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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Apr 9, 2001
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Apr 9 Notes

There is a bit of confusion going on, with a news agency report (as published in the Times of India and a couple of other places) ..  Anyway, it was reported that India will be playing Uzbekistan (the other team from Asia-Oceania that won in the group-I competition this weekend by beating New Zealand) in a July playoff .. That is not correct .. The Davis Cup situation is as follows (as fas I know!):

The eight teams which won the first round of this year's world group, which are AUS, BRA, SWE, RUS, SUI, GER, and NED, will automatically stay in the World Group for next year .. The other eight will be determined in September in the world group playoffs (sorry, I noticed that I said July in an earlier note below) .. Two teams from Asia-Oceania have a chance to get promoted to the World Group-16 this year in those playoffs (who will join Australia in our zone who has been relegated to group-I level from world group only once in two dacedes!) .. Both Uzbekistan and India will be playing the world group qualifiers, but not against each other, in September .. The eight teams which lost in the first round of the 2001 world group (Ecuador, Morocco, Czech Rep., Slovak Rep., Belgium, USA, Romania, Spain) and the eight teams who qualified this weekend to play them (Argentina and Chile from the American zone; Britian, Croatia, Belarus and Itlay from the European zone; India and Uzbekistan from Asia-Oceania) will be pooled and matched up against each other for the September playoffs .. Out of these 16 teams, eight will be seeded by ITF, I believe mostly based on the rankings of the top two players in each country .. Then the eight unseeded teams will be drawn against the eight seeded teams .. I think this draw is scheduled for Apr 11th, this wednesday ..

If I were to expect, based on the rankings of the top two players last week, the eight seeded teams will be USA, ESP, ARG, GBR, BLR, SVK, CHI, and CZE (or MAR) .. India is of course, dead last in that field of 16 .. Only UZB and India have no players in the top-100 .. India is the only country with neither player in even the top-250 of the world rankings (with Paes at #274 and Mankad at #550), which again shows you what a job Leander continues to do for India, which technically has no business being in the final 24 for next year, trying to qualify for the final-16.. But rankings haven't mattered for us, as we were the lowest ranked team in the world group, pretty much every time in the several years we have been in the world group in the last decade  - and we stayed there by beating other teams in the world group, not by beating any patsies in Asia or anything, as some think (though admittedly some luck in getting some home ties helped)! .. Anyway, assuming that eight of those above 9 teams will be the seeds, let's see how many we have homecourt advantage against in September .. Home - ESP, GBR, CZE .. Away - USA, ARG, CHI .. Toss - BLR, SVK, MAR .. So, we have pretty much a 50-50% chance to get a home tie .. In my view, Czech Republic at home may be our best chance .. May be Spain on homegrass isn't too bad .. Heck, USA in USA hasn't been too tough lately for anybody, especially with Agassi and Sampras skipping Davis Cup .. Any of those three coin-toss teams would be reasonable at home or away .. The worst possibilites are ARG or Chile down in South America .. I have no opinion on a GBR-vs-IND tie in India .. This is all my calculoations -- not sure that ITF selects the eight seeded teams the way I did .. In any event, we are in for some very hard work to make it to the 2002 world group.

OK, on to FED Cup .. India is in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, playing in the 10-team competition which selects one team to advance to the world group .. Two groups of 5 teams .. They play a full round robin over 5 days in each pool .. 3 matches in each tie (2 singles matching up #1-vs-#1 and #2-vs-#2 and a doubles match) .. The teams that top each pook advance to a play off over the weekend which determines the team that qualifies for a world group qualifier .. It's a very tough job to advance, as India is only the 5th best team at best out there .. We are placed in Pool A, along with #1 Indoinesia, #2 Korea, #4 New Zealand and #5 Pacific Oceania (rough seedings) .. Pool B has Taiwan, China, Thailand, Uzebkistan and Kazakhstan .. Topping the pool will be very tough to do, but let's see .. We should have no problem against Pacific Oceania and probably against New Zealand as well .. Indonesia and Korea will be tough, but there are certainly winnable matches for Niru .. If we click in doubles and if Manisha or somebody pulls off a surprise somewhere, we have a chance to come out of the pool .. We came awfully close last year.

India had a bye today .. I would have preferred a bye in the middle of the week like last year, but now we will have to play four days in a row .. In our pool, INA d. POC, 3-0 .. KOR-NZL, 2-1 .. In Pool-B today, CHN d. KAZ, 3-0 and TPE d. THA 3-0 (UZB had a bye)

LP and MB had originally considered playing at the Casablanca ATP this week -- I don't think they are in any shape to play rightwaway after the tough work in Japan .. So, this week is for time off.

Apr 8 Note-3

That is not A Japanese press friend who has been corresponding with me this week told me in an email today -- "Now I understand how tough it is to beat India" ...

Make no mistake, let me say first that the guy that deserves a lot of credit and has no reason to feel ashamed in all this is Takao Suzuki .. He went down (twice, to be sure) only after glorious fights, and his loss was to one of the greatest players anywhere, ever, in Davis Cup history - Leander Adrian Paes.

This is the first time India has won two Davis Cup ties in a row abroad in 20 years - to see how difficult it is to advance from two away ties in Davis Cup, just look back to how difficult China made it for us, and how close Japan came to preventing us from just that .. There is a reason why we did not win a single Davis Cup tie abroad since the greatest road upset in perhaps the world Davis Cup history crafted by Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes in Frejus in 1993 .. It's incredibly tough to do such things, especially when you have no top-200 players .. But wait, we do have a top-10 caliber player when it comes to Davis Cup and that dude makes all the difference, not to mention his field general in doubles ..

Nirmal Sekhar of The Hindu calls it the greatest win of Paes' career -- "quite the most incredible victory of quite the most incredible Davis Cup career in the history of Indian tennis", says Nirmal with his customary writing flair .. Here is the article - "Japan bows yet again to Paes symphony" .. Exceprts:

"Yes, he's done it all. And we've heard it all. Or, so we might have thought until Sunday afternoon at the Ariake Park Coliseum here ... For, what Paes did on Sunday, and what a couple of thousand incredulous spectators watched through 251 nail-biting minutes of gut-wrenching drama that would have compared favourably with anything witnessed in an ancient coliseum in the Roman era for its sheer gladiatorial severity, could not have been matched even by something taken out of the great competitor's own book of Cup heroics. Even by his patented standards, it was unusual ... Losing a set that might have broken the biggest and strongest of hearts in the world of sport, Paes, down two sets to one, powered himself on pure adrenalin to outlast an inspired Takao Suzuki of Japan 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in four hours and 11 minutes to bring up quite the most incredible victory of quite the most incredible Davis Cup career in the history of Indian tennis .....  There may be only two comparable matches: Vijay Amritraj's five set triumph over Martin Jaite of Argentina in New Delhi in 1985, when the then Indian captain was down matchpoint in the third set and Ramesh Krishnan's epochal five set victory over Rodolphe Gilbert of France at Frejus in 1993. "
Nirmal makes a strong case for this being perhaps Leander's best Davis Cup win ever .. Yes, he had the win against Ivanisevic, but that was at home against a Goran who was also simply throwing away some points and letting LP take over .. LP's wins over Leconte and Boetsch at Frejus (FRA), his win over Hlasek at Switzerland, over Novak in Pribram (CZE), even his 9-11 fifth set loss to Rusedski in England in 1998, would all look more impressive in the book, but I think Nirmal has a valid point that Paes has never had to get over somebody who was as much a die-hard Davis Cup warrior as Takao Suzuki is .. The fact that this was tennis at its finest today, with no easy points going to either player and that they were playing the second 5-setter against each other in two days of play going to about 8 hours total within 24 hours perhaps makes this one of the greatest wins even in a Davis career as great as LP's .. That he had wasted 7 set points in the 3rd set in two service games at the end before losing it in a tiebreaker, and had to fight over the worst kinds of sinking thoughts, and that he had to fight back again in the 5th set after being down 1-3, talks about what kind of steely resolve this man Leander has.

Here is the article in the Deccan Herald by Ravi Chakravarti who also winessed the Ariake heroics of Lee, the Indian samurai  - Paes seals Indian triumph .. More poetic words .. Excerpts:

If time could stand still, then the clock at the Ariake Coliseum would have stopped for posterity. If time could stand still, then Leander Paes would hold onto the moment for an eternity. These kind of moments are very rare, in the sporting arena, as in life. It's only for the chosen few. Very few can claim a share to it. Paes is indeed one of the chosen few and surely he can claim the lion's share of it. As it transpired, when the clock at the Coliseum stopped at 3:23 in the afternoon, there was such a heavy silence, split-second though, you could hear the ruffle of a feather ..... Moments like this are indeed magical and Paes, enveloped by the exhaustion and emotion, merely raised his arms in triumph; he was too tired for anything else. On any other day, he would have probably let out a cry of triumph, but even that wasn't forthcoming today, so drained, physically and mentally, was the Indian No 1.The split second when Takao Suzuki's backhand lob went in the air was eerie and time did stand still for a moment, but when it landed, well outside the baseline, the silence was replaced by a deafening roar. The Japanese sure did outnumber the few Indians present but then nothing could stop those few present, from embarking on a wild celebration.
What can we say? .. We simply have run out of words to desacribe what LP continues to do .. 2 hours on Friday .. 3.10 minutes on Saturday and then a play-until-we-drop-down-and-die 4 hour 11 minutes classic yesterday .. Paes' finest days since the Wimbledon final weekend in 1999 ..

All of a sudden, Indian sports cannot lose .. If you didn't notice, India pulled off an important soccer win in the lower rungs of world cup qualifying rounds today, against UAE .. Badmintom, cricket, soccer, tennis - our sportsmen are on a roll .. The women will make use of all the motivation in the Fed Cup qualifying this week in Taiwan, we hope .. More on all that later.  Today, we celebrate.

Apr 8 Note-2

Harsh could not hold serve much at all in the 2nd and 3rd sets .. He broke Motomura 2-3 times too in those 2 sets, including when Motomura was serving for the match at 5-2 in the 3rd, but Harsh was constantly in a hole on his service games .. I guess it's a decent outing, considering that Motomura is a top-200 quality player .. Harsh Mankad l. G.Motomura, 76(3) 26 36 ..

It doesn't matter .. For now, LP has once again done the job .. I am told LP was behind 1-3 in the final set before adrenaline kicked in for one more time and he won 5 of the last 6 games to seal it, breaking Suzuki twice .. What a job by LP once again! .. I can go to sleep peacefully ..

If you are wondering what this win gets us, it is a spot in the playoff for the world group of 2002 .. The 8 first round losers of this years world group (16 teams) will play with the 8 teams like India trying to displace them from the group .. The 16 teams will be pooled, and ITF will pick the top-8 teams based on the ATP rankings of the top players (not all the losing teams from this year's world group will necessarily be seeded, but normally 6 or 7 of them will be) .. Then the 8 unseeded teams will be placed against the 8 seeded teams in a draw to be done by ITF in London sometime soon .. I have to look at the numbers, but I think we will have homecourt advantage against around 5 or more of the teams which are expected to be seeded .. In any event, consider it like this - we are in the world final-24 for 2002, right now .. We can hopefuuly make it to the final-16 (world group) in July.

Apr 8 Note-1

I had to be away for a few hours, and now I am mad at missing yet another blast of a match, just as we expected .. And what do you expect? .. LP pulled another 5 set comeback winning the final two sets .. And when LP does that, India moves on ! .. Yeeehaaw!! .. World Group playoff, here we come !!

L.Paes (IND) d. T.Suzuki (JPN), 67(4) 61 67(5) 64 64

As I couldn't follow the match online, I have no details on the break sequence .. We will zwait any match reports ..

As I type, Harsh Mankad is up a set 76(3) 22 against Gouichi Motomura in the dead-rubber match .. Pretty good start by Harsh.

Apr 7 Note-3

The reverse singles start at Sunday11 am in Tokyo (7.30 am India .. 3 am London .. 10 pm SATURDAY New York) .. Come to the chatroom .. I have added the links to loook at for online scoreboard at the top of the chat page .. Come on and let's have a blast .. The Suzuki-vs-Paes match is going to be a real blast .. these two guys play quite similar styles and they put their all out there, especially in Davis Cup .. Suzuki is 13-3 or something like that in Davis Cup singles, and he has wins against higher ranked Paradorn Srichaphan, etc, as recently as two months back .. Hopefully LP can put us on top and let Mahesh enjoy the Sunday, but MB himself seemed to have found some of his form based on the doubles match yesterday .. The reverse singles day promises firework, for sure!

As for the doubles win, it was indeed a terrific win that our guys pulled off .. Here is the article from Ravi Chakravarti in the Deccan Herald .. (exceprts):

Pulling at unseen strings and pushing themselves up, the Indian duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi battled back from the brink of defeat, of doom and of despair, in the course of their marathon doubles victory over Japan. The thrilling, three-hour eight-minute 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 script that the India duo enacted during their triumph over the Japanese combine of Takao Suzuki and Thomas Shimada was one for the soul, body and mind. True, they have had better victories than this, a couple of Grand Slams even, but then again its been quite sometime that the Indian pair have pulled themselves up from a seemingly improbable situation as was revealed today. There were just a smattering of Indians in the Ariake Coliseum, but the few present really mattered. For, if not for their constant support, comforting cheer, voicing their chords as it were and matching the din created by the enthusiastic  Japanese, the Indian pair may have had a different story to tell .. When it came down the crunch, when the chips were invariably down, the Indians picked themselves off the floor in a manner in only they can, fighting back from 1-2 deficit to power through in the fourth and deciding sets. It all boiled down to experience, really. Playing the big points, really big, and staying calm under pressure, well, they have had quite a few trips down that lane and the Indians were frank enough to admit so. It was a question of understanding and our I-formation helped us in the end. Down one set to two, we thought we were slipping but we have been in such situations before, admitted Paes ..

Funny, we were guessing in the chatroom when the turnaround happened, that our pair would have just gone to the I-formation .. It turns out that they also took a bathroom break (which also the knowledgable fans in the chatroom guessed!) to put a stop to the Japanese' rhythm .. Whatever it took .. and they managed to pull through.

Nirmal Sekhar in The Hindu wrote about the chemistry between the two today (excerpts) --

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes were joking like a pair of ageing mates who'd just completed an arduous trek that was as enjoyable as it was back breaking ... As Dr. Vece Paes and the team coach Nandan Bal gave India's top two tennis players a rub-down, Leander Paes worked up a tired smile and said: ``I am going to catch the flight to Bombay tomorrow morning. Let Fazal and Harsh play tomorrow.'' .. Bhupathi reacted with great enthusiasm. ``Okay, I will go with you too.'' .... The key to today's Great Escape act was Bhupathi's brilliance. After going through a shattering defeat on Friday in the singles to Suzuki, Bhupathi seemed a different player on Saturday. And for most part of the match, he did not put a foot wrong ... While Bhupathi's returns were superb, he served consistently well and won several crucial points at the net too, propping up the team when Paes himself seemed a little low on energy in the second and third sets ... Paes, of course, was the master of the big points and he did what was expected of him at the net. And the pleasing feature of this match was that the special chemistry that catapulted this team to great heights two years ago was once again in evidence. ``Yesterday was a bit of a disappointment. I had to put that behind. I am happy that I could play well today,'' said Bhupathi ... Not only did they play well when the chips were down but the camaraderie in the dressing room after the arduous struggle seemed to suggest that this pair is ready to reclaim a bit of the magic that piloted them to great heights in 1999 ... And this, more than the mere fact that a match was won against Japan, is the good news for Indian tennis ... No, Bhupathi and Paes have not become Bhupathi and Paes again. But, yes, they are on the right road. And their focus is on the destination.

Pretty cool stuff .. Actually the two guys have been getting more and more close at a personal level lately .. At least that has been my feeling, and such camaraderie was essential today.

By the way, here is a nice picture from today - courtesy Associated Press .. Lee looks awfully like a Japanese guy, doesn't he ??

LP and MB at Japan, Davic Cup (Apr 2001) -- courtesy: Associated Press

More good news to report today .. Sunil Kumar and Vinod Sewa won their biggest doubles title yet, when they won the final at the grade-2 ITF juniors in Manila .. They won a close one beating the 3rd seeds Jacob Olsen (NZL) and Cristopher Westerhoff (RSA), 61 46 75  !! .. Congrats go to them for finishing the eastern tour on a positive note .. By the way, last week's grade-2 title in Thailand was won by Prakash and Stephen Amritraj of USA .. Doubles is our thing, eh? .. There is a grade-1 big event in Japan next week, but I am not sure if any of our kids are going there .. #28 Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE) who had beaten #3 Sania Mirza yesterday in three sets won the final today upsetting the top seed Angelique Widjaja (INA), also in three sets .. The boys title went to Clinton Letcher (AUS) who had beaten #4 Sunil Kumar in the second round .. He beat Luka Gregorc (SLO) who had upset #2 seed Prakash Amritraj this week and last ..

Apr 7 Note-2

Our guys pulled off a big comeback after digging themselves a big hole today .. For a while there today, when LP-MB dropped serve 4 out of 5 times from the end of the second set and lost the 2nd and 3rd sets, armageddon looked oh-so-near .. The incredible did not happen, as our guys made perhaps their best comeback since the Wimbledon semis in 1999 to put India ahead .. They had just lost 8 of the previous 9 sets they played together, to 4 different teams, but the Indian Express was not ready to write themselves off that easily! .. Paes-Bhupathi (IND) d. Shimada-Suzuki (JPN), 64 36 26 62 63 .. Here is the break sequence -- [set1: TS-TS broken in game 7] .. [set2: LP-MB broken in game 8] .. [set3: LP-MB broken in game 3, 5 and 7; TS-TS in game 4] .. [set4: TS-TS broken in game 2 and 8] .. [set5: TS-TS broken in game 2]  .. That is about the info I have, from the game-by-game score updates from Japan .. Phew, what a match! .. Our boys made us all get a few more grey hairs during that 3 hour 15 minutes battle, but in the end they reminded us why we all love our Dynamic Duo so much !!  IND 2-1 up on JPN .. Mera Bharat Mahan, eh ??   Go LP, Go MB !!

Apr 7 Note-1

OK, I have confirmation now .. The doubles match starts at 3 pm there (11.30 am india .. 7 am London .. 2 am New York), in a couple of hours .. Come to the chatroom (I have the latest-known URL for the scoreboard page on the top of our chat page - stay tuned -- that may change, as it is the 3rd different URL I have seen them use for the scoreboard page!) ..  It is rather rare for the doubles match at a Davis Cup to be scheduled 4 hours latter than the start time of singles though..

Apr 6 Note-3

I still do not have confirmation on when exactly the Davis Cup doubles match (Paes-Bhupathi vs Suzuki-Shimada) on Saturday starts in Tokyo .. The Indian newspaper report said 1 pm there (that is 9.30 am India, 5 am London, 12 am New York) .. However, at least a couple of Japanese pages seem to say that the match starts at 3 pm .. We will meet in our chatroom for a few minutes  after 1 pm and will return later if the match is at 3 ..

Suzuki and Shimada may not necessarily be a total push-over team .. Shimada is quite experienced in Davis Cup doubles, having played 7 or 8 ties .. Suzuki has also played in about 10 doubles matches as well .. These two have played together in Davis Cup only once, and that was in their latest tie, against Thailand at Japan a few weeks back, when they beat veterans Narathorn Srichaphan and Vittaya Samrej ..  With Suzuki around, one can never take anything for granted (he is known to raise his game pretty well for Davis Cup, like Leander - just as he did yesterday) .. But LP-MB is at a totally different level though, and the chances for Japan to pull off an upset is indeed quite slim.

Sunil Kumar and Vinod Sewa have reached the doubles final at the grade-2 ITF juniors in Malaysia (according to The Hindu, which got hold of yesterday's boy's results I was looking for) .. They beat two very talented kids, Luka Gregorc (SLO) and Chris Kwon (USA), 76(8) 75 today .. They beat the 3rd seeds, Shristopher Westerhoef (RSA)  and Jacob Olson (NZL) tomorrow in the final .. Those guys beat the surprisingly successful crack combo, Rohan Gajjar and Clinton Letcher (AUS), 64 64 in the other semifinal ..  In the singles semifinal, second seeded Prakash Amritraj was again beaten in straight sets by Luka Gregorc (SLO), who had beaten him last week in the QF .. Prakash seems to have had trouble cracking that nut, but a good couple of weeks for him in the east ..

Apr 6 Note-2

By the way, there was indeed score updates from Japan available during the first day matches in the Davis Cup .. The scoreboard page of the Japan Tennis Assciation is at (their online updates were at the scoreboard2.htm page though - and that page is dead today) .. It is unclear which of the 2 or 3 scoreboard pages they have will actually show the updates, but at least they will have it .. The japanese needs to hire a few Indians to run their websites :-) .. The above page may show up with garbage fonts on your browser, if you have not installed Japanese fonts .. Don't despair; there's way to see it in proper Japanese fonts much easier on your eyes (and they already have the names in English on their page anyway) .. Go to and type in the above URL into the box .. That will show it in a nice form, and you don't need to install any fonts or anything .. Ah, the beauty of the internet ..

Anyway, the bottom line is that we WILL have score updates in our chatroom today, during the doubles match Saturday (that is, tonight for those in the US) .. I am still trying to confirm the start time .. I believe that it is at 1 pm in Tokyo (9.30 am India .. 5 am London .. 9 pm Los Angeles), according to newspaper reports  .. The Japan Tennis Association's website says it is at 3 pm in Tokyo, which I think is not correct ..  I will confirm later, so check here .. Come to our chatroom for score updates .. Sorry to ditch those of you in the chatroom yesterday high and dry.

News from the Manila grade-2 ITF juniors -- Sania Mirza went down with guns blazing after a fight with the second seed today in the semifinals .. #2 Su-Wei Hsieh (KOR,28) d. #3 Sania Mirza (IND,63), 75 26 61 .. Holy cow, I cannot believe what this girl is capable of doing! ..  This is only the secnd top-30 match she has played and she has done well again .. Sometimes even a loss is encouraging, and this is one of those cases .. She will go up in the rankings a bit more, to about #52 or so after this, and will continue to have nobody younger than her ranked above her in the world junior rankings - a record she has held for over a year now, as she kept climbing up from rankings below 200 .. In doubles, Megha Vakharia and Sasha Abraham went down in the semifinals today to the top seeds Angelique Widjaja and SuWei Hsieh, 06 06 .. Still a creditable job by the unseeded Indian pair to reach the semis beating two Filippino pairs, Vida Lina Alpuerto and Julie Anne Cadiente, 61 64 in the first round and then Tracy Bautista and Bernardine Sepulveda in the QF, 75 60 .. Sania was in the draw as 3rd seeds with Zsuzsanna Babos (HUN) but they gave a walkover in the first round, due to some injury or something with Zsuzsanna .. I have not seen any of the boys' scores from today - so no idea what happened to Prakash Amritraj in the semifinal .. Rohan Gajjar and Clinton Letcher (AUS) had reached the semifinal yesterday - the unseeded pair had upset the top seeds Prakash Amritraj (USA) and Jason Zimmermann (USA), 63 64 and then beaten the Hong Kong pair, Hui Tung Yu and Cheuk Wai Hiu, 76(12) 62 .. They were to face the 3rd seeded pair, Jacob Olsen (NZL) and Christopher Westerhoff (RSA), who had beaten Amanjot Singh and Joseph Victorino (PHI) in the first round, 63 62 .. 2nd seeded Sunil Kumar Sipaeya and Vinod Kumar Sewa were also had reached the semifinals yesterday, after beating Adam Jaya and Dannio Yahya of Malaysia, 62 63 in the first round and then Eko Kurniawan and Henry Davin Teja of Indoneisa, 62 64 in the QF .. Here are some singles results from earlier that I had not reported .. Amanjot Singh went down in the first round after a fight to the top seed, Jonathan Chu (USA), 64 46 16 .. Rohan Gajjar went down in a close match too, to Hiu Tung Yu (HKG), 57 61 46 .. By the way, some of you have been writing asking Prakash's status .. I still list him as a USA player for junior events, as ITF restarted listing him under US last month after a coupe of weeks under IND .. However, he is listed by ATP under India as he entered the rankings a few weeks back .. ATP still lists him under India, so for pro events I will go by ATP listing, and for junior events according to the ITF listing :-) ..

Apr 6 Note-1

I have to apologize again for leaving those in the chatroom unexpectedly during the second set of the first match .. Couldn't return till much later due to an urgent work matter that came late in the evening ..

The day-1 ended up pretty much even, as happens always with India these days .. [Match-1] Leander Paes d. Yaoi Ishii, 61 61 63 .. [Match-2] Takao Suzuki d. Mahesh Bhupathi, 61 60 62 ..  Basically, what I have heard so far is that LP's serve and volley was too much for Ishii to handle, with just the same thing with Suzuki's serve and volley in the second match.

Now it looks like it was unecessary to play Mahesh on the first day .. Perhaps it was better to conserve him for the 3rd day singles ?  .. The other side is that, considering MB badly needed some singles match practice, it is better to do it this way .. After all it was not a long drawn-out match today and would not have tired him out, and he will hopefully stay healthy enough for that all important fifth and final match between the #2 players of either side, if it comes to that .. India needs to win the doubles and hopefully LP can close it out on Sunday anyway.

Apr 5 Note-3

Sorry for a mistake earlier in the timings .. I got confused between the time in IST and the time in Japan .. No, they are NOT like the Chinese to make us play at 7.30 am there .. The first match starts only by 11 am .. .. That is, Paes-vs-Ishii match starts at 11 am Friday, which is 7.30 am India and 7 pm THURSDAY, Los Angeles .. That is in two hours, as I type this .. I may get score updates from a source in Japan (not at all sure though), but those of you in India please come to our chatroom with score from the Doordarshan coverage (but I hear that the TV in India may be tape-delayed, though) .. Let us cheer our champs in the chatroom in a couple of hours ..

Sorry to Ujwal, Kiran, Rahul, LpMbFan, Parthasarathi, volley, etc who came to the chatroom earlier! .. My mistake .. Let us meet again, and hopefully our Japanese friends will help with scores then!

Apr 5 Note-2

Great news from Philippines! .. The little girl came through once again, and after some donkey's years, we finally have a semifinalist in a grade-2 event .. 3rd seeded Sania Mirza beat Alexandra McGoodwin (USA), 64 64 in the QF today, to arrange a semifinal match against the second seed Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE,28) .. That will be the toughest match Sania has ever played, coming up .. On the boys side, an Indian-American has given some good news as well, as the #2 seed Prakash Amritraj reached the semi with a win over Michal Przysiezny (POL,129), 64 75 .. He faces Luka Gregorc of (SLO,65) who had beaten him in the QF last week .. On the girls' side, McGoodwin had earlier upset the 6th seed Szuzanna Babos (HUN), one who had beaten Sania in an earlier event in this circuit .. So, this goes as a very good win for Sania today, that will give her 50 ITF points and will take her quite close to top 50, from her current ranking of 63 .. Boy, do we have a "real deal" in this 14-year old! .. As for Prakash, he too will take his ranking up by a few spots from #63 and ensure entries to the upcoming grand slam juniors (however, there were some newspaper reports this week quoting Vijay Amritraj, currently in India on some of his UN peace Ambassador work, to be saying that Prakash may not play the French Open, but may be playing the Indian satellites in May-June) .. The Philippines newspapers have not given much news on doubles, and so we need to wait to see how our kids are doing there in doubles.

Apr 5 Note-1

Well, the Japanese captain sprung a bit of a surprise today with the draw announcement .. He placed Yaoki Ishii as the #2 player, instead of Gouichi Motomura .. Ishii is a pretty good player, though he too has not had many wins on the tour in the last few months .. You may remember him qualifying into the Chennai Open in 2000 January, beating Sandeep Kirtane and Nitin Kirtane in straight sets and then upsetting the 3rd seed Tuomas Ketola (Isii lost in the first round to Jiri Vanek then) .. Last month in the Kyoto challenger, he won a round before losing in a 3rd set tiebreaker to Cristian Vinck .. Before that he had reached the second round of a challenger only once in 8 attempts since last August .. Ishii was the second seed and reached the semifinal of the Japan F1 futures two weeks back .. He had a couple of challenger QFs in 1999, but has not gone past the second round in about two years .. So his ranking has fallen from near 225 to #326 now .. In the Davis Cup tie against Korea last year, Ishii had taken a very good Hyung-Taik Lee to five sets, winning the first two sets and then losing at 8-10 in the fifth set .. Nobody in the Indian team has played Ishii on the pro tour but Ishii had beaten Srinath in the Uzbekistan F1 futures quarterfinal 63 63 last June ..

The draw (I will confirm the times soon):
April 6th, Friday -- #1 Leander Paes vs #2 Yaoki Ishii ... #2 Mahesh Bhupathi vs #1 Takao Suzuki
April 7th, Saturday -- Leander Paes/Mahesh Bhupathi vs Thomas Shimada/Takao Suzuki
April 8th, Sunday -- #2 Leander Paes vs #1 Takao Suzuki ... #2 Mahesh Bhupathi vs #2 Yaoki Ishii

In other news, Nirupama is not playing doubles at the Dubai challenger, basically because she has to leave as eqarly as possible for Taiwan for the Fed Cup next week .. She must have left Dubai by now, after the first round loss .. Sai and Lakshmi returned from Australia to India for a brief home visit before proceeding for Fed Cup .. Manisha will be getting to Taiwan directly from Australia.

Jyotsna Vasisht keeps on traveling .. This week she was at the $10K satellite in Makarska, Croatia .. She is ranked #595 and won a good first round match against Lana Popadic (CRO,583), 62 75 before falling to the 3rd seed Ioana Gaspar (ROM,320), 16 16 in the second round .. That gives Jyotsna one more WTA point (Thanks got to Daniel Rosario for alerting me to her being in Croatia)

By the way, Nirupama is listed as the 5th seed at the close of entries for the $25K Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) challenger in the week after next week .. Manisha is listed as the first player in the qualifying list, and will almost surely make the main draw by the time it starts .. Rushmi and Sai were originally in the qualifying list but have withdrawn ..

Apr 4 Note-2

The Indian team is finding the conditions at Japan much much better than what they got in China, according to the reports in Deccan Herald by Ravi Chakravarti and in The Hindu by Nirmal Sekhar .. LP said that he is quite happy with the court and the surface (indoor plexipave hardcourts) .. It is on the slower side, but he found it fine .. He knows the place pretty well .. Actually I believe the Japan Open is held in the same Ariake Coliseum, a state-of the art facility .. And of course, LP and MB won their only title since their reunion, at the Japan Open in October last - so they know the place well .. The good news is that all reports seem to indicate Mahesh to be fully fit and ready to do battle in singles .. based on today's reports, we may be seeing MB in the first day singles itself, rather than on the 3rd day .. Go Hesh! ..  Leander of course is expected to win every match he plays in Davis Cup, as usual :-)

India is undefeated in some umpteen ties against Japan in Davis Cup .. Ever since losing the world group ties against Japan in the US and Germany in 1920 and 1930, India has not lost a tie .. The 15-tie win streak started in 1956 with a certain Ramanathan Krishnan winning a 63 60 63 match to start the tie and pulling off a comeback win in the fifth match for a 3-2 score .. Nine of those 15 ties have been in Japan, but we have never had to even go to the 5th match to win a tie in Japan ever since the Ramanathan heroics .. It has been 11 years since the last tie against Japan, though .. And that was in 1990 (at Chandigarh?) with a 17 yr old kid named Leander Paes winning a five-set doubles match 18-16 in the fifth set in the company of Zeeshan Ali .. S.Vasudevan pulled off a good win against Shuzi Matsuoka there too ..

This time around, the Japanese team consists of Takao Suzuki, Gouichi Motomura, Yaoki Ishii and Thomas Shimada .. The captain is Jun Kawimazumi, who was in the team when India played in Japan last, which was in 1983 .. Jun was in the doubles team that lost to Vijay and Anand there .. He had also played earlier ties against India in 71, 75 and 76 when he had beaten Anand Amritraj, Shashi Menon, etc .. He was also the one who lost the 5th match against Anand in 1976, the last time the tie went undecided to the 5th match ..

Suzuki and Motomura have both been relatively quiet on the ATP tour this year, and are ranked 155 and 277 .. Suzuki has had a habit of going on hot streaks at some times in his career .. He was on an incredible run in last July-August when he won 4 challenger in five weeks (Granby in Canada followed by Winnetka, Lexington and Binghamton in the US) .. I remember a similar run a couple of years back too .. He has not done much ever since last August, though .. Both the Japanese aces have been ranked much higher in the past (Suzuki at around 100 or just inside, from my memory and Motomura inside or around 150) .. Suzuki is 5 ft 9  and Motomura 5 ft 8, both shorter than LP at 5 ft 10 .. LP has beaten Motomura in challengers in Bangkok, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Nagoya (Japan) .. The last time they played each other in the ATP tour was in the Bangkok challenger final in 1998 .. LP won in straight sets in three of those matches .. Bhupathi beat Motomura in 1995 at the Goa challenger, but lost to him at the Jerusalem challenger (1997) and the Bangkok challenger (1998) ..

Japan is clearly the favorites, based on the rankings of the singles players - but who cares about rankings when LP and MB are playing Davis Cup ? .. Can Japan win three matches against these two in singles .. They surely can, but it is not going to be quite tough for them ..

Apr 4 Note-1

Yikes .. Yet another upset loss for 4th seed Sunil Kumar (#67) today .. He lost to Clinton Letcher (AUS,133), 57 46 at the the grade-2 ITF juniors in Philippines .. He has only lost to good quality players who have been doing well in this circuit, but the fact that he has not pulled good wins against them is somewhat disappointing .. Also going down in the second round were Megha Vakharia and Vinod Sewa .. Vinod Sewa (IND,83) was upset by Michal Przysiezny (POL,129), 26 26 .. Prakash Amritraj (USA,63) beat Nishank Mishra (IND,153), 61 62 to reach the QF .. He will face Przysiezny next .. The only one who has been playing steady tennis to justify the ranking has been the baby of the group, 14 yr old Sania Mirza, who has reached yet another QF .. She had an easier opponent in the second round in Sae Mi Lim of Korea whom she beat in a comeback, 67(7) 60 64 .. In the QF she meets a tough American girl, Alexandra McGoodwin (USA,120) who has been looking very good in this cricuit - she upset the 6th seed Zsuzanna Babos, 06 62 62 .. That's the thing about these grade-2 events .. One is assured of meeting a top-75 quality player in the QF .. 7th seeded Megha Vakharia lost in the second round to a very talented Australian girl, Adriana Szili, 26 36 .. I have not seen all the first round scores to know what happened to Sasha Abraham, Amanjot Singh and Rohan Gajjar ..

I had expected Sunil to raise his ranking inside the top-60 to be relatively sure of entries into the French Open and Wimbledon juniors .. Now I am not sure, as he will be staying at or around the #67 ranking he has now .. I think he will still squeeze into the grand slam juniors in the end though ..

Apr 3 Note-2

Bad news from Dubai .. Niru started slowly today, made a comeback in the second set and was suddenly stricken by cramps while serving at 3-4 in the 3rd set, losing it, unable to serve properly in the last two service games, according to Gulf-News .. [R1] Milena Nekvapilova (CZE,447) d. Nirupama, 62 36 63 .. The slow start was expected, as she was playing a qualifier, that too coming after a 5-week break .. The cramps problem was unfortunate .. Somehow, Dubai has never been good for Niru - I don't know why .. This was a good chance for her to pick up a whole lot of points at a $75K+H challenger, as her potential opponent in second round, top seed Elena Bovina (#99) was a no show .. Amazing how many times these odd things happen to Niru just when she has a chance to make some headway up the rankings.

At the Mitsubishi Lancer Grade-2 ITF junior event in Philippines, 4th seed Sunil Kumar won easily against Joseph Victorino (PHI,263), 64 62 .. Also, 7th seeded Megha Vakaria beat wildcard Edelyn Balanga (PHI), 60 36 60 .. 2nd seeded Prakash Amritraj (USA) also beat a Filipino wildcard, unranked Johan Guba, 61 60 .. Not sure what happened to Vinod Sewa, Sania Mirza, Rohan Gajjar etc [source: Manila Bulletin] ..

Will have some news on Davis Cup versus Japan soon ..

Apr 3 Note-1

Nirupama is scheduled to play Milena Nekvapilova (CZE,447) today at the $75K+H Dubai Challenger .. Nekvapilova is 23 years old .. She beat two players ranked around 300 in the qualifying rounds on the way to the main draw, and so she seems to be playing well .. No news yet on how Niru did today.

Apr 2 Notes

Busy couple of days - sorry for a late update ..

Nirupama should be playing by Tuesday or so, at the big $75K+K Dubai challenger .. Niru is drawn to possibly face the top seed Elena Bovina (RUS,99) in the second round if she advances from her first round against a qualifier to be determined today [source: Gulf-News] .. It is never easy to play a qualifier when one is returning to tournament play after a few weeks off ..

LP, MB and Harsh must have reached Japan by now for Davis Cup starting on Friday, with Fazal already there .. Will have more on Davis Cup later today.

Fazal had qualified into the Japan F3 futures but lost in the first round last week to another qualifier Toshiaki Sakai, 26 67(4) .. In dubles, Fazal and Joseph Nesticky (CZE) were the top seeds .. They reached the QF beating Trent Aaaron and Benoit Boucher, 46 75 62 before falling in the QF to Jun Kato and Hiroki Kondo of Japan, 76(11) 36 46 .. Fazal should be practising with the Indian team this week.

I think Manisha, Sai and Rushmi may be taking this week off before proceeding to Taipei for Fed Cup next week.

PC Tejeshwar (#825) of Bangalore was at the grade-4 ITF junior event in Uzbekistan last week (he was sponsored by the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association's junior development program sponsored by an American company, as I reported earlier) .. He beat Artem Kudryavtsev (UZB) in the first round, but then lost in the PQF, 26 16 to Andre Khlebikhov (UZB,431) ..

The big junior team will be in Philippines for the grade-2 ITF event that completes their trip.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on Apr 2 ..

I am getting some enquiries 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 enquiring 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 enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.