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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on May 15, 2000

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May 15 Note-1

Mahesh and Mark Knowles are the 8th seeds at the Hamburg Masters this week, drawn in the upper half next to the top seeds O'Brien/Palmer .. MB-MK face Braasch and Dier in the first round - the same team that LP and Siemerink needed three sets to beat at the Bermuda challenger quarterfinals .. By the way, unseeded Damm-Hrbaty who beat MB-MK in two close sets last week at the Rome masters went all the way to win the title there beating top seeds O'Brien-Palmer in the QF, Lapentti-Rios in the SF (that's an interesting pair - they upset two seeds, #5 Adams-DeJager and #3 Haarhuis-Stolle) and then the 6th seed W.Ferreira-Kafelnikov in the final .. Damm-Hrbaty has turned out to be the breakout team this year so far - not sure if they plan to play doubles seriously for the whole year, though .. They are in the draw at Hamburg masters as well - unseeded once again, but they are huge dark horses.

Due to the minor knee injury he had from the Orlando ATP, Leander decided to skip the Jerusalem hardcourt challenger this week .. So he will stick with clay for now .. He will be going to Paris soon and will be at the French Open qualies next week .. He sent an email saying the injury is minor (he jokes "my age is showing") .. He has lately been very careful in taking care of injuries and avoiding fatigue problems from playing too much.

The second leg of the ITF India satellites for women, gets underway today at Mumbai .. It appears that the field is somewhat better than last week's though it is weaker among the seeds .. Radhika Tulpule, last week's 4th seed has withdrawn owing to the tennis elbow injury she has been carrying for a while .. It's unfortunate that youngsters like Shruti and Radhika who had satellite titles by age 16 are falling prey to injuries like this .. Sonal Phadke is in the draw along with the Venkatraman sisters .. I will start a page for this leg, later today with the monday results.

There was an article with some interview comments to STAR sports, by Leander that UNI agency carried, which appeared in all Indian newspapers - What I found funny were the titles given by various newspapers for the exactly same news story - "Leander blames Piperno for split", said the Hindustan Times and The Statesman .. "Paes hits out at Bhupathi," said The Pioneer .. "Ace pair likely to come together again next year", said the Deccan Herald article (read it here) .. "I'm living by my principles: Paes" said The Telegraph, which wrote an article with a few more details - excerpts: “I don’t have to defend myself... I’m living by my principles ..  At 27, I have a limited number of years left in me, so I have to be as professional as possible to ensure that I fulfil the goals I’ve still not achieved.”  ... Paes feels saddened to have been forced to take such a cruel decision. “Considering the amazing amount of hard work we put in to be where we ultimately reached and also the fact that we should have been chasing Grand Slam history, I feel very sad now that we’re not playing together. But I have to preserve my self-respect and I can’t do that under the present circumstances.” ... Both Paes and Bhupathi have said they’ll be playing together in Davis Cup and the Olympics, but will they actually gell for those three-four weeks? “To be honest, problems may arise. But, then, we have to overcome them as we only have put ourselves in such a situation,” Paes admitted. On the possibility of a future revival of their once successful partnership, Paes said he wouldn’t rule out anything. “I’ll take things as they come, but as a pro I know anything can happen. I’ll definitely keep my options open for the future,” Paes signed off on an optimistic note. ... Nothing much new in there - just Leander clarifying his position .. It's all about the two rebuilding the trust with each other ..

May 14 Note-2

Nirupama Vaidyanathan has started writing a column for the Indian Express - "On the Road" .. She had her first column with some very interesting details a couple of days back .. Nice story about Niru and Leander going around Tokyo once looking around for Indian food and finding Masala dosa somewhere! .. In fact Niru had written a few articles for the newspaper from Bangkok last month during the Fed Cup (here they are, if you didn't read them then - day1, day3, day4, day 5) .. Clearly the articles are written by herself, and not ghost-written by agents and newspaper editors as sometimes done .. That day5 article from Bangkok was very lucidly written, explaining exactly how India missed the playoff spot - something that no news agency really reported well .. The lady may have a career in writing later, eh? ..  Niru is an avid reader too, by the way, as she gets bored during the pro circuit travels .. Kudos to Indian Express in making use of her non-tennis talents! .. She is expected to play at the $75K Oporto challenger in Portugal starting this monday - not sure if she has made the draw, but I would expect her to make it in ..

Fazal and Keith Pollak lost their quarterfinal doubles match to Simon Larose and David Abelson 46 67(3) on Thursday at the USA F11 clay futures in Tampa, Florida .. Fazal had earlier been upset in singles by Simon Larose in three sets, as I reported earlier ..  Manoj Mahadevan was at the USA F12 qualifying rounds at Vero Beach this weekend (last week at USA F11 qualies, he had won three rounds and had fallen in final qualifying for 8 main draw sports) .. Once again the big 128-draw qualies .. Manoj didn't do as well this time .. He won the first round over Chris Clayton of USA 62 61, but fell to Gregg Hill (USA) in the round of 64, by the score of 67(2) 67(2) .. [source: Bob Larson's tennis wire]

May 14 Note-1

A couple of busy days for me and hence a late update .. 2nd seed and Sonal Phadke (who will turn 18 next month) won the first leg of the Indian satellites, beating Archana Venkatraman 57 64 76(5) .. Apparently this was an acrimonious final with the corwd pulling for Sonal and the chair umpire slapping a poiont penatly on Archana at a rather crucial time for taking too long to play the point, and Venkatraman sisters crwating a scene during the prize ceremony etc (see Sharda Ugra's article in The Hindu) .. Great job by Sonal, fighting it out after she was two points away from losing the match .. She has now played three seniors events, where she qualified in and reached the final of a $10K satellite, QF of another, and has now won her first senior title, all in a month .. She is really making people sit up and take notice .. I am not sure if she is going to complete the whole 4-week satellite circuit, as there was a report that she would go to the junior French Open if she makes the draw (her ITF junior ranking has fallen about 10 spots to #80 now, but I think she will still make the draw at FO) ..  Earlier in the semis, Arthi Venkatraman lost to Archana and Shalini Thakur lost to Sonal .. See the Indore satellite page.

Indian girls beat Australia in the placement ties at the Jakarta Asia-Oceania qualifiers for the ITF World Youth Cup (both the girls and boys were unable to advance to the top-4 spots in the QFs on Friday) .. The girls will now play New Zealand to determine who will get the 5th and 6th positions .. The boys lost to Thailand yesterday and will now play Korea to determine who places 7th and 8th .. Girls: India beat Australia 3-0 (Isha Lakhani bt Kimberley Coventry 60 76(5); Megha Vakharia bt Darya Ivanov 76(2) 63; Isha Lakhani and Samrita Sekhar bt Darya and Samantha Stosur 36 61 63) .. Boys: Thailand beat India 3-0 (Tara Tanthasuwanalert bt Jaco T. Mathew 63 67(2) 76(5); Anuwant Dalodom bt Amanjot Singh 60 63; Tara and Anuwant bt Amanjot and P. Vishal 76(1) 60) .. After the semifinals yesterday, Australia and Taiwan qualified in the boys section for World gorup; Korea and Taiwan qualified in the boy's section .. One more spot each into world group will be decided after today's 3rd place ties.  [source: The Hindu]

May 12 Notes

Both the Indian boys and girls bowed out today at the QF stage at the ITF u-16 World Youth Cup Asia-Oceania qualifiers in Jakarta .. The 6th seeded boys lost 1-2 to the 5th seeded Hong Kong (a new entry in the Asian tennis power group?) and the 8th seeded girls lost 0-3 to the second seed Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) [source: Media Indonesia] .. So both are out of contention for spots in the world group final 16 at Hiroshima .. The semifinals for boys will be China vs Australia and Taiwan vs Hong Kong .. The semis for girls will feature China vs Taiwan and Indonesia vs Korea .. So as far as the u14 and u16 world groups are concerned for this year, India's representation will only be in the boys u14 competition .. Considering that our u14 teams were not seeded high enough and that both the boys and girls did at least as well as expected .. Had Sania Mirza been available for u-14 and Nandita Chandrasekhar for u16, we may have done better .. Anyway, our junior standards need to improve further - no question.

May 11 Notes

At the ITF India Womens's satellites first leg in Indore, 4th seed Radhika Tulpule was upset by  7th seed Shalini Thakur in three sets, as Radhika's tennis elbow injury started flaring up again .. The Hindu reports that she has been having the problem for the last few months - that explains her somewhat worse than expected performance in the women's satellites last month as well .. Shalini is a good player but a healthy Radhika can normally be expected to beat her - reportedly Shalini herself was not in the best of helth either, though .. Otherwise the top three seeds, Archana, Arthi and Sonal advanced without much hiccups - the only one I expected to get any serious resistence was Arthi from Sheetal, but Sheetal is also returning from a few months injury problems and exams ans is reportedly not playing her best .. Sonal beat Geeta Manohar  .. Liza could not continue the momentum from her double bagel upset of the 6th seed yesterday, as she lost 16 16 today to the top seed Archana .. See the Indore satellite page.

6th seeded Indian boys upset 4th seeded New Zealand 2-1 today at the u-16 World Youth Cup Asia Oceania qualifiers to top their pool! .. The pool III had Pakistan and Philippines also .. India were already assured of spot in the knockout stage after beating PAK and PHI without dropping any matches, and by beating NZL today, they won the group .. In the quarterfinal, India plays the #2 team from Pool II, 5th seeded Hong Kong (3rd seeded China topped that Pool) .. Indian u16 girls lost a tough one today against top seeds Indonesia, 1-2 in their league ties - but they also advance to the final-8 knockout stage, as they are in a three-team group (Pool I) and both Indonesia and India have defeated the 3rd team Malaysia .. Isha Lakhani lost to Novianti Worsono, 06 61 36 and then Megha Wakaria lost to Angelique Widjaja, 57 63 06 .. Angelique is #38 in the world juniors and Novianti also is very talented based on how they did in the Indonesian satellites two months back .. In doubles, Samritha Sekhar and Megha Vakharia beat Novianti and Diana Nur Fatimah 62 63 [source: Jawa Pos, Indonesia] .. The 8th seeded Indian girls seem to have given a fight, but I had expected us to lose to Indonesia, who are the top seeds .. They now face in the knockout stage the winner of Pool IV, which is the second seeded Taiwan .. It will be another tough tie for Indian girls .. From both the girls and boys' sides, three teams advance to the world group - that requires winning two knockout stage ties (at least a 3rd place win is needed even with a loss in the semis after a QF win) .. The boys seem to have a decent chance but the girls have a very tough road ahead.

Following on his selection as the "Freshman Of the Year" in the Big-10 conference, Harsh Mankad was selected yesterday as the "Freshman Of the Year" in Region 4 (one of 8 regions) by the Interscholastic Tennis Association in the US, confirming his status as one of the top freshmen in the colleges this year .. Congratulations go to him, as I think this is the first such award for an Indian since Mahesh's glory days in colleges here - but Harsh has not gone up as high as Mahesh did, yet .. It's fair to say that his year has gone about as well as could be expected .. We will be able to determine if his game has improved when he goes to the Indian satellites next month (assuming there will be good competition in that).

Here is an article in India Today news archives by Rohit Brijnath about the Paes-Bhupathi situation .. It is perhaps more accurate than most other articles on this, and has some more details than others (Thanks Yasir for finding the article) .. It's a must-read for those wanting to know more about the issues.

May 10 Note-3

The 8th seeds Mahesh and Mark Knowles were upset by Damm-Hrbaty, 76(2) 75 in the first round at the Rome masters today .. This was a close match all the way and took about an hour and 40 minutes to complete .. The story was of futility from both teams in converting break chances .. MB-MK were 1 of 17 and MD-DH were 2 of 19 in that category .. The first set saw one break each .. Every other game in the second set also seemed to go to break chances, with our pair being broken finally in the 11th game .. MB-MK fought off triple match points and even had a break chance at AD out in the next game .. They came up empty there and the match was over soon .. Despite the loss, I feel this again shows that Mahesh is feeling quite alright out there on court .. After all, Damm-Hrbaty are the same team that upset the 5th seeds Paes-Arthurs at the Key Biscayne masters 36 75 64, on the way to a final with wins over #4 Haarhuis-Stolle and #1 OBrien-Palmer .. Hrbaty and Federer had beaten Paes-Arthurs the previous week at Indian Wells in straight sets too, in a match that I saw - Hrbaty is quite a player! .. So, this was a very tough pair MB-MK faced today .. On the whole, we have to guess that Mahesh's return has been ahead of schedule with no alarming problems .. That is great news - hopefully MB-MK can do better next week at the Hamburg Masters.

There was a strange looking quote attributed to Dr.Vece Paes in the UNI news agency report yesterday about the "split" (the article was in Times of India, Pioneer, the online Asian Age, etc) - it says,"the senior Paes also felt that his son was let down by Bhupathi. "Leander was stranded and had to lose a lot of money,'' Paes is quoted as saying " ..  ["quoted as saying" ?? -- huh ?? what does that mean ?? quoted by whom ?? -- irresponsible journalism, I guess] .. The line was sticking out in the article and I was suspicious if that was a correct quote .. Anyway, Dr.Paes writes in an email to me - "I am surprised that I am being quoted .. In fact, quite a few of the newspapers are surprised that for the first time I am stonewalling their queries. It would be stupid of me to say that Leander was left stranded and lost a lot of money when the same would apply for Mahesh. I suspect there is the usual news frenzy on this unfortunate breakup" [I am quoting him without permission - didn't want to wake him up at night in Calcutta for that] .. Anyway, it seems Dr.Paes did not say anything like what was quoted .. I hope the press would stay away from such inflammatory stuff and mischief, the last thing needed now! .. Already there is enough lack of trust between LP and MB - let us not add to it.

In other news, Fazal lost a close one on clay in the first round at the USA F11 futures to Simon Larose (#522) of Canada, 75 46 67(5) .. Fazal and Keith Pollak won the doubles though, over Marshall Brown/Trey Eubanks, 60 63 .. They face David Abelson and Simon Larose in the QFs ..

At Indore, all seeds but one advanced to the QFs today in the first leg of ITF INdia women's satellites .. 16 yr old Liza Pereira completely murdered the sixth seed Nikita Bhardwaj, 60 60, and that was the only upset .. Ouch - I wonder when was the last time we have heard of a seed being double-bagelled by somebody!

Indian boys won their second tie as well, 3-0 over Philippines, today at the under-16 ITF World Youth Cup Asia-Oceania qualifiers in Jakarta .. The Indian girls seem to have had the day off today .. Scores from yesterday and today - Boys:  India beat Philippines 3-0 (Punna Vishal bt Bernardino Alpuerto 63 61; Amanjot Singh bt Yannic Guba 61 64; Jaco T. Mathew-P. Vishal bt Donic Garcia-Yannick Guba 62 64) .. India beat Pakistan 3-0 (P. Vishal bt Alamgir Wali 62 62; Amanjot Singh bt Akbar Pataudi 63 62; Jaco T. Mathew- Amanjot Singh bt Asfand Rauf-Alamgir Wali 61 -6 (6)) .. Girls: India beat Malaysia 3-0 (Isha Lakhani bt Sze Pheh Yeap 60 62; Megha Vakharia bt Chen Yee Liaw 62 61; Samrita Sekhar-Megha Vakharia bt Logeshwari Krishna-Chen Yee Liaw 61 61) .. India is 6th seeded in boys and eight seeded in girls events .. There are four groups each on boys and girls side and the top two advance to knowckout .. The Indian boys are in a 4 member group and Indian girls are in a thre member group and both are now assure of finishing in the top two in theior group and confirmed of entry into the eight-team quarterfinals [source: The Hindu]

May 10 Note-2

I was alerted by Yasir Abdul-Quadir to this article in the Gulf-News (which was referred to by Rediff-India in their article today)  which outlines things that both the fathers have said about the "split" .. I was reluctant to talk about these issues, but now that the dads are openly saying what some of the details are, I will quote the article .. Since the permanent article link will be active in their archives only in a day or so, I quote it in its entirety, without permission:

"Tennis duo Paes, Bhupathi go separate ways" - by By Robin Chatterjee (Gulf-News, May 10)

Dubai - The highly prosperous and exciting doubles partnership between Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi is all but over.  Confirming this to Gulf News, Dr. Vece Paes, Leander's father said, "They're not playing together on the ATP Tour. However, they are open to partnering each other in the Davis Cup and Olympics."

Dr. Paes outlined the reasons for the split saying, "That as long as Mahesh retains Enrico Piperno as his coach, Leander is not open to a professional partnership. Thus, playing together for this year at least is out." Detailing the reasons for the split further, Dr. Paes said that Mahesh had initially agreed to drop Piperno as his coach and opt for Bob Carmichael, who is currently coaching Leander ... "Mahesh had made up his mind twice but he reneged on the agreement claiming that he needs Piperno to accompany him on the tour after recovering from a shoulder injury. After having waited for six months, Leander decided to go ahead," he said.

When contacted in Bangalore, Krishna Bhupathi, Mahesh's father, also confirmed the split. "Yes, they are not playing together. What the future holds I do not know. There are no crystal balls. Mahesh is currently in Rome for the Italian Open.".... When asked to shed light on the professional relationship between Mahesh and Piperno, Krishna commented that "Piperno does accompany Mahesh, but not as a coach. He is more like a manager." He also refused to read too much into the issue, saying, "When they played together they did well. They will do well without each other. There's no big deal."

But the Leander-Mahesh split will have far reaching consequences. According to Dr. Paes, "They were a package deal. They were good friends and played great tennis together. They both lose in this split: there will be deficits in income as well as sponsorship. We marketed Mahesh and Leander as a team. Now we have to re-think our strategy while marketing just Leander. The same holds true for Mahesh."

It is largely believed that Mahesh is his own man while taking career decisions and does not consult his back-up team. Krishna Bhupathi subtly shed light on this fact saying, "Mahesh's vote carries more weight. How can I say that he should not travel with Piperno? .... "Last year, he travelled with Anupama Verma (a renowned fashion model). To Mahesh, Piperno is like a court jester. He makes him laugh and keeps him relaxed. Mahesh has gone through six months of trauma with his injuries and not having earned a single dollar. He finds Piperno to be good for him. How can I say 'no' to that?

Dr. Paes was, however, willing to keep the door open for Mahesh. "In professional sport you cannot shut the door on anything. Mahesh is injured and he has to get through his re-hab. We'll then take it as they come."

So, there are some of the details .. Since the dads have said more than what I ever wanted to say, I will comment on this.   I had known all of this for a while, but had never believed that this is all there is to it, and I still have to think that there is some things more to it.  Despite the misgivings LP may have towards Rico and whatever he may or may not have done, that the Indian press folks have written about, I find it hard to believe that it is enough to cause such a split .. I had noticed myself that after they patched up before the USOpen (after that terrible incident in Indianapolis when some major misunderstandings caused them to play with other partners), things were fine for a while .. It was then reported in the Indian press that Mahesh had decided to drop Rico and take on Bob Carmichael as the coach soon .. I found three months later that Rico was again with Mahesh at Hartford (and I remember thinking, "uh-oh", though I personally don't know Rico and have nothing against him!) - and if you remember, it was just two weeks later during the Indian challengers that Leander came out with a few comments to the press which appeared less-than-sensitive towards Mahesh (the comments about finding a partner for the "long-term") .. Though I knew that Rico's presence never helped the situation, at this point that may not be all there is to it.  In my view, the real reason is that through all these episodes over the last 15 months or so, Leander has lost trust of Mahesh and his word, and Mahesh has lost trust of Leander wanting to play with him .. That's it ..

I am pretty sure that there is some more things that caused them to lose trust of each other and take this extreme step (after all, Lee and hesh are throwing away a lot in terms of money, fame, and respect/hopes of millions, by doing this) .. Mahesh had said to S.Kannan of Hindustan Times (see this article today) that Leander is using the “presence of Piperno as an excuse.” .. He (Leander) has been hinting different things since I had the shoulder surgery in November. I doubt whether he wants to play together now. Plus the trust and respect of each other has been lost off court .. As for Leander, when I talked to him last, this is not the feeling I had .. This was a few days before he went to Bermuda and had success with Siemerink - but he already told me that there seemed no way that they both would play together at Orlando or any time soon .. He still talked about what he and Hesh had together and said "we are chasing history here - and that is more important" .. He has always talked to me about how and why he liked Hesh as a partner, and I did not see anything in what he said that would indicate that he felt that he would have as much or better success with anybody else .. He did say "I am trying to wind down my career .. I don't need this - I have done enough of compromising" ..  Mahesh says he needs a partner who can travel with him during this tough period when he has to also bring up his singles ranking .. Leander told me - "Hesh should know that he can easily find somebody who could be his trainer or coach for the long-term  - and he should know how talented he is and take decisions accordingly" - that is almost an exact quote - not sure LP wanted me to write about it, but I feel I should, as the press reports never seems to point to anything good LP says about Mahesh .. LP is known to be a player who plays much better when he has the right environment and spirit around him, and he may be seeing it all as a pointless exercize if that is not the case - we know that they did well with just adrenaline and drive at just 6 important tournaments last year, whatever the spirit and environment was - but LP may be right that it can't be sustained unless everything is in the proper place and the "environment" is conducive to a successful partnership (this is just my read - something that nobody seems to bring up) .. Leander has told me about how Hesh "plays with heart" - even two weeks back he said that he would rather play now with somebody who plays with the heart and the right attitude to win, rather than somebody highly ranked and with great abilities - that is how he thinks .. Seeing how he has had better success with #113 Siemerink than with about 4 or 5 top-20 players he tried, I think I see his point .. In Hesh we have the perfect package with both attitude and abilities .. Lee told me no different - it's other things that upsets Leander and brings doubts in him about how serious Hesh is about the importance of their partnership, from what he tells me  .. When he says more about all this, however, Mahesh starts wondering, "heck, here I am trying to come back from an injury; doesn't anybody care about what I need now?" - I can very well see Mahesh's point there too .. It goes on and on and on like that and neither is trusting each other right now.

My read is that they have both been focusing on the negatives .. Leander focuses on things Mahesh has not done that shows him that their partnership is the most important thing for the long term, and Mahesh focuses on what he perceives to be a lack of interest from Leander to play with him .. (That is all under the assumption that they both are not holding back some things that they don't want us to know) .. Anyway, it all sounds like two guys on two different wavelengths for now .. It's a sad and strange situation .. I wish there were somebody who could sit with just the two of them and sort this out and get them to speak their minds clearly .. Sadly again, I look around and I don't see who is out there who can be that mediator who will be considered not to be in either camp .. Ultimately this is what I find as the biggest problem - nobody who can step in and bring them together .. The dads helped a few months back, but right now they are as worn out trying to help, as anybody else.

That is my amateur psycho-analysis of the situation .. I never wanted to write all this, but since Dr.Paes and CGK Bhupathi have talked to the press some details, and as I don't always trust the press to write everything, I thought I should elaborate on what I know and feel .. I don't think I want to be on either side of the argument .. If I may have any biases in my view of LP and MB, I hope I didn't show it :-) .. Both are good guys in my book still and I don't want to take sides or blame either one right now ..

So, as of now, write them off for a while .. Let them play with whichever partners they want to play with and relax rather than feel more pressure .. No need to try to find who is at fault, etc, etc .. Time will tell them what they are missing .. And time may heal things between them and bring them back together .. Perhaps patriotism is enough for them to do well together in Davis Cup or Olympics and the bond will be rekindled .. Till then, I am not holding any big hopes for their union.

May 10 Note-1

Indian boys beat Pakistan 3-0 and Indian girls beat Malaysia 3-0 today in the u-16 World Youth Cup Asia Oceania qualifying rounds at Jakarta, Indonesia yesterday [source: Kompas, Indonesia] .. No other info right now .. Both the boys and girls had easy ties to start, but the tougher ties are ahead, I guess ..

I haven't seen the schedule for today at Rome - not sure when Mahesh will be playing.

May 9 Note-3

Rain has delayed everything at Rome today, and as of 10.45 pm they have not started Mahesh's match - so I assume it is getting postponed.

The Telegraph (Calcutta) has just published a report in their wednesday online edition in which they appear very sure that LP and MB are not going to play together for the rest of the year (though they quote Dr.Paes to be saying that they will decide in a "day or two") .. The Times of India wednesday edition also has the same story .. At this point, I have no evidence to say anything to the contrary either .. They report that Paes will be playing the rest of the year with Siemerink and that he has a minor knee injury that is keeping him from the tour for two weeks (which means he won't play next week's Jerusalem challenger either) .. Mahesh will play the Hamburg masters next week with Knowles, St.Poelten the week after with Kratzmann, and French Open with David Prinosil (I just got an email from Mahesh confirming this too) .. Nirmal Shekhar has an article in The Hindu (wednesday) where he also seems to be saying that its is basically done too, though he keeps some hope .. He says that LP will play Davis Cup and Olympics with MB .. Nirmal wondered if Hesh would do that -- but what I had heard from MB is that they are both fine about doing that too .. Beyond that I personally did not feel that they are in a position to play together for now .. My contacts with Leander two weeks back and Mahesh last week did not give me any other indication other than that they are basically done for now .. This has nothing to do with LP having good results with Siemerink, or MB looking pretty good last week at Orlando in two matches - this was basically how things were shaking out more than a couple of weeks back .. All I can say is that it is one of the saddest chapters in Indian sports .. That is that folks .. What else can I say?

As for me, at this point I move on -- I like them both individually and respect their talent, and so I will follow their individual careers .. If they do what is needed to get back together, fine - if they don't, so be it.

At Indore also rain caused havoc, as only three second round matches were done today in the first leg of the ITF women's satellites -- See the results at the Indore satellite page.

May 9 Note-2

Here is a Fazal sighting! .. Fazaluddin is in the main draw at the USA F11 futures at Tampa, Florida .. I am surprised to find Fazal at a clay event - I guess he is showing his drive to fight it out, with everyone assuming he has no chance on clay .. Fazal is the eighth seed, and plays Simon Larose of Canada in the first round .. Fazal and Keith Pollak are also the 4th seeds in doubles - they play the wildcards, Marshall Browne and Trey Eubanks in the first round (Thanks, Steve Gocha, for the info) .. One Matt Guyaux upset the qualifier 7th seed in the 3rd round also upset the 9th seed Manoj Mahadevan 61 61 in the fourth and final round of qualies yesterday, only to end  up drawing the top seed Luis Vosloo in the main draw! .. I hope Manoj makes it in as a lucky loser or something, for all the hard work .. Actually, unlike I said earlier, this is a 32-size main draw, not 64 .. Steve tells me that ATP changed their rules and dropped those 64-draw futures this year (but the qualies can be much bigger, as in the 128-size draw at Tampa to select 8 players after 4 rounds!) .. Anyway, one main draw win will get you an ATP point, as opposed to two wins in those 64-draw futures .. It's a tough life on the pro tour.

Here is a slide show put together by the on Leander's title at Orlando with Siemerink at Orlando, based on pictures from the TennisHit site, to which they have given a link (hey Rediff, where is the credit to TennisIndia for some of those tidbit info lines ? :-)) ..  There are some nice high-quality pictures of LP there - take a look! .. Good to see Rediff still doing some tennis stuff, not just cricket - but then again, they may also be in a fix, getting sick of all the match-fix stories and talking about all the fixes cricket now needs (I hope cricket survives in the end though)! ..  Here is another online site that is doing a bit of tennis stuff - .. Check out the columnwrote by Mahesh Bhupathi there a few weeks back (this was before Lee and Hesh spoke and decided to delay their plans to play together for now) .. They also have a page dedicated to Leander Paes and an article on CGK Bhupathi's TennisVillage at that site .. Gulu Ezekiel, a member of our fanclub is the sports editor for the site - no surprise that they have nice LP-MB coverage there.

May 9 Note-1

Mahesh and Mark Knowles are scheduled for today at the $2.45M Italian Open (Rome masters) .. They play the first round against Damm and Hrbaty - the last match on court 5, which should be at about 8 pm there, plus or minus an hour (that is 2 pm Eastern time, USA .. 9 pm London .. 11.30 pm India .. 4 am Sydney) .. There will be online score updates available from ATP - since it has been over 6 months since we followed a Mahesh match online, we will have our chatroom open! .. Come on in.

Mahesh and Mark Knowles are playing together for the first time .. Knowles, from the Bahamas, is 29 years old and is a tall guy at 6 ft 3 in .. He has 13 doubles title to his credit .. Mark started the year with a bang, winning the Doha title with Max Mirnyi, beating teams like Adams-DeJager and O'Brien-Palmer .. After that he did not have great success in a few tourneys, but reached the final at the Atlanta ATP last month with Justin Gimelstob with a win over the Woodies, finishing runners-up to Ferreira-Leach .. He has had his biggest successes with long-term partner Daniel Nestor of Canada, but they have not played together this year as Nestor has been off the tour with surgery .. Knowles-Nestor reached the French Open final, US Open final and then the Hartford final in 1998, and they reached the Wimbledon, Cincinnati-Super9, and Paris Super9 semis last year .. Mark was ranked as high as #6 in mid-99, but has now fallen a bit in ranking .. He and Mahesh should be a pretty formidable pair if they jell together quickly enough, but their talented opponents today, Damm and Hrbaty, will not make it easy for them .. Actually Mark is a good friend of Leander's also, I believe - I remember finding him chilling at Leander's Orlando apartment once when I called him a couple of years back .. That was right after LP-MB won the Montreal Super 9, their first big-money title - Mark and a few others were bugging LP to take them out for dinner!

Since there are only 23 women in the draw at the Indore (first) leg of the India ITF women's satellites, all the eight seeds had first round byes yesterday and the matches were not that interesting .. No big surprises - see the Indore staellites page for results.

The ITF u-16 World Youth Cup Asia-Oceania qualifying rounds start today at Jakarta Indonesia .. Will soon have some news on how our kids do there this week.

May 8 Note-3

Here is the draw at the Rome masters for Mahesh and Mark Knowles (upper half):

1 A.OBrien/ J.Palmer     vs   J.Gambill/ S.Humphries \
  A.Kitinov/ D.Vacek     vs   P.Norval/ D.Orsanic    / \
  L.Arnold/ M.Garcia     vs Q Qualifier/ Qualifier   \ / \
8 M.Bhupathi/ M.Knowles  vs   M.Damm/ D.Hrbaty       /    \ _ Final
3 P.Haarhuis/ S.Stolle   vs   R.Koenig/ A.Olhovskiy  \    /
  N.Kulti/ M.Tillstrom   vs   P.Galbraith/ B.MacPhie / \ /
  T.Carbonell/ D.Johnson vs   P.Nyborg/ T.Vanhoudt   \ /
5 D.Adams/ J-L.deJager   vs W N.Lapentti/ M.Rios     /
It's never easy at the masters events .. That Damm-Hrbaty team is certainly not an easy one, as both can play very good doubles - it's the same team that beat LP and Arthurs at the Ericsson Key Biscayne frst round in a comeback three-setter.

Leander's doubles partner last week, Jan Siemerink, is playing singles at the Birmingham clay challenger in Alabama, USA .. Quite a few of the players from the Orlando ATP have gone there, but Leander is not playing there .. I suspect that he is not playing anywhere this week - probably to avoid playing too much and picking up fatigue injuries, which he seems to have become very careful about lately .. He is playing only singles next week - at the $50K Eisenberg Jerusalem hardcourt challenger where he is now listed as the 4th seed in singles ..  As French Open qualies, two weeks of FO and 5 weeks of grass season follows after next week, he may have chosen to take a break now .. As Leander moved his residence in Orlando and his phone number, I have not been in touch with him for a few days - will get hold of him sometime and find out what's up.

In other news, Manoj Mahadevan has been doing pretty well over this weekend in the qualifiers of the USA futures F11, having won three rounds in the four-round qualies (the USA futures are absolutely insane, with four rounds of qualifes to select 8 players to a main draw of 64 .. About 120 players in the qualifying first round!) .. Moanoj is the 9th seed in the qualies and has beaten Steve Koeppel 62 62, then Rodrigo Schtscherbyna 76(6) 76(6), and then Nicolas Beuque 75 76(2) to reach the final-16 in the qualies .. He now playes unseeded Matt Guyaux in the final round of qualies .. If he wins, he will have to then win two more rounds and get to final 16 there to get even one solitary ATP points .. But it is excellent match practice, and I always have a lot of respect for players who have the guts to try this!

May 8 Note-2

The four week ITF $20K ITF women's satellites start today at Indore .. I am just disgusted at the lack of drive among Indian players to make use of the tremendous opportunities provided to them by AITA .. Last year the complaint was that not enough events were being brought in for women .. Then they complained that international events are not the way to go and that domestic circuit should not have been scrapped .. They said there wasn't enough money in the tournaments .. Heck, now here are four weeks of Rs 2.25 lakh events (officially four international events of $5K prize money, but as no foreign players have come in, it is essentially four weeks of a domestic circuit with pretty decent prize money and the chance for 5 WTA points as well in the final week) .. So where are our players ? .. Sitting at home, or whatever .. They got just 23 players to show up at Indore for the first week .. Anybody who showed up could have played in the main draw .. This is absolutely sad ..

AITA has changed the schedule from last year and are bringing in only one of these 4-week satellites this year, choosing instead one-week $10K events later in the year instead of having another 4-week circuit - that is a good idea, as top players like Manisha, Sai etc can play those (I have no problem with them skipping this circuit as there is hardly any points there for them and going abroad for $10K weekly events is a better alternative) .. This time around this one 4-week circuit lives up to ITF's official name for it, which is "developmental satallite circuit" .. It is meant for those who are looking for their first few WTA points and generally have less that 10 WTA points or so .. What it is from Indians point of view is a four-week domestic circuit with about 9 lakh total prize money, which is pretty good for the aspiring Indian players to make their mark, get badly needed match practice and also to make just about eneough money to perhaps break even for one month of hard work .. And a whole load of them are staying away .. But then again, the higher ranked players with better hope to advance 2 or 3 rounds are all there though .. And they should be commended on their tenacity in going for the tough circuit .. The seeds are 1. Archana Venkataraman (568),  2. Sonal Phadke (667), 3. Arthi Venkataraman (573), 4. Radhika Tulpule (801), 5. Geeta Manohar (860), 6. Nikita Bharadwaj (881), 7. Shalini Thakur (885), 8. Sheethal Gautham (909) .. The Venkatraman sisters, Sonal, Radhika and Sheetal are perhaps the ones with the best chance for titles in my opinion .. Manisha and Sai inside the top-400 skipping the circuit was expected .. Rushmi Chakravarti also skipped it, but that also is not a very big surprise .. The circuit will continue through Mumbai, Pune and Delhi in the next three weeks .. See the Indore satellite page I have started - will have results there soon.

May 8 Note-1

Here are some exceprts from the nice writeup at the TennisHit site about yesterday's doubles final at Orlando - In game 2,  "Lareau, looking nervous, struggled to keep his side of the court covered and, at the end of the game, Gimelstob, surprisingly hit two shots into the net to give Paes and Siemerink a 2-0 lead. Paes didn't surprise too many people by holding his serve to make it 3-0" .. "The ninth game of the set at 40-15 brought the best exchange at the net with a flurry of volleys and ground strokes as both teams were forced into defensive positions. Paes ended it with a terrific shot that just scraped the baseline to give Paes and Siemerink the set 6-3. Both sides had their tactics firmly in place by the start of the second set. Paes and Siemerink hit everything at Lareau. Gimelstob and Lareau did their best to keep the ball away from Paes. But Paes, is not the number one doubles player for nothing and constantly managed to insert himself between the ball and Siemerink to hit decisive winners between the opposing pair" ... "At 5-4,  40-30 Siemerink served a perfect 104 mph ace to end the set and win the match 6-3, 6-4. It's hard to detract from the skill and hard work of Lareau and Siemerink but Paes and Gimelstob were on a level of their own in this match. If Paes and Bhupathi are not able to mend some fences that seem to have been trampled recently, a team of Paes and Gimelstob would surely win everything there is. Whether they could spend long enough in each other's company is something else again".... Hmmm .. Rather interesting write-up from them.

That brings up exactly the reason why Leander and Mahesh are such a great team .. There is really no way anybody can get away by attacking either of them .. Leander ends up having to do much more by himself when he plays with other partners, as the opponents try to keep the ball away from him .. If they do that with Mahesh on the AD side, they will end up paying for it !

Mahesh is playing doubles at Rome with Mark Knowles and Leander does not seem to be playing this week .. Also, the four week $20K ITF developmental satellites for women is starting today in India .. More later.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on May 8 ..

I am getting some enquiries 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 enquiring 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 enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.