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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Apr 29, 2002
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Apr 29 Notes

Quick updates, as I am a little bit busy for a few days .. LP-MB play Alexander Kitinov and Johann Landsberg in the first round at the $381K Mallorca Open ATP in Spain (they are not on the monday schedule; not sure when they will be playing) .. They are the top seeds .. Srinath went down in the semis at the Kuwait futures in a surprisingly one-sided 06 16 loss to Baptiste Dupuy of France .. Vijay Kannan and Mustafa Ghouse had reached the finals of doubles when I saw last .. The 4-week Indian men's satellites begin today, starting at Delhi .. Perhaps the weakest field we have ever had for a satellite circuit .. Sad that this situation is not improving, as we keep getting weaker and weaker fields - had this satellite been some 4 weeks later, a handful of college players from the US could have joined it like in 2000, but right now higher-ranked foreign players are all scared to come to the subcontinent I think .. Anyway, only three top-1000 players in the fiels, with Mustafa as the top seed .. We have normally had at least 3-4 top-600 players, but not this time .. Bopanna is skipping it - he had not intended entered to play this, and he had anyway had to retire (hurt or ill - I haven't heard the details yet) last week at Kuwait .. Sunil Kumar is preparing to finish some remaining school work if I am not mistaken - so he will miss this too .. Manoj Mahadevan, Vijay Kannan, Nitin Kirtane, etc top the list, with one qualifier, old pal Sandeep Kirtane (coming back for this from retirement) sure to cause trouble for everybody! .. Younger ones like Rohan Gajjar, Somdev dev Varman, and P.Ravikrishna also have qualified in, along with Sergei Demekhine (RUS), Elad Stern (ISR), Roy Sichel (ISR), Naori Arimoto (JPN) .. Running a bit slow this week - will start a page for the satellite.

Apr 26 Note-2

Srinath reached the singles semifinal at Kuwait with a 75 64 win over Branislav Repa (SVK) ..

The story today is of course the big breakthrough event that 15 year old Ankita Bhambri had at Pune .. She won the masters title and 5 big WTA points with a surprisingly easy 63 62 win over Sheetal Gautham .. Mind you, Sheetal has a record of almost invariably getting back into the game at the slightest crack in the door, and she has done that in myriad matches after starting badly - what is impressive about Ankita was that she kept the pressure through the match and did not allow Sheetal to try any of her patented houdini acts - Ankita reportedly went for her winners and stayed aggressive throughout the match, and that is a great quality .. See the article in The Hindu by G.Vishwanath on the match, and see all the scores at the Pune satellite page .. This is really terrific news, because Ankita, ever since winning the 14s and 16s singles at the DSCL subjuniors in late 2000 has been somewhat missing in action - yes she was doing fine here and there, but not great, and she had hardly played much ITF events either for us to see where she stood .. She was in the AITA team last year to the eastern circuit if I am not mistaken, but had to play qualifiers everywhere and did not make it into any main draws (actually I may have commented then that Isha Lakhani should have been sent instead of Ankita, because she could have made the draws and she had generally had better numbers than Ankita - except that Ankita had beaten Isha in the nationals final, etc) .. Anyway, I had thought Ankita was probably slowly fading away, especially when I saw that she lost 26 36 in the second round of the only ITF event she played this year, at Delhi against Isha .. And her even younger sister Sanaa was making some more noises in the juniors too .. Just when one starts wondering what was up with Ankita, the girl comes back - and boy, did she come through with a BANG! ..  Great stuff .. The wins here would give her a tremendous confidence boost .. Mind you, she upset Archana, Sai, Sonal and Sheetal in a row here and that is nothing short of sensational stuff .. She needs to get back to playing some more ITF events and should travel abroad to play the quality juniors (and do that soon to get up the rankings and qualify for quality ITF junior draws) ..  She joins Sania and Kartiki Bhat in the u16 Junior Fed Cup Asian qualifiers in Jakarta in a couple of weeks .. I think she is now the youngest winner of a senior pro event in India - I have to check that, as I think Shruti Dhawan back in 98 may have the current record.

Wouldn't it be nice to see Isha, Sania, Sanaa, and Ankita all in grandslam draws next year? .. Sania and Ankita are of almost identical age and they are both eligible for 2 more years of juniors after this year .. Isha turns 17 in a cuple of days and next year is her last year in the juniors .. Sanaa has 4 more years of junior play available, and don't forget those like Kartiki Bhat, Tara Iyer, Vandana Murali etc also out there - it's fair to say that we have more quality young talent on the girls' side than we have ever had in the past - hopefully some of them will translate that success to the senior levels later.

Talking of that, I hope we will be seeing #50 Isha Lakhani at the French Open juniors, along with #41 Sania, who is confirmed to be going there .. Isha's ranking will almost surely get her into the draw of 64 .. She should be going there, and to Wimbledon, but so far I have not seen any reports of sponsorship for Isha Lakhani from anywhere.  Is anything happening ?

Apr 26 Note-1

I had emailed Mahesh and he replied that he and Leander are playing at the Mallorca ATP in Spain next week (short email from MB as usual :-)) .. Said he was originally planning to take the week off before Rome, but decided to play next week .. Lee was also looking for a partner, so they decided to play next week .. After that, back to Max, he said.  That's all I have.  If I remember correctly what LP told me three weeks back, he was also expecting to take next week off before the Rome masters, but he too may have decided to play after not having played much the last three weeks .. That sounds good .. I hope people won't start bugging them both again .. Leave them alone .. If they want to play together sometime let them play .. As they have set up things with others for a while, I think they will stick to that and this does not seem to be a permanent thing .. Good to see them doing this, and being in decent terms with each other.  By the way, both could use some points and clay practice as the French Open comes up pretty soon and they have 1000 points each to defend there (on top of the 575 points they have lost now for Houston/Atlanta/Monte-Carlo last year) .. So, anyway, for next week, the Indian Express gets out of the shed.

By the way, the source that emailed the word yesterday has been correct in the past instances and so I was pretty sure that it was correct info - or I wouldn't post "rumors"; just that I wanted to wait to check with LP or MB to confirm, as usual.

Apr 25 Note-2

Hmmm .. Just hearing some word that LP and MB may be playing together next week at Mallorca, Spain .. No idea if it is true, and I have not confirmed it with either LP or MB .. Hope it is true, but don't get your hopes up - and don't quote me if this is just a rumor .. I just thought I would drop some good news in, if it turns out to be true.

Apr 25 Note-1

Yeek .. This experiment (or whatever it is) isn't working yet .. MB also had his 3rd straight loss in a row today (LP is also on a three-match losing streak) .. Singles-entry doubles team of Younes ElAynaoui and Albert Portas beat MB and Todd Woodbridge, 36 64 (10-3) today .. The three losses for MB have come in the company of Mirnyi, Tarango and Woodbridge - pretty good partners too, and all three losses to unestablished doubles pairs as well .. For LP, one loss is with Gimselstob and the other two with deJager, also two good ones .. Oh well - what can we say, but to wish them best and hope that the results would get better with regular partners from now on (and soon) -- MB is expected to regularly play with Mirnyi from now on and LP with DeJager.

Are the young girls giving everybody trouble or what? .. Ankita Bhambri, all of 15 years and 6 months, went and upset 19 yr old Sonal Phadke, 46 76(1) 64 in a 2.5 hour match .. She was down 0-5 at first to Sonal and came back in the first set .. Was again behind in the second set, and eventually fought from 0-40 down facing three match points in the 12th game of the second set on her own serve, etc .. Gritty and impressive stuff from Ankita .. She was ranked only 13th coming into this field of 16, based on the previous three legs' results, but she is playing her best when it counts (actually, her losses in the earlier legs were to Sheetal and then twice to Radhika, and she was not paying badly against them in the losses either) .. She will now face Sheetal Goutham in the final .. That can be expected to be a great match, with Ankita wanting some revenge on Sheetal for pulling off an almost unbelievable houdini act in three sets in the second round of the first leg against Ankita .. The youngster may have the game to beat Sheetal, but so have felt a lot of players who have lost somehow to "Ms.Consistency" .. Sheetal had no problem getting past Medini Sharma, 61 60, in the other semi .. The finalists have picked up 4 WTA points each and can add one more with a title tomorrow .. Radhika and Sai won the doubles title today .. See the Pune satellites page.

Srinath reached the QFs today at the $10K Kuwait F2 futures but Vijay Kannan went down fighting in a real barn-burner against the 3rd seed Hiroki Kondo (JPN,531), 46 76(2) 67(5) .. One of the more tenacious matches Vijay has played in recent times, and it's good to see that, despite the loss .. Srinath beat Branislav Repa (SVK) 64 64 and faces Elefterios Alexiou of Greece next ..

Harsh Mankad moved to #3 in the US college singles rankings this week .. Two guys with good recent numbers moved past him, with the computer ranking numbers converging and stabilizing as it is getting close to the season end .. Matias Boeker from Argentina, playing for the Univ of Georgia, who is the triple crown champion from the year end NCAA tournament last year (he also played some pros last semester before getting back to college in spring) is the #1 players and is clearly the one to beat, with him having a 15 match win streak now .. As I have been often mentioning some college tennis news because of Harsh Mankad lately, there was a question in the forum about how the top college players have done in the pros later .. I did some investigation and have posted some stats on the top 4-5 players who left college over each of the last 4 years (as a reply under the thread "Upsets Galore") - take a look ..

Apr 24 Notes

MB-Woodbridge will play Younes El-Aynaoui and Albert Portas in the second round at the Barcelona ATP .. El-Aynaoui is playing singles today, and so the match will be tomorrow (thursday).

Bad news from Kuwait F2 .. Top seed Rohan Bopanna went  down in the first round, 4-6 0-2(retd.) aganst local wildcard Hameed Al Solaiteen .. He and Srinath withdrew from the doubles as well .. Not sure what happened to Rohan - I hope it is some minor illness and not injury! .. 4th seed Srinath advanced to the second round with a 61 60 demolition of the lucky loser Ahmed Al Wazzan .. Vijay Kannan also reached the second round with a 61 62 win over qualifier Omar Al Thaqueb of S.Arabia .. Mustafa's poor run continued there as the 6th seed was agains upset in the first round .. He lost to Lars Zimmermann (GER, 798), 64 16 16 .. Vijay plays 3rd seed Hiroki Kondo (JPN,531) next, and Srinath plays Branislav Repa (SVK) .. Vijay Kannan is playing doubles with Mustafa Ghouse this time, and they won 60 62 in the first round, over Ahmed Rabeea (KUW) and Goving Rammohan (IND), who may be an expatriate there ..

Upset festival continued in Pune today with top seed Sai getting upset 63 67 64 by 16 yr old Ankita Bhambri .. Reportedly Sai was limping a bit due to an ankle injury, but the way Ankita kept preventing her from coming back, and doing some clawing back herself, was impressive .. According to agency reports, Sai was up a break in the second set before Ankita came back to force a tiebreaker, and again in the 3rd set Sai was up 4-1 before the youngster forced two service breaks and won the match .. Very nice to see more and more competitiveness in the Indian players .. 14 yr old Vandana's run ended against Sonal, but 17 yr old Medini reached the semi with a win over Rati Kumar .. The one player who almost never gets upset, Sheetal "Ms.Consistency" Goutham stopped Geeta Manohar to reach the SF as the only seeded player .. See the Pune satellite page.

Congrats to the Indian cricket team for the win in P-O-Spain .. For once the cricket "experts" in India who are worshippers of the "Indians are worthless abroad" and "choking is in the Indian genes" mentality and put tremendous self-doubt pressures on our players, will shut up .. Also those who cannot stand a cocky attutude by an Indian captain will jump off a cliff (that is, those who wait to find faults from a captain who has had more memorable test wins in India and abroad in 20 tests than any of the other "talking-head" previous captains in many more tests) .. Well done, team, and Well done, "prince" Ganguly .. Feel free to chew the head off any player in the team for overstepping or bad running or dropped cartches, to drop any player if that is what it takes, to take as much time to set the field and even make mistakes in it, and if it helps to even show a one-finger salute to those like the Aussies who have more than deserved it, and just stop reading any newspaper writer other than from Kolkata! .. Bottom line wins are what matters .. Thanks also for your batting this time, but rest assured that how the captain himself performs with the bat or ball is immaterial as long as he is not a total liability in the team - check with the greatest modern day captain, Mike Brearly, if needed! .. All right, I will stop digressing from tennis now;  cricket is not something I follow that closely to comment strongly on - just that a line from Bishen Bedi that "Indians tried their best to lose the test, but West Indies could not win it" drove me mad this morning, as did also a chat with an Indian graduate student of mine who was going on and on about how India has only won abroad against "weak sides" - ie, when we win, it's only because the other side is weak and when we lose, we really were always better than the opposition and it was all because we choked due to our weak genes! .. It's time the Indian sports "experts" and fans changed their sports psyche .. It is changing, but a bit too slow for my liking .. The sportsmen are not blameless in this, but they are much ahead of the "experts" and the fans in self-confidence and it's an uphill climb for them, with all the negativity around .. OK, back to tennis.

Apr 23 Note-2

Two more upsets happened late in the evening today at Pune, with 16 yr old Ankita upsetting Archana Venkatraman and Geeta Manohar upsetting Liza Pereira .. Here is the nice report by G.Vishwanath in The Hindu on today's matches .. So, Rati, Geeta, Medini, Vandana, and Ankita, who were ranked 9th through 13th in the circuit's first three legs are all in the final-8 in the masters leg, joining Sai, Sheetal and Sonal!

Apr 23 Note-1

At the Barcelona ATP, Mahesh and Todd Woodbridge await the winners of the first round match between Ferrero/Robredo and El-Aynaoui/Portas, as they have a first round bye .. The PQF match should be tomorrow or more probably thursday.

Big upsets today at the important masters leg of the women's satellites for two youngsters .. 14 year old Vandana Murali had the impressive upset of 2nd seed Radhika Tulpule, 36 64 63, and 17 yr old Medini Sharma had a 63 63 upset of the 3rd seed Samrita Sekar .. Sai, Sheetal, Sonal, Rati, etc, reached the QF today .. We had got used to not expecting competitive matches from the "next-level" of players in the women's satellites, but that changed a bit today .. Actually this is the kind of thing that helps from such a satellite circuit .. The upset wins would go a long way in boosting the confidence of those like Vandana and Medhini .. Here is what the PTI report says - "Medini, daughter of former India badminton player Sanjay Sharma, hammered an array of strokes on both flanks to dispose off Samrita in straight sets .. Sharma also hit stunning backhand winners and rushed to the net at the very first opportunity, hassling Sekar into commiting unforced errors on way to her first major victory" .. Vandana Murali from Tamil Nadu is 5th in the u14 ranks in India and 12th in the u16 ranks .. She and Medini are ranked 16th and 26th in the u18 ranks .. Unfortunately, just when we thought Radhika had hit a purple patch with the title show last week, she goes out with just one WTA point to add to her list .. Incidentally, she is ranked #504 this week - had it been 4 spots higher, Vandana would have got a WTA quality (bonus) point as well .. All the QF players get 1.5 WTA points .. See the Pune satellite page.

Late news - Manisha Malhotra was at the qualies for the $75K challenger in Dothan (Alabama), but fell in the first round on Sunday to the 5th seed Rachel Viollet (GBR,253), 36 46 .. Tough qualies with a lot of top-300 players there .. Manisha is not playing doubles this week (her usual partner Leanne Baker went to the $25K challenger qualies in Seoul, South Korea).

Apr 22 Note-2

Bad news again for Leander .. He and J-L DeJager, seeded second, went down in an upset, 36 26 to wildcards Robert Kendrick and Brian Vahaly ..  Those are two reasonably talented guys, Vahaly being among the top US college guys from last year who is making a move in the pros now, but I did not expect such a poor loss .. I'm a bit worried about Lee - actually perhaps I am more worried about whether he has the right partner; because I doubt LP's game has so suddenly deteriorated so much as to lose so badly against what would be a no-name pair of guys (with due apologies to Kendrick and Vahaly) who hardly have much experience at the high levels of pro doubles! .. I guess we will wait and see - can't panic after just three events together for them.

I have added the draw and monday's doubles results (courtesy The Hindu) for the masters leg of the Indian ITF women's satellites at the Pune satellite page .. Only doubles were there today and the main draw singles starts tomorrow... Isha, as I suspected had to miss the masters leg, as I guess there is no exemption other than on medical grounds to miss a leg (she missed the first one due to a junior ITF event) .. That made Sheetal the 4th seed, and gave Nandini Perumal, the 17th player in the list a masters-entry and 1 WTA point ..

Apr 22 Note-1

Sorry for going MIA for a couple of days .. Not a whole lot of news, so I was goofing off (that is, I was at work :-))

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are playing doubles with John-Laffnie DeJager and Todd Woodbridge respectively this week .. LP-DeJager are the second seeds at the $400K US claycourts ATP at Houston - they are drawn to face the US wildcards Robert Kendrick and Brian Vahaly .. MB-Woodbridge are also seeded second .. They are at the $955K Open Seat Godo ATP in Barcelona, and have a first round bye ..

Both 2nd seed Rohan and 5th seed Srinath got upset at the Kuwait F1 quarterfinals last Friday .. Rohan lost to Esteban Carril (ESP,885) 62 36 67(2) and Srinath lost to Jasper Smit (NED,794), 67(3) 26 n Friday .. In the doubles semifinal, Bopanna and Kannan lost to Evgueni Smirnov and Jasper Smit, 76(5) 36 36 on Saturday .. More of a sudden ending for our players in the draws there .. There is one more Kuwait futures this week.

Radhika Tulpule won the 3rd leg of the satellites at Kolhapur, with a 76(4) 61 win over Isha Lakhani on Saturday .. By reaching the final, Isha and Radhika ensured that they will be seeded among the 4 in the 16-member draw for the 4th leg (masters) starting at Pune today (actually I am not sure of Isha's status, whether she will get to play the masters leg on some sort of exemption, as she missed the first leg - though due to an ITF junior tournament) .. Good to see Radhika coming to form - she is the highest ranked Indian payer in the circuit and had looked to be in good form a few months back .. 16 yr old Isha has to be proud of the show she put up though she fell in the finals in successive weeks .. See the Kolhapur satellite page.

Harsh Mankad, ranked #1 in college rankings, had two more top-100 wins this weekend to finish the regular season of college tennis with a 23-3 record .. Yesterday in the final regular season matchup for the U of Minnesota, at Univ of Wisconsin, Harsh won a long comeback battle to edge out a player ranked #32 in a 36 63 76(4) win the tie 4-3 for his Univ (the matches are done simulatenously and whoever wins the match that gets the win for the team is called as the one who won the tie in college) .. He had to save three match points on his serve in the 3rd set, wriggling out of trouble with a couple of aces .. He also had a 64 61 win over the #92 college payer, on saturday at the Univ of Iowa .. That takes his top-35 record to 10-2 and his record against ranked players 17-3 for the year - actually he has played a somewhat unusually large number of top players, though he has played fewer total matches than most others, having missed a bit of time due to Davis Cups and a wrist-injury .. With the latest wins I think he is almost sure to be the top seed in the prestigious final NCAA collegiate nationals that ends the year, which starts in about three weeks from now.

Four Indians were at the grade-3 Uzbekistan ITF juniors last week (I noticed only rather late about them going there!)  -- 16 yr olds Chatwinder Singh and Vikas Punna had reached the QF rounds of singles but fell to higher ranked players .. #198 Chatwinder should move up inside #175 and #513 Vikas should move near top-400 with those points .. MV Abhay Prakash and Punam Reddy were the other two, but they could not get past the first round there.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Apr 22 ..

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.