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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the weeks ending on May 17, 2004
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May 17 Notes

Excellent work by all Indians at the $25K+H Fergana challenger today .. First of all, Sunil Kumar qualified in with an easy 64 60 win over th 8th seed in the qualies, Waltzer Dekel (ISR,842) .. Then the second seed Prakash Amritraj won a good match after a very long time, beating John-Paul Fruttero (USA,429) 62 64 .. Good to see PA playing well .. Our guys won both the doubles matches today, as well .. Top seeds Mankad and Aisam Qureshi (PAK) won their R1 over Peng Sun and Yu Wang Jr. of China, 63 64 and Ajay Ramaswamy/ Sunil Sipaeya won their R1 over Igor Kunitsiyn and Dimitry Vlasov of Russia,  64 46 75 .. Tomorrow Mankad plays the 7th seed Satoshi Iwabuchi (JPN) and Sunil plays Toshihide Matsui (JPN) in the singles R1 ..

Mustafa Ghouse also had a good start at the $15K+H  futures in Saudi Arabia .. He had an easy 64 61 win over qualifier Bager Bo Khlaif of Saudi Arabia in the R1 .. Mustafa is top seeded in doubles with Jonathan Media-Alvarez; they have a first round bye in doubles .. By the way, Mustafa is now the 4th highest ranked Indian doubles player, having risen to #212 with the points for the back to back titles with Harsh in Qatar and Lebanon .. Harsh is the highest ranked after LP and MB, at #181 ..

I had a couple of emails on the little political note below on the election, asking why I am taking Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin issue so lightly .. Actually I am not saying that it is a light matter .. All I was saying was that the country is quite strong and that nothing was going to happen to us just because an Italian born became our Prime Minister - unless she proves to be very incompetent disaster, which does not seem to be the case .. I do have problems, personally, when I think about practical aspects of having a foreign-born as a PM .. The foremost in my mind is on national defense - how the Indian military chiefs can ever feel completely comfortable discussing NATO or Europe or Italy with our PM-elect, regardless of how Indian she may have become .. Hopefully no such issues would come up during her tenure, if she becomes PM .. Lesser issues in other spheres also are possible and problematic .. The second item that troubles me is that our founding fathers left this unusual loophole (not allowed in most countries) to be in the constitution for only other reasons such as ethnic Indians returning from countries like Fiji, Trinidad, Africa, Pakistan,etc .. From what I read they probably would not have otherwise allowed it .. That by itself does not trouble me, but the fact that we have not had the ability to amend the constitution for about 15 years with no party having sufficient strength in the parliament even if there may have been popular support for it on a straight referendum, troubles me .. Yes, that is how our parliamentary system works - but we have had a peculiar situation where a party really needed a foreign-born to keep it from falling apart and that is what has caused all this .. That is a reflection of the party, despite the respect I have for many good folks in that party .. That troubles me deeply though, as I am sure it does many of the readers here .. None of it means that the sky is falling - and I certainly don't agree with all these exaggeration that "it is colonialism again" etc .. Look at it this way, if Sonia was an Indian and Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, the congress party would have gone to his wife exactly the same way, assuming it was a reasonably capable Indian-born lady, to keep the party afloat .. So the question, "can't we find one Indian-born from among a billion?" is wrong .. Congress would have found that "one in a billion", had Rajiv been married to one .. So, it was not because she was a foreigner that all this happened, and there was no foreign hand that forced that party to go for Sonia (as far as I have heard) .. If that party selecting a totally inexperienced Rajiv as PM once didn't trouble us, then why should this trouble us? .. It is not even that unusual for political parties around the world to do similar things -- see how fast GW Bush came up the republican ranks and ended up as the US President .. So there is really no need to fret over that issue - unless you yourself, deep in your mind, have an inferiority complex or have a fear of the foreigner and think that we would become slaves to them again, yadda yadda .. I don't, and you shouldn't .. And it is anyway not fair to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, in the absence of sufficient evidence, to just call her a foreigner after 35 odd years of being almost exclusively in India .. That is what I was saying .. The bottom line though is that I trust our country and its strength to go through this too and come out of it as an even more mature democracy like we have done in every little issue that looked like a serious crisis for our brand of unique democracy - that is all ..

Anyway, I am not a political commentator or anything -- just a brief comment on a non-tennis matter  .. I only do that very rarely .. Don't worry, I will go back to tennis :)

[An addition after a few more emails to me -- Yes I know that she delayed her citizenship change .. Contrary to what you would expect, this is a big reason why I respect the lady .. To me, anybody who changes the citizenship quickly to become an Indian has not become Indian, because those who try to figure out India would take a long time to do it ... By her own admission she hated a lot of things Indian, at first -- that is exctly what I would expect of a sincere foreigner;  I would be very suspicious if somebody claims to have became "Indian" after 5 or 10 years .. Our country is uniquely different and I don't want anybody to say it is easy to become an Indian .. That she did not take her birth citizenship lightly either, and took 15-20 years before thinking of giving away her Italian citzenship is something I personally think highly of, not the other way around .. Even if it was done due to necessity, even that is acceptable for me - a fast citizenship change is never acceptable to me .. On another matter of factual/alleged corruption/scandals, I can't comment if our country's system has not been able to properly prove anything yet .. A third matter is a religious one - whether she would respect our cultural/religious heritage .. To me personally, a large part of that is tied intricately to sanatana dharma while I have deep respect for what all other religions brought to India .. Some have said that there is not much evidence she will respect any part of our culture/heritage rooted in hinduism, considering all the non-Hindus in her circles and about her own admitted "Christian values" etc .. To them, I ask the question -- did we stop other prime ministers (you know the names!) for this reason in the past? .. First of all, it is an unfair accusation that is against the spirit of our nation .. At least she has been honest to say that her Catholic values still drive her, unlike many others in India, mostly Hindus, who have always looked down on true Hindutva without admitting it .. I rest my case!! .. And as a concluding remark, I must also say again that I have never been a congress supporter all my life, would not ever vote for a party that considers a foreign-born with no Indian ethnicity to be their prime minister even though it is legal, and that I will never in my life vote for Congress or the Left anyway, for a variety of other reasons .. But all this discussion may be unnecessary based on Tuesday's developments  .. Added 6 pm Tuesday, Jay]

May 16 Notes

Mahesh has apparently returned to India, after he got injured (groin problem?) in Hamburg last week .. According to the newspaper reports, he is unsure of French Open now, but will decide by the end of the coming week whether to return to Europe for that .. LP is also not in the draws for the two events, St.Poelten and Casblanca this week. I assume Lee and Rikl will be getting to French Open early and prepare - they have 450 points to defend there for the semifinal last year.

The draws have come out at the Fergana challengers .. Prakash and Harsh are there .. [R1] (2) Prakash Amritraj vs John Paul Fruttero (USA,435) .. [R1] Harsh Mankad vs (7) Satoshi Iwabuchi (JPN,346) .. Pretty easy field there, which closed at a vbbery low #491, but HM could not get much of a break in the draw .. Prakash is not playing doubles there but Harsh is playing with Pakistan's Aisam Qureshi, and they are seeded first .. They play the Chinese pair, Peng Sun and Yu Wang Jr. .. Also in the doubles main draw, [R1] Ajay Ramaswami and Sunil Kumar Sipaeya play Igor Kunitsyn (RUS)/ Dmitry Vlasov (RUS) .. Sunil missed the main draw by a whisker and ended up as the top seed in the qualies .. Ajay went down in the first round to Andrei Merinov (RUS) 36 62 06 .. he had beaten the same guy last week in straight sets .. Sunil has been doing fine .. After a Q1 bye, he beat Vaja Uzakov (UZB) 57 62 61 and now faces the eighth seed Valtzer Dekel (ISR) in the final qualies .. Sunil's Q3 match and Prakash's R1 match are tomorrow along with doubles matches for HM/AQ and AR/SKS ..

In other news, three of the Indian-Americans were in action this week in the women's circuit .. The Uberoi sisters, Neha and Shikha of USA were at the $10K in Casale, Italy .. 4th seeded Neha lost in the QF to the 6th seeded Chani Scheepers (RSA) and 2nd seeded Shikha was upset in the semifinal by the talented Matea Mezak (CRO) in a close three-setter .. Sunith Rao (USA) has had a great week in doubles, as she reached the final of the $50K challenger in Charlottesville in the US .. She went down in an upset in the first round of the singles qualies, but great to see the run in doubles - awaiting news on today's final from there ..

The boy who upset Karan Rastogi in the first roound at the Citta Di Santa Croce grade-1 juniors in Italy, went on to finish runner-up in the big tournament, upsetting three more seeds and a couple more top-25 players along the way - he had done a similar job in the previous week at a grade-2 also, and seems to be somebody really good .. Karan was in the doubles draw there, seeded 2nd with Chu-Huan Yi (TPE) .. After a bye, they beat Chris Chrico (USA) and Louis-Xavier Lavallee (CAN) 62 46 64 before falling in a very tough QF to Evgeniy Kirillov and Alexandre Krasnoroutsky of Russia, 57 63 79 .. Tough start for Karan on the Europen clay tour .. Hope it gets better this week, as he is at the very prestigious ITF grade-A junior event, the Italian Open .. 7th ranked Karan is seeded 6th and faces David Navarrette (VEN,66) .. 83rd ranked Navdeep Singh is also in the draw and he faces Andrea Arnaboldi (ITA,40).

May 15 Notes

LP and Rikl put up a pretty good fight against the #1 seeds Bryan twins but came up short today at the Hamburg Masters in the semis .. 67(4) 36 .. I could not follow the match, so no details .. Good job by Lee and David to defend the 225 points they had from last year when they had made semis at Hamburg ..

At the $25K+H Fergana challengers, the entry list dropped a bit in the end I suppose, and Sunil Kumar, who was about 11 out from the list originally ended up as the top seed in the qualies .. I assume Rohan went there and made the draw too, but awaiting news on Prakash and Rohan there .. Harsh wrote in the forum that he had just reached there yesterday after a 6 hour taxi ride from Tashkent, etc .. Ajay Ramaswami is also in the qualifying draw .. Sunil has a Q1 bye .. Ajay plays Russian Andrei Merinov (946), whom Ajay beat last week in straight sets in the F4 futures qualies; he then could run into the 5th seed in the qualies ..

Somdev Varman ended up as the 8th seed in the qualies at the $10K USA F12 in Orange Park, Tampa, Florida ..A very strange case  of entry lists becoiming totally different in two $10K events in back-to-back weeks .. He was 14th in the last week in Florida, but this time he fell to about 27th .. He has to play 4 rounds to make the main draw .. he started well with a doubles bagel 60 60 win over Noel Moosa ( USA) .. He was to play Sergei Boulanov (DEN) today.

Indian u14 girls finished #10 and the u14 boys finished #11 in the Asia-Ocea regionals for world junior tennis .. I don't have the heart to talk the details of the tough time they had down in Australia .. We have a had a few good years of nice results in the u14 and u16 juniors but not great this year, except for the u16 boys team and the girls u16 team that missed the regional knockouts by a whisker ..  OK, next year for a better show.

May 14 Notes

I am traveling; so only a quick update today .. Excellent revenge win for Paes-Rikl today, as they upset the 6th seeds Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley of Australia, 62 63 to reach the semifinal of the Hamburg Masters .. That is the same team that beat them cheaply last week .. Nice to to see Lee and Rikl playing like they have not missed a beat, though they have only played very few events this year .. They have defended their SF points from last year - very timely work .. Now another seeded pair, the top seeds Bryns .. Should be a great match tomorrow .. At the $15K Uzbekistan F4 futures in Andijan, Prakash Amritraj and Jean-Julien Roger (AHO) finished doubles runners-up .. They upset the top seeds Jonathan Marray and Aisam Qureshi in the SF, 64 36 63, before falling 57 46 to the 3rd seeds Alexey Kedriouk (KAZ) and Orest Tereschuk (UKR) .. That team had beaten Sunil Kumar and Ajay Ramaswami in the semis, 76(5) 63 ..

May 13 Notes

Well, as the nation sings "You are our Sonia", let me shed a couple of tears for some big supporters of Indian tennis who fell by the wayside .. Yashwant Sinha, Chandrababu Naidu and SM Krishna .. Probably the three who have shown more passion for tennis than any other politicians in recent memory .. All three gone .. Oh well, that's how democracy works .. Congratulations go to the Congress party for winning one of the more issue-based elections we have ever had .. Just to lighten up the mood of all those who are crying about an Italian-born becoming the Prime Minister, don't you all know that our National Song had always been written for that? --- "Vande Mata Rome" ??? .. Frankly, I don't feel so bad about it - though I would have preferred to see Vajpayee continue for some more time .. You see, it's those who still have self-doubts about the strength and greatness of our nation who would worry that the whole world is suddenly going to look at us as "under foreign rule again", and all that yadda yadda .. Nothing of that sort .. The country and what Bharateeyatvam stands for have been there for millenia and nothing is going to happen just because an Itallian-born who has been in India for some three decades became our prime minister accordcing to the laws, through an election .. The world is becoming incredibly small and this kind of situation will happen in other countries in the future too -- India and California seem to be pioneers .. At least that is my spin on it .. So, sing with me -- "Vande Mata Rome" :) :)

LP-DR play the QF at the Hamburg Masters tomorrow (Friday) against the 6th seeds Arthurs-Hanley who beat them last week .. Mustafa fell in the doubles QF at the Lebanon F2 .. That is about it, for tennis news for today.

May 12 Note-2

There is a nice onsite fanclub member report posted by our own honorary Indian tennis citizen, Florian Buechting, in the Leander Paes thread about the MB-vs-LP match today that he watched in Hamburg .. Seems to have been an exciting back and forth affair .. The bad news was that Mahesh had to call the trainer for some sort of a problem with his right thigh by the second set .. Basically he could not do much by late 3rd set, but Leander and David Rikl showed great sportsmanship by staying away from hitting much to his side -- in the end it was easy for LP-DR to finish it off ..

Speaking of Leander, here is something that has shocked all of us in the forum -- He says, "I will Give Singles My Best Shot", in an interview  with the Chandigarh Tribune correspondent in Kolkata .. Excerpts  - "It’s not going to be doubles only, but I am concentrating on my singles as well. It’s very important that I lift my singles ranking this season and get into as many Tour events as possible. It’s not going to be easy, but I am going to give it my best shot" .. That is quite a bit more than the vague words he has said in the past about singles .. The reference to getting into Tour events and all that .. Is he again getting interested in doing that?  One hopes so, of course.

Somdev did not have a great start today at the USA F11, as he went down to qualifier Nestor Biceno (USA), 26 67(4) .. It is always tough to face a qualifier who has come throujgh 4 rounds,  especially on a HarTru clay surface that he probably hasn't played much on .. SKDV will be at the USA F12 $10K at Tampa next week, but he may have to play qualies from tomorrow, as the field gets inexplicably tougher with him faslling from #14 this week to near #30 next week!.

Some good doubles results from the Uzbekistan $15K .. Prakash Amritraj/ Jean-Julien Rojer (AHO) d. (4) Michail Elgin (RUS)/ Vadim Kutsenko (UZB) 63 63 .. Ajay Ramaswami/ Sunil Kumar Sipaeya d. Denis Istomin (UZB)/ Vaja Uzakov (UZB) 64 63 .. Now both teams are in the semis .. At the Lebanon F2, [R1] (2) Mustafa Ghouse/ Karim Maamoun (EGY) d. Jakub Rutka (POL)/ Gurmehar Singh 61 63 .. So, though we had none of our players (Prakash, Sunil, Mustafa, Somdev, Ajay, Karan) win a round in singles, we have some good success in doubles as usual.

By the way, I forgot all about the u14 junior tennis Asia-Oceania regionals in Australia - and remembered only after The Hindu reported some results today .. Anyway, I did not think we had a great shot this year anyway, due to some of our players like Yuki Bhambri being quite young, etc .. Anyway, not so good so far it seems that both girls and boys team failed to advance .. I will roundup the scores soon.

May 12 Note-1

This was the 7th meeting between LP and MB on the pro doubles tour .. They were tied 3-3 on wins against each other - LP went ahead to 4-3 today on MB .. Most recent previous match was at Dubai when Mahesh and Santoro beat Paes and Bjorkman in the final .. Like in all previous six occasions, it again became a three-set classic today .. At the $2.45M Hamburg Masters, [R2] L.Paes/ D.Rikl d. (3) M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi, 46 64 64 .. As the match was at 2 am my time, I couldn't follow it online for details .. A big upset for Paes and Rikl, to get them going again in the clay season .. MB had reached the final last year at Hamburg (350 pts) and LP had reached the semi (225 pts); So they were both looking to defend points, but the points are much more crucial for LP now .. LP-DR's quarterfinal opponents are yet to be determined, but they are drawn to possibly face 6th seeds Arthurs-Hanley who play the R2 tomorrow .. The QF will be on Friday.

At the grade-1 Citta Di Santa Croce ITF junior event in Italy, the 3rd seed Karan Rastogi (IND,7) was upset by Matteo Marrai (ITA,291), 63 63 .. That is a shocker of an upset .. Karan has not had big results since the huge run to the semi at the Australian Open in January .. Hopefully he will get it going again soon .. KR is with ITF's elite grand slam team and was also undergoing some coaching at the Sanchez-Casals academy for the last couple of weeks .. I have not seen the doubles draw for him yet.

May 11 Notes  

Solid win over a good pair of doubles players by Lee-David today at the $2.45M Hamburg Masters .. [R1] L.Paes/ D.Rikl d. Arnaud Clement (FRA)/ Sebastien Grosjean (FRA), 75 76(1) .. So, we are all set for another classic between Mahesh and Leander  .. LP-DR play MB-MM tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11 am at Hamburg  .. Go Lee, Go Hesh! :)

Disappointing news in singles from all our men players, in the first round at the $15K futures .. At the Uzbekistan F3, James Auckland (GBR,449) d. (2) Prakash Amritraj (IND,272) 64 62 .. Sun Peng (CHN,681) d. Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (IND,529) 63 61 .. (3) Lee Childs (GBR,274) d. (Q) Ajay Ramaswami (IND,843) 63 46 63 .. Earlier Ajay had qualified in with wins over Alexey Nomozov (UZB), 61 16 62 and over Andrei Merinov (RUS)  75 61 .. Good fight from Ajay against the 3rd seed, but nothing nuch to say about Prakash's and Sunil's upset losses .. Oh well, next week .. Mustafa had a tough draw and went down at Leabanon in the R1 to the second seed Victor Bruthans, 26 46 ..  In doubles at UZB, Amritraj/ J-J.Roger d. Ivanov-Smolensky/ A.Koudriavtsev, 63 76(3) and Ramaswami/Sipaeya upset the 2nd seeds D.Kiernen/ D.Sherwood, 61 63 ..

Also playiung this week is Somdev K DevVarman who is at the USDA F11 in Florida .. [R1] S.K.D.Varman (IND,689) vs (Q) Nestor Biceno (USA,1161) .. He plays singles tomorrow .. Got a bit of practice today on the clay surface in doubles .. Good fight against a higher ranked team, that too with a pickup-partner .. A loss though - SKDVarman/ Michael Lew (VEN) l. Fluit/Gresh (USA) 67(5) 67(5).

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.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on May 10 ..

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.