Notes for the week ending on Apr 15, 2002
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Apr 15 Notes
Neither LP nor MB is playing at the Monte Carlo masters today ..
Manisha Malhotra won the first round of qualies over Stephanie Hershfield (USA,949) in a double-bagel yesterday, 60 60 .. She plays a wildcard, Chrissie Seredni (USA) in the qualifying second round ..Though A couple of corrections on my Manisha Malhotra note from yesterday .. Actually Leanne Baker (NZL) is there at the challenger, and so they must be playing doubles together - I guess Leanne decided not to go to the Japan satellite where she was in the list ..Also, Dylan Davidson (thanks!) emailed pointing out that Manisha was back playing last week itself, but I did not notice, as I did not follow the Naples challenger in Florida once I did not see her name in the qualies .. Actually she only played doubles last week - and it was with Leanne Baker .. They had quite an impressive main draw R1 win, upsettting the 4th seeds Allison Bradshaw (USA) and Lisa McShea (AUS), 46 76(5) 63 .. They fell in the QF to the eventual runner-s-up, Gisela Dulko (ARG) and Vera Zvonareva (RUS), 06 67(4) ..
At the Chinese Taipei grade-3 tournament, Sania Mirza is the top seed and beat Hsiao-San Huang (TPE), 61 60 .. It's good for Sania to play a grade-3 event occasionally .. It gives her a few easier matches to keep the winning confidence going .. I don't remember the last time any Indian player played in Taiwan, actually - our players do not normally go there. Actually, she is one of only five foreign players in the event - which is rather surprising for a grade-3 event ..
Apr 14 Notes
Leander cannot get a break in the doubles draws - LP and John-Laffnie DeJager are drawn against the top seeds Don Johnson and Jared Palmer at the $2.95M Monte Carlo masters in Monaco .. Mahesh, playing with Jeff Tarango for this coming week (he will team up back with Mirnyi for good in a couple of weeks), are the 4th seeds and will play Arnaud Clement and Nicolas Escude ..
Manisha Malhotra who has been missing in action for a while, and I think some injuries have been troubling her, was in the qualifying draw for the $25K+H challenger in Jackson, Mississippi .. She was to play Stephanie hershfield in the first round - no news yet .. Not sure whom she is playing doubles with - she has not played with Leanne Baker for a while, and I think Leanne is playing in the Japan satellites this coming week.
Other Indian players will all be in Kuwait, which has a three week futures series - the first week starts now, and the 3rd week actually coincides with the Indian 4-week satellites .. Actually this is a good chance for Indians, as this futures series has perhaps the weakest entry list I have ever seen at futures events, probably because some players are scared to go to the middle east .. Only one player is in the top 500, and that is #264 Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan, the second seed being #501 Rohan Bopanna .. Rohan's traveling coach Srinath is the 4th seed and Mustafa is the 8th seed according to the entry list .. Sunil Kumar is also in the main draw entry .. Manoj Mahadevan was the at the top of the alternate list and should probably make the main draw without qualies .. Shivang Mishra and Vijay Kannan were also listed among the alternates.
The ITF women's Indian satellites move into the 3rd week at Kholapur now ..
Here are two nice articles about two under-14 talents - See this article by Tina Sharma in The Hindustan Times about Rupesh Roy, the son of a farmer from near Samastipur, Bihar, now under Paes-en-Sport watch in Kolkata .. Rupesh is one of those super-talents I had mentioned earlier here - nice to see AITA's Sunil Yajaman talking about him and Sumit Prakash Gupta of Itawah, UP, as two great prospects for the futures .. UP and Bihar kids in Indian tennis in the future? - we have to like the game spreading far and wide like that .. Also, some good news about some sponsorship from a Dr.Sanjeev Reddy and the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh for Sandri Gangotri, top u14 talent - see the article in The Hindu - yes, it is small money to Sandri, but it is always good to hear about more and more of such news.
Apr 13 Notes
Top seeds MB and Mirnyyi went down in the semifinal against unseeded Karsten Braasch (GER) and Andrei Olhovskiy (RUS), 61 67(5) (8-10) in the semifinals of the $625K Estoril Open in Portugal today.
Sai Jayalakshmi ended Isha Lakhani's ginat-killing spree in a marathin 2 hour 30 minutes match in a comeback, 16 63 61 today .. I guess the scoreline does not show how close this match was, based on the reports .. Sai is way too experienced not to figure out what to do against a youngster like Isha - still hats off to the girl for reaching the final and giving Sai a good match .. See the Nagpur satellites page.
Apr 12 Note-3
Mahesh and Max Mirnyi reached the SF of the $625K Estoril Open today in Portugal, beating Portuguese wildcards Emanuel Couto and Bernardo Mota, 63 76(4) .. They play Karsten Braasch (GER) and Andrei Olhovskiy (RUS) tomorrow in the semis ..
At Nagpur, Sai and Radhika won the doubles title today over Samrita and Archana, 75 60 .. See the Nagpur satellite page.
No further info from anybody on some real proof for a real Davis Cup draw at London this wednesday - As ITF has denied any wrongdoing, as we could well expect them to do, I think the draw issue won't get a closure till they show some picture or video proof of a draw somewhere or we hear from some impartial press person who was there .. Otherwise, the only way anything will come out of this would be with a "smoking gun" or a "whistle blower" appearing from somewhere (which is not out of question in UK) .. I think the Sherlock Holmes' among our press should not stop digging yet.
Apr 12 Note-2
Mahesh and Max Mirnyi play the QF tonight at the Estoril Open ATP.
A newspaper friend informs me that ITF had an email reply to an enquiry on the Davis Cup draw - they said, "The draw was introduced by ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti and was conducted by Mike Morrissey, responsible for ITF Officiating, in front of members of the British press" .. As for the Sporting Life website's report two days before the draw, ITF says, "there is no question that SL had access to any prior information as the draw was conducted at random" ..
Well, I doubt ITF understands the gravity of the situation .. Post a picture of the draw ceremony and give some details on who did the draw at your own Davis Cup site, damnit! .. We are talking about a reporter who places odds on Davis Cup writing such a solid "guess" on whom Britain would play (the same reporter at sportinglife.com wrote the Davis Cup preview article with his odds for last year, as posted at their associated betting site) - and this was before even the seedings were announced - how would they know that Britain would be a seed to start with? .. The circumstancial evidence of something being fishy is not that weak, and ITF should be putting a lid on this with some clear evidence of the draw .. Though we all want to move on, we don't want to allow ITF to get away with just some statements.
The Indian version of the "little assassin", Isha Lakhani, continued her upset streak, beating the 4th seed Sonal Phadke, also in straight sets 61 64, to day to reach the final of the Nagpur satellites .. Sai beat Liza for the other final spot ..
One correction - I had said that Sania did not play doubles this week at the Japan Open .. She did - as the 4th seeds with Szuszanna Babos (HUN) .. After an R1 bye, they fell in the PQF to unseeded Ryoko Fuda of Japan and Ting-Wen Wang of Taiwan 16 63 16 .. Thanks Shailesh (rediff.com) for alerting me - I think I did not read the draw carefully the first time I saw it.
Sumit Prakash Gupta reached yet another final - at the Far East ITF u14 event in Jakarta .. He however lost 36 35 (retd.) in the final to Franklyn Emmannuel of SriLanka - his first loss in Asian ITF juniors after 4 events, I think .. Not sure what the injury was - hope not serious .. Not criticizing him, but somebody should tell Sumit that retiring that late in a match is considered quite unclassy (unless you are serving and unable to do so at all in the final game due to injury) .. Just stay there and let the other guy serve out the match for a proper win - and have the confidence that showing to the world that one was injured and that that was the cause for the loss, is not important in the long run .. But I don't think Sumit was thinking of all that and must have been just injured .. This is a small detail, but when an older player does this, it is almost always an indication of their own lack of self-confidence (not the case with the little boy of course) .. The two Sri Lankan kids Emmanuel and Nishendran have been chasing Sumit all the time, but with his title and runner-up finish, he again leads the rankings in that circuit with 300 points with Emmanuel and Nishendran (whom Sumit beat 63 60 in the semi) behind at 200 and 150 each .. N.Jeevan, in the 6th place in rankings, lost to Hsin-Han Lee (TPE) in the QF, and the Taiwanese boy lost to Emannuel in the semi.
Apr 12 Note-1
I am not sure if I should keep on going with this issue, but then again I am also not sure if I wasn't too hasty in saying that all was fine with the Davis Cup draw based on just one article in the Times, UK .. As soon as I saw that, I wrote about it, to be fair to ITF .. I have since spent some time searching far and wide on the internet for any other news reporter talking about being at the draw (for that matter even Neil Harman of the Times did not say he was there) .. None of them have mentioned this thing about someone drawing a piece of paper with Thailand written on it, from a bowl .. That is not very unusual - just that no other reporter writing anything to hint that he/she was there, is strange .. By the way, Neil Harman, whose article I mentioned below, was previously with The Telegraph, UK and joined the Times UK only last month .. He has been writing the Davis Cup year book for the last two years, and his article during the 2001 Davis Cup is the one used by ITF in their magazine - I am not sure if he has any direct links with ITF, but I have seen his tennis articles over the last few years ..
I am yet to find a single picture of the draw ceremony, or a mention of who was present and who did the draw in any other news article anywhere .. I have seen the articles from, Reuters, AP, AFP, Australian newspapers, Thai newspapers, and many more of the international newspapers that cover tennis well .. They all just give the same info, with some comments from the British captain Roger Taylor about them being lucky .. The standard article which seems to be from a news release from somewhere that the agencies picked up .. I wonder if the Times article itself was based on just a news release and they assumed that such a draw was done .. Newspapers often do these kinds of things - though I would be surprised if an article with a By-line to a known tennis correspondent would say that .. John Parson of The Telegraph, London, is the other one from UK who had an article about the draw but he too doesn't seem to say anything about being at the draw ceremony .. The Guardian had an article, again with generally the same info, but the By-line was to "Staff and Agencies" ..
ITF's own Davis Cup website does not have any picture of the draw ceremony, or any info on even who did the draw! .. I hope some of our press friends would be able to access wire photo services and would be kind enough to let me know if any such evidence of a draw ceremony is there, so I can put a lid on this and move on .. Or if any of you in UK or somewhere saw something in a print edition of a newspaper, please let me know.
Suffices to say that I am still quite suspicious of what has been happening .. I hope at least in the future ITF would not take this in such a cavalier fashion and will do it very publicly if they didn't do so this time .. The draw ceremonies for playing order before each Davis Cup tie is always in front of a press group and pictures are routinely published in news papers .. The grand slam draw ceremonies are web-cast live, these days .. Shouldn't the Davis Cup world group playoff draw on which so much rides, be done in a more public way ?? (if it was not done this time) .. ITF needs to understand that people care about these things .. It's not always enough to be just proper - avoiding the appearance of impropriety is important too .. Sure, they cannot do anything if the newspapers wouldn't write about the ceremony - but they could at least include some evidence at their own website or in the email announcement that came out promptly on wednesday from ITF to all of us.
Apr 11 Note-5
At the $625K Estoril Open in Portugal, MB and Mirnyi had some early problems but came back in the match today against wildcards Harel Levy (ISR) and Fernando Meligeni (BRA), 26 61 (10-8) .. They face the Portuguese wildcards Emanuel Couto and Bernardo Mota tomorrow in the second round.
Prajwal Hegde reports in tomorrow's Deccan Herald article that ITF denies any knowledge of how the prediction of GBR-vs-THA appeared in the Sportinglife.com betting website on Monday .. ITF says the draw was done by pulling things out of a cup .. The ITF spokesperson wanted to remain unnamed .. I have no idea why he/she would want to remain unnamed in denying something like this - strange again .. Just deny it straight, because this whole thing is nothing but ridiculous if the draw WAS done straight - so what's the need to remain unnamed???? .. What *is* really going on here? .. I don't know, I give up :-) .. This may all be a big mountain out of a molehill, I hope ..
Apr 11 Note-4
OK, it seems that it was indeed a "draw", and I myself found proof of that -- here is the news article from the Times, London, Thursday edition - "The president put in his hand and pulled out a plum. For British tennis, the Davis Cup draw that brings Thailand to this country in September for the World Group qualifying round could hardly have turned out much better .... Thus, when Francesco Ricci Bitti, of the International Tennis Federation, handed over a piece of paper with Thailand printed upon it, there was a sense of relief tinged with the hope that the Srichaphans of Bangkok dare not do to Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski or any other unsuspecting Briton what the Lapenttis of Guayaquil managed in 2000" .. I assume Neil Harmon, a well-known tennis writer with the Times, who wrote this article SAW the draw.
If so, folks, let's calm down .. Sorry for creating a big storm over this - but I still have no earthly idea how a betting website SportingLife.Com wrote an article titled "Brits to play Thailand" on Monday itself .. They had a divine vision, I guess.
Good to know that the world is still round and that ITF did this thing right .. Chapter closed and I apologize to ITF for doubting their integrity .. I guess lady luck was just too good with Brazil, Britain, etc - and she seems to have something against us, Canada and Thailand .. I am investigating if our current streak of 7 away ties is among the longest such streaks since the alternating ties (or toss) scheme was instituted in Davis Cup.
Apr 11 Note-3
Here is some more fodder for thought - "Thailand draw buys those morons one more year" - says former UK Davis Cup captain, David Lloyd! .. Hmmm, I ain't saying nothing, again, but the plot does thicken :-) .. No, David Lloyd is not saying anything incriminating - he is just speaking his mind on the precarious situation UK actually was in, and how a good draw was important .. By the way, Tim Henman could miss the september tie because his wife Lucy is expecting a baby in October just days after the tie - SportingLife.com reports the UK Davis Cup captain Roger Tailor saying that he hopes for Henman to still play.
Apr 11 Note-2
I guess I can't stop the emotions of people over our bad luck in the "draw" (though it may not be just "bad luck") .. I also want to state that the issue is not playing Australia, which we will do with confidence - and we can even go there and beat them; after all it has been some 9 years since Frejus; Leander and party has it in them to pull another one, for which it may be time .. That does not stop a friend (I withhold the name) from emailing from the far east:
"I still have not overcome the grief of the Davis Cup Draw and mind you it is the most draconian event ever to happen to Indian sovereignity since the Rowlett act .. Sweden, USA, Australia, what next? - Al Quaea? - come on, this has to stop. How about a signature campaign amongst our chaps? .. you have their addresses - and then send it to ITF .. We wait a whole year praying and supporting and our boys spill their blood and guts out to pass the tests with few hiccups only to see ourselves crucified purposely by those self-serving mandarins .. Ahh, the pain doesn't stop .. Wake up, the journalistic fraternity in India .. I for one will talk to somebody in Bombay and here in <place withheld>, and at the ATF to some people I know" ..
Never thought I would hear Rowlett act mentioned in a tennis matter! .. Well, what can I say? .. Perhaps there was nothing and the UK betting website got a brainwave on monday about Britain playing Thailand .. I hope to hear something from some source that the draw was indeed done in public in London on wednesday and if so, we cannot complain .. I haven't heard that yet .. I suggest that other than asking about it, we shouldn't do anything - I for one would like to see ITF not lose their generally well-accepted reputation. Hopefully the Indian press and others would have some info soon. We will wait .. I sincerely hope that this is not all a mountain out of a mole-hill.
Apr 11 Note-2
There is a report that Australia will pick outdoor hardcourts for the Sep 22-24 tie with India .. If you haven't read my notes below (Apr 8 thru Apr 10), please do - as far as I am concerned, ITF needs to give us some answers on whether they actually did a draw, and if so how some people in London knew about who might play whom on Monday itself, which I gave evidence for, below .. As for me, I am looking around for any evidence on whether *anybody* actually SAW the "draw" on wednesday. If anybody did, then I will shut up and apologize profusely to ITF for even doubting their integrity .. If not, ITF should have the decency to can the whole thing and do an actual draw and be fair to Canada, India and Thailand .. Of course that is way too much to hope for, but the stink of the whole thing will stay around and we (at least I) won't ever forget it.
I hope at least the Indian press is following up on this. Dont' take it lightly. If ITF does not have evidence that impartial observers saw the draw (and that it was seen on wednesday - if they had done the draw before monday, that is against the rules), this practice needs to be stopped RIGHT NOW! ..
Lleyton Hewitt had apparently talked to John Fitzgerald the captain before the Davis Cup draw and asked him to let him know whom they would be playing .. Too early to say if Lleytonwill play (he didn't play in their loss in Argentina when Scott Draper and Andrew Ilie played for them) .. Matk Philippoussis is back playing again, but is always injury prone .. So it's all early to say who the Aussies would throw against us - this being a relegation tie, we can expect the Aussies not to take any chances - that may be why they may not pick a grass surface even though they know how to play on grass (nobody wants to take a chance against Leander on a grasscourt).
MB and Mirnyi did not play last night at Estoril .. Their first round match is postponed to today.
Rushmi and Urska vesenjak went down in the first round at the Ho Chi Minh City challenger, 57 36 to the 4th seeds Kristin Freye (GER) and Tzu-Ting Weng (TPE).
There was another big upset today at the Nagpur satellites, as the kid Isha Lakhani took out the 2nd seed Radhika Tulpule, 60 75 .. Isha is quite something!
Apr 10 Note-3
Mahesh and Max Mirnyi will be playing their first round today late evening at the Estoril (Portugal) ATP ..
Rushmi Chakravarti (IND,423) was upset by Tzu-Ting Weng (TPE,495) yesterday at the Ho Chi Minh City challenger, 64 75 - Rushmi's troubles abroad continues .. We will have to keep waiting for her to get over the hump and start winning abroad like she can, one of these days! .. Rushmi and Urska Vesenjak were to play the doubles first round today against the 4th seeds Kristin Freye (GER) and Tzu-Ting Weng (TPE) ..
Sania Mirza had one of the rare poor losses today - against #179 Olivia Lukaczewicz of Australia in the second round at the Japan Open grade-1, 46 06, after a first round bye .. I hope she is not injured or anything .. She was not in the doubles draw there, and so this week is done for Sania .. I believe she will be at the Taipei ITF juniors in Taiwan next week.
Apr 10 Note-2
If you are wondering about the UK web page where I found the "GBR to play THA" rumor earlier, here its is - "Brits could face Thailand trip" .. Note that this was posted on Apr 8th, as in the URL .. "Britain must now win a promotion/relegation play-off to remain in the World Group. And their possible opponents are now known .. Thailand beat Japan 4-1 in Bangkok and would be Britain's likely chosen opponents .. Other possible opponents include Venezuela who edged past Ecuador, the side Britain beat in last year's play-offs", they said on Monday even before the seeds were announced on Tuesday .. "would be Britain's likely chosen opponents" ??? .. Huh? .. Hello, how does this website know this about picking one team out of eight in a "draw"? [Note also that they made a mistake, and said Britain would be going to Thailand, rather than playing at home! - so clearly this is based on something they heard, and not based on any extensive "betting" research by them!] .. Was India facing Britain in India a ruled-out possibility, somehow? .. Or Britain against Zimbabwe, Canada, Romania, etc - but wait, they would all be away-ties for them .. May be ITF does not do a real "draw", may be everybody knows this, and I am being naive in having thought that they actually did a draw .. If this is stuff pulled out of their you-know-what by the seeding committee, then ITF should say it and IMMEDIATELY stop using the word "draw" which has a well-understood meaning .. I said I will stop talking about this - so I guess I will .. I hope somebody takes it up from here. I say that ITF should throw away today's picks, go back and actually DO a DRAW .. We need some answers, and I am serious.
I have added the draws and all results from today at the Nagpur satellite page .. No surprises today .. There could be som einteresting matches tomorrow in the QFs - Isha vs Radhika, Samrita vs Sonal, and Sai vs Sheetal.
Apr 10 Note-1
This is supposed to be a "DRAW" right? .. Or is it?? .. I had already posted the rumor I saw at a British sports website (which has some betting connections) even before the seedings were announced on Tuesday that they were hearing about Britain going to play Thailand .. And sure enough they are playing Thailand after the "DRAW" .. Then I said that the probablity for 6 consecutive road ties for any team is less than 2 percent ..India now makes a 7th trip in a row, the chance for which is less than 1% in 7 draws .. But the so-called "DRAW" was done today (or so it seems) and ITF just anounced that INDIA will go to AUSTRALIA .. The worst possible matchup given to India for the 3rd consecutive year .. By the way, I have been saying for a couple of days that I expected India to be drawn against Australia, as a guess - That was was tongue-in-cheek and; it was just a guess and nothing but a guess .. I guess I should get a prize for the guess .. But right now I am absolutely positively mad at what is going on .. Really, I wonder what the HELL IS GOING ON ?? .. I am not trying to cast aspersions on what ITF does and I assume some people actually SAW this draw at London (or DID anybody?) .. If not, I want to know how exactly it was done. As far as I am concerned ITF can go take a big leap off a cliff with their high-falluting talk about "rewarding countries for winning abroad" and their new ranking system and their crap about doubles success rate being a criterion and all that. This stuff stinks, and I am THIS close to suggesting that something is rotten in Denmark .. OK, there. Now we move on, take up the challenge and go after the Aussies (who, despite Lleyton Hewitt, are not the greatest Davis Cup sqaud ever or anything, and are not invincible) ..
By the way, I could not find much in the Davis Cup rule book on the exact procedures on how the "draw" is to be conducted, except for some lines on placing the seeds for the world group - perhaps by "draw" they mean that they draw some nice pictures on a cocktail napkin .. But somebody may want to find out how the GBR-vs-Thailand rumor was published on Sporting-Life Online Tuesday in London before the "draw" was done today, if it indeed was done like ITF claimed it would be ["The draw will take place 10 Apr 2002 at ITF headquarters in London at 11 am GMT", they said in their Tuesday news release] .. Just take a look at the matchups Australia, Britain and Brazil got (and take a look at the members of the ITF committee in my last note) .. I rest my case .. You are more than welcome to make conclusions .. I ain't saying nothing .. I am already skating on thin ice with near-accusations, and I may not say anything more on this unless something comes up.
Here is the draw:
vs India (16)
Netherlands (8) vs Finland (27) in Finland.
Brazil (9) vs Canada (23) in Brazil.
Germany (12) vs Venezuela (24) in Germany.
Belgium (13) vs Zimbabwe (21) in Zimbabwe.
Slovak Republic (14) vs Romania (20) in Slovak Republic.
Switzerland (17) vs Morocco (25) in Morocco
Great Britain (18) vs Thailand (26) in Great Britain.
More later, after I calm down .. See the Nagpur women's results at the satellite Leg-2 page .. Only partial results there, but I have got the official full draws, and will update it very soon.
Apr 9 Notes
Well, my calculations were perfectly correct, it seems, on the Davis Cup ranking (hey, may be that "Dr" in front of my name is deserved - I can add and subtract pretty well!! :-)) .. India moved up to #16 with 2767.5 points in the world Davis Cup rankings released last hour, edging ahead of Swtzerland with 2750 points and Britain with 2450 points .. I had to guess some of the twists in the calculations that they had not publicized in doing my calculations yesterday.
But the bad news is that they announced the seedings just now and ITF kept (not-so-Great) Britain as one of the seeds .. Belgium, as could be guessed is the only regional qualifier who got seeded; the other seven are all first round losers from this years world group .. The seeds are, Australia(2), Netherlands(8), Brazil(9), Germany(12), Belgium(13), Slovak Republic(14), Switzerland (17), and Great Britain(18) .. As I had guessed, Morocco(25) is the one WG 2002 first round loser who is not seeded .. These 8 teams will be drawn tomorrow to play against the other eight, which are, India(16), Romania(20), Zimbabwe(21), Canada(23), Venezuela(24), Morocco(25), Thailand(26) and Finland(27) ..
Close but no cigar for India .. If I were ITF, I would have kicked Britain out of there, for not doing anything much in Davis Cup ever since beating India 3-2 at home four years back to make the world group .. They have even lost at home, on grass on the wimbledon courts, to Ecuador (though they did beat Ecuador on the road once later to stay in the world group)! .. But the ATP ranks of Henman and Rusedski keep them in the world group, though that has meant pretty much zilch whenever Britain went up against anybody good. ITF could have rewarded India for getting up the rankings, for winning four regional ties in a row on the road and for our players' commitment and heart with a seeding (also on the basis of our doubles team, which is one of their three criteria), but they chose not to .. The seedings were done by The ITF’s Davis Cup Committee, chaired by ITF Executive Vice President Juan Margets of Spain. Other members of the Committee are Neale Fraser (AUS), Jean-Paul Loth (FRA), Harry Marmion (USA) and Nelson Nastas (BRA) .. Actually I saw a news item in the Sporting-Life Online from UK, published before the seeds were announced, with a rumor that Britain would be seeded and that Thailand (away) could possibly be their opponent - so I guess people did know which way the winds were blowing - after all ITF is based in London :-) .. Anyway, no big complaints - and I think ITF knew that there woudn't be too many people who would figure out there was any reason for a complaint to start with! .. But, hey, we Indians can't be fooled that easily though we are good enough sports to take it on stride :-)) .. Well, sometimes you have to do these things the hard way .. We will end up with one of the top-17 countries in the September WG qualifiers and that's fine ..
Based on my pessimism after drawing the worst matchups the last two years for the WG playoff, I am still sticking with India being drawn to face Australia in Australia .. Brazil or Slovak Rep in India would be nice (the latter would be by lot, so we could end up going to SVK too) .. Britain in India would not be too good, as we can't easily find a surface that suits us and not them .. I am not sure that Belgium is a home-tie for us - they don't consider where two countries played before 1970 in deciding the choice of ground -- India played Belgium three times before 1935 and once at a neutral site in the 50s; so the homefield advantage is decided by lot .. We played Germany in 1970 in India, so I think we will go to Germany if they are drawn for us .. Generally the odds are not too good for a home tie this time and we could easily end up with an incredible 7th away tie in a row ..The draw comes out tomorrow by 10 am British time.
In other news, 16 yr old Isha Lakhani pulled a big upset over experienced and seeded Archana Venkatraman, 63 75 at the Nagpur satellites .. No other surprises there - more later on that.
Apr 8 Note-2
I did some back of the envelope calculations -- if I am reading the rather vaguely stated ITF rules on the ranking point system properly, India now has 2767.5 points and has gone up to around the #16 spot in the ITF Davis Cup world ranks, moving ahead of Britain and edging by a few points ahead of Switzerland too .. But these are rather complicated calculations to see when which points drop off for each country (and how and when the points' weight decrease for former years, etc) - so no guarantees that I did this right .. We may be the 7th highest ranked team in the 16-team field for the world group playoff .. Would that give us a coveted seeding for the world group playoff? -- we will know in a few hours when ITF announces the seeds .. An outside chance does exist for some good news for us.
Mahesh Bhupathi is in the doubles draw at the Estoril (Portugal) ATP with Max Mirnyi (BLR) as the top seeds .. They play wildcards Harel Levy (ISR) and Fernando Meligeni (BRA) .. Mirnyi had a tough time over the weekend in the Davis Cup, losing all three matches against Zimbabwe at Harare ..Losing to Wayne Black and Byron Black in singles and also losing the doubles with Voltchkov to Black-Ullyett ..
Rushmi Chakravarti is in the main draw of the Ho Chi Minh City Challanger in Vietnam .. She plays Tzu-Ting Weng of Taipei on Tuesday .. She is also in the doubles draw, playing with Urska Vesenjak (SLO) .. Doubles for her should be on wednesday.
The newspapers really did not report anything from the Nagpur leg of the women's satellites .. I will wait for some news to come by.
Sania Mirza is at the prestigious grade-1 Japan Open .. She is the 7th seed with a first round bye in a draw of 64 .. Drawn in the same quarter of the draw as the one she lost closely to, last week - Szuszanna Babos .. Isha, Amanjot and Saurabh were also in the entry list earlier, but not in the draw .. I assume thay have all returned to India from Manila -- Japan is quite an expensive place to go to.
Remember the UP kid who we talked about earlier? .. 13 yr old Sumit Prakash Gupta - he continues to do well .. After going virtually unbeaten in the ITF South and Central Asian under-14 juniors, he was selected to the Eastern tour along with the ITF team, and he won the east asian u14 event last week in Jakarta as well! .. Here is the news article from The Hindu with all the details ..
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 ..
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Apr 8 ..
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.