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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on May 11, 1998

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

May 11 Note-2

Twang-Twang-Shock-a-boom !! .. No, don't get excited .. no such thermonuclear activities in Indian Tennis, but Buddha was indeed smiling on Nirupama three times (I am sure you know what I am talking about!) .. She won three rounds of qualifiers and made it into a big challenger, the $75K Oporto challenger in Portugal. She faces Sandra Cecchini in the first round tomorrow. Cecchini is not what she used to be once (the official website at the Bol, Croatia tournament recently said that she looked more like a Greenbay Packers Linebacker than a tennis player .. not very tasteful for an official tournament site to say that .. :-)). She is still ranked #158 and is not an easy opponent. No details yet on who Niru beat in the qualifiers, but the tournament folks may send me some info later.

LP/MB play their doubles match tomorrow evening at Rome (scheduled as the 3rd match on court 2 at about 6 pm there)..

May 11 Note-2

Leander inched up one spot to #105 this week, with the same point total of 462. The doubles team ranking has gone down to #5 as predicted here (Johnson/Montana and Ferreira/Leach are ahead by only 2 and 11 points respectively; so LP/MB can easily regain the #3 spot after this week with a good showing at Rome).  The individual doubles ranks remain the same at 6 and 7 for MB and LP .. MB lost 7 points from Jerusalem challenger last year and fell to #303 .. It has been a free fall for him for a while .. Needs to play singles somewhere, to pick up some points .. But when ??..

LP/MB's first round match at Rome against Carbonell/Roig (who are up to #8 this week) was not in the schedule for today at Rome. Probably will be tomorrow.

May 11 Note-1

Here are the AITA year-end rankings, released a couple of days back: Men: 1. Gaurav Natekar (Mah), 2. Nitin Kirtane (Mah), 3. Vasudeva Reddy (AP), 4. V Venkatraghavan (TN), 5. Vishal Uppal (Del), 6. Rohan Wadhera (Mah). Women: 1. Uzma Khan (AP), 2. Rushmi Chakravarthy (TN), 3. Arati Ponappa (Kar), 4. Sai Jailakshmi (TN), 5. V Archana (Kar), 6. K Janaki (Mah), 7. Jahnavi Parekh (Mah), 8. Aparna Srinivasan (Mah), 9. V Aarti (Kar). Boys under-16: 1. Ravi Kiran Bhat (Kar), 2. Rohan Saikia (Mah), 3. Kamala Kannan (TN), 4. Akshay Vishal Rao (Chd), 5. Kedar Tembe (Mah), 6. Karan Doctor (Mah), 7. Dipesh Rao (Mah), 8. Parantap Chaturvedi (Del), 9. P Ravishankar (TN). Girls under-16: 1. Gautam Sheetal (Del), 2. Radhika Tulpule (Mah), 3. Radhika Mandke (Mah), 4. Shruti Dhawan (Chd), 5. Sonal Phadke (Mah), 6. T Yamini (TN), 7. Harsimran Kaur (Chd), 8. Kameshwari Vadali (AP), 9. Liza Pareira (Mah), 10. Geeta Mohan (AP). Boys under-14: 1. Parantap Chaturvedi (Del), 2. Sunil Kumar (Chd), 3. Anant Sitaram (AP), 4. P Ravikrishna (AP), 5. C S Mohanty (Del), 6. P S Bhattacharya (Del), 7. Pratim Parekh (Del), 8. P Vishal (Del), 9. A P Anand Kumar (AP), 10. Amanjot Singh (Chd), 11. Rohan Gajjar (Mah), 12. Harshit Sharma (WB). Girls under-14: 1. Jitisha Selarka (Mah), 2. Geeta Manohar (AP), 3. Megha Vakharia (Mah), 4. Liza Pareira (Mah), 5. Nikita Bhardwaj (Guj), 6. T Yamini (TN), 7. Rani Smita Jain (Raj), 8. Isha Lakhani (Mah), 9. Kalpita Raje (Mah), 10. Ankita Bhambri (Del), 11. Sangita Rajgopalan (Del), 12. Lata Asudani (Mah), 13. Preeti Rao (TN), 14. Sasa Abraham (AP)..

These rankings are not to be taken all that seriously, as a couple of things mess them up. One, it depends on whether a player has played the tournaments that AITA uses for rankings (otherwise LP, MB, Srinath, Fazal, Nirupama and Manisha Malhotra would be here too !) .. Two, the players who just transitioned from say under-14 to under-16 would would take a while to establish themseleves in the under-16 category, even though they may be better than many in that category (Notice how Manoj Mahadevan is conspicuously missing; probably because he is not 16 anymore, and he is too far behind in the senior list) .. And there is no under-18 catagory listed here.. Another thing to keep in mind is that ITF uses 14-and-under, 16-and-under and 18-and-under categories (not under-14, etc..) for most of their tournaments, such as the World Junior Tennis quals in Jakarta last week and World Youth Cup quals at Hiroshima two weeks back. Also, see how Punna Vishal who who was at Jakarta with Parantap Chaturvedi are missing from the under-14 list .. May be he is 14 and too far back in the under-16 category of AITA. However, Parantap is #9 in the under-16 list, which is impressive .. Now, why isn't there an under-18 catagory in the AITA list ? .. And where the heck is Vijay Kannan, the Indian Davis Cup reserve !??.. In some missing category ? .. He still qualifies as 18-and-under by ITF rules (he can play in the Wimbledon juniors this year, for instance).

US Collegiate (NCAA) championship news update: Vikrant Chadha, who is a sophomore at the U.of.Mississippi is ranked #69 and just missed the final 64 players for the NCAA collegiate national championships individual field. On the men's side, 32 players are picked from the top-4 list of the 8 regions (Vikrant is in the southeast region, the toughest, and would probably only be in the top-15 in the region), and the other 32 are picked at-large. Thus, one needs to be roughly inside #55 in the rankings to be sure of an at-large berth. He was up to #50 just a month back, but dropped a bit in the end and missed it. His university ("Ole Miss", Mahesh's alma mater too) is seeded into the 16-draw team competition as one of the top-8 teams in the country and does not have to play the regional quals starting next week; so he will get to go to Athens, Georgia, and play for his University as their #4 player .. Manisha Malhotra, ranked #21 in singles and #7 in doubles with Margie Lepsi, is already selected into the singles and doubles fields on the women's side, but her university (Tennesseee) is just outside the top-10 and will have to play the regionals starting soon, to qualify for the national championship team competition. The top-8 seeded in and 8 regional winners will be in the team competition. There is another Indian girl in the singles draw, Arati Venkatesan of the University of Georgia (only a freshman, I believe), but she is from Australia. She has done very well this year and is ranked near the top-50 now .. Other Indians like Jaideep Shetty at Texas Christian and Tushar Gautam at Purdue have not done all that well this year .. So, there is the skinny on the US collegiate scene.

May 10 Note-2

Here is a very interesting piece, lifted shamelessly from ATP site's Portraits section (May 10, 1998) : Double Focus: Mahesh Bhupathi .. Together with partner Leander Paes he is enormously popular in India. Name: Mahesh Bhupathi; Height: 6 ft 2 (1,85 m); Weight: 84 kg; Colour of eyes: black; Colour of hair: black; Birthdate: June 7, 1974; Birthplace: Madras, India; Residence: Muscat, Oman; Nationality: Indian; Wife/girlfriend: Footloose & Fancy Free; Children: None yet; Coach: Enrice Piperno .. Plays righthanded .. Age started playing: 3; Best shot/greatest strength: Serve; Greatest weakness: Mind; Favorite surface: cow dung; Favorite tournament: Monte Carlo; Best friend on the Tour: Leander Paes; Funniest doubles player: Libor Pimek; Most serious doubles player: David Adams; Funniest doubles team: Roditi/Berasategui; Hardest opponents: O'Brien, Lareau; Best memory in tennis: Davis Cup 5th match vs. Chile; If you play in a set doubles team, Name of partner: Leander Paes; Teamed up in: 1996; How did you meet: Juniors; How would would you call your doubles team (nickname): Indian Express; Greatest success as a team: Montreal winner; Aussie Open and US Open Semis; Your partner's greatest strength: Speed; Your partner's greatest weakness: Gets bored easily on court; How would characterize your partner: tough under pressure; If you play with changing partners, Favorite partner - and why: Rick Leach. Lots to learn from a doubles legend; Who would you like to play with as a set team: John McEnroe; Favorite hobbies: surfing the net; Favorite sport: Cricket; Favorite movie: Grease; Favorite actor/actress: Tom Cruise/Meg Ryan; Favorite music/band/singers: Anything with a good beat; Favorite book: John Grisham's The Firm ..

He likes LP/MB team to be nicknamed "Indian Express" ?? .. Couldn't think of anything better, Mahesh ? .. Well, if you needed a newspaper name, why not "The Blitz" ?? .. Oh, well, at least he didn't come up with something really lame like "Deccan Chronicle" .. :-). .. By the way, what's the deal with that "Footloose and Fancy Free" answer  ?? .. Picking Lareau/O'Brien as the toughest opponent is a bit of a surprise to me, after LP/MB beat them thrice in a row..

By the way, if you are wondering about Nirupama's whereabouts, she is supposed to be at another challenger in Portugal starting Monday. Will try to get some news on whether she had to play the qualifiers. It is a $75K challenger; so she probably had to play in the qualies.

May 10 Note-1

Leander couldn't pull an upset over Arnaud Clement (#90) and lost 3-6, 2-6 today at the Italian Open. Leander's game just refuses to take off on clay some times .. Since some 4 seeded players above him have lost in the second and final round of qualifiers there, Leander does not have any chance to enter the main draw as a lucky loser or anything if there are any withdrawals. So, it is just doubles for LP and MB this week. LP gets 5 points for qualifiers, but it won't change his singles point total, as his 14th best tournament already is of 5 pts (Stuttgart qualies); this will go into reserve points.

The Dynamic Duo are the second seeds at the Italian Open, even though ATP had said two days back that Kafelnikov/Vacek were the second seeds (I had wondered about this then .. They may have been showing the list of teams when the entry list was finalized) .. LP/MB have a tough draw. Here is the draw that just came out:

  IVANISEVIC-PHILIPPOUSSIS vs Q  Qualifiers          \ / \
7.JOHNSON-MONTANA          vs    OLHOVSKY-VIZNER     /    \_
4.FERREIRA-LEACH           vs    ARNOLD-ORSANIC      \    / |
  GOELLNER-TARANGO         vs WC ENQVIST-RIOS        \ /    |
5.BJORKMAN-RAFTER          vs    GRABB-KNOWLES       /      |_
6.LOBO-SANCHEZ             vs WC BRANDI-MESSORI      \      |
  KULTI-NYBORG             vs    KEMPERS-OOSTING     / \    |
  JENSEN-JENSEN            vs WC HENMAN-SAMPRAS      \ / \  |
3.KAFELNIKOV-VACEK         vs Q  Qualifiers          /    \_|
8.EAGLE-FLORENT            vs    KRATZMANN-KUERTEN   \    /
  KITINOV-WIBIER           vs    PIMEK-WAITE         / \ /
  STOLLE-SUK               vs    BROAD-NORVAL        \ /
2.BUHPATHI-PAES            vs    CARBONELL-ROIG      /

So, Mahesh gets to go for some revenge on the Spanish pair, Carbonell and Roig, for his loss to them this week at Hamburg. This is a really tough draw for our guys though. Carbonell/Roig ar #11 now, Stolle/Suk are #13 and Broad/Norval are #14 .. So LP/MB have the toughest 3 other teams in their corner of the draw than any of the other seeded teams here. And if they keep advancing, it doesn't get any better either, as Eagle/Florent and Kafelnikov/Vacek are the expected opponents in QF and SF, followed by the Woodies in the finals ..  Terrible draw .. The good thing is that LP/MB have beaten these teams in the past and should be able to handle them and get some good bonus points too. The draw isn;t much better for the top seeds, The Woodies, though .. The other seeds have somewhat better first two rounds. By the way, we see Pete up there, once again playing some doubles .. with Henman .. interesting .. Also, Bjorkman is not playing with Kulti, but is with Rafter. He has been two-timing (actually three-timing) with partners .. Kulti and Rafter mostly, and Eltingh for that one terrific title at the Australian Open. Kulti is with Nyborg here ..

And .. oh .. another thing .. LP/MB may have just fallen one more spot down to #5 by my calculations. Johnson/Montana beat Adam/Steven at the Hamburg final and get 370 points and 57 bonus points .. That gives them a total of 1200 points which edges them just ahead of LP/MB at 1198 .. Just 2 days back, Ferreira/Leach had reached semis there, and got 190 pts to move ahead of LP/MB to 1209 .. Hey, don't worry; this is a temporary thing. Our boys will be ahead of them soon .. very soon .. like after a week .. :-)

May 9 Note-2

Leander won today against Nicklas Kulti in 2 sets, 7-6, 7-6 (tiebreaker scores not available yet), and faces Arnaud Clement tomorrow in the final round of qualifiers .. He gets 5 points for this win. He can get 5 more plus 3 bonus points for beating Clement and qualifying into the main draw tomorrow. Go LP !! ..

At Jakarta, the Indian boys finally lost a tie .. against Taiwan today, 1-2 [source: Kompas Online, Jakarta].. I am not sure if they are out of the tournament or not. They may be, as this was supposed to be the knockout round .. But yesterday's match was also supposed to be in the knockout rounds, but China whom India beat yesterday played today .. The format looks rather strange so far, so I can't say for sure. Indian girls beat HongKong 3-0 to get their first wins in 5 ties so far. By the way, the Indian Newspaper reports on this have all seemed to be based on press releases from AITA ..  And there has not been any info about the groupings and format there. I know .. nobody cares as it is 14-and-under kids playing there .. But around the world, people are quite a bit more interested in the 14-and-under kids' and their performance. They are the ones whose talent has to be properly judged and who should be given proper support and coaching. The season-end rankings by AITA were out today. Uzma Khan (who is still only 18) and Gaurav Natekar lead the women's and men's rankings.   Will report the rank lists (also for juniors) later.

May 9 Note-1

ATP has now posted the draw for the qualifiers at Rome .. The winner of Leander Paes vs Nicklas Kulti will play the winner of Arnaud Clement (#90) vs Rodolphe Gilbert (#206) to advance to the main draw. Rodolphe and Kulti are two of the lowest ranked players in the qualifier draw and Clement is the lowest seeded player (most of the players are ranked above 150, and there are 10 guys ranked inside the top-100 in the qualifiers; more than the number at the Chennai ATP tournament main draw, for a comparison!) .. Thus LP has got about as easy a qualifier draw as he could have hoped for at a Super-9 . . the toughest qualifier draws are all at the 64-draw Super 9s .. Rome perhaps has the toughest qualifier among all the ATP tournaments too ( as Italian is the only 64-draw Super 9 with no other tournament in the same week .. the other tougher qualifiers are at the Super 9s at Indian Wells, Rome, Paris and Stuttgart with only small competing tournaments in the same weeks .. In comparison, the qualifiers at the Grand Slams are much easier since the main draws close at 100+ and the qualifier draws close at 250+) .. However, may be we don't want a Gilbert-Paes match if LP wins today .. Rodolphe has a 2-0 record over Paes; one win in 1993 in France, and another just last October in the qualifiers for the Paris Super 9 (both on indoor carpets) .. Clement and LP have not played each other, I believe. As for Kulti, he beat LP in 1996 in the India-Sweden Davis Cup match, and LP beat him at Rosmalen last year (both on grass). By the way, Gilbert and Kulti have both been ranked much higher in the past. Kulti was in the top-75 just last year at this time .. Gilbert has even a win over Becker in his record.

I don't expect to get the results available for today's qualifier matches till late in the day; may be not before 6 pm PST, USA.

May 8 Note-4

Lander is scheduled to play Nicklas Kulti at the Italian Open singles qualifiers tomorrow (Saturday) according to the schedule at the Italian Tennis Federation site. Have not seen the draw itself, but there are 32 players with 8 advancing to the 64-men main draw. So, two rounds of qualies. The main draw closed at #53 (Jim Courier) and LP is the 11th highest ranked player in the qualifiers (so he is not seeded and should be expected to play a seeded player in round 2). Kulti is however one of the lowest ranked players in the qualies and is certainly beatable for LP. The last time he played Kulti, Leander won (at the Rosmalen grass tournament). This is on red clay, and LP has not played any singles on clay for almost a year (since the French Open). He did play some good doubles on clay at Monte Carlo two weeks back and that should help. Hope he pulls through the qualies.

May 8 Note-3

This is interesting .. The "Portraits" section of the ATP site has been adding some very nice informal interviews with players, including several doubles players.  Alexander Kitinov's answer to the question on the funniest players: "Bhupathi/Paes" ! .. Also, Tomas Carbonell says the funniest player is Mahesh Bhupathi .. Hmm.. Our dudes are getting a reputation or what ! .. Interestingly, almost all the players seem to pick Eltingh/Haarhuis as the toughest team .. Despite a winning record against them, I am sure LP/MB will also add them among the toughest, especially after the loss at Monte Carlo to them from a seemingly invincible position in the 3rd set...

Indian 14-and-under boys defeated China at Jakarta today in the knockout stage of the Asia-Oceania qualifiers of the World Junior tennis (source: Kompas Online, Jakarta). So they have made it 4 wins in 4 ties so far at Jakarta (10-2 in 12 matches) .. Great show .. The Indian girls seem to have lost to Indonesia 0-3 to make it 4 losses in 4 ties too (it is 0-12 in 12 matches so far .. Yikes!) .. Still trying to figure out the format of this tournament .. more later.

Results from yesterday (today's Times of India):  Boys: India bt Korea 2-1 (Eui Suk Jung bt P Vishal 6-2, 6-1 Parantap Chaturvedi bt Sung Hag Kim 7-5, 6-3 Vishal/Chaturvedi bt Kwon/Kim 6-2, 6-4) .. Girls: Taiwan bt India 3-0 (Chin W Chan bt Lata Assudani 6-1, 6-0 Su Wei Hsieh bt Megha Vakharia 6-2, 6-1 Chan/Chao bt Vakharia/Lakhani 6-1, 6-1)

May 8 Note-2

Talking of some exposure for doubles, the ATP site has lately been doing a very good job, keeping the doubles in the news. For the first time that I can remember, *ever*, they have released the doubles entry list at a tournament the week before ! .. LP/MB are the 3rd seeds at the Italian Open next week. Here is the list of top 16 teams there, from the ATP site published today (the sum rank is in the parentheses) : 1. Woodbridge/Woodforde (5) 2. Kafelnikov/Vacek(13) 3. Bhupathi/Paes (13) 4. E. Ferreira/Leach (22) 5. Bjorkman/Rafter (24) 6. O'Brien/Stark (27) 7. Sanchez/Lobo (45) 8. Johnson/Montana (46) 9. Eagle/Florent (54) 10. Galbraith/Steven (57) 11. Broad/Norval (58) 12. Kronemann/MacPherson (64) 13. Stolle/Suk (68) 14. Knowles/Nestor (75) 15. Orsanic/Arnold (78) 16. Carbonell/Roig (79).. They even published the waiting list for doubles players ! ..  Anyway, it is a 32-team draw and nobody gets any byes. Once again, LP/MB are playing in a Super 9 with all the top doubles teams (except Eltingh/Haarhuis .. some minor injury problems with one of them, if I am not mistaken) .. From a points standpoint, it would have been much nicer to play at Hamburg where LP/MB would have been the #1 seed, and only one team (Ferreira/Leach) among the top 6 seeds at Rome is at Hamburg .. Other good teams like Galbraith/Steven, O'Brien/Stark and even Knoeles/Nestor are in the draw at Rome too .. But as I said before, nothing like playing with the best competition .. The Woodies also took last week off and are at Rome. The doubles draw there will be done only by Monday.

May 8 Note-1

Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles lost to Carbonell/Roig 4-6, 4-6 in the quarterfinals at the Super 9 German Open today. It's always tough to beat established top teams in doubles (Carbonell/Roig are #11 in the world) when you are playing with a new partner. More importantly, Ferreira/Leach beat Eagle/Florent and reached the semifinals there today, picking up 160 points plus 30 bonus points, for a total of 1209 points, which means that as of now, Bhupathi/Paes are down to the #4 spot in team ranking in the world (with 1198 points). This is what happens to team rankings when you don't play, as the points are just accumulated straight into the list from Jan 1st onwards. It's quite amazing how old man Rick Leach, who has been talking of retiring for a couple of years, keeps on finding new partners and doing so well year after year ! .. Not sure if this gives Mahesh a chance to try the singles qualifiers at the Super 9 Rome (next week). The qualifer draws at the Super 9s close at pretty high rankings, so it's rather improbable for MB. Will see tomorrow once the qualifiers start at Rome. Leander will be in the qualifiers.

On another note, the Hartford Courant confirms what I had guessed below (May 5, Note-2) that the extra bonus money that Phoenix Insurance has promised for the ATP World Doubles championship is indeed for the top-16 *singles* players to play doubles there. $150K for each top-8 player getting into the Hartford draw, and $50K for any other top-16 player. The extra $300K that brings up the regular prize money from $500K to $800K came from two sources. $150K from ATP and another $150K voted in by the players, coming from a reduction in the doubles prize money at the tournaments for the rest of the year. Thus, if there are 3 or 4 top singles players there, the total prize money goes up to well over a million dollars. That is excellent news ! ... Now, can the organizers there get their act together and do some publicity work early enough for the tournament? .. Last year, the two Indian newspaper reporters (S.Kannan of Hindustan Times and Kamesh Srinivasan of The Hindu) who got there a couple of days early found that the ticket office at the Hartford Civic Center knew nothing about the tournament scheduled there ! .. Not *one* newspaper in the US wrote even a single article on the tournament during the week before (except the Hartford Courant a day before). The Phoenix Insurance company folks seemed pretty clueless in organizing the tournament, the only one they "underwrite" .. There were articles later that the company got a bit surprised that the New Delhi press sent two reporters there, and on how they realized that there was an opportunity for some international exposure (with India being a market they were trying to get into) .. Anyway, It does look like they are more into it this time ..

May 7 Note-3

World Junior Tennis, Jakarta, Indonesia: The Indian 14-and-under boys team has been doing very well so far at the Asia-Oceania qualifying rounds. They have won their first three ties on Tuesday, Wednesday and today. The bad news is the the Indian girls have lost so badly so far, it's not even funny! .. Boys: [Tues.] India d. Malaysia, 3-0 [Wed.] India d. Filippines, 3-0 [Today] India d. Korea 2-1 .. Girls: [Tues.] China d. India 3-0 [Wed.] Filippines d. India 3-0 [Today] Taiwan d. India, 3-0 (source: Kompas Online, Jakarta) .. It looks like the Indian boys have topped their group, and have the best record so far at 8-1 along with China on the boys' side .. I will post more info after tomorrow's matches on the format, etc. Here are yesterday's scores from Indian Express today: India-boys d. Filippines 3-0 (Punna Vishal d.Yannik Gube 6-1, 6-2, Parantap Chaturvedi d. Marco Lua 6-3, 6-1; P. Vishal and Parantap d. Yannick Guba and Ricardo 6-4, 6-1) Philippines d. India-girls 3-0 (Iesha Lakhani lost to Ma Edna Chairse 6-2, 4-6, 4-6 and Megha Wakharia lost to 5-7, 2-6; Lakhani and Lata Assudani lost to Czarina Yae and Julie Ann 6-4, 3-6, 3-6)

May 7 Note-2

Bhupathi/Knowles didn't play today either .. It didn't matter though, as they are in the quarterfinals already, with Berasategui/Wibier giving them a walkover today. The Quarterfinal match is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday) at 11.30 am there (2.30 am PST, USA) .. They do not get any more points over the 40 that they now have for reaching round 2, but they will get the prize money for the quarterfinal appearance ($23K to share). Winning the quarterfinals would give them 160+ points and $43K to share. That is pretty cool for two wins ! .. Carbonell/Roig are not a pushover team though. They have already upset Lobo/Sanchez, the 3rd seeds in round-2. All four seeds on the upper half of the draw are through to the quarterfinals, but in the lower half, Bhupathi/Paes (6th seeds) are the only seeds remaining now !! The 2nd seeds Grabb/Suk,  #3 Lobo/Sanchez and #8 Kronemann/MacPherson have all lost .. That doesn't mean much though, because teams like Carbonell/Roig, and Arnold/Orsanic who are in the QFs are pretty good ones too.

May 7 Note-1

The MB/Knowles match at Hamburg was supposed to start at around 5 pm there, but it is delayed for now. Berasategui was playing his three-set singles match at about 4 pm, so they would give him some time to rest. Will report later on during the day if the match gets done..

May 6 Note-3

Quite a few matches seem to have been postponed today at the Super 9 German Open (rain or something?) .. Mahesh and Knowles are now scheduled to play their second round match tomorrow (Thursday) .. 4th match on court 2 and it should be starting at around 5 pm there. I think the opponents, Bersategui and Wibier are playing together for the first time. Berasategui's preferred partner is fellow Spaniard, Jordi Burillo (who is one of the fastest servers on the tour). Wibier has had most success with Stephon Noteboom, but plays with many different partners.

Thursday's Indian Express reports that the the Indian #1 boy and girl players (18 and under), Vijay Kannan and Uzma Khan have been selected by the Internatinal Tennis Federation for five premier tournaments starting June 16, 1998. The reports says, "Their itinerary starts off with the LTA International Junior Championships, East Molesey. The folowing week, they will play either the Danish Junior tournament at Rungsted Kyat, Denmark or the LTA International Junior Championship, Roehampton, England .. Next comes the Wimbledon Junior Championships, for which both Uzma and Kannan are hoping for a main draw entry on the basis of the 200-odd points they have collected on the ITF circuit. In case they cannot make it, they will play the 42nd Orangina Van Keenen tournament at Castricum, Holland .. The last two weeks of their tour will be spent at the German Junior Open, Essen, Germany (July 7-12) and finally the Swiss Junior tournament at Davos Platz, Switzerland (July 14-19)" ..  So, these two represent India in the under-18 group for the European tour; we had heard a few days back that Akshay Vishal Rao will be on a European tour soon with the 16-and-under group as well .. I had reported on the under-14 tournament at Brunei 2 weeks back where Punna Vishal and Megha Vakharia did very well (these two may get into ITF's under-14 group for a European tour too)

Talking of P. Vishal and Megha, the Indian 14-and-under boys defeated Malaysia 3-0 and the Indian 14-and-under girls lost to China 0-3 in the world junior tennis tournament in Jakarta on Tuesday .. Results: Boys: India bt Malaysia 3-0; P. Vishal bt Dannio Yahya 6-2, 6-1, Parantap Chaturvedi bt Adam Jaya 6-3, 6-1, A.R. Anand Kumar/ Parantap Chaturvedi bt Adam Jaya/Nikesh Singh 6-4, 6-4 .. Girls: India lost to China 0-3; Lesha Lakhani lost to Zi Yian 2-6, 2-6, Megha Vakharia lost to Yan Zhang 2-6, 7-5, 7-9, Megha/Lata Assudani lost o Yi Yan/Yan Zhang 2-6, 3-6 (source: Times of India). I believe this is the Asia-Oceania regional rounds of the 14-and-under World Junior Tennis .. By the way, ITF calls the 16-and-under world Cup as World Youth Cup, and the 14-and-under world Cup as World Junior Tennis; the former will be at Cuneo, Italy (Sep 14-20) and the latter will be at Nagoya, Japan (Aug 24-30) .. I know.. It's a bit confusing ! .. The Indian newspapers stopped reporting on the Youth Cup regionals in Hiroshima last week by mid-week, but it looked as though both the boys and the girls weren't going to advance at that time to the Cuneo final rounds ..

May 6 Note-2

At the $50K Cardiff challenger today, Nirupama Vaidyanathan and Marlene Weingartner (Germany, #171) lost to Caroline Dhenin (France, #121) and Emilie Loit (France, #162), 3-6, 4-6 .. This was the first round of the doubles there (she had lost the first round of the singles quals last saturday) .. Turned out to be a wasted trip to Cardiff for her ! .. She is still having trouble finding a regular partner to team up with for at least a few weeks at a time .. This is something she has complained about in the past .. I wish some other Indian like a Manisha Malhotra could do well in the tour and be a regular partner for her, but it's not easy for others to get up to the kind of ranking Niru has, to have a similar tournament schedule as hers. Talking of Manisha Malhotra, her collegiate singles ranking has slipped a bit from a high around #12 or so, to #23 in the US now. The regular collegiate season is over with only the final NCAA tournament remaining. Manisha will be graduating from college after that and is expected to join the WTA tour full-time with ITF futures etc (her ranking is in the 600s but she has what it takes to bring it up quite a bit if finances and other support comes her way .. but that is always a pitiful thing for Indian athletes). Manisha and Margie Lepsi are ranked #7 in doubles in the latest rankings released yesterday. On the men's side, Vikrant Chadha at the Univ. of Mississippi has also slipped a bit from a high of #50 to about #65 now .. He had won 12 matches in a row till a few weeks back, but had a couple of losses recently.

Seems like Mahesh and Mark Knowles did not play their second round doubles match against Berasategui/Wibier today at Hamburg.. Not sure though.

May 6 Note-1

Finally some news on the direct entry list at French Open Men's draw. The entry list closed based on the April 13th rankings. There are 104 direct entry spots in the draw (plus 8 wildcards and 16 qualifiers), but out of those 2 spots are taken up by players with protected injury rankings from a while back (Mal Washington and Andrei Chesnokov) and there are only 102 actual spots. The bad news is that the last man in was the #104 of April 13th, Christian Vinck. Leander was #111 then, which places him at the 6th or 7th spot in the waiting list for entry. There will surely be some 2 or 3 withdrawals, by the wednesday of week after next (Apr 20th) when the qualifiers start. It doesn't look probable that there will be that many withdrawals, and most probably Leander will end up in the qualifier draw as one of the top 2 or 3 seeds, as I predicted on April 13th, after the Chennai Open. This is not really a bad thing, as long as he can win two round of quals (there is bound to be at least one or two withdrawals after the quals start, and if LP reaches the 3rd round of the quals, he will be in the main draw as a lucky loser, something LP seems to manage in so many big tournaments !..). Plus it give LP some very good match practice on the Ronald Garros clay and gets him ready for the main draw. Of course, he has to surely win two rounds of quals to have a chance; these will normally be against players in the #125 through #270 range and he should be fine (since he will be seeded in the quals, he won't play anybody in the 110 - 125 range) .. I have not heard any news on where the qualifier draw ends at this point, but I doubt if Mahesh is in it, as his ranking has been in the 290 range from Apr 13th onwards. I sincerely hope they would consider giving Mahesh a wildcard into the qualifier draw .. Heck, they can do at least that much for the defending mixed doubles champion !! .. As mentioned earlier, on the women's side, where the qualfier draw is of size 64, as opposed to 128 on the men's side, Nirupama was already in the qualifier draw as the last one in, as of Apr 13th with a #174 ranking then. A couple more players have since entered the draw after withdrawlas like Steffi Graf's .. I haven't heard of any withdrawals on the men's side so far.

May 5 Note-2

Late update today. Though the match did not appear in the schedule for Tuesday (as posted Monday night), Bhupathi/Knowles did play today, and won the first round match over Fabio Maggi and Richard Fromberg, 6-3, 6-4 at the German Open Super 9 in Hamburg .. No other details available, but it looks like it was an easy match. Next up are Alberto Berasategui (#93, Spain) and Fernon Wibier (#53, Netherlands). This match does notg appear in Wednesday's schedule, but I will keep an eye and see if they play tomorrow.

Leander has just taken off to Europe. In a report in the Times of India, Leander is quoted to have said that he expects Kafelnikov/Vacek and Eltingh/Haarhuis to be the tough teams at the French Open. LP will be playing the singles qualifiers at the Italian Open this weekend.

There was also a news item today that the Hartford ATP Doubles championship prize money has just been raised to $800K from $500K .. That is great news for doubles competition .. It used to be in the $1 Million area, when this championship used to be held in the Netherlands and before that in South Africa, but the prize money had fallen after it came to Hartford. Actually the standard of doubles play, as well as coverage and exposure for it (not to mention interest from many of the top singles players to play) have come down a bit in the recent years and ATP has been getting concerned and taking some positive steps to improve things. This is a right step. The Phoenix Mutual Insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut, who are the prime sponsors of the Hartford championship has taken more interest and have come up with extra money, also to give bonuses to top players making it into the Hartford draw (the bonuses depending on the finish) .. The ATP report on this is a little unclear .. This is what they say: "Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Company, title sponsor and promotor of the event, has also created the Phoenix Challenge. As a result they will award a bonus of $150,000 USD to any of the top eight singles players who compete in the ATP Tour World Championship in Hannover, Germany, and the World Doubles Championship .. The top eight singles players and top eight doubles teams qualify for the two year-end Tour championships. For players ranked No.9 through No. 16, the bonus for competing in the World Double Championship will be $50,000" .. These funds from Phoenix are in addition to the $300K increase in the Hartford prize money, I believe .. It is not clear if the top-player bonus money applies to the top-16 *singles* players or to the doubles players .. It sounds like an appearance money, based on ranking (a form of which already exists for the doubles players at Hartford, as last year and before, when courtside bonuses were given to players based on the year-end *team ranking*) .. It could be a very novel idea to get some interest from some of the top singles players to think of some doubles and try to keep a regular doubles partner for a chance to get into the Hartford draw and make some extra money (not sure though, if this is enough money to entice top singles players..). Or, they are talking about the top-16 *individual doubles* ranks .. Probably not, as at least 12 or 13 of those players will anyway be there, and Phoenix will have to shell out a million and half in bonus money ! .. If these are based on singles rankings, yes, there are only 3 or 4 of the top-20 singles guys with a chance to qualify for Hartford (Kafelnikov, Bjorkman, Philippoussis, Rafter, etc .. If this was there last year, Kafelnikov/Vacek probably would not have withdrawn from Hartford and Philippoussis/Rafter would have tried to play a bit more doubles and tried to qualify .. perhaps .. They are all probably worth that kind of bonus money, in terms of fan interst at Hartford and so it sounds like a good business decision by Phoenix) ..  By the way, the additional prize money of $300K is coming from reductions in doubles prize money in all the doubles tournaments for the rest of the year, as voted by the players. Sounds good ! .. I guess the Paes/Bhupathi fans make up the fastest growing doubles fan base out there, and are probably the only ones really interested in all these details of Hartford .. That's why I am going so much into this stuff ..

May 5 Note-1

We now have a site homepage ! .. Your one-stop page to access everything !! .. 900 Million Indians have a tennis home on the Internet they can call their own !!! .. :-) .. Ok, Ok.. enough of my attempts at dramatization .. Check out the INDIAN TENNIS HOMEPAGE just launched !!!! .. The design was all by that web magician, Prakash Hemdev .. Let us thank the man .. While you are at it, take a look at his new design of the Leander Paes Homepage too .. I will continue to put info and keep the page maintained, just as before .. The Mahesh Bhupathi and Nirupama Vaidyanathan pages will also be up in the new format very soon .. We have dropped the pictures from the LP homepage now (same with the MB and NV pages coming up soon) for speedy access, but those pictures will move to this site's pictures page after that page itself is redesigned and updated with many many more pictures in the near future.

The new pages were designed by Prakash with a couple of basic concerns in mind. 1) Speedy download for all those with slow modems, and 2) No frames, crazy java codes, etc, that crash the browsers .. And of course, we wanted to make the pages crisp and professional-looking.

What more ? .. Aha .. There is .. Stay tuned; the site will have an easier web address soon too ..

As for news, nothing much happening. This turned out to be a good week for us to work on web redesign, etc. Mahesh plays tomorrow.

May 4 Note-2

Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles (#46 this week) will be playing the qualifiers, Richard Fromberg (#195, Australia) and Fabio Maggi (#295, Italy) in the first round at the German Open Super 9. This match is not in the schedule for Tuesday, and will be the only first round match remaining for Wednesday. The winner of the match will meet Berasategui/Wibier who won their first round match today.

The new rankings show Leander at #106.  Two or three others within a couple of points of LP's total of 462 are just ahead of him now. Mahesh's singles rank is #289 .. The doubles rankings remain the same at #6 and #7 for MB and LP, even though they lost their points from the Prague (Czech) Open title last year. The team rank remains at #3. The Woodies have put some big distance from #2 and #3 in team points, with their title at the BMW Munich Open last week. They have 1800+ now, to Eltingh/Haarhuis at 1350 and LP/MB at 1198. The Woodies beat Eagle/Florent in the finals at Munich.. Eagle/Florent moved up to #5, tied with Bjorkman/Eltingh with 1000 points.

Nirupama picked up 17.5 points as we expected, with the wins in the last two weeks at Portugal and Croatia. However she lost a few points from last year too, and is up to 126 points from the 114 before. Her ranking has moved up to #177 (lower than I had expected, as a few women from below leapfrogged her). Niru's doubles rank remains the same at #181. She is one of the few players with exactly the same point total in doubles and singles (126) !! ..

No action from Prahlad Srinath for a while. He has not played anywhere that I am aware of, since Vadodara. There is a Futures tournament in China this week (the first in China this year) and another at Uzbekisthan, which are probably the closest to India. No Indians went to the Uzbek Futures last week; so I doubt anyone went there this week either (funny; so many of the Uzbeks come down to India for the Indian tournaments .. I guess they have more travel funds ?..). There is also the Jerusalem challenger this week, but Prahlad would have had to go there and try to qualify. Will report if I hear anything about his plans.

May 4 Note-1

Mahesh Bhupathi is playing with Mark Knowles, ranked #51 last week, at the Hamburg Super 9 .. They are seeded #6, behind #1 Ferreira/Leach, #2 Grabb/Suk, #3 Lobo/Sanchez, #4 Johnson/Montana and #5 Broad/Norval .. Looks like the doubles draw is much weaker at the Super 9 than at Monte Carlo. Now it looks as though Paes should have been playing here with Bhupathi rather than at Monte Carlo week before last (that way they could have both stayed in India after vadodara and avoided an extra back and forth trip to Europe, and Mahesh would have had a chance to play at the jerusalem challenger or something in singles .. MB's singles schedule is in utter disarray for now, and I am not sure when he will be able to pick up any points next).. But then again, you have to play against the best to improve; while they would have had more easy points at Hamburg, they surely learned something from playing a tough Eltingh/Haarhuis team at Monte Carlo. Anyway, the draw at Hamburg looks like this (the ATP site is crashing my web browser this morning, and I had to make this draw from what a lynx browser borught up; hope there are no mistakes here. Will check again and correct if there are any mistakes):

 1-E. Ferreira    R. Leach       vs  Bye                          \
   A. Kratzmann   D. Roditi      vs  A. Olhovskiy   P. Vizner     / \
   T. Henman      M. Rios        vs  T. Kempers     M. Oosting    \ / \
 7-J. Eagle       A. Florent     vs  W. Ferreira    Y. Kafelnikov /    \_
 4-D. Johnson     F. Montana     vs  Bye                          \    / |
   J. De Jager    R. Koenig      vs  Qualifiers                   / \ /  |
   A. Kitonov     P. Nyborg      vs  J. Knippschild R. Schuttler  \ /    |
 5-P. Norval      N. Broad       vs  G. Kuerten     F. Meligeni   /      |_
 6-M. Bhupathi    M. Knowles     vs  Qualifiers                   \      |
   T. Haas        N. Kiefer      vs  A. Berasategui F. Wibier     / \    |
   J. Alonso      N. Lapenti     vs  T. Carbonell   F. Roig       \ / \  |
 3-L. Lobo        J. Sanchez     vs  Bye                          /    \_|
 8-T. Kronemann   D. MacPherson  vs  P. Albano      F. Santoro    \    /
   D. Adams       B. Steven      vs  B. Becker      G. Ivanisevic / \ /
   M.K. Goellner  D. Prinosil    vs  L. Arnold      D. Orsanic    \ /
 2-J. Grabb       C. Suk         vs  Bye                          /

Bhupathi/Knowles are playing a qualifier team. Not sure yet, who that will be. Doubles final qualifiers normally get done very late.

The new rankings are not out from ATP or WTA yet .. Stay tuned for later today.

May 3 Notes

Bad news from Cardiff .. Nirupama lost in the first round of the qualifiers at the $50K Cardiff challenger, to Alice Pirsu of Romania, ranked #228, 7-6(5), 2-6, 1-6 .. Things seem to have gone totally wrong in the second and 3rd sets for her .. We should hope that there is no reaggravation of the back strain problems from earlier that she seemed to have recovered from .. Either that, or she is being very inconsistent now, as these are the kind of players she should and normally does beat .. Not sure if she is playing doubles there, as the draw will be out only by about Tuesday for that.

Mahesh Bhupathi should be reaching Europe again soon, and is expected to play at the Hamburg Super 9, if he sticks to the earlier schedule as we have. The doubles draw there should be out tomorrow, and we will have to wait to see whom he will play with. No singles for him there. Since LP is on vacation and Nirupama is out at Cardiff, that's about all there is in the coming week ..

Didn't see any updates from the junior tennis tournaments in Japan at the online Indian newspaper sites yesterday.