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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on May 17, 1999

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May 17 Note-1

Early wire report from PTI gives news on three seeds going out today in the first round of the first leg of the men's 4-week satellites, on clay at Bangalore .. The biggest upset is Harsh Mankad beating 3rd seed Fazaluddin, 6-3, 6-2 .. The other big one was by 19 yr old Ravikiran Bhat, who upset 5th seed Alexander Sikanov of Russia .. The bad news is that 7th seed Sandeep Kirtane had to concede his match after he was down a set, due to elbow problems .. As for Harsh Mankad, the one who is most often written off in Indian tennis, the 19 yr-old continues to still show that there isn't sufficient reason for everyone to still keep forgetting him .. I saw a newspaper report yesterday calling him the "still struggling Harsh Mankad" - not sure where that idea came from .. The same article even said "The only other Indian in the field who could trouble the big two - Srinath and Fazaluddin - is Vijay Kannan" .. That is why I called Harsh the "written-off one" :-) .. Actually I am a bit surprised too that Harsh did this on clay - I had the impression that he did not like clay much .. We will await newspaper reports on Harsh's and Ravikiran's upsets .. Fazal doesn't like clay much though - and should be doing much better in the next legs .. Kannan has all the tools for clay and I hope he will do well here and use that to get going in the circuit and make that splash he is capable of .. He is seeded 8th here (both he and Harsh have exactly the same ranking - 855 - they must have flipped a coin for that final seeding!) .. The top seed Srinath must be playing tomorrow .. See the results at the Bangalore men's satellites page .. I will update it later with more scores.

Vasudev Reddy and 19 yr old Saurav Panja qualified into the main draw on Sunday - I believe both would have been in the main draw if they had entered early enough - but no damage done! .. SK Shivshankar, Anand Radhakrishnan and 17 yr old Kamala Kannan also qualified in .. Pakistan's experienced Davis Cup player, Mohammed Khaliq also made it in, along with US' Adam Altshuler .. I have not seen the result for one final qualy match where Dipesh rao and Shailesh Dhoble were fighting for that 8th qualifier spot yesterday.

On the women's side, the new rankings show Niru moving up 27 spots in doubles to 217 .. Her singles ranking moved up 2 spots to 182 (but she loses about 12 pts next week and could drop about 10 spots .. Picking up some points at the FO qualies could be very nice, if she makes it in) .. Manisha Malhotra picked up 0.50 pts (I believe from the Sarasota challenger qualifiers 2 weeks back - her points for qualifying in last week at Midlothian, Virginia, will go in only next week) .. I will trace down some news from Jackson, Mississippi, where she was at the qualifiers over the weekend .. Ther points from the Indian satellite rounds have not reached teh computer yet - so, Sai, Archana, Rushmi, etc stay at around where they are in the rankings.

Ferreira/Leach won the Rome Super 9 doubles title, beating Adams/De-Jager .. So, F/L are the new #1 team in the world .. LP-MB will move down to #3 .. More details after the new rankings come out, later today.

May 16 Notes

Not much news to report today either .. except that Nirupama crashed out of the first round of the qualifiers at the Strasbourg event in France yesterday, 1-6, 3-6, to the 3rd seed Janet Lee .. So, no upset of Janet this time for Niru .. I guess she will be going down to Roland Garros for the qualifiers starting in the coming week ..

No news updates on Leander and Mahesh either .. I assume Leander has recovered from the fever he had from about 10 days back, and will be ready to get going at Roland Garros this week .. As far as I know, the main draw has not come down by 4 spots from 104 to 108 for LP to get in, yet - the usual candidates for withdrawals, Todd Martin and Marc Rosset are both banged up and had to withdraw from the Rome Super 9 this week, but I don't know if anybody has withdrawn yet from the FO main draw .. So, I expect LP to be at the qualifiers this week, with MB ..

No other news today, it appears, unless the newspapers report anything about the qualifying rounds for the men's satellites - I have my doubts, with all the hooplah going on with the world-cup of you-know-what .. I just saw a newspaper with 23 articles of which 20 were about the madness .. Great as cricket is (and I am a big fan myself - I am a player and faculty advisor for our university cricket club here), I have to say I am rather amused, if not annoyed, at all the attention and money pouring into that game which (in my view) is sadly getting more and more marginalized in the world outside the Indian subcontinent - perhaps I am even more annoyed at how it affects the other games .. But, then again, as they say, if that's what people want, that's how it will be - I can only hope that there would be some in the media and other circles who have the balanced view towards all of sports who would attempt to temper the opinions and attitudes of sports fans in the subcontinent, a large portion of whom are plain "fanatics" when it comes to cricket - may be even more so than in the past.

May 15 Notes

My guess that Niru would go somewhere for some weekend matches was not bad .. She is at the qualifiers for the $190K Strasbourg WTA tour event in France .. Nirupama plays the 4th seed, Janet Lee (#104, TPE) in the first round of qualies today .. Niru has generally played very well against Janet, and has two upset wins over her too .. Let's hope for a third! .. Not sure when I will get the results of the qualies matches from Strasbourg (which is in northeast France near Germany).

In other news, Leander-Mahesh have moved down to #3 in team rankings, since Ferreira-Leach have reached the SF at the Rome Super 9 .. Black/Stolle, by the way, were also at this tournament, and they were playing doubles after a few weeks of break since their titles in weeks in March-April which put them at #1 - however, they lost in the first round itself at Rome .. Another good team back together just in time before FO, is Bjorkman-Rafter, and they won some matches here before losing in the QFs to Delaitre-Santoro .. One more win would have put them also above LP-MB in team rankings, but they stay behind at #4 for now .. LP and MB need to put some good practice on clay before FO, since all these teams seem to have got match play on clay so far .. There is also some outside chance for the individual rankings for LP and MB also dropping, as Ajay Verma had told me in an email .. More later on all that ..

The qualifiers for the men's satellites must be starting either today or tomorrow at Bangalore. Awaiting news.

May 14 Note-1

Nirupama's next stop after a rather successful tournament at Antwerp, should be at the French Open .. When the entries closed a few weeks back, the Main draw cutoff for women was at 112 and the qualifier cutoff was at 166 (it's a 64-draw qualies for 8 spots), which left Niru (then at #174) as the 8th player in the waiting list for the qualies .. I just saw a Reuter report today from France that the main draw has now gone down by 6 more spots, with the injury-withdrawal of Barbara Paulus (AUT) and Denisa Chladkova of CZE (then 6 out) making it into the main draw .. That means the lower cut for qualies has definitely moved down by 6 spots at least .. So Niru is at worst 2 out from the qualy draw, but in all probablity she is in ! .. The qualies start by wednesday of next week .. Last year, Niru made a quick trip to the Madrid WTA event, played the qualies over the weekend, won two rounds including an upset of Fabiola Zuluaga, and still got to the FO on time for the qualies ! .. We will see if she pulls off any adventures like that this weekend ..

Sai Jayalakshmi won the satellite masters today, beating Archana Venkatraman, 6-1, 7-5 .. Reportedly she was in good command in the first set, going up 4-0 in a hurry .. Had a little loss of concentration after going up 3-1 in the second set, allowed Archana to claw back and tie it at 5-5, and then took care of the job .. Sai gets 5 points to take her total to 26.50 pts, which will get her ranking up inside the top-450 .. She got $800, and Archana got $500 .. In the doubles final, Sai and Rushmi started breaking Shruti/Sheetal in the first game, then Rushmi felt sick again and they conceded the match after medical attention .. So Shruti and Sheetal get 5 pts each and $350 to share .. I am glad to see the women go through this 4-week grind in incredibly hot weather and making use of the opportunities they got. I am sure they would all like to get home, eat some home food and take a week of rest now! .. It's the men's turn from next week to go through the Indian summer in search of ATP points!

May 13 Note-3

Dr.Bhushan Sharma alerted me to this article by Rajiv Tripathi in friday's Time of India (Lucknow edition) with an interview of the Indian #2, Sai Jayalakshmi .. She seems to be getting ready to try out the European circuits soon .. She is right that, compared to last year when she was around #800, she has a much better chance this year of getting into futures and even some challenger draws (definitely into most challenger qualifiers) with a ranking near top-450 .. She should be around #450 in a couple of weeks with the extra 4 or 5 points from this circuit final taking her point total up from the 20.5 she has now .. It's the same situation with the Indian #3 Manisha Malhotra, who is also around #500, with 19 pts - she can also get into all futures tournaments and most challenger qualies .. Our #4, Archana Venkatraman will move up now from near #700 to around #600 with the 4-5 extra points to add to her current total of 9 WTA pts.

Talking of Manisha Malhotra, I had heard that she was going to try some tournaments in the US, when she decided not to be at the satellites in India (I believe she was already in the US, perhaps still wrapping up her degree at Tennessee, and it was probably cheaper to play here), but since there were only challengers the last few weeks in the US with no futures/stallites, she had not played anywhere .. I found today that she was in the main draw of this week's $25K Midlothian challenger near Richmond, Virginia, but lost in the first round to Jessica Fernandez (MEX,232), 6-2, 6-0 .. [source: Richmond Times-Dispatch] .. I am not sure if she would have made the main draw with her ranking (the draws have been closing at about 300 to 400 in the US challengers the last couple of weeks), but she gets one WTA point for playing in R1 anyway .. Even better if she qualified into the main draw, because that would be worth an extra 1.5 more points, and she would have made up for missing the few points she could have got from the Indian satellites - I believe she would have been very tough on the Lucknow grasscourts, she being the Indian grasscourts triple title-holder ..

Anyway, it's good to see our women players making an earnest attempt at the pro circuit - I have to believe that Nirupama's pathbreaking exploits have certainly helped our women players to set higher goals for themselves that they would otherwise have been unlikely to go for ! .. Now, let me play that broken record once more - is there anything anybody can do to get a couple of one-week $10K futures events, so that our players do not need to struggle through 4 weeks (though for some reasonable prize money) to get any WTA pts ? .. India should be holding at least 5 or 6 such futures events for women every year, but we have had a mere two in 98 February and *none* for 15 months now .. That is pitiful.

May 13 Note-2

Since I was getting impatient in not finding news anywhere, I finally made some phone calls to Belgium to find some news, which is good and bad .. In the quarterfinals today at the $112K Antwerp WTA event, Nirupama and Kim Clijsters (BEL,318) lost to Louise Pleming (AUS,114) and Meghann Shaughnessy (USA,194), 6-1, 4-6, 2-6 .. In R1 they pulled the big upset - Niru/Clijsters d. Vanessa Menga (BRA,105) and Miho Saeki (JPN,61), 7-5, 6-4 .. That win was worth 29 big WTA points including 9 bonus, according to my calculations .. In the qualifier final round, Niru/Clijsters lost to the top seeds Jane Chi (USA,212) and Meilen Tu (USA,241) - score unknown .. In the qualie first round, Nirupama/Clijsters d. Jill Craybas (USA) and Maria A. Vento (VEN), 8-1, to pick up 3 more points .. That gives here a total of 32 points to add to the 70 points she now has, and bring her ranking up by about 40 spots, closer to top 200 .. That is not a bad week at all, for Niru ! .. Will find out soon where she plays next.

At the Lucknow satellite masters, after the dust settled, we have the highest ranked two players in the field in the final! .. Nobody seemed to be much impressed with the way the Indian #2 Sai and #4 Archana had played in the circuit, but they will end up with the most WTA points .. The 4th seed, Sai, was expected to have another great match against the top seed Rushmi, but that didn't happen, as Rushmi was ill and conceded the match in the second set, after losing the first, 3-6 .. In the bottom half, unseeded Archana beat unseeded Janaki in two tiebreaker sets .. So, they go up against each other in the final tomorrow, to earn an extra point over the 4 that they have so far .. The doubles final will also be tomorrow .. Sai has a chance to get a double crown .. See the results in the Lucknow masters.

May 13 Note-1

I see that Nirupama and Kim Clijsters are now listed as a lucky loser entry into the doubles main draw at the $112K Flander's women's Open WTA event at Antwerp, Belgium .. That means they must have won a round of qualifier doubles against Vento/Craybas and lost in the final round to the quals top seeds, Meilen Tu and Jane Chi .. In the main draw, Niru/Clijsters face Vanessa Menga (BRA) and Miho Saeki (JPN) .. NV-KC replaced the 3rd seeds Catalina Cristea and Rita Grande in the draw .. Doubles news has been the toughest to come by from Belgium so far .. I have only seen the scores of two main draw matches reported anywhere, by many different sources so far! .. By the way, young Clijsters upset Elena Wagner to now reach the quarterfinal of singles as a luckyloser too..

The wildcards for the men's satellites starting next week have been announced - Avinash Arun, Manoj Mahadevan, Akshay Vishal Rao and Benjamin Xavier .. That's a good group of talented youngsters who deserve entries .. I am not sure why Arun needed a wildcard - Nasir Sherazi of Pakistan, shown in the direct entry list as the last one as of now, has exactly the same ranking (1292) as of last week, as Arun .. The talented 16 yr olds, AV Rao and Benjamin will be playing their first pro tournament! .. See the entry list at the men's satellites page ..

No news yet from the semis at the women's satellite masters in Lucknow today ..

May 12 Notes

At the Rome Super 9, Ferreira/Leach have reached the second round .. If they win one more round, they will displace LP-MB as the #2 team in the world, as they are now just a handful of points behind LP-MB .. Once again, I don't care much about the team rankings till at least 2 or 3 grand slams are done during any calendar year..

At the Delhi satellites, the experienced players seem to know how to handle the grasscourts, much better than the youngsters .. All the youngsters are gone before the semifinals, after today's play .. Sai, Rushmi, Archana and Janaki, the four best experienced domestic players have reached the semis and assured themseleves of 2 points each .. Radhika lost to Janaki in three sets and then Shruti lost to Archana in straight sets, in the QFs today .. Sheetal had lost to Janaki in the first round earlier, and Anna had lost to Sai in the first round too .. So, despite all the good show and titles in the earlier rounds, Shruti and Radhika get 1.5 pts each, and Anna and Sheetal get 1 pt each .. In doubles, Shruti and Sheetal once again beat the Venkatraman sisters and will meet the Sai-Rushmi pair for a 4th time in this circuit (3rd time in a final - once in the SF) .. Sai-Rushmi have beaten them three times so far, though twice they were three-setters .. We have 4 more very interesting matches coming up in the next two days .. See the results in the Lucknow masters page.

In other news, Akshay Vishal Rao has been selected along with the junior B-team to tour the European circuit from June 28 to Aug 1st - the tour will include 5 junior tournaments, in Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Rep., and Luxembourg .. The team includes 11 players from around the world (only AV Rao and a Taiwanese kid, Yen-Hsun Lu, are Asians in the team) and will be coached by Clement N'Guran (Cote d'Ivoire), Stan Tamura (USA) and Frank Zlesak (CZE) .. There is also an ITF junior A-team of 9 players touring Europe (none from Asia in there), but they are higher ranked, and have automatic entry to bigger junior events including FO, Queens and Wimbledon .. There are also a 6-member girls A-team and a 7-member girls B-team touring Europe, and Li Na of China in the B-team is the only Asian girl to make it .. Congrats go to AV Rao!

May 11 Note-2

The news from China is not good today - Fazal lost in the second round to Hideki Kaneko (#233,JPN), 6-2, 6-4 .. Also, Fazal and Srinath lost to Mlynarik/Randjelovic, 6-3, 6-4 in the doubles first round .. Overall, the three week trip to Indonesia and China was not bad for fazal as he picked up 9 points in singles an 8 in doubles .. Not great for Srinath, as he got points only in doubles .. They got some good match practice, which should help them when the Indian satellites start next week .. Thanks go to Steve Gocha for keeping us updated on their results in the east!

I still have not found the results for the doubles qualifiers at the Anwerp WTA event .. The top seeds in the qualies got a walkover to the final round today (Meilen Tu and Jane Chi) .. The other Q1 match, with Niru and Kim Clijsters has not been played yet, as far as I know ! .. Kim has been doing well in the singles draw, as she qualified in as a luckyloser and upset Miho Saeki (JPN,89) today .. Not bad a for a #258-ranked teenager.

May 11 Note-1

The new rankings show LP moving back inside the top-100 at 99 .. That means he is safely in the Wimbledon draw, which closes based on this week's rankings, I believe .. Things are not so nice for the French Open though .. It appears that he will have to play the qualifiers next week at Roland Garros .. LP was #109 when the draw closed a few weeks back at #104 (only becker from the top-104 is skipping FO, and his spot is taken up by Woodruff on injury-protected ranking) .. As of yesterday, there has not been any withdrawals either .. I doubt there will be 5 withdrawals by next week, which means he will need to play quals .. He should end up among the top 2 or 3 seeds for the qualies .. I think it's not a bad idea to play the qualies, since he has had no practice on clay and will be playing singles for the first time in over a month - better to play quals .. I have not had a chance to find out how he is doing in recovering from the illness, though .. Mahesh also will be easily in the quals draw next week at the FO, with his ranking of #253 this week ..

Nirupama is in the doubles qualifier draw at the $112K WTA Flanders Open at Antwerp, Belgium .. She is playing with a very talented teenager, Kim Clijsters of Belgium, and wer drawn againt Vento/Craybas in the doubles Q1 .. I am yet to see any results from the doubles quals there, though .. Niru is at #184 in singles and #244 in doubles this week.

No news yet today from the Lucknow masters leg of the women's satellites .. No upsets yesterday when 4 of the 8 first round singles matches and 2 of the 4 doubles matches were finished. The rest are today .. Rushmi, Radhika won yesterday .. Anna, Shruti and Sheetal in action today .. I will update the results at the Lucknow masters page later.

Srinath and Fazal moved up in doubles rankings with the 8 pts from the semifinal at the indonesian futures two weeks back .. Fazal up by 25 spts to 468 and Srinath up by 102 spots to 824 .. Sri and Fazal stay at about the same rankings this week (443 and 618) in singles .. Fazal's 8 points from the singles semi in China last week will hit the computer only a week or two later.

Here are the results from this week's ongoing China Futures F2 - [Qual 1] Fazal (#1 seed) - bye .. [Q2] Fazal d. Bo Gao, 62 62 .. [Q3] Fazal d. Natsuki Harada 76(5) 64 .. [Main draw, R1] (q) Yu Wang d. (4) Srinath Prahlad 64 36 76(5) .. (q) Fazaluddin Syed d. (q) Hao Shi 61 75 .. [R2] (q) Fazal vs (2) Hideki Kaneko, wednesday .. In doubles, Fazal/Srinath are drawn to play Zbynek Mlynarik and Steven Randjelovic .. Thanks go to Steve Gocha for the results .. Fazal has picked up 1 more pt this week .. Kaneko (#233, JPN) will be a tough one in R2 for Fazal, though - let's hope for a big upset!

Indian boys and girls lost in the QFs at the Jakarta world junior (u-14) tennis Asian qualifiers, both to Chinese Taipei .. I will compile and post the results soon.

May 10 Notes

Busy day for me, but a quick update .. MB and Henman lost in the first round today at the Rome Super 9 to the 8th seeds Adams and DeJager, 3-6, 6-7(4) .. That means MB loses all the points from the Rome title last year (as does LP) - Ouch .. That is 436 pts .. Fazal has reached the second round of the China F2 futures, and faces second seed Hideki Kaneko next .. Fazal had to win two round of qualifiers to make it to main draw and then win a round too .. Good show .. Srinath's tough stretch continues, as he lost in the first round .. I will give the details I got from Steve Gocha, later ..

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending May 10 ..