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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Apr 27, 1998

(Previous week's notes) (Next week) (Daily Notes Index)

Apr 27 Note-1

Great news!! Nirupama Vaidyanathan is in the main draw at the $107K Croatian Ladies Championship at Bo, Croatia, as far as I can figure out. She won the first two rounds of the qualifiers (in round 1, she beat 219th ranked Petra Rampre of Slovak Republic, 6-4, 6-3, and in round-2 she upset the 8th seed in the qualifiers, 174th ranked Eva Martincova of Czech Republic, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 .. courtesy: Michael Blue) .. The 3rd round results are not known, but I think it doesn't matter .. I hear that there have been two withdrawals from the main draw, and there will be two lucky loser spots in addition to the 4 qualifier spots. One of the two lucky loser spots will go to the final round loser among the only two seeds remaining in the qualifier draw, who are playing each other (Tina Krizan and Raluca Sandu) ! .. Since Nirupama is the next highest ranked player left in the qualifiers, she will get the other lucky loser spot, even if she loses the final round match, which I believe is against Sylvia Talaja of Croatia, ranked #223 .. We will wait and see for the final draw to come out .. I am trying to find out if the final round of qualifiers has been done already .. They tend to play those on Monday morning .. Anyway, it doesn't matter. Great to see Niru getting back to the winning ways .. The score of the comeback win against Martincova suggests that she took her completely out of the game in the last two sets ..

Saw a top-120 singles rank list as of today. Leander stays put at #103. Will have to wait and see if the ATP site will ever update the rankings (apparently ATP still has not sent the rankings of *last week* to the website guys .. sloppy, sloppy, sloppy ..)

Here is something interesting from the ATP site's news update today .. "The song tells us "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," so where does that leave the guys on the ATP Tour? Last Thursday, at the annual players' cabaret, they found the perfect way around this problem. Goran Ivanisevic sported pig-tails, Andrea Gaudenzi a bra, and Diego Nargiso glossy lipstick as they joined Nicolas Lapentti and Goran's physio Robert Prusac in the debut performance of the ATP Tour's very own Spice Girls. They brought the house down at the Monte Carlo Casino with a sultry version of "Too Much", and followed it with an up-beat cover of "I'm so excited" ... Other highlights included Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi starring with Francisco Montana and Don Johnson in a revamped version of Miami Vice and Magnus Gustafsson, Magnus Norman and Thomas Nydahl floating around as ballet dancers" .. Hmmm .. How about that ? .. At least they won their match on Friday, despite all the latenight fun at Monte Carlo .. What's it with Indians and the "Vice" shows ? ... Some may remember Vijay Amritraj as Shivrambhai Poonchawallah, supposedly from "Calcutta-Vice", in that mid 80s TV series called the "36th Precinct".. By the way, this Don Johnson has no relation to the original Don Johnson of Miami Vice ..

Apr 26 Notes

Here is the summary of my interview with Leander about the Monte Carlo heartbreak yesterday. Leander says the reason for that 5 game fall at the end of the match was, once again, Eltingh coming up with some incredible tennis. After LP/MB went up 5-2 in the 3rd set, the Dutchmen held serve and then Mahesh was serving for the match .. Eltingh somehow returned two or three of Mahesh's heat missile serves for straight winners and it went to deuce .. Then a match point for LP-MB. An almost-winner cross-court from MB was barely returned by Haarhuis, but it turned out to be a wicked lob that Leander had to chase all the way to the mediterranean sea there .. LP came up with a good return lob too, that Eltingh came out of nowhere to smash .. and the Dutchmen lived on .. Eltingh was in full flow from then on and despite it being touch and go on every game, they pulled it off. Leander says Mahesh was so fired up (and may be frustrated at how well Eltingh was playing) that he screamed stuff in Hindi that even surprised LP (.. Mahesh is so soft-spoken that LP had never seen him do that in years of playing with him) .. Much later, after the match, LP asked MB what the heck he was saying, and MB had no memory of it ! .. Anyway, sounds like it was a great match ..

So who won it today ? .. The flying Dutchmen summarily dismissed the #1 Woodies, 6-2, 6-4 .. Now, that says something about how well they are playing right now. We can see a pattern here .. The three most heartbreaking semifinal losses our guys have had in the last 8 months are the ones at the three tournaments with the toughest doubles draws during that period : The US Open, The Austrtalian Open, and now the Monte Carlo Super 9 .. In each case, the team that beat LP-MB went on to win the title. Kafelnikov/Vacek, Bjorkman/Eltingh and Eltingh/Haarhuis .. In all three instances, our guys gave the chmapions the toughest match they had to pull through. And LP-MB is the only team to reach semifinals at all three. Looking forward to see the pattern breaking at Roland Garros .. The veterans have all been ready and gunning for our boys lately, and do not want to let them reach the top easily, but the Dynamic Duo will conquer them sooner than they think !

Eltingh/Haarhuis get about 470 points and will become the #2 team next week, with LP/MB at #3 .. A correction on our guys' point total (from what I said yesterday): They will get only 172 points here (.. seems like the Kempers/Oosting win gives them only 6 bonus points, based on this week's rankings that I can only guess). Their totals will be 3224 (LP) and 3297 (MB), with a team total of 1202 ..

Leander and Mahesh return to India now. MB will be there for only less than a week before returning to Europe. LP will be in Calcutta for about 10 days and will go to Rome for the Italian Open starting on May 11. He will be there by around May 7th, and has decided to play the qualifiers for singles also (LP-MB is in the doubles draw as a top seed). He had originally planned to go to Florida for some more shoulder rehab, but apparently he has no pain at all now, and the Doctors have told him to just follow a work-out and training plan in Calcutta. He will again give his arm a rest and will not practice till the Monday before Rome.

No news on Nirupama's plans for this coming week yet.

Apr 25 Note-2

So, LP/MB finishes with 177 points here (160 tournament points and 17 bonus points). It could be 176 if the sum rank for Kempers/Oosting has fallen below the 100 it was last week (the ATP site still has not updated their rankings for this week, and I only have a top-50 list). This replaces the 63 points from the Prague challenger last year for LP. It replaces the 77 points from the Bangkok challenger for MB as that becomes his 15th best now. So LP should be at 3229 pts and MB should be at 3302 next week. Both career highs, of course !

One of these days LP/MB will take that big step to go over these two veteran teams in the rankings. The Woodies and the Dutchmen, that is. The new rankings next week should show LP and MB at #5 and #6 .. Kafelnikov, Vacek, Bjorkman all get no points here and they all had 170-200 points to defend from the semifinals last year. There is very small chance for Bjorkman to stay just ahead of LP depending on his 15th best tournament replacing the points dropping out. The top spots should remain the same with Eltingh, Woodforde, Woodbridge and Haarhuis regardless of tomorrow's final results, I believe .. Again, one of these days LP-MB will have to jump over them .. They have been coming oh-so-close lately. This is, by the way, normal for all top doubles teams, as you can see if you take a look at how many times the Woodies come close to winning a grand slam and becoming #1 before actually doing it and then staying there for ever.

LP and MB have 165 points falling off next week for the Paegas czech open title last year that they are not defending; so the rankings may change again next week.

The team ranking will not change from #2 for LP/MB, unless the Dutchmen beat the Woodies tomorrow. Right now, LP/MB is still at #2 with 1207 points this year, behind the Woodies at 1600+, and Eltingh/Haarhuis is at #3 with 1202 points (They have got 265 pts plus 48 bonus here, to add to the current total of 889), so they have not gone over our guys yet !

Apr 25 Note-1

Utter disbelief. They were down 2-6 and then 3-5 with Eltingh/Haarhuis serving .. Then the comeback .. They break them back and take it to a tiebreak to tie it up at 2-6, 7-6(5) .. Then we blink and LP-MB were up 5-2 with Eltingh/Haarhuis serving in the 3rd set .. Then we look again, and they had again lost 5 games in a row to lose the match 2-6, 7-6 (5), 5-7 .. How could this be ? .. Incredible .. Shades of the incredible loss to Eltingh/Bjorkman at the Australian .. I am too upset to say much more now .. Later .. Go LP-MB ! You will get them next time .. Great comeback from the depths of despair .. Wish they could close it out. Bye.

Apr 24 Note-2

So the Dynamic Duo meets Eltingh/Haarhuis for some revenge .. The last time these two teams played was at the Hartford ATP doubles championship league stage .. the Dutchmen then got revenge for their 2 losses in a row to the Indians earlier last year, and beat our guys 3-6, 2-6. That was the best day of tennis for the Dutchmen at Hartford and with everything clicking for them (especially with some hot first serve percentage up in the 90s!) LP-MB couldn't get anything done .. Of course, we all know that when it was all done, LP-MB were in the finals and Elt/Haar had lost in the semis. Anyway, time to get back to winning ways against those two, for our Duo.

The LP-MB match is on the center court tomorrow (poor Woodies get pushed to court 1 ..:-)) .. It is scheduled as the 3rd match after the singles semis there. The first one starts at 2 pm, so expect our guys' match to start at about 6.30 pm there (that is 12.30 pm EST, 9.30 am PST in the US.. 10 pm in India). There will be match score updates at the Leander page, or come to the chatroom for updates. The ATP site's live score page has shown a tendency to freeze up like today when they did not show any updates on our guys' match at all, but we have our ways to get the scores even if it happens again tomorrow ! ..

The singles semis at Monte Carlo: Moya vs Krajicek and Berasategui vs Pioline .. all the newsmaker guys are out of the singles there.

Now the bad news (this arrived a bot late today): #184 Nirupama Vaidynathan lost to #188 Noelle Van Lottum of France today, 3-6, 6-7 (6) in the semis at the $25K Espinho challenger .. I would say it was a pretty productive trip up to Portugal for her, getting a couple of good wins and some points, after a string of unproductive qualifiers and other losses. The latest schedule I have available is for her to be at the WTA Tournament at Bol, Croatia for next week (but that info is sevaral weeks old). I think she has to get up there for the qualifiers over the weekend in a hurry, and it's not a fast and easy train ride from Portugal to Croatia .. Will need to wait and see if she gets up there, or decides to play in any other tournament. Probably not, as there are no challengers in Europe next week, as far as I know. There are $10K Futures in Portugal, Italy, and England, but only those below #200 or 250 play in those Futures (There are two types of $10K Futures: one giving 10 pts for a title, and the other giving 5 .. It makes no sense for Niru to play in the latter, as in the case of the Mumbai and Delhi futures this year).

I usually don't give links to articles in Indian newspapers, as it is easier for the readers here to just see quotes for the the key points. But there is an article, an excellent one, on Paes', his career, its conflicts, and his his vision, by Sharda Ugra in The Hindu today that says too many insightful things to quote here. It just has to be read in its entirety. Here's the link to Sharda's article. A classic that all Paes fans should read .. Especially insightful is the last paragraph, which is quite true. Very well written. Check it out .. Interestingly (or, rather, ironically), The Hindu also has an article about Becker today .. take that for whatever that's worth !

Apr 24 Note-1

Ooooh, Stings ! .. Kempers/Oosting went down to our boys, 6-2, 6-4 .. Those Dutchmen grounded. Another pair ahead.. The Flying Dutchmen, Eltingh/Haarhuis tomorrow in the semifinals. The Woodies and Elt/Haar advanced with comeback 3-set wins today .. Agassi/Korda gave a walkover to Dosedel/Olhovskiy, so the qualifier pair meet Woodies in the semis. Korda lost, so Pete Sampras regains #1, despite his loss here, as Rios lost all of his points from last year's Monaco title .. More later.

Apr 23 Note-2

If you haven't noticed, I redesigned the Leander homepage slightly. This is not permanent, as a much more professional design is coming up soon from one of the fanclub members, including an Indian Tennis Homepage .. The MB and NV pages also will undergo changes soon .. Don't worry, the info content will not change .. Stay tuned ..

The LP/MB quarterfinal match against Kempers/Oosting is scheduled as the 3rd match on Court 2 (the first one starts at 12 pm). It should be around 3.30 pm there (9.30 am EST, 6.30 PST in the US, 7.00 pm in India) .. Kempers/Oosting is ranked #9 in team ranking, which is based on the 1998 points. Their individual rankings are 55 and 45, but that is about the most deceptive ranking in the individual list right now. These guys don't really have any points from before the US Open last year, and have been playing great doubles, ever since beating the Woodies in the first round at the US Open last year. They have consistently picked up points in most tournaments this year, though falling a bit short of the title most of the time. They did win the Copenhagen Cup title last month. Do NOT take them lightly.  I am sure LP/MB have noticed these guys. Definitely LP has.  Leander and Piet Norval lost to them in the quarterfinals at the Sydney Adidas Open in January in 3 sets, despite LP playing a pretty good match (one of our fanclub members, Merle Benkavich, was at that match and told me about it, if I remember correctly) .. And, Ke/Oo have beaten a pretty good Broad/Norval team there at Monte Carlo already .. But hey, they are playing DD .. K/O better be afraid of being KO'ed by our guys !

Nirupama got a really hard-fought win today at Espinho, Portugal, 7-6(8), 6-7(6), 6-3 .. She now faces Noelle van Lottum, ranked about where Niru is, in the quarterfinals. The draw there now is:

249 EDITH NUNES (FRA)             vs 426 Q-MARIAM RAMON (ESP)      \
184 4-NIRUPAMA VAIDYANATHAN (IND) vs 188 6-NOELLE VAN LOTTUM (FRA) / \
170 3-ALICIA ORTUNO (ESP)         vs 185 5-LAURENCE ANDRETTO (FRA) \ /
283 CELESTE CONTIN (ARG)          vs 365 Q-MARINA ESCOBAR (ESP)    /

Niru has 6 tournament points and 3 bonus so far. That will move her up about 10 spots or so, if she has nothing to defend (not sure of that, as I do not have the complete records for her 1997 matches, which is being very slowly compiled). A win in the quarterfinals will give her about 15 total points.

Apr 23 Note-1

LP-MB took care of Albano/Corretja easily, 6-3, 6-4, today. This match started a bit earlier than I expected and got over really fast .. Hope some of the fanclub folks were in the chatroom updating the scores, if anybody went there for info ! .. Anyway, The Dynamic Duo face Kempers/Oosting tomorrow ..

It has been upset city there today .. Sampras lost to Santoro, 6-1, 6-1 , and then Becker murdered Philippoussis 6-1, 6-1 .. Korda won, and can become the new #1 if he reaches the final. In doubles, a big surprise too. #3 seeds Kafelnikov/Vacek lost 7-5, 6-0 !! .. Agassi/Korda is serious about doubles here or what ? .. Then the defending champs and 8th seeds Johnson/Montana lost to Carbonell/Roig .. The #2 seeds Eltingh/Haarhuis were on the brink of defeat, down a set and a minibreak in the second set tiebreaker, but they pulled it off in style, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-0 .. Here is the quarterfinal draw ..

 1-T.Woodbridge/M.Woodforde  vs   T.Kronemann/D.MacPherson  \
WC-A.Agassi/P.Korda          vs Q-S.Dosedel/A.Olhovskiy     / \
 4-M.Bhupathi/L.Paes         vs   T.Kempers/Oosting         \ /
 2-J.Eltingh/P.Haarhuis      vs   T.Carbonell/F.Roig        /

Later, with the Nirupama result from Portugal, as soon as it gets in.

Apr 22 Note-2

The LP-MB match against Albano/Corretja is scheduled as the 4th match on Court-1 on Thursday, so should be starting at about 6 pm there (that is 9.30 pm in India; 12 pm EST, 9 PST in the US, I believe). Check out our chatroom and the LP page for possible score updates during the match .. One correction from below. Ferreira/Leach did not advance to QF. Instead, they gave a walkover to Kempers/Oosting, who will now be the QF opponent for the LP-MB / Alb-Cor match .. Ke/Oo are a good team with a win over the Woodies last year.

Nirupama plays Kim DeWeille (Ned) in round 2 .. It should be tomorrow (thursday) but they had not finalized the women's schedule for tomorrow yet when info came last from Portugal, wednesday night. They also have a $125K ATP men's challenger going on there, so the $25K women's challenger gets second-class treatment, I guess .. :-) .. Anyway, the #1 seed Karen Cross (GBR) and #2 seed Daphne Van De Zande (Belgium) have both lost in round 1.  The #3 seed Alicia Ortuno (Spain) and Niru's potential QF opponent, #6 seed Noelle Van Lottum (Fra.) have won their first rounds, though. Also, Niru is not playing doubles there.

Apr 22 Note-1

Nirupama won her first round singles match against Gisela Riera (#333, Spain) today, 6-2, 7-6(6) at the Espinho challenger .. Good to see her getting a win after a couple of weeks of losses .. Go Niru ! .. Will report on her opponent, after I get the complete results for today, from Portugal.

Arunava Chaudhuri of the fanclub found a German newspaper report with the top-125 ATP ranks (the ATP site still has not updated the ranks) .. Anyway, LP is ranked #103.

The pre-quarterfinal lineup is set at Monte Carlo with all the remaining first round matches finished today.

 1-T.Woodbridge/M.Woodforde  vs    D.Adams/W.Ferreira     \
   T.Kronemann/D.MacPherson  vs    A.Kitinov/P.Vizner     / \
 3-Y.Kafelnikov/D.Vacek      vs WC-A.Agassi/P.Korda       \ / \
 Q-S.Dosedel/A.Olhovskiy     vs LL-J.Alonso/N.Lapentti    /    \
 6-E.Ferreira/R.Leach        vs    T.Kempers/Oosting      \    /
 4-M.Bhupathi/L.Paes         vs    P.Albano/A.Corretja    / \ /
 8-D.Johnson/F.Montana       vs    T.Carbonell/F.Roig     \ /
 2-J.Eltingh/P.Haarhuis      vs    D.Orsanic/F.Santoro    /

Actually three prequarterfinal matches have also been completed today. The Woodies, Kron/Mac and Ferr/Leach are already in the quarterfinals. The other 5 prequarterfinal matches including the LP/MB match will be tomorrow.

Apr 21 Note-2

Very little news today. At Monte Carlo, Sampras/Annacone lost to Albano/Corretja, 6-2, 6-2 .. That was that for all the excitement about Pete's doubles play ! .. So, LP/MB play Alb/Cor .. The match is not in the schedule for tomorrow (Wednesday) either, as Corretja is playing second round singles against Medvedev .. That means our guys will play their first match only on Thursday. If they keep winning, they will be playing QF on Friday, SF on Saturday and F on Sunday (hope they will !) .. Albano is Corretja's regular doubles partner, and they are #35 in last week's team rankings. They ended 1997 as the #24 team. They are pretty good and are clay experts too. LP/MB have hopefully got some practice together on clay, with all this free time, and are ready. They better be ..

Another withdrawal in the doubles there. Galbraith/Steven, one of the teams that I expected to do well this year, has pulled out and been replaced by Nargiso/Vemic .. By the way, Bjorkman/Kulti were semifinalists here last year, along with Kafelnikov/Vacek.  Since Bjorkman/Kulti lost in the first round, Bjorkman will fall down closer to #2 Woodforde in doubles rankings .. Eltingh/Haarhuis were finalists too (Johnson/Montana came out of nowhere and won it, in a big surprise). So, If LP/MB make it far, they have a chance to move a couple of spots up into may be #5 and #7 .. A title will almost surely make them #4 and #5 behind the Woodies in individual doubles rankings. The Woodies did not play at Monte Carlo last year. LP loses 66 points from his doubles tally this week (Prague challenger title last year). MB does not lose any points, as the Prague challenger points were already outside of the best-14 for him (since he has the Bangkok challenger title with Tramacchi and the Infinity final with Rick Leach in his list in addition to the points with LP).

ATP still has not posted the new rankings. The old site used to be very regular in posting them on Monday mornings. The new site has slowly become pretty good for info (including even draws of some challengers during the week), even though all the java stuff on their pages make things slow. They need to start posting these rankings in a timely manner, though.

No news arrived from the Espinho (Portugal) challenger tournament office today; so I assume Niru's first round match is tomorrow (Wednesday). Will try to hunt for some info from there tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Apr 21 Note-1

Here is the immediate draw for Nirupama at the $25K Espinho Challenger:

184 4-NIRUPAMA VAIDYANATHAN (IND) vs 333 LL-GISELA RIERA (ESP)        \
247 KIM DE WEILLE (NED)           vs 850 WC-CRISTINA CORREIA (POR)    / \
273 ANDREEA VANC (ROM)            vs 690 WC-ANA NOGUEIRA (POR)        \ /
188 6-NOELLE VAN LOTTUM (FRA)     vs 225 SILKE MEIER (GER)            /

Nirupama has fallen a bit in the singles rankings, from #174 to #184. Basically she has not picked up much points this year, except from the Australian Open. She will hopefully get into the groove soon (like, right now at Portugal..), and avoid any problems in getting into the French Open qualifiers in a few weeks.

Forgot to mention yesterday that Archana Venkataraman has come into the WTA rankings, at #790, after her qualifier points at Dubai, etc .. Unlike ATP which updates the points database from any week by Sunday night, WTA sometimes takes up to 2 weeks to enter the points from some tournaments into the computer, and so the Dubai points from 2 weeks back came in only now.

There have been a few upsets already at Monte Carlo in doubles. #5 seeds Bjorkman/Eltingh was upset by the lucky losers Alonso/Lapentti in a 3rd set tie-breaker, and #7 Damm-Grabb were upset by Kitinov/Vizner. Eagle/Florent's loss to Orsanic/Santoro is also somewhat unexpected .. The effect of early clay season, possibly. Agassi/Korda beat Muster/Gaudenzi and face Kafelnikov and Vacek in round 2 in a good match-up. Apparently Paul Annacone and Pete Sampras are playing doubles together for the first time since 1995. Annacone is sort of an unofficial coach for Sampras and they play tonight there.

ATP still hasn't updated their website with the new rankings. Saw the top-10 in team rankings, and things have tightened up a bit, with Ferreira/Leach coming up less than 50 points behind #2 LP/MB, and Eltingh/Haarhuis right behind them at #4 after jumping over Eagle/Florent .. LP/MB have to get some good points here, or they could move down to #4 ..

Apr 20 Note-2

The round-2 doubles match for LP/MB at Monte Carlo will be on Wednesday at the earliest. Their opponents will not be decided till Tuesday evening, which is when the Sampras/Annacone vs Albano/Corretja match is scheduled on the center court. Gives them a couple of days to practice on clay that way. Ivanisevik/Rosset seem to have withdrawn, and been replaced by the lucky losers Alonso/Lapentti. I have updated the draw in the last note with that and the qualifiers ..

Nirupama Vaidyanathan is the 4th seed at the $25K Espinho Challenger at Portugal this week. She plays the lucky loser, Gisela Riera (#333, Spain) in the first round. The match may be as late as Wednesday for her too, as it is not listed in the Tuesday schedule there (or, it has been played today and I have not received the results yet .. probably not, as the final round of qualifiers were today and they won't make the lucky loser come back and play the first round rightaway) ..

I have not seen a complete rank-list posted at the ATP site yet, but the top-100 list does not include LP, so he has not cracked top-100. May be around #103. MB moved up to #7 in doubles, as Vacek lost a few points. LP stays at #9.

Apr 20 Note-1

Here is the doubles draw at the $ 2.2M Monte Carlo Super 9 ..

 1-T.Woodbridge/M.Woodforde  vs Bye                      \
   D.Adams/W.Ferreira        vs C.Suk/J.Tarango          / \
   T.Kronemann/D.MacPherson  vs D.Roditi/F.Wibier        \ / \
 7-M.Damm/J.Grabb            vs A.Kitinov/P.Vizner       /    \_
 2-Y.Kafelnikov/D.Vacek      vs Bye                      \    / |
WC-A.Gaudenzi/T.Muster       vs WC-A.Agassi/P.Korda      / \ /  |
   L.Lobo/J.Sanchez          vs Q-S.Dosedel/A.Olhovskiy  \ /    |
 5-J.Bjorkman/N.Kulti        vs LL-J.Alonso/N.Lapentti   /      |_
 6-E.Ferreira/R.Leach        vs Q-T.Johansson/T.Nydahl   \      |
   N.Broad/P.Norwal          vs T.Kempers/Oosting        / \    |
   P.Albano/A.Corretja       vs WC-P.Annacone/P.Sampras  \ / \  |
 4-M.Bhupathi/L.Paes         vs Bye                      /    \_|
 8-D.Johnson/F.Montana       vs P.Galbraith/B.Steven     \    /
   G.Kuerten/M.Philippoussis vs T.Carbonell/F.Roig       / \ /
   D.Orsanic/F.Santoro       vs J.Eagle/A.Florent        \ /
 2-J.Eltingh/P.Haarhuis      vs Bye                      /

It's about as strong a field as it gets in doubles.. 14 of the top-16 teams in the current ATP team rankings are here (Stark/O'Brien and Bjorkman/Eltingh are the others) .. Also, 26 of the top 30 doubles players are playing, not to mention even Sampras and Agassi playing doubles .. This is the first time in 98 that Pete is playing doubles .. he played doubles with Henman at some one tournament last year .. Same with Agassi. He played doubles in two tournaments last year .. Bjorkman and Kulti are back together for the first time this year .. Bjorkman had played with Eltingh, Rafter, etc this year (with some great results), and experimented in a couple of tournaments with his old friend Jan Apell (wonder if they gave up already ? .. They were a terrific pair a couple of year back before Apell's injury). Kulti did not do too well with Tillstrom, Black, etc .. Anyway, the lower half of the draw with LP/MB looks a bit tougher than the Woodies's half.