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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Apr 19, 1999

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Apr 19 Note-1

Monte Carlo Super 9 draw info and the new rankings, coming soon ..

The Four-week ITF women's circuit ($20K total prizemoney, $5K each week) starts today at Mumbai .. It will be followed by the next three legs at Bangalore, Delhi and Lucknow .. In the original entry list, there were 6 foreign players, but as of yesterday when the draw was made, there was only one foreigner who showed up .. It is Anna Nefedova, 17 yr old Russian who had come to India for the last circuit in October too .. She actually played quite indifferent tennis for three weeks, but played well in the last week to reach the semis and pick up 2 WTA points in the end (the points are only based on the final week's results - the top 16 players from the first three weeks make it to the final leg) .. She must really like India to go there during the hot summer and play for four weeks .. Either that, or she is in India for sight-seeing for three weeks and tennis for the last week (just kidding! - good to have at least one player to make it an "international" event) .. The last satellites in October had two players from Thailand also - Montika Anuchan and Orawan Wongkamalasai - who have not returned this time .. Basically, a maximum of 5 points after 4 weeks of tennis is just too little .. So, we should look at this as essentially 4 weeks of Rs. 2.25 lakh domestic tournaments .. Not bad for Indian players to get match practice that they badly lack with women's domestic circuit being in shambles (actually this circuit and the one planned in October are the real domestic circuit of 8 weeks for our women) .. We still have to wait for AITA to bring in some futures weeks for slightly higher competition and more WTA points - none planned yet for the rest of the year, sadly.

The top seed at Mumbai is Sai Jayalakshmi, followed by Anna Nefedova at #2 .. Other than Manisha Malhotra and Uzma Khan, all other top Indian players are in the draw - Rushmi, Archana, Arati, Janaki, Shruti, Sheetal, Radhika, etc .. I have posted the info I have so far, at the Mumbai woimen's satellite page ..

Apr 18 Notes

Not much in tennis for a couple of days now .. LP and MB will be the top seeds at the big Monte Carlo Super 9 starting tomorrow, giving about 400+ pts to the winner along with close to $150K to share .. I have not seen the list of teams there yet - the draw will be out by tomorrow .. It is a 28-draw doubles field, with the top four seeds getting first round byes .. That means our boys will not be playing till about Wednesday out there .. That gives them a couple of days to get used to the clay courts - this is their first clay court tournament of the year, to be followed by Hamburg and Rome Super 9s and the French Open .. Last year LP-MB reached the smis, beating Albano/Corretja and Kempers/Oosting in R2 and QF, and losing to the eventual champions, Eltingh/Haarhuis, in three sets, 2-6, 7-6(4), 5-7 .. The Dutchmen beat the Woodies in the final there ..

Here is what our resident doubles statistician, Ajay Verma, sent me last weekend: By next week, Bhupathi has a chance to become # 1 as Haarhuis will be defending 362 pts (Barcelona). If he fails to reach QF, he will lose his #1 ranking and he will be #3 behind Paes. If Haarhis manages to remain # 1 on 19th April, the following week he'll be defending 481 points. I'm certain that our guys will be #1 and # 2 before the end of this month .. (It's nice to have Ajay saving me the time of going through the numbers .. Thanks!) .. Yes, there was a chance for MB to become #1 tomorrow since Haarhuis was defending his title at Barcelona last year with Eltingh .. Rather unexpectedly, he teamed up with Kafelnikov and has reached the final again there (I don't know the score from today's final, but they were playing a pickup team of Bertollini-Brandi, so I guess he would repeat his title) - So, Haarhuis will remain as #1 on Monday ahead of MB and LP at #2 and #3 .. Haarhuis has even more to take care of next week, as Ajay said, for the title he is defending at Monte Carlo .. If our boys win the Monte Carlo title and Haarhuis does not reach the final, we will see MB at #1 on Apr 27th, with LP behind him .. Anyway, I guess Haarhuis is with Kafelnikov only temporarily and will go back to Galbraith as his partner, though their results have not been all that great this year.

Note that I haven't bothered to talk about our team possibly becoming #1 in team-rankings next week anyway - A lot of people seem to make a big deal of the team ranks, but that is rather off-base .. The team rankings are based on Calendar year points and will make sense only closer to the year-end .. Heck, Eagle-Florent was #1 last year in January .. The true rankings are the 12-month rankings, and our pair has been already #1 on that count for a while .. Can't pronounce them the undisputed #1 team though, till they are #1 and #2, or #1 and #3 in individual ranks .. You see, theoretically Haarhuis can team up with Nestor tomorrow, and will be tied for a #1 with a rank-sum of 5, as I believe Nestor will probably be #4 tomorrow moving over the retired Eltingh .. Even more interestingly, tomorrow could potentially be the only date when this eventuality could happen, if our boys win the title at Monte Carlo next week without having to face Haarhuis in the final .. I was aware of it, which is why I never officially "pronounced" them as #1 in the world (:-)) even though the current #4 Eltingh had retired and there was none that Haarhuis team up with, to dispute our pair's top billing .. I know it's all rather confusing, but it's certainly interesting .. More on this later.

Apr 17 Note-2

Well, I said yesterday that I wouldn't bet against (or for) LP in any given match, regardless of how well or poorly he and his opponent played in the previous matches .. Mahesh clearly played a better tournament throughtout the week, disposing of much higher ranked opponenents easily, than LP who was almost struggling past players ranked near 250s and below .. The report I have heard about today's match is that LP was indeed able to raise his game enough to get past Mahesh who didn't play that badly either .. Score: Leander d. Mahesh, 7-5, 6-4 in the final - In doubles, Behr/Ran beat Whitehouse/Cowen, 63 46 64 (thanks go to PF Montes at AITA for the scores, and to a press friend for a match report) .. It seems like a couple of unlucky mistakes at some key points and a couple of strong serves by LP at crucial break attempts by MB proved to be the difference .. MB did go up a break first in the first set but LP came back strongly .. MB once again had a chance to go up a break at 2-0 in the second set and later had break pts late in the second set too, but LP managed to thwart his attempts every time.

By the way, I am told this was a hotly contested match - if any of you thought LP or MB would go soft on the doubles partner across the net, you were dead wrong ! .. They are both way too professional for that .. All three of their matches have been hotly contested .. I am sure that neither would want to see any charity from the opponent either .. Let's hope that MB would not let it bother him that he has lost three in a row to Leander - there are really only very few on the tour who can beat LP for sure when LP is focused on his job, and I would bet that respect for Mahesh's abilities is one big reason for Leander showing up ready for MB every time .. Also, I am told neither seemed to be enjoying the match much, and neither seemed all that relaxed .. There were also some disputed line calls in the match that angered the players .. Heck, that's how it should be - showing true rugged spirit to win the match, and not allowing distractions to creep in .. On the court, there should be no soft feelings to the one across the net - nor should there be any worries that going after your doubles partner would cause us to think that the partnership is still a bit shaky .. Good show by both .. There are my feelings on this match (.. OK, more like my blabber, as I did not see the match! :-))

But really this was Mahesh's tournament .. He has come back into the swing of things in singles with a bang .. Two finals in the last three challengers (Calcutta, Singapore, Delhi), after hardly reaching a semifinal ever since his final at Kyoto in Feb 97 and the Puerto vallarta challenger semi in Apr 97 .. He has 155 pts and a near top-265 ranking now with less than 40 pts to defend for the rest of the year .. LP goes up to 478 pts, just outside the top-100 .. He should be able to move up well in ranking during the next 2.5 months if he does well at Queens and Wimbledon, and perhaps qualifies into the draw at Hamburg, Rome or Nottingham/sHertogenbosch.

Done with singles for the next couple of weeks .. They leave for the Monte Carlo Super 9 right now .. The singles draw is closing inside the top-75 there I believe, and LP has missed the singles quals over the weekend .. Our dudes will be the top seeds there and have 169 pts to defend from the SF there last year .. The draw will be out in a couple of days.

Apr 17 Note-1

All I could find so far is that Leander has just beaten Mahesh in the final at Delhi in two sets as of 11 am there .. No scores known yet .. Since it's late here, I will go to bed .. I am sure I will get the scores and details from India by the time I get up .. Will give details then.

Apr 16 Note-2

The newspaper reports on today's semifinals at Delhi are that Mahesh played very smart tennis and was able to make adjustments at the right times .. He also seemed to have his first serve back in order (that had gone for a walk for quite a few weeks actually!) .. He is still bothered by a slightly sore arm, though .. This is MB's second win in a row over Etlis - the previous was in the qualies at Wimbledon last year, when he had another comeback to win 12-10 in the 3rd set, after dropping the first set tiebreaker .. As for LP, he has been on and off throughout the week .. He reportedly looked a bit slow-footed (by his standards, I assume! :-)) too, today .. He has shown the ability to keep everyone nervous through the match, though not looking like he was losing control of the match, pretty much all week .. LP had 4 match pts and had to fight off one against him in the 3rd set tiebreaker .. He had another dive and a few bruises today .. Both seem excited about the final tomorrow .. LP has 43 pts so far, putting him back at No.1 in Asia again .. Mahesh has 48 pts (5 bonus too, for beating one top-200 and two top-150 players) so far .. His rankings will move up inside top-260 .. A win tomorrow can push Mahesh up near 235 ! .. His last challenger title came at Jakarta in 1995 (he had a semifinal walkover from LP in that one too!) .. LP is 2-0 over MB (Ahmedabad challenger in 97 and Calcutta challenger in February) - both were comebacks after MB won the first set .. All the newspaper reports are picking MB to win tomorrow, based on how well he has played at Delhi so far .. But I have learned long back never to pick against (or for) LP on any given day! .. Should be a good match.

The match should be on Doordarshan (they seem to cover all challenger finals) on Saturday .. Not sure of the time, but one newspaper had mentioned 9.45 am in the morning .. If those of you in India with TV can come in to our chatroom and give us updates, we fans would all appreciate that .. Unless I hear otherwise from someone, let's assume that the match starts at 9.45 am (9.15 pm Friday, PST, USA), and meet in the chatroom ..

Today's news is that the French Open draw closed at an incredible 104 .. Becker is the only one among the top-104 not to enter, but his spot is taken by Chris Woodruff, who has an injury-protected ranking .. I am sure there will be 3 or 4 withdrawals by the time the qualies start, but Leander making it in is not as much of a sure thing as I thought a couple of days back, with his 108 ranking .. He is #4 in the waiting list.

Nirupama Vaidyanathan was at some domestic prize money tournaments in France this week (she had to get special permission to play, from the French Tennis Federation) .. She chose not to move from clay and play at the only challenger in Europe this week, which was on hardcourts .. She will be at the Gelos challenger in France next week, and then will try for the qualies at the Bol (Croatia) and Warsaw (Poland) WTA events.

Apr 16 Note-1

These two don't want anybody to beat them in India, huh ? .. LP and MB are in the finals at the Delhi challenger .. The second time in a row, in the last two challengers they have played in India ! .. M. Bhupathi d. #3 Gaston Etlis (ARG,142), 3-6, 6-0, 7-5 and L. Paes d. Gregory Carraz (FRA,207), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(9) in the semis today .. More details soon ..

Apr 15 Note-1

Doesn't it look like our two boys have shown some renewed sense of purpose in their tennis, ever since they got into some "controversy" before Chennai ? .. They have inched closer to another dream final, with both reaching the semifinals today at Delhi .. First Leander d. Jeff Coatzee (RSA,247), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 and then Mahesh d. (2-seed) Vladimir Voltchkov (BLR,137), 6-3, 6-3 .. Make that 25 pts for leander and 28 for Mahesh so far .. LP gets another unseeded player tomorrow - Gregory Carraz (FRA,207), who upset the 6th seed Ogorodov today, and MB gets another top seed, #3 Gaston Etlis (ARG,142), who stopped young Vinciguerra's good run .. LP made a couple of bad volleying mistakes in the 10th game of the second set which cost him the set, but played a super 3rd set and showed solid tennis, I am told .. As for MB, he has just been beating the seeds as though he owned them! ..

MB has now 135 points and has moved inside the top-280 to basically assure himself of a spot in the French Open qualifiers .. Out of the 135 pts, 93 have come from 5 tournaments he has played since January .. He has played singles at only 11 tourneys in the last 12 months, less than half of what most guys play, as I mentioned before .. It means that he would be easily ranked in the top 150-175 with 250-300 pts, had he been able to concentrate only on singles - that or higher would certainly be his deserved rank, which is why I said his ranking is perhaps the most erroneous one in the ATP list .. Talent-wise, many probably feel that he could go up much higher too, but it's tough when one plays so much of doubles, missing qualies over the weekends, but he certainly can't and shouldn't let doubles slip [repeat of what I have often said! :-)].. With this good start, if he keeps this up, he should be able to move inside the top-200 pretty easily during the rest of the year - he will now definitely get to try out the qualifiers at many of the bigger tournaments too .. Good job by Hesh, after almost two years in the wilderness in singles .. As for LP, one more win will get him his Asian #1 rank back a week after he lost it, and keep him inside the top 105, in good shape for the grass season .. I think some pressure is off from both guys, and that's nice when they embark on a serious stetch of Super 9 doubles next .. But then again, whenever they do well, the expectations go up and the pressure will be back! :-) .. Right now, let us hope for two wins tomorrow!

I have added the results at the Delhi challenger page .. thanks go to a press friend and Mr. PF Montes at AITA for results so far.

Apr 14 Note-2

Leander plays Jeff Coetzee of South Africa (#247) tomorrow in the quarterfinals at Delhi .. Coetzee, who turns 22 in a couple of weeks was recently added to the RSA Davis Cup team, and is considered part of a few youngsters (Wesley Whitehouse, Justin Bower, Damien Roberts, etc) on whom South Africa has a lot of hopes .. Coetzee started last year at about 450 in ranking and ended the year at around 220, after he topped the ITF central African satellites .. This year, he already has wins over those like Mark Draper, ranked near the top-150 .. At 5-8", he is a short guy, but Leander will have his hands full tomorrow .. The reports have been that LP has been finding it hard to get motivated at this challenger, though he has done what is needed so far - he even threw his racket and kicked a ball into the stands today .. The kind of things he does sometimes to get fired up :-) .. The lack of big crowds there, with the soaring temperature, is also not helping LP .. By the way, Takao Suzuki, who took over from LP as the #1 Asian player for this week, has lost in the first round to Lareau at the Japan Open .. He had nothing to defend this week (he lost last year also in the first round at the home tournament!) .. He is right now a point ahead of LP, and LP has 30 pts to defend this week .. So, if he reaches the final here, he will get his #1 Asian ranking back (semis here will give him only 25 pts - not enough!) .. LP may have to go through the other Asian who had moved ahead of him for a couple of weeks during the last three years, Oleg Ogorodov, seeded 6th here, before reaching the final, if he handles Coetzee tomorrow .. Ogorodov beat Gilles Elseneer today and faces Gregory Carraz next - Carraz got a walkover from Breen, who is also down with diarrhea ..

As for Mahesh, he got the day off, but he was also applying ice-packs to the shoulder which seems to be a bit sore again .. As Steve Gocha wrote to me today, we have to be aware that getting a walkover is often the kiss of death in ATP tournaments .. A very, very, high percentage of matches are lost in the next round by those who get walkovers ! .. Let us hope MB doesn't add to that stat .. He gets a tough opponent in the QF - the second seeded Vladimir Voltchkov, a very talented 21 year old (former junior Wimbledon champ), ranked 137 this week .. How good is he ? .. Well, those who saw him take Moya to three sets last week at Chennai and take Becker to two tiebreak sets in a loss last year at Chennai, would know that he is *very* good .. He has wins over those like Kucera (at Wimbledon last year, where he reached the 3rd round!) .. He also has a win over top-75 Prinosil last year, and has won the Puebla challenger in Mexico and the Hamburg challenger in Germany in the last few months .. He is also another player who is not all that tall, at 5-11" .. But then again, Mahesh also has taken Moya to the brink of a loss (again at Wimbledon) .. This promises to be a great matchup tomorrow!

In other matches today at Delhi, the small kid from Sweden, Andreas Vinciguerra continues his good run - the qualifier beat Eyal Ran ranked over 200 spots above him .. Andreas is yet another short, small player - nice to know that it's not all brawn, muscle, and height that wins matches in tennis still! .. Vinci has to face the 3rd seed Gaston Eltis next, though - will be tough.

In other news, Akshay Vishal Rao, 16 yr old and highest ranked junior boy from India, moved up about 15 spots to #143 in the world, after his 3 rounds of wins at the Manila Grade-2 event last week .. The highest ranked girl is Sheetal Gautam, who is at #88 .. There are a couple of girls in Asia, (Na LI of China, Suchanan Viratprasert of Thailand, etc) ranked ahead of Sheetal, and there are about 4 or 5 boys ranked ahead of AV Rao .. I am still a bit disappointed that the Indian boys who started the year ranked just outside 100, have not moved up much after the Soth Asian, and the East Asian circuit of junior events .. Only Sheetal has really made a splash, other than the 16 yr old Sunil Kumar, who did not play a lot of the events. Sheetal will be playing in the satellite circuit starting next week in India for women .. Sai, Rushmi, Arati, Archana, etc, are in the entry list which shows 19 Indians and a few foreigners .. More later on that.

Apr 14 Note-1

Leander and Mahesh have both reached the quarterfinals at the $25K+H Indian Oil Servo ATP challenger in Delhi, today .. Mahesh had the easy time, getting a walkover from Andy Fahlke who is sick .. Leander had to go through a second set of trouble, before taking care of Ota Fukarek (CZE, 245), 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 .. LP gets 13 pts and MB gets 14 pts for reaching the QFs .. The only other score I have seen is that the 3rd seed Eltis (ARG) moved on, beating Jonathan Stark in three sets .. Will get the other scores soon from India and I will update the Delhi challenger page ..

Apr 13 Note-2

I have updated all the scores from the Delhi challenger today, at the challenger page (thanks go to the press friend who emailed them to me!) .. Reportedly Mustafa "Pete" Ghouse had perhaps a better match than the other three wildcards, but lost in two sets, 4-6, 5-7 to Gilles Elseneer, a big server .. Mustafa even had a set point in the second set, but couldn't capitalize .. In other matches, LP had a pretty easy one where he did not have to exert much and could advance with just some percentage tennis .. The bad news is that he slipped once and appeared to twist his ankle, though he came back after some medical attention and later said it was not hurting or anything .. So what's new ? :-( .. Stay tuned - hopefully it's nothing serious .. MB's opponent tomorrow, Andy Fahlke, was ill today and withdrew from the doubles - not sure if it's bad enough to cause him problems tomorrow against MB .. Mahesh, by the way, reportedly played a very good match and showed how his ranking of 318 is perhaps the most incorrect one on the ATP list (he actually often beats anybody below the top-150 or 200 ranking) .. Ketola, who had won the challenger at Lucknow the week after he lost in the semis at Calcutta to Mahesh, couldn't do much today with MB hustling him around and volleying well .. There was one other upset also today - 4th seed Neville Godwin lost to Gregory Carraz .. Only the 1, 2, 3, and 6 seeds remain in the final-16 ..

Apr 13 Note-1

Leander and Mahesh both won today at the Delhi challenger ! .. First, Hesh upset the 7th seed Tuomas Ketola (#186, FIN), 6-4, 6-3 on the center court, and then Leander followed, handling Joseph Sirianni (AUS,343) easily, 6-3, 6-2 .. LP next plays Ota Fukarek (CZE), who beat Noam Behr today, and Mahesh plays qualifier Andy Fahlke, who beat Fazal yesterday .. 2nd seed Voltchkov won today, and so did Jonathan Stark .. I have not got the info on Mustafa Ghouse' match yet .. Check the Delhi challenger page for updates .. Even though the tournament office doesn't have ISD facilities to fax me the results, I may get it through AITA if all goes well .. MB picks up 8 pts and LP gets 7 pts for the wins.

The new rankings show Leander at 108, perhaps a couple of spots ahead than I expected .. This is good news, as I believe the French Open entries close based on these ranks, and Leander has a very good chance of making it in as one of the last entries .. The entries normally closes somewhere in the 107-110 range, after some withdrawals occur before the quals start .. LP has 448 pts now .. Takao Suzuki (JPN) with 449 pts is temporarily the Asian #1, a spot ahead of LP .. Mahesh moved up a few spots to 318 .. Reching the final at Delhi would assure Mahesh of a top-260 ranking and a spot in the FO qualifiers (he may not get to play singles anywhere before that), but even a semifinal appearance would leave him with some chance, as players in the top-275 sometimes get into the qualies there (FO normally has the highest cut-off for qualies among all grand slams) .. This challenger is an important one for LP too .. Since LP is also not assured of getting any singles chances over the next 4 weeks, he needs points here to assure himself of a Wimbledon entry which closes in 4 weeks .. He has 30 points to defend this week, and basically needs to win at least 2 or 3 rounds to be sure of staying inside top-112 or so, to get into Wimbledon .. After this tournament, LP has nothing to defend all the way till Newport in the last week of the grass season, about 3 months from now - but he may get to play singles at only 3 or 4 places in that period - the next few weeks are heavy for doubles, with 3 Super 9s (Monte Carlo, Hamburg, Rome), the FO, etc ..

Apr 12 Note-2

Leander plays the Australian, Joseph Sirianni (#343 last week) in the first round at the $25K+H Indian Oil Servo ATP challenger at Delhi tomorrow .. LP has never played Joseph, a 24 year old who did very well late last year, winning the very competitive Australia #3 satellites getting a wildcard to this year's Australian Open .. He doesn't seem to have played anywhere after the AO, though .. Not necessarily a cakewalk for LP, who I am told was flying in this evening from Chennai, and will have to go out and play tomorrow morning .. As for Mahesh, it's amazing how he always ends up with a seeded player, though Tuomas Ketola of Finland (#186 last week) is a player he has beaten before (at the Calcutta challenger 2 months back, 6-2, 7-6) .. Ketola is seeded 7th, but had not entered the tournament and had to play the qualifiers to get in .. There were three doubles losses for Indians to add to the three singles losses, today - the results are all at the Delhi challenger page .. One of these days I wish our players other than LP and MB would win a few matches somewhere and help me get my foot out of my mouth for talking so much about them all, and asking why they aren't given wildcards, etc :-) .. Oh well, that's how it has been lately .. Anyway, Andreas Vinciguerra (#490 last week, but moving up and up), the small-built Swedish hope repeated almost exactly what he did at Chennai last week - ended up facing Andre Sa (#169, BRA) and beat him by almost an identical score as at Chennai - 67 61 63 .. What are the odds on an 18 year old doing that twice ? .. Well, he must be for real .. 8th seed Lorenzo Manta was upset by 21-yr old South African, Jeff Coetzee - If I remember coreectly, he won the African satellites late last year too .. Actually, there are quite a few talented players at this tournament - Voltchkov and Whitehouse are both Wimbledon junior champions too (along with LP of course) .. Should be a good tournament, except for the fact that it is murder to schedule a tournament outdoors during daytimes at a place like Delhi now, in the middle of a heat-wave .. There have already been some serious complaints of dehydration and all that. Whoever wins this, would have earned it for the hardwork .. And hats off to those who are playing doubles too (thank God LP and MB have to play only singles!) ..

The new ATP rankings are not out yet, since the final at Hong Kong was rain-delayed to Monday .. LP-MB should be back at #2 in doubles team rankings.

Apr 12 Note-1

If you didn't see the results I had posted earlier at the Delhi challenger page .. well, you didn't miss anything great .. All three Indians who played today, Fazal, Srinath and Nitin lost in straight sets .. Bleak scenario .. LP, MB and Mustafa play tomorrow .. The draws are also at the web page .. More later.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Apr 12..