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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on May 21, 2001
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May 21 Notes

Nothing much was going on, and so I was conveniently taking a little break from the updates ..

The French Open qualifying draw for Nirupama will be known in a day or two, and she may be playing as early as wednesday there.

The qualies are done for the 3rd leg of Indian satellites at Ahmedabad, and the main draw looks good for Indians .. Dhananjay Kawade, Vishal Punna, Ibrahim Kimmerling, Mathew Snowdon, Clin Bennet, Nipun Gupta, Manoj Mahadevan, and Anant Sitaram are the qualifiers, and SK Shivshankar made it in as a lucky loser too .. Based on the circuit points from the first two legs, Mustafa Ghouse is the 5th seed, Nitin Kirtane the 6th and Fazal the 8th .. Vinod Sridhar, Rishi Sridhar, Rohan Bopanna, and Kamala Kannan made direct entry, Neil Shah, Davinder Bhusari and Shivang Mishra are wildcards .. Prakash Amritraj seems to have decided to skip the leg (which means he gave up on the satellite this time, and may be playing the French Open juniors? .. we will find out later) ..  Ghouse plays Ghedina, Fazal plays Kannan, Nitin plays Sherwood, Rohan plays Rishi, Manoj plays Bhusari .. It's a pretty good draw for Indians, actually .. Will add a page for the satellite with the results tonight (US time) .. A bit delayed, but the main draw singles starts only tomorrow anyway, with only doubles scheduled for today.

More later ..

May 19 Notes

Pretty amazing weekend for James Auckland of Britain - the reasonably fast courts in Bangalore seemed perfect for him, I guess .. He had played the singles semi against Mustafa yesterday and then came back for a doubles semi win, which was in three tiebreaker sets .. Came today for the singles final which was again a long affair against the top seed Doran, where he dropped a tiebreaker set and followed with two 64 64 sets for the title .. He came back for a 4th time for the doubles final with Barry Fulcher, and win that also for a 76 64 score against Kirtane-Bopanna, this time playing the first set tiebreaker to a 14-12 score .. Not bad .. See the recults in the Bangalore satellite page.

The players now go to Ahmedabad for the 3rd leg .. Traditionally the AGETA courts have been on the slower side (not sure if it will be played there) - we will see how everybody does in Ahemdabad ..  There does not seem to be any player totally on a different level than the others, and the surface seems to have had an effect on the results for everybody.

May 18 Notes

If you didn't see the update in the Bangalore satellite page, Fazaluddin also reached the semifinal yesterday, after a very good match against the 8th seed Or Dekel .. Fazal seems to be slowly getting some form back, after some injury layoffs etc (he had some back problems and had to skip a few events for the last couple of months) .. Good to see two Indians in the semi .. Will have today's scores soon .. I have added a circuit points page .. Take a look.

Nirupama is in the entry list for the $25K Surbitron challenger in Britain (on grass, I believe) starting on June 4th, during the second week of the French Open main draw .. She is actually 3rd or 4th in the qualifying list for the challenger right now, but will quite easily make the main draw when it starts .. It's been a while since she entered any grasscourt tournament other than Wimbledon qualies .. For the week after that (starting June 11th), she is in the qualifying list for the Tier-IV Tashkent WTA on hardcourts and then it will be Wimbledon qualies in the week starting on June 18th .. She is expected to be in action next week at the French Open singles qualies, followed by the main draw of doubles with Nana Miyagi in the week after.

May 17 Notes

Very good news from Bangalore to report .. 20 yr old Mustafa Ghouse may be coming around to being the kind of player his potential and abilities have indicated for a while ? .. May be .. He put an end to the hot 7-match win streak of the 3rd seeded German Lars Uebel (#597) today in the quarterfinal to reach the semifinal, following on his QF appearance last week .. Mustafa won 63 26 62 .. Mustafa "Pete" Ghouse has been gaining in confidence after every win and it is good news .. He is the national grasscourt champion, by the way, too - though he has disappointed somewhat in the last satellite .. I have not seen the result of Fazal's QF match today, yet, but Nitin Kirtane wentd own today in the QF to the 5th seed james Auckland .. Yesterday's hero was Nitin Kirtane, who was on the verge of losing the match and yet again pulled off a comeback in the 2nd and 3rd sets to win an energy-sapping 2.5 hour marathon against Hgedina of Germany in the hot mid-day sun .. He was exhausted and that may have affected his play today in the QF loss .. Both Mustafa and Nitin now have 16 circuit points each and they have assured themseleves top-5 seeding for the next week, which is quite good as they were both unseeded as the circuit started .. As for Fazal, if he won today, he should also be seeded for the 3rd leg .. That is  in fact a better-than-expected show by our men, for a refreshing and encouraging change after all the futility for a while .. I am especially glad to see the Mustafa is beginning to pull away from the pack of young second-stringers .. His straight sets win over Vinod Sridhar yesterday was a good one too .. Let us hope he keeps the momentum going ..  See the Bangalore satellite page.

Among our juniors, Sunil Kumar, ranked #70 has been taking a break for a few weeks after a hectic schedule in the early part of the year with the 5-week subcontinental circuit and then the 5-week eastern circuit .. No news yet on whether he will be playing at the French Open, for which he may not make the direct entry (he may squeeze into the 64-size draw) .. #55 Sania Mirza will make the entry easily there .. Vijay Amritraj had said in an interview with a few weeks back that Prakash Amritraj (#59) was not planning to play the French Open juniors (which will be the week right after the Indian satellite masters), but would be starting on the grasscourt circuit and planning for the Wimbledon juniors that follows 5 weeks later .. As for Sunil Kumar, last year he had played the grade-2 Reiffeisen Spring Bowl in St.Poelten (Austria), but he is not there this week .. Rohan Gajjar (#117) was there but lost a hard-fought first round match, 46 64 36 to Tom Eklund (SWE,161) .. We will keep an eye on whether Sunil and Sania will be going to Europe .. There are two more weeks of claycourt junior events there before th FO juniors.

May 15 Note-2

Finally a decent day by Indians at the satellites .. Two seeds were upset by Indians -Nitin Kirtane ousting the second seed Ivo Klec (GER,592) and Mustafa Ghouse beating the 7th seed Philip Harboe (CHI,831) .. Mustafa had upset Klec last week but had lost to Harboe in the QFs .. These are not that terribly highly ranked players, but nonetheless they are very creditable upsets for Nitin and Mustafa, both of whom have come on rather strongly in this circuit so far .. Nitin of course is the 27 yr old "veteran", who has looked very confident in this circuit so far, and Mustafa is the 20 yr old who has been showing some steady improvement lately too .. The featured match of the day was between Prakash Amritraj and Fazal .. Fazal is coming back from an injury layoff and was rusty ("at times brilliant" too, according to newspaper reports) but was helped out a bit by Prakash's mistakes .. Vijay Amritraj was in attendance there, but Fazal won 75 64 in a close match .. Vinod Sridhar and Rishi Sridhar had good wins over a German guy and a Dutch guy .. Rohan Bopanna was the 6th Indian into the second round, after a three-set win over SK Shivshankar .. See the Bangalore satellite page.

As for Prakash Amritraj, to some extent I have been a a skeptic and I have not been fully convinced that he is the proverbial "next guy" for us - but that is just based on his junior record which, while pretty good, is not all that better than those of Sunil Kumar, Manoj Mahadevan, Vijay Kannan etc .. But then, I have never seen him play despite him being from the Los Angeles area, not far from where I live .. There is no doubt though, that everyone who has seen him play gets very impressed by him .. The consensus from most newspaper reporters is that Prakash is a dare-devil player with a lot of potential, who plays aggressively all the time and possesses all-round tools, strength, decent power and a good serve .. He often loses due to mistakes, and it seems that most of his mistakes are a result of his aggressiveness ("impetuous" style of play, as Kalyan Ashok wrote in The Hindu today) .. I like players with such attitude though .. If he keeps it up, stays confident and puts in hard work, in the long run, his game should only become more accurate for him to start winning matches such as today's; and he could well turn out to be the kind of player we are looking for .. I hope so .. "Prakash goes for his shots at all times; while that costs him quite a few points it is a move that is bound to pay-off in the future," says Prajwal Hegde in the Deccan Herald .. That's good.

May 15 Note-1

It seems that Leander was down with a virus yesterday that was partly the reason for the Indian Express being unable to play their best .. Both Leander and Mahesh are on their way to India for a 10-day break which they need .. LP's ranking is probably just below the cut-off for French Open singles qualies which normally closes at around 275 or so .. This means he may have decided not to get back there in a hurry for next week only to find himself not making it to the qualydraw .. They will return to Paris by late next week .. Doubles starts only by the wednesday of the week after, and they will get a good 4-5 days of practice there before playing the FO after returning from India.

According to ITF London from yesterday, the surface for the India-US Davis Cup tie in Winston-Salem (North Carloina), Sep 21-23, will be indoor carpet .. I think they will try to find the slowest carpet they can find, to place in the Lawrence Joel Colisuem of Wake Forest University .. There is a message in our forum today (thanks Prof!) that those Indian fans in the US planning to go to the Davis Cup should reserve hotel rooms early (like, now itself!) because the hotel rooms will be tough to find at that time with the Wake Forest University having some events right then (from what I can find, it is the official "family weekend" in the university's calendar, with a big home football game against U.of.Maryland also scheduled for the saturday) .. I will post info as and when I get them .. The ticket info for the tie will be available next week, according to USTA.

I had posted the singles draw at the Bangalore satellite page yesterday .. Only doubles matches were completed in the main draw on Monday there .. The final singles qualies were done yesterday and a couple of Indians made it in .. The singles draw was tough for the top Indians, most of whom were facing seeded players .. One interesting R1 match is between wildcard Prakash Amritraj and 4th seed Fazaluddin .. They are also doubles partners, and their playing styles also would make that much quite interesting .. Pity that one of these two will end up without a win in two weeks (both had fallen in the first round last week) ..

May 14 Note-2

I have noticed one thing about LP-MB throughout their career -- They just do NOT do well when they have played more than 2 or at best three weeks at a stretch .. This is true about not just them, but about EVERY player I have followed closely, like Niru, Fazal, Sri, Manisha, etc - and there is probably no other statistic more of a sure thing than this particular one .. In an extremely rare case, may be a 4th week of success has happened, but a 5th week has never resulted in *anything* for any player .. Never! .. I get quite concerned when I continue to see them all play way too much more than they should play at a stretch - and then I feel sad that I was right in what I guessed .. I could be wrong, as always, but from observing the statistics on this, it is very very very clear .. As for LP-MB, they have started their matches well pretty much everytime they have lost a match this year, but people have pulled comebacks on them, the probablity for which seems to clearly increase the longer they have gone without a rest week .. Today, once again they started well, forced a break in the 8th game, served for the set at 5-3, but got broken back there, and then lost the tiebreaker and 9 of the next 12 games .. [R1] M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes l. (wc) N.Kiefer/ N.Lapetti, 67(4) 26 just now at the Hamburg Masters .. Unless they have had an incredible string of bad luck in a series of losses, I have to guess that it is not their rhythm or abilities that causes the losses, but that it is the tired bodies  .. I say that also because things have happened basically the same way regardless of the opposition .. They seem to drop serves in successsion too in latter parts of the matches, like today - after holding serve with some difficulty in the 4th game of the second set, they dropped serves in games 6 and 8 to bow out ..

I know that they have worked very hard on physical training and are in pretty good shape - and so they may be feeling fine about playing on .. But the fact is that they are also two years older than two years back (so to say :-)), and the bodies get tired faster .. That means they need to take rest and be very ruthless about skipping tournaments and going golfing like Sampras does - and they don't need to feel bad about it; nothing wrong in doing that .. I remember looking at how the Woodies and the Dutchmen used to schedule their apperances, and how much gap they left between events most of the time in their careers .. The teams with longevity have done that and done it well .. To be fair, LP-MB have not had as much luxury recently due to a need to pick up some points to stay high enough in rankings for entries .. But I wished (and some in the fanclub wrote to me wishing so too) that they would skip the Houston ATP after playing 8 matches in Monte Carlo and Atlanta in sucessive weeks .. But we also hoped that we were wrong and that our guys could keep going .. They did keep the momentum going at Houston, completing 12 matches in three weeks and raising their ranking from #46 to #7 with 575 big points .. But they have now followed that with first round losses in successive weeks, both after pretty good starts too .. Again, I am happy though, that they will effectively get a couple of weeks off before French Open, which is what matters  - and I sure hope that they won't be playing anywhere next week (other than LP probably being at the FO qualies late next week after resting for over a week) .. The break will definitely help them at the FO .. But I should hasten to add that I don't want to sound like I am advising the boys - they certainly know much better about what they are doing, and my "pontification" is without having seen them play or having talked to them .. Just me being a whining fan who is never satisfied, as usual, that's all! ..

However, Mahesh has a title to defend next week (won at St.Poelten last year with Andrew Kratzmann) .. I don't think the ranking numbers are as important as staying fresh and going to the big events ready to pounce on people .. Our boys have clearly demonstrated that they have got that ability back .. They need to reduce the number of events, and wait for the big ones to do their thing - they may be ready to think big and do some of the things they used to do earlier, like skipping some events and all that!

On the other hand, the hot streak over three weeks with those titles helped them with a lot of confidence that they can still combine the way they used to (they probably did need that self-assurance) .. If they would forget these two masters events as a case of being just tired and proceed on after some rest, they will be just fine at the FO - after all, they went into Roland Garos in 1999 with nothing much to show in the run-up! .. Go Indian Express, let's do it again!

In other news -- The Indian girls finished a creditable 5th (upsetting the same Uzbekistan they lost to in the pool matches), but the boys finished a rather disappointing 9th, at the Jakarta qualifiers for the world youth cup u16 .. See The Hindu news report for details.

May 14 Note-1

The first round match for LP-MB at the $2.95M Hamburg Masters is at about 3.30 pm (plus/minus half hour) .. That is 7 pm India, 6.30 am Los Angeles .. ATP has announced that they will have live scoring again, after two masters events where they did not do that .. That means we will be following the match live in our chatroom .. Come on in!

May 13 Notes

The Indian Express plays Monday late afternoon at the Hamburg masters in the first round .. Here is the upper half of the draw:

1 J.Bjorkman/ T.Woodbridge vs   C.Haggard/ T.Vanhoudt     \
  T.Carbonell/ M.Hill      vs   A.Olhovskiy/ F.Santoro    / \
  L.Arnold/ C.Suk          vs   W.Black/ K.Ullyett        \ / \
6 E.Ferreira/ J.Palmer     vs W T.Henman/ T.Martin        /    \ _ Final
4 J.Eagle/ A.Florent       vs   J.Oncins/ D.Orsanic       \    /
  M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes       vs W N.Kiefer/ N.Lapentti      / \ /
  P.Pala/ P.Vizner         vs   J.Knippschild/ D.Prinosil \ /
5 W.Ferreira/ Y.Kafelnikov vs Q qualifiers                /
That is a very difficult draw .. Our boys have a reasonably tough first round, followed by three of the best teams there, if the results are as expected .. By the way, the potential SF team for our boys, Ferreira-Kafelnikov, are on a hot streak too .. 5th seeded, they won the masters doubles title at Rome today beating the top seeds Nestor-Stolle .. Also in Rome, after being let off the hook by LP-MB this week in the first round, Agassi and Hewitt went on to upset the 2nd seeds Novak-Rikl also in three-sets, before falling to Ferreira-Kafelnikov in the QF in three sets ..

Nirupama says that the neck pain that gave her problems this week in the second round of singles at the Virginia challenger is connected to the shoulder trouble last week .. She is going to take time off and rest before playing the French Open qualies starting around the 24th .. It doesn't appear to be anything that serious though (we all surely hope so!) .. She said she is planning to play doubles at the FO with Nana Miyagi .. As far as I know, Nana herself has had some injury problems over a few months now, but she seems fine for now and has been playing lately .. They will make the main draw of doubles, which is the good news.

The second leg of the satellites start tomorrow in Bangalore - most probably only doubles matches will be played in the main draw, as the singles qualies are still ongoing and won't get done till tomorrow .. The draws hadn't been made by saturday night .. Fazal is playing doubles this time with Prakash Amritraj ..

#12 Ajay Ramaswamy had a straight sets win over the #35 college player today in leading the 15th ranked Louisiana State University to the final-16 of college tennis with a win over #19 U.of.Texas (4-team tournaments were held in 16 campuses this weekend - LSU was the top seed in the tournament on their homecourts) .. Despite valiant efforts from Harsh Mankad, the #46 ranked Univ of Minnesota fell in the final-32 today to #12 U.of.Miami on their homecourt (to their credit, U.of.M did upset #15 U.of.Alabama yesterday inspired by the upset of the #15 Maxim Belski by #45 Harsh at the #1 spot) .. Harsh's team mates have been injury-plagued and he has been mostly waging a lone-battle all year at the #1 spot .. Last year, U.of.M was in the top-20 and advanced to the final-16, but Harsh's ranking was not high enough to make it to the individual events, but this year, though his university is not going to the final-16 team events, he himself is among a handful of players appearing in both the singles and doubles individual tournaments .. Ajay Ramaswamy will lead his LSU Tigers in the final-16 team events .. Ajay did not make it to the individual doubles event, but will be in the individual singles event, as a seeded player who will be a contender for the title too (which would be a tremendous achievement) .. Jahnavi Parekh, also in her final year as is Ajay, led her Baylor University to the final-16 today after the 4-team tournament held at Baylor (they are ranked #18 in women's rankings but were seeded among the top-16 by NCAA) .. Jahnavi is ranked #34, quite a bit below the top-15 ranking she had last year when she set Baylor records for wins during a fantastic season .. She has came through with tough wins when needed for the Baylor Bears this year though, as the leader of the team .. She will be in the team final-16, as well as in individual doubles and singles ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on May 14 ..

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.