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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the weeks ending on May 10, 2004
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May 10 Notes

Quick updates -- LP-Rikl play Arnaud Clement and Sebastien Grosjean of France in the first round at the Hamburg masters .. They are drawn to face the 3rd seeds Mahesh and Max (who have a first round bye) in the secoind round! .. Somdev Dev Varman is at the $10K USA F11 futures in Orange Park, Florida .. Awaiting news from Uzbekistan on the draw for Prakash Amritraj and Sunil Kumar, and from Lebanon for Mustafa Ghouse .. Harsh Mankad is taking this week off after a lot of matches in the last two weeks .. Also waiting for the draw from the grade-1 Citta Di Santa Croce juniors in Italy for Karan Rastogi, the second seed there.

May 9 Notes

Title #34 for Mahesh today! .. That came in another nice comeback against a team that has been looking unbeatable on the Rome Masters clay from last year .. [F] (3) M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. Wayne Arthurs (AUS)/ Paul Hanley (AUS) 26 63 64 .. Congratulations! .. They started out badly, dropping serve twice to the Aussies in the first set, but then  waws in good command, not dropping serve and breaking WA-PH once each in the next two sets .. The win gives Mahesh 500 points, which comes at a good time as he had a bunch of points (225+350 for SF and Final at the Rome and Hamburg Masters last year) .. All such big points are great for the next 10 2-3 months when Mahesh will be trying to keep his top-5 ranking intact to justify a top-four seeding with Leander at the  Olympics ..

Talking of Olympics (Aug 15-22), it is time for an early preview .. Here are the top pairs
from each country and their combined rankings, as of now -

USA - Bryan (1)      + Bryan (1)      =  2
AUS - Woodbridge (4) + Hanley (10)    = 14
    - Woodbridge (4) + Arthurs (11)   = 15
    - Arthurs (11)   + Hanley (10)    = 21
FRA - Santoro (9)    + Llodra (12)    = 21
IND - Bhupathi (5)   + Paes (21)      = 26
CZE - Suk (13)       + Damm (14)      = 27
RSA - Ullyett (15)   + Black (17)     = 32
ARG - Rodriguez (16) + Etlis (18)     = 34
ISR - Ram (19)       + Erlich (23)    = 42


Currently the Indian Express would be the 4th on ranking, but the Olympics seedings are decided by ITF .. The rules explicitly say that while rankings are the primary criterion, it is not the sole criterion ..  AITA would need to make sure that our pair gets picked as a top-4 seed, providing ITF with all the arguments in our favor, which there plenty of ..  The key right now is for LP and MB to do well in the next few events an be in good shape by the August 15th sunday when the tennis events kick off in Athens .. I have not seen a published date for the draw and which date's rank list will be used for seeding consideration, but that it would be "the latest available", which implies the August 9th ranking  (the entry is based on the June 14th ranking and the countries send in entries by June 28th) ..

MB has 700 points falling off at Wimbledon which is the big one from his list from now on - but he shouldn't have a huge problem staying inside top-5 even if a bunch of points fall off .. For Leander, all but about 350 points in his current point total over 1900 will fall off by August 9th .. But he has nearly 10 events to pick up good points - about 5 or 6 with Rikl [Hamburg Masters, St.Poelten/Casblanca, French Open, Queens/Halle, DenBosch/Nottingham, and Wimbledon] and about 4 with Mahesh [Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Toronto, Cincinnati], based on what we gather now .. If he stays inside the top-20 or so, even based on rankings they should be among the top four and it would be easier for AITA to impress upon ITF that they be seeded among the top-4, assuming AITA can exercize some influence in that!  .. All this also assumes that ITF would do a sensible job and would not be seeding highly ranked singles players in doubles also .. There is a provision for top-10 singles players to get entry regardless of doubles ranking; so countries like Spain and Argentina (or even Australia) can probably find teams with top-10 singles players as wildcard dark horses .. A country can have up to two doubles teams, so a specialist doubles pair and a scratch combo would make sense for some countries .. Anyway, we can't do anything about all that right now .. All LP and MB can do is to make sure their rankings wouldn't drop much .. As for me, I am rooting for Suk, Damm, Ullyett, Black, etc etc to all do badly from now on :-)

I know we all are impatient to see LP and MB to start playing together early, but I am getting excited now .. Looking forward to them joiining hands the day after Wimbledon and starting on the big project of getting us the precious metal .. Time for all of us to get behiund and start rooting for wins everyday by the two champs .. Getting near the stretch run of the 3 months buildup to Athens.

Here is an article with some comments from Ramanathan Krishnan and here is another article with some comments by Krishna Bhupathi .. I share both the optimism and the pessimism of both :) .. I am excited either way!

May 8 Notes

MadMax is finally on a roll again .. They reached their first final of the year at the Rome Masters with a nice comeback, 67(6) 62 64 over the second seeds Jonas Bjorkman (SWE) and Todd Woodbridge (AUS) .. This is actually the first final for MadMax in seven months since their title at the Madrid Masters last October, though they have played only eight events since then .. MB has won both the finals he has reached this year, but with Fabrice Santoro (FRA) - at Auckland in January and Dubai in March .. The semifinal took over two hours yesterday, but MB-MM was clearly ahead after the first set set as they converted two of their three break chances in the second set .. There were back and forth breaks in the third set before our guys went ahead once more and finished it off in a match that lasted over two hours .. In the final, they face the sixth seeds Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley, a potential Australian doubles pair for Athens .. Those two guys seem to always do well at Rome .. They were unseeded last year when they won the title there with many upsets, including over MadMax in the semis .. This time they are again at it, as they have beaten Paes-Rikl in the second round, upset the 4th seeds Knowle-Nestor in the QF and then totally demolished the top seeds Bryans 64 61 in the semis .. The way they play there, the 36 26 econd round loss that Lee and Rikl sufferred does not look as bad now! .. What do they do in Rome to do this well - eat some special spinach in some Pasta Romano? .. Hope MadMax can get to the Aussies .. The final is set for about 5 pm on Sunday after a best-of-5 singles final between Moya and Nalbandian that starts at 2.30 pm.

The Swedish 8th seed on a surprising run, Mattias Hellstrom, won the Lebanon F1 upsetting second seed Victor Bruthans, continuing Harsh Mankad's odd record of having mostly lost only to the eventual winner in all but a couple of the nine or so tournaments he has played this year.

May 7 Notes

Finally a high quality win by MadMax who have been very patchy in their last few matches .. They reached the SF at the Rome Masters with a very nice 75 63 win over the Australian Open Champs and 5th seeds Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro today .. It was a very close match going into the 12th game of the first set .. MB-MM had not faced any breakpoints and had only one break chance till that point, when they suddenly turned it on .. They forced triple set points and converted the first chance there to take the set ..  Continued the fine show with a break in the second game of the second set as well, to go up 3-0 .. MB-MM stayed ahead saving a break attempt in the 3rd game .. Wasted a couple of chances to break again in the 4th game, but kept the one break advantage to cruise to a win .. ML-FS had beaten MB-MM cheaply at the AO quarterfinals, and so this was pretty good payback .. MadMax will play the second seeds Bjorkman-Woodbridge in the SF tomorrow.

I am not sure what happened to Harsh Mankad today, as he went down 46 06 to the 8th seed Mattias Hellstrom (SWE,495) .. That is an unsusual scoreline for a Mankad match, especially when is playing in top form, as he has done this week .. Hopefully he is OK - one gets concerned after three weeks of tennis and about 16 singles and doubles matches in the last 12 days .. He and Mustafa won their second title in successive weeks, after a bit of a struggle today, 63 57 76(1) in the final against the 3rd seeds Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau of Romania .. Great run by HM and MG for two weeks as they won two titles and picked up 36 points .. Though he missed a great chance for some big points again this week, it has been a couple of good weeks of singles by HM .. He picked up 12 points from back to back semifinals, including a couple of good upset wins - enough to move him back up inside around #355 .. Will try to find out what is up with him .. Hopefully he will take a break next week if he is a bit banged up and tired .. The Fergana challenger the week after would make it 5 weeks in a row, if he pllays Lebanon F2 next week.

By the way, this was the 12th doubles final for Harsh in the last 12 months, and he has won 8 of those finals .. Though his work goes largely unnoticed by the Indian tennis circles and in the media, his doubles performance, that too with so many different partners, 
has been impressive .. It includes two challenger finals and one challenger title, and a satellite masters title as well, along with several futures titles .. His ranking will move inside top-185 .. That is the highest rank by any Indian other than Paes and Bhupathi in over a decade, and he is also the only Indian to crack top-200 other than LP and MB in that period .. Keep it up, Harsh, but take rest if you need to!

May 6 Note-2.

MB-MM advanced to the QF at the Miami masters with a touch-and-go 36 75 75 win over Roger Federer and Yves Allegro of Switrzerland .. LP-Rikl went down in the second round, 36 26 to the 6th seeds Arthurs-Hanley .. There was a rain delay in LP's match at 1-1 in the second set .. They held serve for a game and then dropped 4 games in a row to lose the match.

Ah this one hurts .. It turns out that my joy this morning was short-lived .. Though the official draw spreadsheet at the ITF's junior website continues to show that India won the u16 Junior Fed Cup doubles match in the final pool match against Indonesia, it turns out that we lost it in 3 sets, dropping to a threeway tie (INA, IND, KOR all had 2-1 tie record and 6-3 match record) .. We missed out on making the QF due to the third tie breaker, percentage of sets won - I thought one set in doubles even in a loss would do, but I must have made an error in adding up the sets .. So that is the end of that story .. But let's give a pat to Sanaa and Sandhya for fighting right till the end - they tried their best, but in Tara's absence (due to injury), that turned out to be not enough.

Now for some good news .. Harsh Mankad continues to show incredible consistency and focus in his spirited tour around the world .. Today he picked up a big upset win to reach the semifinal at the $15K Lebanon F1 claycourt futures .. [QF] (5) Harsh Mankad (IND,385) d. (1) Wesley Whitehouse (RSA,247), 63 63 .. A really dominating win over a former Wimbledon junior champion .. Always good to see a top-250 upset win from Harsh .. HM now faces the 8th seed Mattias Hellstrom (SWE,495) in the semi .. With successive week's semis on hardcourts in Qatar and clay at Lebanon, he has picked up 12 points which comes at a good time as 22 points had fallen off a couple of weeks back .. He will climb back near #355 in a couple of weeks, and hopefully can pick up 6 more tomorrow by reaching the final at Beirut .. Also, Mustafa and Mankad continues to win in doubles as well .. Following on their title last week at Qatar, they have now reached the final at Beirut, beating the 3rd seeds Ivan Cerovic and Alexander Jakupovic, 63 64 .. They take on the young Romanian Davis Cup doubles pair, Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau, who were one of the top junior doubles teams last year and have been doing well in the futures this year.

526th ranked Sunil Kumar could not continue the magic from yesterday when he upset the 3rd seed, and went down in the QF today to the 6th seed Jean-Juleien Roger (AHO,371), 61 36 26 .. He should be playing the UZB F4 next week.

At the Tarakan $10K in Indonesia, it turns out that Liza Pereira also lost in the first round -- 57 16 to Naoki Horikawa (JPN) .. In doubles, Sai and Liza are in the semis .. [R1] (1) Sai Jayalakshmy/ Liza Pereira d. Mari Inoue (JPN)/ Utako Suzuki (JPN) 75 62 .. [QF] d. Dian Anggraini (INA)/ Mudarwati Mudarwati (INA) 46 60 75 .. They play the SF against Septi Mende and Wukirasih Sawondari of Indonesia ..

May 6 Note-1

It took a lot of tough and gritty work by Sanaa Bhambri and Sandhya Nagaraj, but after winning three tough 3-setters in their 3rd pool tie against Indonesia, India topped the pool and advanced to QF today at the u16 Junior Fed Cup Asia-Oceania regionals!. Bhambri/Nagaraj d. Damayanti/ Soesilo, 64 36 64 .. The doubles match was postponed from yesterday (the singles scores from yesterday, below) .. It seems India's QF against Thailand has been postponed to tomorrow (I need to confirm that) .. In our pool, 3rd seeded India and 6th seeded Korea advanced .. In the QFs today, (4) Japan d. (6) Korea, 2-1 .. (2) China d. New Zeland, 3-0 .. (1) Chinese Taipei d. Hong Kong 3-0 .. India has to beat Thailand in the QF and then win one more tie, either in the semi or for the 3rd place, to advance to the world group .. Tough, but we may manage to squeeze through .. Go Sandhya, Sanaa and Madura!  .. Well, sorry .. correction, as explained later above -- we didn''t make it. ITF's website score was wrong; we LOST the doubles match today :( ..

May 5 Note-2

Leander and David Rikl advanced to the second round at the Rome Masters with a 76(5) 75 win over Mariano Hood and Sebastien Prieto of Argentina .. They will play the 6th seeded Aussie pair, Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley tomorrow .. Mahesh and Max are also playing the second round tomorrow, but they will have to wait for the a noon-time match to get done before knowing the opponents.

Harsh Mankad reached the quarterfinal at the $15K Lebanon F1, beating Mohammed Al Ghareeb (KUW,782), 46 63 60 but Mustafa Ghouse went down to the top seed Wesley Whitehouse (RSA,247), 06 57 .. Harsh plays Whitehouse in the QF tomorrow .. In the doubles QF, (1) M.Ghouse/ H.Mankad d. Motaz Abou El Khair/ Karim Mamoun (EGY), 63 62 .. They play the 3rd seeds Ivan Cerovic (CRO)/ Alexander Jakupovic (GER) in the semis.

Good news again from Sunil Kumar, who reached the QF at the $15K in Namangan, UZB .. He beat Mikhail Ledovskikh (RUS,728), 75 76(4), and now faces the 6th seeded Jean-Julien Roger (AHO,371) .. Sunil and Ajay Ramaswami lost in the doubles QF to the 3rd seeds Alexei Kedriouk (KAZ) and Orest Tereshchuk (UKR), 46 63 36.

At the Edinburgh $10K, qualifier Virginie Ayassamy (FRA) beat Shruti Dhawan 63 64 in the first round, and at the Tarakan (Indonesia) $10K, the 3rd seed Sai Jayalakshmy was upset in the first round by a qualifier, Mimma Chernovita, 63 63 .. So not a good day for the women . I am not sure of Liza Pereira's score.

At the Junior Fed Cup Asia-Oceania regionals in Thailand, some fantastic work by our u16 girls today, as they have forced a 3-way tie in the pool and can possibly even top the pool, despite losing 1-2 to the 6th seeds Korea yesterday .. They defeated Indonesia today .. Sandhya Nagaraj d. Patricia Soesilo, 63 26 75 .. Sanaa Bhambri d. Ayu Fani Damayanti 26 63 63 .. Bhambri/Nagaraj vs Damayanti/ Soesilo 2-0 first set (To be finished/ rain) .. Indonesia had beaten Korea 2-1 earlier, and so winning this doubles match for a 3-0 win would help us win the pool (all three have beaten the 4th team Philippines by identical 3-0 margins) ..  IND, INA and KOR are 6-2, 5-3 and 6-3 respectively in matches so far, with 13-6, 12-6 and 13-7 sets records by my calculations .. I think even winning a set in a doubles loss would be enough to put us into the QF knockout stage, but topping the pool is cruicial for us to try to advance to the SF .. But if we lose in straight sets when the play resumes tomorrow, we would miss the knockout stage altogether .. So everything depends on the doubles match .. In any case, those were two excellent fighting wins today by Sandhya and Sanaa .. The captain'd decision to replace Madura with Sandhya seems to have worked today .. I wish it hadn't rained - that may make things tough for us tomorrow.

May 5 Note-1

LP's doubles match got postponed at night at the Rome Masters .. Will play tomorrow.

Great news from Namangan, Uzbekistan .. Unseeded Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (IND,526) upset the 3rd seed Raven Klaasen (RSA,335), 63 62 to advance to the second round at the $15K UZB F3 futures .. He faces Mikhail Ledovskikh (RUS,726) next .. In doubles, Sunil and Ajay Ramaswami advanced with a 63 75 win over the Russian pair, Ervand Gasparyan and Andrei Merinov; they face the 3rd seeds Alexei Kedriouk (KAZ) and Orest Tereshchuk (UKR) next.

At the $15K futures in Lebanon, both Harsh and Mustafa advanced to the second round yesterday .. [R1] H.Mankad d. (Q) Ara Harutyunyan, 63 64 .. [R1] M.Ghouse d. (Q) Rabie Abou-Hassoun (SYR) 62 63 .. Harsh faces Mohammed Al Ghareeb (KUW,782) next and Mustafa runs into the top seed Wesley Whitehouse (RSA,247) .. (Q) Gurmehar Singh and Jakub Rutka (POL) reached the QF with a walkover .. They play the second seeds, Delgado-Whitehouse next.

Wildcard entry Sunitha Rao (USA,251) had a good win yesterday at the $50K challenger at Raleigh, North Carolina ..  She beat Ansley Cargill (USA,179) 63 64 ..

May 4 Note-2

Damn, we are in trouble at the Asia-Oceanis Junior Fed Cup qualifiers .. 2nd seeded India lost 1-2 to 6th seeded Korea today ..
Madura Ranganathan l. Hye-Mi Byun 57 16 .. Sanaa Bhambri l. Soon-Mi Seo, 63 06 36 .. S.Bhambri/ Sandhya Nagaraj d. Byun/Seo 76(6) 46 61 .. We have to beat Indonesia in the next tie to have a chance to advance .. Tara Iyer's absence is really really hurting us right now it seems .. I hope she is not injured - I only learned yesterday that she wasn't there in Thailand .. I had pencilled us in for world group in the girls u16 but we are in a dogfight right now .. Oh well, it happens.

May 4 Note-1

At the Rome Masters, LP and Rikl play a late evening match today in the doubles first round against Hood/Prieto ..

Harsh Mankad and Mustafa Ghouse beat Thomas Holzmann/ Zbynek Mlynarik (AUT) 75 16 64 to reach the doubles QF at the $15K Lebanon F1 claycourt futures yesterday .. In singles, the 5th seeded HM plays unranked qualifier, Ara Harutyunyan (ARM) today, and Mustafa plays qualifier Rabie Bou-Hassoun (SYR) .. Easier first round matches for a change, but the latter rounds are expected to become tougher, as Mustafa may run into the top seed Wesley Whitehouse (RSA,247) in the second round .. HM is also in the same quarter of the draw .. In the first round yesterday, qualifier Gurmehar Singh went down to Whitehouse, 36 16 .. Gurmehar had beaten Rami Alayli (LIB) 60 61 and Wissam Ayyach (LIB) 62 62 in the Q2 andd Q3 to qualify in .. Gurmehar also qualified into the doubles draw with Jakub Rutka (POL) .. They play Andrew Banks (GBR) and Dmitri Sitak (RUS) in the main draw first round.

At the $15K Uzbekistan F3 hardcourt futures at Namangan, #535 Sunil Kumar Sipaeya faces the 3rd seed, Raven Klaasen (RSA, 338) .. Ajay Ramswami, seeded 3rd in the qualies, got upset in the Q1 by eventual qualifier Dmitriy Makeev (KAZ), 36 63 62  .. In doubles, Ajay and Sunil Kumar play the Russians Kirill Ivanov-Smolensky and Andrei Stoliarov first ..

A correction from what I said yesterday -- Prakash Amritraj has withdrawn only from this week's UZB futures .. He is still listed for next week's $15K UZB F4 at Andijan and for the Fergana challenger the week after.

Shruti Dhawan made the main draw at the $10K in Edinburgh, UK, and is a drawn to face a qualifier in the first round ..  No news yet from the Indoensia $10K at Tarakan - though the ITF continues to call it a $10K in Jakarta, it really is at Tarakan, a small town in East Kalimantan, across the border from Sarawak, Malaysia, it seems .. I hope Sai and Liza made it there.

Good show by our u16 Girls Junior Fed Cup team at Nakhorn Ratchasima, Thailand, yesterday, as they started the pool ties with a nice 3-0 win over Philippines .. Madhura Ranganathan d. Melissa Conchita Orteza 62 64 .. Sanaa Bhambri d. Morella Conchita Zoleta, 61 62 .. Madhura/ Sandhya Nagaraj d. Julie Em Botor/ Melissa Conchita 62 61 .. India seems to be in the toughest pool there, with Indonesia and Korea also in the same pool .. 4 round robin pools for 15 teams .. It seems only THREE teams qualify for the world group-16, not four which is the usual number .. India's team nomination originally had Tara Iyer as the #1 player, but it seems she is not there and the alternate, Sandhya is in the team .. That is a bit of a blow for us, as we would have been pretty much a shoe-in for world group, with Tara and Sanaa for singles .. Madura and Sandhya are quite capable of doing the job though .. Go India

May 3 Notes.

Back from a trip, and back to news updates .. LP plays with David Rikl and MB plays with Max Mirnyi .. MB-MM are seeded 3rd with a first round bye .. LP and Rikl are unseeded as their rankings have fallen a bit to #20 and 21 now (with a bunch if points to defend in the next few weeks too; they have some work to do immediately) .. They play Mariano Hood and Sebastien Prieto in the first round .. That match is tomorrow (Tuesday) ..

Harsh Mankad is at the $15K Lebanon F1 futures on outdoor clay this week .. He is among the seeds - I believe he plays a qualifier in the first round, but I have not seen the draw .. Mustafa Ghouse is also in the main draw at Lebanon, and Jacco Mathew's name was in the entry list for qualifying - not sure if he went there .. Based on the news from a French Lebanese newspaper, Gurmehar Singh qualified in there, but he faces the top seed Wesley Whiotehouse in the first round today .. Harsh and Mustafa play Thomas Holzmann and Zbynek Mlynaryk in the doubles R1 today, as they try to get used to the clay quickly before the singles first round tomorrow.

Prakash Amritraj has withdrawn from the two weeks of $15K futures in Uzbekistan; not sure why .. Sunil Kumar is at the $15K UZB F3 this week, and Ajay Ramaswami was expected to be among the seeds in the qualies .. No news from there either about the draw yet.

Divij Sharan was at the qualifying for the $10K Spain F5 futures and fell in the final round .. After a Q1 bye, he upset the top seed David Villanueva (ESP,946) 76(5) 36 52 .. Disgusting for that guy to retire in the final game rather than to stay in there and take the loss like a man .. As always I have to say that it is disgusting behavior, unless the injury is so bad that one can't even toos the ball in for serves or can't even stand there to receive four serves ..  Just to repeat what I have said before, that stuff normally only shows the lack of self-respect from the player; If you believe you are good, you wouldn't feel the need to show the world that it was only injuries that caused a loss .. Good job by Divij there, but he could not continue the fine work in the next match where he lost 26 26 to Roberto Velilla (ESP) in the Q3 of the 4-round qualies.

Sai and Liza are at the $10K ITF event for women at Jakarta .. Shruti is at the $10K in Edinburgh, UK ..

The Indian u16 junior Fed Cup girls team is at Thailand this week for the Girls Junior Fed Cup Asia-Ocenia Regional qualifying .. They are among the 15 teams there, with 4 advancing to the world group-16 .. India should be a seed there, but I am awaiting news from there as well.

Here is an article in The Hindu with the comments by coach Sandeep Kirtane about our biys u16 Junior Davis Cup teams show in Colombo last week .. Frank and straight-forward opinions by Sandeep on the players .. Congratulations, Sandeep, for the job well done!

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on May 3 ..

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.