TPE,134) but lost 67(4) 46 .. Saurabh Singh may have run into the top seed Go Soeda of Japan today .. I had reported earlier the girls' scores from yesterday and have not seen today's scores.

Apr 2 Notes

Finally some great news from the eastern junior ITF circuit - the first round at the Grade-2 Mitsubishi Lancer tournament started today at Manila .. All three Indian girls advanced to the round of 16, with #151 Sanaa Bhambri pulling off the most impressive win today, over the very talented Australian girl, #137 Adriana Szili, 62 63! .. Wow, what got into the little girl Sanaa to upset Szili who is three years older, I wonder? (:-)) -- Adriana is the same girl who beat Megha 61 63 last year at Manila, for instance .. 5th seed Sania Mirza and 6th seed Isha Lakhani also advanced .. Sania had a very good win, 76(1) 26 64 over Alexandra McGoodwin of USA (Sania had beaten the same girl last year at Manila too, if I remember correctly) .. Isha beat a local wildcard, Bernardine Sepulveda (PHI) easily, 61 62 .. I have not seen the results from the boys' side - but the Filippino newspapers did not report any upsets of Indian boys or upsets by Indians ..

Rushmi Chakravarti was at the qualies in the $75K Dubai women's challenger .. In the frist round of singles qualies, she fell to the 3rd seed Claudine Schaul (LUX), 26 26 .. She and Adriana Barna (GER) were the top seeds in the doubles qualies .. After a first round bye, they beat the Polish pair Joana Sakowicz and Katarzyna Teodorowicz, 42 42 before falling in the final qualies to Christina Fitz (GER) and Evgenia Subbotina (BLR), 45(5) 24 ..

No surprises today at the Mumbai women's satellites .. See the satellite leg-1 page for results.

Apr 1 Note-2

I have added the results from the first day of the 4-week women's ITF $20K developmental circuit that started at Mumbai today .. 6th seed Archana Venkatraman was the only seed in action .. All the draws and results are at the Mumbai satallite leg-1 page .. By the way, I was wondering yesterday why Megha Vakharia was not playing in this circuit - I am not told that Megha is starting a 4-week training stint at the Performance Tennis Academy in For Lauderdale, Florida .. She was stagnating a bit over the last few months and has not had too many wins - this training stint should help to get her going again - she is talented and has a good future.

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.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Apr 1 ..

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.