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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Apr 14, 2003
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Apr 14 Notes

Paes-Rikl are the 5th seeds and Bhuoathi-Mirnyi are the 3rd seeds at the $2.9M Monte Carlo Masters this week .. Both have first round byes and they await their opponents for the round of 16, whcih may not be before wednesday.

Nirupama is expected at the $25K San Luis Potosi challenger in Mexico, and Sunitha Rao (USA/IND) should be among the seeds at the $25K Jackson Challenger in USA .. Rohan Bopanna will be at the $15K futures in Greece .. No draws seen yet.

The main draw started today at the $10K "Bhavana Swaroop" ITF satellite at Muzaffarnagar .. 6th seed Sonal Phadke got upset today, but otherwise it was a day of washout matches involving some of the "qualifiers" who were actually drawn straight into the main draw thanks to the lack of entries in the qualies for even one full round of 16  for eight spots .. Sai, Rushmi, etc, are to play tomorrow .. See the Muzaffarnagar satellite page for today's scores .. Sanaa Bhambri is a wildcard and has drawn a tough customer, Archana Venkatraman .. Ankita is also in the draw.

Apr 13 Note-1

Rohan Bopanna went down 46 16 to Peter Kralert (CZE,445) yesterday in the semis at the $15K Futures in Syros, Greece .. OK, I can live with a loss after three good wins .. As long as he keeps learning and figures out more and more strategies to beat people, the frequency of losses at any given level will keep reducing and you move to the next levels.

The very successful eastern tour ended for the Indian juniors today .. Gosh, I thought I would never get a chance to say something like that - looking at the performance of Indians on this tour in the past few years .. It ended on a high note with an Indian sweep in the doubles finals!.. [F] #5 S. Bhambri/ S. Mirza d. #8 Shiho Tanaka/ Natsumi Tsubo (JPN), 62 75 .. [F] #3 S.D.Varman/ K.Rastogi d. #8 Yuichi Ito/ Kenichiro Nakahara (JPN), 61 63 .. They all pick up 100 points each .. Karan and Sania will move to about #13 and Somdev to about #16 in the next doubles rankings .. Sanaa will move up about 75 spots from her #145 ranking .. That is a great ending to a wonderful tour .. I believe all the top six Indians who toured (Karan, Somdev, Sania, Isha, Sanaa and Tara) improved all thier rankings significantly in the four grade-1 events .. One guy who needs to be given all props is their traveling coach, Vasudev Reddy .. Yes, one can say that a traveling coach only does so much of "coaching", but this is not a simple job .. Getting young kids motivated and thinking positively, and more importantly getting them to focus on the job at hand, is a difficult task .. I am sure that Vasu payed a part in their good show, with timely prodding and advise .. Well done, Vasu! ..  For me, the bottom line results are what counts, and he has acheived that in his maiden trip with the juniors .. I give kudos to AITA (and those like Sunil Yajaman) for showing faith in him to do the job .. You may notice that I questioned sending him as the coach, as he had not been in charge of youth teams in the past to the Asian tour ..  The coach is damn important, and I am glad we are beginning to do these things with the proper seriousness .. Anybody remembers my constant whining 4 and 5 years back about traveling coaches for our kids, etc?

The "Bhavana Swaroop" $10K ITF women's event is starting tomorrow at the Muzaffarnagar grasscourts .. Grass courts are a true rarity in the world on the women's satellite circuit .. Outside of one satellite circuit in Australia, this may be the only such event! .. A few players will be missing from the previous weeks, because of the upcoming Fed Cup, etc, but Sai, Rushmi, etc will be there.

Sania would have been the 7th or 8th seed at the Ho Chi Minh city challenger this coming week, thanks to a lot of withdrawls with the SARS fears .. Just found that Sania has also withdrawn .. What we hear from Vietnam is that her withdrawal was on injury reason .. Hopefully something minor, as she played earlier today in Japan - SARS was probably the bigger concern to skip the event.  Fed Cup in Japan next for Sania.

Apr 12 Note-2

This was pretty much a forgone conclusion .. I don't think many would have given the opponents from Argentina much of a chance against the "Mad Max" team (Dhruv's term in our forum .. looks fine to me!) .. [F] #1 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. L.Arnold/ M.Hood, 61 62 .. That these two got together and hardly seemed to have lost a step, galloping to a title.  Congrats! .. They picked up 175 points each and shared $25.3K in prize money .. Not too big, but I am sure Mahesh would be feeling much better now, after a few months of relative futility with other partners.

The clay season is now in full swing .. Next up is the Monte Carlo masters starting on Monday .. MB-MM and LP-DR will both be there, seeded high.

Apr 12 Note-1

The doubles final at Estoril is delayed by a couple of hours due to rain .. Should be starting in a couple of hours, after 7 pm .. [F] #1 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi vs Lucas Arnold (ARG)/ Mariano Hood (ARG) ..

Nirupama plaued a close match but could not get past the 5th seed Janet Lee (TPE,240) in a 76 46 36 quarterfinal at the $25K Coatzacoalcos challenger yesterday .. In the doubles R1, Niru and Bryanne Stewart lost to the second seeds, Erica Krauth (ARG)/ Sarah Stone (AUS), 36 46 .. Niru picked up 10 points to take her point total to 17.25 and her ranking will move up about 250 to just inside #600 .. She plays the Mexico challenger next week as well, and will then get three more events to enter with her injury protected ranking of #208 .. Another 25 to 35 points and a top 350 or 400 ranking would be good for her to try to enter challengers and challenger qualies from then on.

Terrific gritty comeback by Manisha Malhotra today at the Mumbai satellite final .. She was down 2-6 0-2, came back to even it, and then faced four match points in the final set tiebreaker before prevailing 26 64 76(10) ! .. The doubles title had gone to Richterova and Vorobieva yesterday .. So, Akgul Amanmuradova (UZB) went down in both finals this time, after a double crown last week .. Manisha picked up 7 points including one quality bonus point, along with $1600 in prize money ..

Good news from Syros, Greece .. Rohan Bopanna beat Darko Madjarovski (SER,449) 63 62 to move into the semis at the $15K futures, where he will face Peter Kralert (CZE,445) .. 6 more points to him .. Now the big matches in the SF and F to try to pick up 18 points, the maximum..

At the grade-1 Shuzo challenge ITF juniors today, both the indian teams entered the doubles finals .. #5 S.Bhambri/ S. Mirza d. Yukako Kato/ Ayumi Oka (JPN), 63 64 .. #3 S.D.Varman/ K.Rastogi d. #2 Ruben Gonzales/ Scott Oudsema (USA), 63 75 .. That is a pretty good Amercian pair that Somdev and Karan upset today - Oudsema is the #1 ranked doubles player in the world! .. Sania and Karan should be moving into the top-15 and Somdev to the top-20 of doubles ranks with this .. Sanaa jumps some 50 spots from #140 .. In the finals on Sunday, the girls play the 8th seeds Shiho Tanaka/ Natsumi Tsubo (JPN) and the boys play the 8th seeds Yuichi Ito/ Kenichiro Nakahara (JPN) .. Somdev and Karan have turned out to be a terrific doubles team - in consecutive weeks, they have now won the Thai grade-1 title, finished runner-up at Philippines grade-1 and are again in the finals this week .. The best doubles team work from an Indian pair of boys in a long time in the juniors! .. They will go into grand slams this year as among the top 5 or 6 seeds.

Agnel Gladwyn finished the two-week ITF East Asian u14 junior tour at the #2 spot, as part of the ITF team from South and Central Asia .. He may be in line for ITF consideration for a trip to Europe, I guess .. Arnav Jain who was ranked just ahead before the tour, finished at #5 and E.Ashmitha on the girls' side finished 7th.

Apr 11 Note-2

Things seem to have clicked fast for MB-MM and they are in the final, at the $525K Estoril Open in Portugal .. [SF] #1 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. J.Novak/ P.Pala, 63 62 .. Easy match again .. The opponents for the final are still to be decided ..

Hey, good news from Mexico .. Nirupama Sanjeev reached the quarterfinal yesterday with a 46 64 64 win over the 3rd seed Zuzana Hejdova (CZE,227) .. This is her first challenger QF in almost exactly two years, since the Ho Chi Minh City challenger semis in 2001 April .. Good comeback win today,a nd she has picked up 10 WTA points so far, including three quality bonus .. Niru is baaaaack??? ... Too early to say, but she's getting there .. Next up is the 5th seed Janet Lee (TPE,240) .. Doubles first round was still not completed till yesterday.

Apr 11 Note-1

At the $525K Estoril Open semifinal, MB-Mirnyi play Novak-Pala today .. It's the featured night doubles match on the center court.

At the $10K ITF in Mumbai, Manisha Malhotra beat Sai to reach the final against Akgul Amanmuradova (UZB), who is unbeaten in both singles and doubles in the two Indian events .. Akgul won double crowns last week .. With Chin-Bee Khoo (MAS), she has reached the doubles final as well at Mumbai .. Score are in the Mumbai-2 satellite page.

Bad news from the Japan Grade-1 ITF juniors, as Sania went down 26 26 to Moe Kawatoko (JPN,107) .. That is really surprising .. Perhaps she had a bad day after 7 wins in a row .. I don't know if they have been moving the matches indoors to the weird Japanes surface called "artifical grass" .. Three of the semifinalists are Japanese on the girls' side and two on the boys's side .. In fact, none of the 5 Japanese in the QFs lost their matches .. Two of them ranked below 400 and two below 100, but the foreigners, a lot of them higher seeds, seem to be hardly taking a set against these Japanese kids .. I don't know If the bad weather and change of surface is what is helping the Japanese kids .. Actually this is the first time I have seen draw spreadsheets made with an alternative schedule of indoors play in case of bad weather .. Anyway, I believe Sania will just crack inside the top-10 behind Ryoko Fuda of Japan who is currently #9 and looks to move further up .. Ryoko is an interesting case - she has 250 big points from the grade-A title in Japan (Osaka Mayor's Cup) late last year which keeps her ranking up and nothing over 60 abroad, and she still has no wins over any of the top Asians; this year she has lost to Montinee, Rui Du and last week to Sanaa Bhambri, all abroad .. Sania was expected to play the $25K Ho Chi Ming City challenger next week - there have been a lot of withdrawals there due to the SARS fears - however the Vietnamese SARS cases are almost exclusively confined to Hanoi which is far away and no serious problems have been reported in Ho Chi Minh city .. Not sure if Sania is going.  Otherwise it should be Fed Cup next for her, and I assume the next serious junior events would be in Europe in connection with French Open at the end of May.

In doubles, 4th seeded Somdev and Karan beat 7th seeds Kousuke Naruse and Tomohiro Toriya, 75 63 to reach the semifinal, which will be against the second seeds Ruben Gonzales and Scott Oudsema of USA ..  5th seeded Sanaa and Sania beat Erika Takao and Mari Tanaka (JPN), 61 64 to reach the semifinal against Yukako Kato and Ayumi Oka (JPN) who upset the second seeds Tangphong/Vittayaviroj ..

Apr 10 Note-2

MB-Miryi play doubles semis tomorrow evening at Estoril, against Jiri Novak and Petr Pala of CZE ..

Good news today from Greece -- Bofors has made the quarterfinal at the $15K Syros futures with a good comeback win - [R2] R.Bopanna d. (wc) Alex Jakupovic (GRE), 67(4) 76 (4) 61 .. According to The Hindu, he was staring at a loss, down a break in the second set, but then stepped on the pedal and cruised to a win .. He will now meet Darko Madjarovski of Serbia (#449), who upset the fourth-seed today ..

There was not much play yesterday at the Coatzacoalcos challenger in Mexico, apparently due to severe wind problems with mild showers at the coastal town on the gulf of Mexico in the Veracruz region .. They were expecting the second round to all get completed today, but no new yet on How Niru did.

At the Mumbai $10K ITF women's satellite, Manisha and Sai reached the semifinal against each other, but 2nd seed Rushmi went down to the 8th seed Wilawan Choptang (THA) .. See the Mumbai-2 satellite page for scores.

Doubles updates from the Doha $15K futures (had reported earlier that all three Indians went down in the singles R1) .. But two Indians reached the doubles SFs .. Jaco Mathew and Yeu-Ming Si beat Nasser Al Khelaifi (QAT)/ Abdul Malik Cassien (RSA) 60 62 in the R1, and Xavier Adouy (FRA) and Adam Chadaj (POL), 46 64 63, in the QF .. They went dwon after a fight in the SF against the top seeds Ivo Klec (GER) and Aisam Qureshi (PAK), 67(3) 57 .. 4th seeded Mustafa Ghouse and Philipp Marx (GER) beat Mohammed Al Kawary (KUW) and Ridhi Behl, 62 64 .. They reached the semi with a 63 61 win over Musaad Al Jazzaf (KUW) and Omar Bahrouzyan (UAE) .. Unfortunately, Marx is injured and so Mustafa-Marx have given a walkover in the semifinal .. Earlier, P.Vishal and Takeshi Itoh went down in the first round to the 2nd seeds Jonathan Marray and David Sherwood  of GBR, 16 26 ..  Thanks go to our friends down in Doha for all the timesly updates from there!

Apr 10 Note-1

An easy win today for MB-MM at Estoril, to reach the semis .. [QF] #1 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. Jarkko Nieminen/ Andrei Stoliarov, 62 62 ..

Niru may have played her second round singles at the Coatzacoalcos challenger in Mexico yesterday, but no news yet.

Rohan had a nice win at the $15K Greek futures in Syros, beating the 8th seeded Slovakian Davis Cupper Michal Mertinak (SVK,337), 7 575 .. The win in the 300 range of ATP ranks is slowly becoming routine for Bofors - that's good .. Move it up, dude.

Indian kids, except Sania have not had a good trip to Japan .. [R3] #6 Sanaa Bhambri l. #11 Lara Giltinan (AUS), 46 36 .. [R3] #3 Sania Mirza d. #15 Pichittra Thongdach (THA), 64 75 .. [R3] #5 Karan Rastogi l. #12 Yao-Lun Chang (TPE) 46 62 36 .. In doubles, after first round byes, [R2] #5 S.Bhambri/ S. Mirza d. Minami Sugiura/ Haruka Tachiki (JPN) 61 60 .. [R2] #4 Yung Jan Chan (TPE)/ T. Iyer l. Erika Takao/ Mari Tanaka (JPN) 26 26 .. [R2] #3 S.D.Varman/ K.Rastogi d. Kei Nishikori/ Genki Tomita (JPN), 63 63 .. Sorry for the wring news earlier that the girls weren't in the doubles draw - actually I didn't notice the second page of the draw which had the bottom half.. In the QF round, Sania plays the 12th seed Moe Kawatoko (JPN).

Apr 9 Note-2

Good start for Bhupathi and Mirnyi today at the $525K Estorial Open (clay) ATP in Portugal, though they seem to have had to pull out all the tricks that made them a tough team in the past .. [R1] #1 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. A.Lopez-Moron/ D.Sanchez, 46 63 76(4) ..

Results from the Japan Grade-1 juniors - [R2] #13 Tara Iyer l. (wc) Nana Tsuchiya (JPN), 16 64 36 .. [R2]  #6 Sanaa Bhambri (IND) d. (wc) Akiko Minami (JPN), 60 57 63 .. [R2] #3 Sania Mirza (IND) d. Ai Tomiyama (JPN), 63 63 .. [R2]  #3 Somdev Dev Varman (IND) l. Tomohiro Toriya (JPN), 16 46 .. [R2] #5 Karan Rastogi (IND) d. (q) Shuhei Uzawa (JPN), 61 60 .. So, two relatively surprising upsets for Indians .. I guess it happens .. Now the round of 16 tomorrow .. [R3] #5 Karan Rastogi (IND) vs #12 You-Lun Chang (TPE) .. [R3] #6 Sanaa Bhambri (IND) vs #11 Lara Giltinan (AUS) .. [R3] #3 Sania Mirza (IND) vs #15 Pichittra Thongdach (THA) ..

No news at all from Greece on how Bofors is doing.

Apr 9 Note-1

So, where is my prize? -- I am batting 1000 here .. Predicted the "draw" perfectly last year, and predicted it again perfectly this time .. "Netherlands away - cont on it, " I said .. Did you have a doubt? .. I didn't think so .. Yes, it is Netherlands for India ..

I know ITF was aware of the protests from India last year and about the betting site predicting GBR's matchup early .. I am not sure if the seeding committee themselves were aware of it, though .. I don't have any proof that that they "set us up" and I don't know if any independent press folks were at the draw witnessing it (I did not see any newspaper reports in London last year that any press guy was at the site - based on the newspaper guys mostly using the press release from Davis Cup) .. I heard from an ITF man via a 3rd party that it was a public function, though no proof was offered .. Perhaps it was so this time too, and in the absence of any counter-evidence, we have to simply take it as bad luck ... I guess .. By the way, the same betting site had not predicted it this time .. Britian did get Morocco, which is incidentally the lowest ranked team :-)

But something continues to tell me there is something fishy going on .. Sorry, can't help feeling it .. In any event, if ITF is not changing anything and is not publishing the pictures of the draw, etc, (as we had suggested last year), it may be time to inform the Davis Cup sponsors about this .. I don't know if BNP Paribas and others have interest in India like many consumer goods companies do, but they have have now lost a 4th chance for some big exposure in a big market in a big event - hopefully only out of India's bad luck and nothing else.

OK, now we need to plan early and go do the job at Netherlands .. It's not like they are a totally unbeatable team like the previous three were .. I considered them tough mostly because it is a country that does care a bit about Davis Cup (actually some of the teasm we would have got in India would have been tougher, like the US) .. The Dutch players do show up for Davis Cup and they can get into it .. Sjeng Schalken (14 singles, 64 doubles), Ramon Sluiter (66,138) and Martin Verkerk (67,110) and Paul Haarhuis (NR,22) were in their team when they went down 2-3 to Federer's Switzerland at Arnem, Netherlands in February in the world group .. Schalken and Sluiter were #1 and #2, with Haarhuis-Verkerk playing doubles (they did beat Federer-Bastl in doubles after Schalken beat Kratochvil in 5 sets and Sluiter lost badly in three to Federer) .. These four would quite possibly be the team for September as well .. Netherlands is not all that deep .. The next singles players they have are Krajicek (#74) and Van Lottum (#105) and they are not expected in the team by September .. The bottom line is that LP needs to come through big time against Schalken or Bopanna or Harsh needs to be ready to pull the upset of their life against their second singles player .. The good news, unlike against quite a few of the other countries is that their #2 singles player is not somebody LP cannot beat in a Davis Cup match, especially on his current form and focus .. If we beat them in Netherlands, it will not be as big a miracle as at Frejus in 93, in other words .. On the other hands, due to the relative lack of depth in singles in Netherlands, even without huge miracles, we could pull it off, if any breaks go our way - and lord knows we are due big time for some breaks!

Repeating, India should plan well and early for this tie, unlike the last three years when we really felt that no amount of planning would help us much .. Leander spent time somewhere in Spain for weeks on end before the Frejus miracle in 1993, playing on his hated surface, clay .. He was ready for Boetch and party, who did not know what to do against his totally unconventional chip and charge game that they had not seen anybody play on clay .. The reason for the miracle was all the planning, coupled with RK's determination to do something big before the end of his career .. Let us repeat it .. I don't know what surface Netherlands would throw at us .. They would consider clay, like everybody does against India, but I don't know if they can play outdoors in late september .. More probable would be some sort of indoor hard courts or carpet .. In fact, Harsh Mankad, if he has made the kind of convincing upward moves in the next 5 months, plays his best indoors .. Bopanna remains our #2 and it is possible that he may have shown us a wole lot more and gone up in ranking by September too .. I would also suggest that Leander should play some singles at around that time in some ATP qualies or somewhere to tune up his game and be ready .. He still has some magic left, I am sure .. This is actually going to be fun, in Netherlands ..

Put your comments in our  forum .. Florian from germany, the biggest Indian Davis Cup supporter (bar none!) out there, is already planning a big Indian support army out there in Netherlands .. Let call them something like "Desi Aces" (no, we won't be as unimaginative as the "Bharat Army" of cricket, who couldn't come up with anything better than UK's Barmy Army :-)) .. Let us plan to go and teach the Dutch some lessons!

At the Japan grade-1, Sania, Sanaa and Karan reached the final-16 with wins today, as Tara and Somdev went down .. All five had byes in the round of 64 .. Details later.

Apr 8 Note-2

Good news from Mexico .. At the $25K Challenger in Coatzacoalcos,  Nirupama Sanjeev reached the second round with an easy 60 63 win over Scarlett Werner (GER,331) .. Though she entered the event based on the injury protected ranking of #203, the seeding is based on current rankings, and so Niru is unseeded .. This was an old style win, the kind she used to routinely pick up against 300+ players earlier - so her return seems to be on track .. She runs in to the 3rd seed in the next round - Zuzana Hejdova (CZE,227) .. In doubles, Niru and Bryanne Stewart (AUS) are in the main draw, facing the 2nd seeds Erica Krauth (ARG)/ Sarah Stone (AUS).

By the way, if you are wondering what the possible future Indian player, Sunitha Rao (#183) is doing, she has been taking time off .. She is in the main draw list for next week's $25K challenger in Jackson, Mississippi .. She will be at the $75K challenger in Dothan, Alabama, the week after; currently the first one out from the main draw list, and will surely make the draw by the time it starts.

Rohan Bofors is in the draw at the $15K Greece F1 futures in Syros .. He plays the 8th seeded Slovakian Davis Cupper, Michal Mertinak (SVK,337) .. I don't think Rohan got there early enough after the Kolkata duties, to sign in for doubles - he is only in singles .. Hopefully he got there today.

At Mumbai, Megha Vakharia got upset today .. Isha Lakhani withdrew after one game due to a back problem (that doesn't sound good if it happened after just a game - I hope she is OK) .. With Ankita going down to Rushmi and Sonal going down to Sai, the only youngster in the second round is qualifier Liza Pereira who pulled off a good win today .. See the Mumbai-2 satellite page for scores.

Nothing much great to report from the F2 futures in Doha, Qatar .. 5th seed Mustafa Ghouse was upset 64 61 by Adrian Barbu (ROM,829), Jaco Mathew fell after a pretty good fight, 61 57 36 to the 4th seed Michael Berrer (GER,507) and Punna Vishal also went down to the 7th seed Ivo Klec (GER,594), 67(5) 46 ..

Apr 8 Note-1

ITF's seeding committee for Davis Cup is the most shameless group of posterior orifices out there and I am convinced now.  Here are the top 10 ranked teams in the field of 16, their rankings and their points .. The highest ranked team that did not get seeded? .. You guessed it - India .. Those idiots want to make a statement that Davis Cup performance matters much less than ATP singles performance .. And these are guys who are supposed to know what is unique and magical about Davis Cup - how pathetic! ..

 8   USA  6,942.5  -  seed
 9   NED  5,187.5  -  seed
11  BRA  3,500.0  -  seed
12  CZE  3,118.8  -  seed
13  IND  2,812.5  -  asked to go take a big hike, silly brown Asians.
13  GER 2,812.5  -  seed
15  ROM  2,537.5  -  seed
16  GBR  2,487.5  -  seed
17  BEL  2,325.0  -  seed
18  THA  2,297.5  -  asked to join the hike with the other silly brown Asians.

I am not mincing words out here .. Now I am even more convinced that they set us up last year .. Somebody needs to get to the bottom of what is going on at ITF ..  Belgium just dropped 5 spots in ITF's own ranking and they get seeded over India and Thailand .. Britain has been laying so many eggs in Davis Cups that they can start an omlette company to feed Iraquis .. The same Britain that lost to Ecuador not so long back at home! .. Have the committeee Gods looked at who germany has available to play and how they have been doing? .. They all get seeded on the basis of their bloody singles ranks in ATP .. Who the hell cares what ATP ranks they have ..

Now, we have 5 in 8 odds for a home tie against one of the seeds in tomorrow's draw .. USA, BRA, BEL, CZE, GBR will be home ties for us .. NED, GER and ROM are away ties .. The way ITF does the draw (and the betting sites "predict" the draw), I am expecting Netherlands away for us .. Count on it.

I am not saying that there were no arguments not to seed India .. That is not the point .. When you have enough arguments (your own rankings and the fact that India qualified for 4 years in a row to WG to draw the tougest opponenet every time previously), these guys had a duty to make a stand and show that they value Davis Cup performance and the heart that some players show to Davis Cup over the ATP rankings .. They shamelessly dropped the ball .. They had a great chance to make a case for what is special about Davis Cup using India as an example .. It is indeed a unique case and they will hardly get such an example in the future -- and they wasted the chance.

There is a nice thread in our  forum about this .. Take a look and mouth off!

Apr 7 Note-4

I have added the main draws from the second ITF $10K in Mumbai at the Mumbai-2 satellite page .. Not a good day for Indians but top seed Manisha Malhotra advanced .. The other top Indians like 2nd seed Rushmi, 3rd seed Sai, 6th seed Megha, and others like Isha, Ankita, Sonal, Archana, etc have not played yet.

The new ITF junior rankings show 16 year old Sania Mirza at #12, followed by Sanaa Bhambri at #50, Isha Lakhani at #59 and Tara Iyer at #72 .. Sania has reached the highest rank ever by an Indian girl, I am sure .. The previous best is the #16 by Sunitha Rao in early 2001 as a 16 year old before she stopped playing serious juniors (yeah, I am counting her among Indians already!) .. Great to see two 14 year olds in the top-75 already also (Sanaa and Tara) .. In doubles Sania is #17, followed by Isha #57, Tara #119 and Sanaa #140

on the boys' side, Somdev Dev Varman is at #42 and Karan Rastogi at #55 .. Karan did a great job with the SF at Manila last week, but a few more points would be nice to nail down a main draw spot at the grand slam junior draws .. Following the grade-1 doubles final lastr week at Manila, 16 yr old Karan has reached a career high of #18 in doubles, with his partner Somdev at #28 .. Looks like these two will be seeded at the junior grand slams.  Great stuff.

The kids are at the Grade-1 ITF juniors in Japan this week .. Somdev is the 3rd seed and Karan is the 5th seed among the boys  .. Sania is 3rd on the girls side, along with Sanaa at #6 and Tara at #13 .. All five have first round byes and should be playing only in a day or two .. Chatwinder and Rupesh have returned to India from Manila and have not gone to Japan.

Apr 7 Note-3

Quick updates -- Bhupathi-Mirnyi are top seeds facing Alex Lopez-Moron and David Sanchez of Spain in the R1 at the $525K Estoril Open in Portugal .. LP takes the week off, as is customary for him aftere Davis Cup .. Mustafa Ghouse is the 5th seed, facing Adrian Barbu (ROM) and Vishal Punna plays 7th seed Ivo Klec (GER) at the $15K Qatar futures .. Niru is expected as the 6th seed at the Mexico challenger this week .. The $10K Mumbai-2 satellite starts today, with Manisha, Sai, Rushmi .. Our kids are at the Japan grade-1 .. Later..

Apr 7 Note-2

The new Davis Cup rankings came out today from ITF, and India is ranked 14th .. Actually India is tied for #13 now but they gave Germany with the same point total as India the 13th spot and India the 14th spot, strangely .. Anyway, that makes India the 5th highest ranked team in the field of 16 for Davis Cup 2004 WG playoff this september .. I should update the table in the table in the last notes .. The new rankings with the points show,

 8   USA  6,942.5
 9   NED  5,187.5
(10  CRO  5,075.0) - already in the world group 2004.
11  BRA  3,500.0
12  CZE  3,118.8
13  GER 2,812.5
13  IND  2,812.5
15  ROM  2,537.5
16  GBR  2,487.5
17  BEL  2,325.0
18  THA  2,297.5
19  ECU  2,257.5
20  SLO  2,000.0
21  AUT  1,890.0
22  CAN  1,840.0
23  BEL  1,770.0
24  MAR  1,737.5

The ITF ranking point table seems to be perfect, the way it threw up exactly the 24 teams that are alive in the Davis Cup competition for next year .. In fact, I don't think there were any upsets at the regional qualifier rounds this weekend, going by the previous ranks, either .. You may notice that there is a rather noticeable drop in points from India to Romania, Britain, Belgium, etc - giving another reason for seeding India among the top 8 for the WG playoffs in September.

The ITF Davis Cup seedings committee meets tomorrow and will announce the seeds, with the draw coming out on wednesday .. If ITF has any shame, they should stand by their own rankings and the criteria about doubles, and seed India .. It will be disgusting if they end up seeding teams like Britain only based on the existence of some ATP-ranked singles players who may not even be available to play in the end .. If you are going to make ATP singles the sole criterion, just throw away the so-called rankings that you announce - you are not using it at all anyway! .. Last year they could claim that the rankings were new and that they didn't know if their point system was really an indicator of quality .. Seeing how perfect their latest top-24 has turned out, they cannot make that argument anymore .. The rank list does appear to be just about matching what we feel about the Davis Cup prowess, with some minor exceptions for some recent upstarts like Belarus who are under-ranked a bit and some like Germany who are a bit over-ranked if you consider the players who might not play ..

The ITF nations ranks are also a proof that the ATP singles rankings should be rejected as a criterion for exception cases like India with a starting player who has decided not to play ATP singles any more .. India's players have shown serious heart towards Davis Cup and that is why we are ranked this high and continue to justify the rankings with a 4th consecutive WG playoff .. LP's commitment is well-known, but also don't forget Mahesh, world #5 in doubles and all, flying up to the Lebanons and New Zealands for just one doubles match, and skipping his own WTA tournament for a Davis Cup doubles match .. It is clear that ITF should be using India as the example for commitment towards Davis Cup and rewarding us .. I don't know why ITF would want to act as though the ATP's singles rankings are the end-all, even ahead of ITF's own team rankings ?? .. What is the point in a seeding committee if they cannot take the proper issues in perspective? .. I hope they will do the right thing this time .. Yes, we have not forgotten our complants last year and our serious doubts about foul play in the process (we decided to take ITF's word on face value and drop the issue - check my notes last year at this time about a betting site announcing three days ahead of seeding and draw who Britain will play .. ITF explained that it had to have been a strange coincidence of wishful thinking by the betting site; and we all decided to respect their word) .. I hope there won't be more suspicious crap from London again .. Damnit, give India a seed and give proper due to your own rankings and the nearly unparallelled commitment of India's players towards Davis Cup .. Otherwise, just say that you will only reward countries whose players would skip Davis Cup at the drop of a hat and take the ATP tour as more important, thus making a joke of your own great tournament ..

Apr 7 Note-1

Now that the Davis Cup ties are over, it is time for speculation on what happens in the draw for the world group playoffs in September .. Here are the teams who will be playing the WG playoffs to take up 8 spots in next year's final-16 .. The losers from the 2003 world group first round in february are: USA, NED, BRA, BEL, CZE, ROM, GER, GBR .. The eight who qualified this week for the playoffs are: [Euro-African region]  AUT, BLR, MAR, SVK .. [American region] CAN, ECU .. [Asia-Oceania] IND, THA.

Now, whom does India play?  That should be known soon, as the draw gets made in London .. The ITF seeding committee will seed eight of these teams and the other eight will be drawn against them .. As for how they will seed, they say this - "Among the deciding factors taken into account are the ITF Davis Cup Nations Ranking, how the nation fared in recent Davis Cup action, the strength and ranking of the players likely to perform for a given nation, the ability of a nationís players to compete on a variety of surfaces, and the depth of a nation in terms of doubles" .. Whether they really follow their own statement, nobody knows .. Last year they started the Davis Cup Nations rankings, which use a 4 year rolling calculation of points for a country's performance in various levels of Davis Cup play, with a rather elaborate point table .. India moved into the top-16 last year and was th 8th highest ranked team, but they did not seed India, on the basis, I suppose, of the singles ranks .. Anyway, I put together the following table of info - India is again 8th on current rankings .. You decide who should be seeded .. My seedings are as shown ..

(These are the older ranks -- Today's new ranks in the next note above -- India is at #13 now!)
 
Davis Cup
Rank 
Home/
Away for India
ATP singles ranks of
top 3 who might play
My Rank for the
Doubles Team
My final
seeding
USA 6 Home 6, 24, 38 10 1
Nederlands 8 Away 14, 57, 68 3 4
Brazil 11 Home 15, 78, 82 3 3
Belgium 12 Home 29, 58, 150 9 7
Czech Rep. 13 Home 9, 44, 99 2 2
Romania 14 Away 34, 84, 154 6 6
Germany 15 Away 13, 78, 105 10
India 16 --- [x], 338, 461 1 8
Britain 17 Home 22, 70, 187 14
Thailand 19 Home 12, 220, 800+ 12
Ecuador 20 Toss 43, 209, 505 6
Canada 21 Toss 337, 347, 455 6
Belarus 22 Toss 31, 65, 546 3 5
Morocco 25 Toss 17, 98, 416 14
Austria 26 Home 59, 97, 133 15
Slovak Rep. 27 Toss 50, 56, 72 16

You see a strange [x] in the row for India, which is one player that does not fit any of the seeding committee's logic and numbers .. A certain Kolkatan, who is the only player in all these listed countries who plays singles ONLY in Davis Cup, and magically seems to still play top-notch singles for just 3 weekends every year .. His ranking should be taken as something around at least #100 .. Actually he has beaten players like Suzuki ranked near 100 as recently as last year and anybody in the seeding committee should know that any player ranked below around 50 or 75 so is still in danger of losing to Leander, especially if the tie is in India .. I would suggest that they use a rank of #75 for the [x] that I show ..  Then you have India's doubles team which has been unbeaten in 7 years and is 13-2 lifetime in Davis Cup, who makes any opponent have to win three of the four singles matches .. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating .. India has shown that it CAN beat people and that is why it is ranked as the 8th highest team in there [added later - actually 5th highest in the Apr 7 rankings!]  ..  Canada is another country (Nestor is a Leander Paes lite too, though he does not have top doubles support anymore) - they too continues to come through consistently .. Poor doubles teams hurts some of the teams above .. I am probably seeding USA too high, as they are the most unpredictable team these days - but even without counting #2 agassi and #21 sampras, they have some highly ranked young guys who are ready to play singles .. I like the 2-man army of Mirnyi and Voltchkov from Belarus .. they have all the ingredients to do damage .. Morocco is not as good as they used to be, despite El Aynaoui's rank and Arazi's talent (doubles is a problem for them) .. No idea if Rusedski-henman will be there for GBR in September .. Germany has gone down the tubes and can't seem to get some of their guys to even play for them .. CZE has a solid doubles team in Damm-Suk .. Brazil actually is good, especially because Kuerten-Sa is a good doubles team too .. The Lapentti brothers are spunky, for Ecuador .. etc ..etc

I will update the Davis Cup rankings, after the new ranks come out on Tuesday.  India's rank should not be changing much .. As for now, expect us not to get seeded by the ITF committee .. They will probably keep Britian seeded, though they have shown nothing for some time to deserve the seeding.  Looks like we have around at least a 5 in 8 chance for a home tie if we are unseeded .. Brazil in India would be one I could live with .. With our bad luck in the draw for three years, I am expecting Nederlands away for us .. Last year I predicted it perfectly .. Hope my record does not continue this time!

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Apr 7 ..

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.