LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on May 22, 2000
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May 22 Notes
Mahesh's second round match at the $400K Raiffeisen Grand Prix at St.Poelten may not be before wednesday .. The qualifiers are determined today and they have to play the first round either on Tuesday on Wednesday before MB-Kratzmann can play their quarterfinals.
The qualifying rounds at the French Open starts tomorrow (Tuesday) at Roland Garros, Paris .. Leander should be among the top 25 or 30 seeds in the qualies .. Not sure if Nirupama had made the qualifying draw, but hopefully she will make it in among the last few, as the qualies draw size is now increased to 96 at Roland Garros also .. We may not know the draw till very close to the start of play in Tuesday.
The "SoulKurry.com" 3rd leg of the ITF women's satellites started today at Pune with Kapil Dev inaugurating the proceedings with a friendly game against Sonal Phadke .. Kapil was rusty but managed to send an ace past Sonal, it seems! .. With the top 6 seeds having bye into the next round, there were no big fireworks today .. See the results at the Pune satellites page .. I have also tabulated the circuit points so far, in the points page .. This week's seedings were based on the points from the first two legs .. I believe the top 16 in the point tally after three legs will make it to the next leg (masters) in Delhi, but I am doubtful if there are 16 players who played all three legs so far, if they still have the rule that players should have played all three legs to make it to the masters .. The 3rd one in the points tally, Megha Wakharia who won the second leg title, cannot play in delhi if so .. We will wait and see what happens.
Manisha Malhotra and Wendy Fix lost in the second round of the doubles draw last week 36 36 to the second seeds Karin Miller and Jessica Steck, ranked much higher than them .. Not sure where Manisha is playing this week .. No news yet on Srinath and Fazal either.
Bad news from Austria - Sunil Kumar, who was the second seed at the ITF Grade-2 Raiffeisen Spring Bowl in Austria last week, lost in the very first round, 16 26 to Hubert Suppan of Austria, ranked 270 in the world .. In doubles also he had a first round loss (in the company of Tyler Mayers of Trinidad) against Rasmus Norby and Soren Spanner of Denmark, 26 36 .. If I am not mistaken, this is the 4th junior tournament in a row in which Sunil Kumar has not advanced past the first round in singles, despite being among the top few seeds .. What worries me most is the way he has lost these matches - almost all in cheap straight sets to players who did not advance much further either, which points to some sort of a mental slump .. I had hoped that the slump in the far east was due to too much of pressure and hype too fast - but after having a had a two month break and being in a different environment with the ITF team in Europe, I felt things would turn for the positive .. Not yet .. I have a very uneasy feeling that a good amount of damage may have already been done to the 17-year old kid with a lot of unnecessary exposure too early .. Let us hope for him to come out of this soon .. Perhaps he would do that during this European tour - so I will hold back on my doomsday thoughts for now.
May 21 Notes
Hmm.. I did not know that the $400K St.Poelten ATP tournament's main draw started today (Sunday) already! .. I believe Mahesh and Andrew Kratzmann, the top seeds, have already won their first round, 67(7) 60 61 over Kiefer and Knippschild of Germany! ..
Here is the draw at St.Poelten:
1 M.Bhupathi(IND)/ A.Kratzmann(AUS) d. N. Kiefer(GER)/ J.Knippschild(GER) \ M.Hipfl(AUT)/ S.Koubek(AUT) vs Qualifier/ Qualifier / \ 4 J-M.Gambill(USA)/ S.Humphries(USA) vs D.MacPherson(AUS)/ P.Nyborg(SWE) \ / \ J.Oncins(BRA)/ D.Orsanic(ARG) vs F.Bergh(SWE)/ A.Kitinov(MKD) / \ _title R.Koenig(RSA)/ A.Olhovskiy(RUS) vs L.Arnold(ARG)/ C.Brandi(ITA) \ / 3 T.Carbonell(ESP)/ P.Norval(RSA) vs P.Albano(ARG)/ C.Haggard(RSA) / \ / A.Gaudenzi(ITA)/ D.Nargiso(ITA) vs M.Barnard(RSA)/ E.Taino(USA) \ / 2 D.Adams(RSA)/ J.Tarango(USA) vs S.Aspelin(SWE)/ J.Landsberg(SWE) /Not a very tough draw here .. Gambill-Humphries is perhaps the tougher one among the seeded teams on paper, as they are a regular pair and the other three are not .. Mahesh seems to have paired up stronlgy with Kratzmann though, seeing how easily they dismantled two talented players in Kiefer and Knippscild after dropping the first set .. MB continues to impress with these nice-looking wins in his return, that too with all kinds of different partners.
At Hamburg today, the Woodies won the masters title, over Arthurs and Stolle in three sets - with that the legends tied the all-time title count record at 57 .. Congrats go to them .. The way they got stuck at about 53 last year and lost a bunch of finals, it seemed like they would never get there .. They seem to have got their edge back again - a lot of rearrangements among doubles players due to upcoming Olympics and the absence of a certain double engine from India have certainly helped the Woodies a bit in getting their confidence back too - they were in some sort of a funk last year .. It will be tough for any team to prevent the Woodies from defending their title at the Olympics, that too in Australia, unless that certain double-engine starts off from dead-cold and accelerates like they have done in the past.
The collegiate team championships having been going on this weekend in the US .. Two Indians came up big for their colleges but were helpless in getting their team to advance further than the final-16 (which is itself is considered a nice achievement around here) .. Univ of Minnesota and Harsh Mankad ended up facing the top seeds Stanford who never seem to lose in the NCAA championships .. The way men's college tennis works, the two teams will play three "pro-set" doubles matches to gain one point and then 6 singles matches where each win gives a point .. The doubles matches are held simultaneously, with the point earned and play stopped as soon as one team wins 2 of the three. Similarly the six singles matches are also played simultaneusly with the play stopped as soon as one team gains 4 points .. Harsh Mankad and Jorge Duenas were on their way to upsetting Stanford's 34th ranked doubles team at 6-4 and serving when UM lost the two other doubles matches and play was suspended. In singles, Harsh played Stanford's #1 player, Alex Kim, who has been in the national top-5 all year and is now #7 ranked. 90th ranked Harsh was on the way to an upset once again at 7-6, 3-2, when play was suspended with UM losing three more singles matches [source: National Men's Tennis Championships website, Athens, Georgia].. Congrats go to Harsh for showing up ready for the challenge, despite the aura and mystique that Stanford has, that intimidate everyone .. The other Indian who came up big was Ajay Ramaswamy for Louisiana State University .. He too won his doubles match and then his singles match against a good opponent (though unranked), but his college, 11th ranked LSU lost 4 of the other 5 singles matches to lose to #5 ranked U.of Illinois .. Good job by Ajay too, who has been the steadiest player for LSU in the latter part of the season, having lost only 2 or 3 of his last 20 singles matches .. Ajay has one more season of play left and Harsh has three years as he is a freshman (I hope Harsh woul not have to stay all four years and would show enough soon enough to move into the pros - he turned 20 six months back)
There was actually another player of Indian-origin who played the key role in something spectacular .. That is Aarthi Venkatesan from Australia (daughter of the old late-60s Davis Cupper, Ravi Venkatesan! - something I learned only yesterday, from CGK Bhupathi, actually -- Arthi has always been listed to be from Brisbane, Australia, starting from her junior days and ITF lists) .. Arthi, in her 3rd year here, has been ranked as high as #2 and is currently ranked #5 .. She upset the #1 player in college, Marissa Irvin of Stanford today in three sets, to start off a big upset for #2 ranked Univ of Georgia over Stanford (who are ranked #1 on the women's side too!) .. U of Georgia won the national championship with that - a tremendous achievement .. I have not reported much about Arthi all year, as I generally report only about players who list themselves as Indian, but congratulations go to her for getting the upset when when the crunch came - it always shows something about the player when they show up ready for the big occasion .. Kudos to Harsh, Ajay and Arthi in the collegiate championships .. Uzma's U. of Arizona and Jahnavi's Baylor University could not advance to the final-16 stage.
May 20 Notes
Mahesh should be getting to the $425K St.Poelten (Austria) ATP tournament this week - he is expected to play doubles with Andrew Kratzmann (AUS,21) .. The draw will be out by tomorrow or Monday .. Leander must have got to Paris by now, preparing for the French Open singles qualifying rounds starting on Tuesday next week.
The stream of youngsters continues on the women's tennis scene - we had the fourth one aged 17 or under win a senior international title today - Megha Vakharia (following on Shruti Dhawan in late 98, Radhika Tulpule in mid 99, and Sonal Phadke last month) .. Megha is the youngest of the lot as she is only 15 .. Her upsets of top seed Archana, 7th seed Shalini and then the 2nd seed Sonal Phadke in the final are nothing short of shocking .. Sonal has been in tremendous form and to beat her in straight sets 64 64 is very impressive! .. Indian women's tennis seems to be really looking to a bright future .. Interestingly Radhika, Sonal, Megha and other talented youngsters like Isha Lakhani, Lata Asudani, etc are all from Maharashtra .. See the results in the Mumbai satellites page.
Manisha and Wendy Fix (USA) beat Leanne Baker (NZL) and Stanislava Hrozenska (SVK), 64 36 62 to reach the Quarterfinal at the $25K Jackson challenger in Mississippi .. They were to play the second seeds Karin Miller (USA) an Jessica Steck (RSA) in the quarterfinal - no score yet .. The score for Manisha's first round loss in singles to a red-hot Miriam D'Agositini was 46 26 ..
May 19 Notes
Manisha Malhotra is at the $25K women's challenger in Jackson (Mississippi) this week - I had seen the draw earlier in the week and simply did not notice her name in it! .. Anyway, she was to play Miriam D'Agostini (BRA,220) in the first round .. I am told that she lost the match, but I have not seen the score .. I guess Manisha faced a hot player in Miriam, who had just won the Coatzacoalcos challenger in Mexico two weeks back which hasraised her ranking by some 70 spots .. In doubles Manisha and Wendy Fix (USA) were drawn against Leanne Baker (NZL) and Stanislava Hrozenska (SVK) - again no score yet.
At the Mumbai leg of the ITF satellites, the young brigade among our women continue to impress .. 16 yr old Megha Vakharia had the upset of the tournament, beating the top seed Archana Venkatraman in straight sets 61 64 today .. They completed two rounds of singles and two rounds of doubles today after losing two days to rain .. They moved the matches to the artificial turf at the GA Ranade tennis center courts for today .. Young Sonal Phadke and Radhika Mandke are also in the semis, along with 22 yr old Shalni Thakur .. The futures really does look quite broght if some of these younger girls could get the proper advice and coaching .. Sonal definitely looks like the "real thing" so far this year, seeing the ease with which she has been disaptching off some decent players (5th seed Geeta Manohar for a double bagel today, for instance!) .. I believe she has qualified for the French Open junior draw, but I need confirmation on that .. See the results at the Mumbai satellites page.
Kamesh Srinivasan had an interesting article, "Is it a curse or Blessing?" today in The Hindu about the Paes-Bhupathi split .. There are some different angles he mentions in this article, over what I had earlier talked about - Kamesh generally blames both Mahesh and Leander without mincing words .. Kamesh is of course one of the writers who had followed these two right from the very beginning very closely and is somebody who can speak authoritatively on the pair .. Though it is sad to see our pair getting a dose of criticism also when they are really themselves reeling a bit under stress of their own making, it is tough to disagree with some of Kamesh's points.
May 18 Note-3
Srinath lost the second round at the $25K Samarkand challenger in Uzbekistan to Mikael Youzhnyi (RUS,188), 16 26 .. Looks like all our players abroad are done for this week, except for whatever Sunil Kumar is upto in the juniors in Austria.
Yet another day's play was washed away at Mumbai in the second leg of the ITF women's satellites with pre-monsoon rains which has left the clay courts basically in bad shape - it is now reported that play will be possible only on Saturday .. No idea how they will finish four rounds of singles and three rounds of doubles over the weekend - thge next leg at Pune may have to start a day later, perhaps ? .. We will see.
A correction in what I said below - Sam and Nick tell me that Niru actually did not play the doubles match at Antwerp, as her partner had an injury and had to withdraw - so it was the lucky loser pair which lost 16 16 to the second seeds in R1.
May 18 Note-2
Yet another close match from MB - and this one ended in a loss .. MB-Knowles lost to Hewitt-Rafter, 63 46 36 just now in the second round at the Hamburg masters .. I couldn't follow the match very closely, with the silly java scoreboard freezing at the stupid websites ATP now has for the masters-series tournaments (they all look the same, ugly that is, load up slow, crash the browsers and slow down the cpmputers) .. At first it was all Mahesh-Knowles, as they forced two service breaks to take the first set set .. The match was nicely placed at 63 44 in our favor when a break of serve turned things around and Hewitt-Rafter tied it up one set apiece .. It was again looking fine at 34 in the 3rd set when both Knowles and Bhupathi dropped serve in succession to lose the match .. It was a close one .. 88 point won by LH-PR to 87 by MB-MK .. 68 to 69 in first serve percentage, 60 to 63 in second serves .. Hewitt-rafter won a few extra points off the second serves, and had 5 aces to one by our guys.
May 18 Note-1
Mahesh and Mark Knowles play the 4th and last match on court 2 today at the Hamburg masters against wildcards Patrik Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt .. The match should start by about 5 pm there (11 am Eastern time USA, 8.30 pm India), plus or minus an hour - that is if there is no rain delay there like yetsreday .. Our chatroom will be open during tha match, for live ball-by-ball scores and discussion.
If you need a good write-up on how doubles has gone in the ATP circuit so far this year, check out this article from a couple of weeks back, "Pro doubles wars, 2000" at the Tennisserver.com by Ray Bowers, one of the very few people out there who follow doubles closely .. Basically, as you can see in there, the doubles scene this year has sorely missed the Indian Express pair .. He actually starts the article with a mention of Bhupathi's absence and ends with it .. He also talks about how Rafter was the key and not Woodforde in Australia's doubles win in Davis Cup last month .. His detailed analysis of how OBrien-Palmer continued USA's Davis Cup doubles troubles by losing to Novak-Rikl despite being the #1 team, is rather interesting.
Forgot to mention that yesterday was a complete rainout at the ITF women's satellite second leg at Mumbai - no matches were played.
There has been no news on Sunil Kumar for a while - I had some reports from newspaper friends that he was basically a bit burned out with all the exposure during the far east circuit where he failed to pick up any points after winning three junior titles by February in the subcontinent .. This week he is starting the five week Europen claycourt tour with the prestigious ITF junior development team .. It starts with the Raiffeisen Spring Bowl in St.Poelten, Austria (Grade-2 ITF event) this week [anybody in Austria who can give me any updates from this event? - junior news is not easy to find] .. The tour will continue with a few more junior events, two more in Austria the next two weeks (a non-ITF event and a grade-3 event), followed by grade-3 in Hungary and a grade-2 in Germany (Frankfurt) .. He is also expected to play at least one grass event in England following this (grade-2 in Surrey follows immediately after the 5 week clay tour, but I believe Sunil is only expected at the grade-1 Queens event after a week off) .. Wimbledon juniors (grade-A, the highest grade ITF junior event) immediately follows the two UK grass events, but Sunil will need to double his current point tally of 120 to make it into Wimbledon which looks rather doubtful now.
There is also an ITF subjunior development team from Asia which will be touring Europe later (Jul 5 - Aug 13) and three Indians have been selected for that - Karan Rastogi (Mumbai), and Tushar Liberhan (Chandigarh) on the boys' side and Sania Mirza (Hyderabad) on the girls side .. These three are really looking very good in the 12 and 13 age range, by the way .. Worth watching out for! .. The team will be coached by Patricia Budiono (Indonesia) and India's Nandan Bal [this was reported by PTI earlier this week]..
May 17 Note-2
Nirupama Vaidyanathan was actually at the WTA event in Antwerp, Belgium this week .. She played with Amelie Cocheteux (FRA) but lost in the main draw first round to the top seeds Els Callens (BEL) and Karina Habsudova (SVK) by a rather surprisingly poor score of 16 16 .. I have no idea how Niru played only doubles and no singles .. She would have easily made the qualies in this lowest tier WTA event .. Probably she couldn't get there in time after club tennis earlier late last week .. Anyway, she must have made a enough of money for playing in the main draw though.
Good news from Uzbekistan .. Srinath Prahlad beat Abdul-Hamid Makhkamov (UZB,797) 63 62 to reach the second round at the $25K+H Uzbekistan challenger today .. He now faces 6th seed Mihail Youzhnyi (RUS,181) in the round of 16 .. It's the first time in a long time that Sri is winning a round in a challenger, actually .. Sri and Timur Ablaev withdrew from doubles and were replaced by lucky losers, though - not sure if it was a problem with Sri or Timur that caused the withdrawal.
Fazal is not in the singles draw at the USA F12 futures this week .. That is strange because he did play in the first round of doubles where he and Cedric Kauffman were the top seed, though they got upset as I reported yesterday .. Odd things happening this week - two of our players played just in the doubles draw and missed the singles entry altogether this week, while the third one made the singles entry as the last one but had to withdraw form doubles! ..
Here is an interesting article from the Times of India today: Paes to seek solace in yoga, meditation ..
May 17 Note-1
Mahesh and Mark Knowles get another day of rest at Hamburg and will be playing their second round doubles match tomorrow (Thursday) .. Their opponents are Lleyton Hewitt and Patrik Rafter, who had a straight sets first round win yesterday .. I believe this is the first time Mahesh is facing Rafter since the Australian Open final in January 99 .. Rafter has had a long time off from the tour with injuries - he has been playing some singles and doubles here and there, but is still not looking like his old self, though .. The doubles draw is moving rather slowly out there in Hamburg, and it looks like the final four rounds will be on the last four days.
Top seeds Fazal and Cedric Kauffman lost in the first round of doubles at the USA F12 futures in Vero Beach yesterday, 36 36 to Levar Harper-Griffith (USA) and Dmitry Toursounov (RUS) .. The first round of main draw singles continues today and I believe Fazal should be playing today there in singles.
May 16 Note-2
Srinath is at the $25K Samarkand challenger in Uzbekistan and made the main-draw cut as the last one in! .. He plays wildcard Abdulhamid Makkhamov of Uzbekistan in the first round - sounds like a very beatable opponent for Sri .. In doubles Srinath is playing with Timur Ablaev - they play qualifiers Alexey Gavrilov and Alexander Sikanov in R1 .. Never heard of all those guys excpet for Makhkamov who has been at the Indian stallites .. I have not seen the main draw at the USA F12 futures in Vero Beach, Florida this week - Fazal may be playing there.
15 year old Isha Lakhani pulled off a big upset, of 3rd seed Arthi Venkatraman (who is about 10 years older than her) in two sets, at the Mumbai satellites today .. Other than that, nothing much happened, as there were 5 players who did not show up and gave walkovers .. Like last week, it will get more inetersting only from the second round or QF onwards .. See the Mumbai satellites page.
May 16 Note-1
Mahesh and Mark Knowles had a relatively easy straight sets win today, 75 64 over Karsten Braasch and Dirk Dier, in the first round of the Hamburg masters .. I could not follow the match and so no details on it .. Thier opponenets for the second round are yet to be determined ..
Nirupama is not at the $75K Oporto challenger (Portugal) this week, though she had said last week that she might play there .. The top seed in the qualies was Bahia Mouhtassin of Morocco ranked #216 [source: Noticias, Lisbon] - that means Niru would have been the last one in the main draw, had she gone there (with her #213 ranking) - but she may have decided not to go because of the uncertainty about entry .. Also, I am not sure where Manisha is this week .. I had thought she would be playing in Europe, perhaps in UK, as she normally does at this time .. Again, Manisha at #320 too would have made the main draw of a challenger this week, had she gone to Edinburgh in UK where the draw closed at #335 .. Is it just me or are our players playing way too many qualies where they shouldn't waste time and missing way too many main draws where they could be playing ? .. I find this about a lot of our players, though most of the time perhaps travel constraints and other factors may be what causes it.
[those looking for tennis news may skip the following long piece - yet another of my "analysis" of the LP-MB "situation" :-)]
I liked the title of this article in the Indian Express by Kadambari Murali - "Their match began with love-all, but ended with a double-fault" :-) .. Here are some excerpts - Reacting to Leander's comments to a TV channel, Mahesh said that the whole thing had just got out of hand ... He blamed the two fathers -- Dr Vece Paes and C G K Bhupathi -- and Leander for the escalation of what is fast turning into a real messy affair, with allegations and counter-allegations. Talking to The Indian Express from Hamburg, Mahesh said: "To be honest, this whole thing has been blown out of proportion by our fathers and, I guess, by Leander. We obviously don't want to play with each other right now, so that's the way it's going to be, Rico or no Rico.'' .... Obviously unhappy with all the allegations, he hinted that Piperno might not be with him much longer. He said, 'If Rico leaves me tomorrow, and believe me it is coming pretty close to it since there is only a certain amount a person can take, I will still probably continue playing with other partners. As far as Lee goes, we don't respect or trust each other right now and till that finds its way back, there is no hope for a relationship.'' .... Mahesh was talking much in the same vein as Leander, who said yesterday that there was no trust between the two and ``till the air was cleared'' they could not play together.
Incidentally I got an email from Leander a couple of days back (we have not been in touch for over three weeks as he changed his residence and phone number in Orlando - so I've been waiting to hear from him) .. I normally don't quote personal emails I get, but since what Leander wrote is exactly what he had said in the STARsports interview on Sunday, I will quote him: "I read your comments on the page(10May) and you have hit the nail on the head as far as both Hesh and myself not trusting each other any more. This lack of trust has come from the fact that we do not communicate as well as we used to or could before. There is nothing else to the story but if you look at it from our shoes then you will see as to what a difference TRUST makes and as to how any little problem becomes magnified. We have traveled together week in and week out eating, sleeping, breathing doubles/friendship for the last six years and that is why we are so good together. When trust goes then what is left? Mahesh gets fed with false accusations about me and I see inconsistencies in his words and actions and that is not good for a healthy environment. It is not my decision as to who he travels with but I have to look after my career and peace of mind. It is a very hard decision for me to make but I live by my principles and for good or worse stick to them".
I shouldn't make judgments of whether Mahesh gets misled by Rico or not .. My conversations with MB makes me feel that Hesh does not feel that he is under anybody's influence, so to say .. I feel that's why Hesh does not take what Leander says on its face value and considers it an excuse from Leander to stop playing with him .. It comes back to the same issue - "trust" .. I believe they are open to communication with each other by phone or email, but that doesn't mean they are buying each other's stands right now! .. Whether right or wrong, it may be in the best interest for himself and his self-respect for Rico to pull himself out of this and leave these two to figure out their problems [whichever way I look at it, Rico is going to get blamed in the end, whther these two stay apart for ever, or whether they get back together with Mahesh firing him] .. Actually I remember Rico saying in a newspaper interview once that he would leave anyday if that's what Mahesh wishes .. But I don't think Hesh is ready to just let him go, as he needs a traveling manager/coach/friend right now, and also because he does not see why Leander is giving him all this trouble now .. It's understandable that Leander's reasons won't look serious enough for Mahesh till he actually "trusts" Leander and doesn't see it as Leander doing something for his own benefit .. There you see the problem as I see it ..
I feel compelled to write something about Leander though, because I feel that he is getting serious blame from a lot of people who seem to summarily dismiss it all to be due to some incredible ego that Leander has .. I get a lot of good emails from those who still adore MB and LP, but I also get enough hate emails from "fans" and others who seem to have just forgotten everything Leander had done for Indian tennis and taken him to be some evil monster with the worst kind of ego hassles - not to mention calling him an immature fool and six-letter names and all that .. So, I will write a few lines ..(1) Ego/selfishness ?: Having known Leander for a while and knowing many of his friends and other players who know him as well, I can say surely that he is not just such a big egomaniac to throw it all away for the sake of just proving that he can do it with someone else [of course Leander has his ego, self-confidence and cockiness to a sizable degree - which is not unusual in any successful sportsperson and it is often a reason for their success too - but he is not THAT ego-filled] .. He's got to know that in terms of money, fame, respect, endorsements, history, etc, he will lose a lot even if he does as well in somebody else's company .. LP-MB did things that no other pair has done in decades, and LP has to be on another planet to expect such succes with anybody else, to start with! .. There is not much evidence of Leander being a crazy fool like that, through his career - and there is enough and more evidence that he would have done better in his singles career if he were a bit more selfish and had a bit more drive towards achieving personal glory for just himself .. (2) Insecurity?: LP can't be doing all this just to prove that he won a little ego-point over Rico by getting him expelled and proving explicitly that he is more important than Rico to Mahesh .. One of the most respected sportsmen in Indian history cannot be THAT insecure as to think that he has to prove his self-worth at such a heavy price .. (3) Timing: It doesn't make sense for LP to do it especially when he has had such terrible results with so many partners this year, unless he has strong enough reasons .. I repeat, I had heard from Leander OVER THREE WEEKS BACK that he didn't really expect to play with MB till MB agrees to certain things, and I *know* that he decided this course of action before he played with Siemerink at Bermuda .. He had said in all my previous conversations his intention to play with Hesh once Hesh was ready for the grind - but something was for the first time different in what he said to me - I was surprised and caught off-guard when he told me that he had just about decided what he was going to do (I of course did not report anything as I was hoping that the worst wouldn't happen) - Again, this was before Siemerink, and I believe he may have even thought of playing with Siemrink only after reaching Bermuda the next week .. The only decision he has taken since then is that he has firmed up on Siemerink as the partner for the rest of the year .. In my mind, the timing is the most clear evidence that is in Leander's favor .. (4) Harmful Interference?: I believe Leander has often expressed what he felt were best for Mahesh .. LP's opinions could of course be wrong, but I can't see any reason for him to tell MB anything that was not in the best interests of his partner with whom he had the best chance of earning a lot of money, if nothing else .. It's a different question whether he should tell Mahesh what to do (there are limits on how far one should go in advising one's partner) - whether he should or not, I certainly can't believe that he would deliberately be telling his partner something that would be harmful, as that serves no purpose for anybody! .. (5) Sensitivity: Everyone who knows LP will say that he is an extremely sensitive person, and that uncomfortable and "untrusting" environment could perhaps affect him substantially enough for him to do all this .. Perhaps there are many other players who are better able to play through things like that, but I can certainly see LP being affected seriously if what he says about Rico is true .. As for sensitivity to others, it is clear that Mahesh feels LP has been less than sensitive towards his problems, and I have to say that it surprises me too that Leander inisisted on all this to Mahesh at this time - all I can guess is that LP can't be doing this without serious thought, as he knows he will be blamed (this he told me three weeks back too - "I know everyone will blame me, but I have no choice unless Mahesh agrees to some things" - as usual I did not ask him what he meant by that but I wish I had snooped for details - now it's too late and he certainly won't tell me anything! :-)) ..
Anyway, I hope those who have concluded that it's all just LP's foolish ego, would carefully look at the circumstantial evidence I just presented in about as logical a way as I could..
Now let's look at the other side of it, and let me give you the one serious counter argument to shoot down my own comments above - Mahesh knows Leander more than me! .. If Mahesh feels that he knows exactly what to think, that he is not such a baby to be played like a puppet with misinformation by anybody, and that Leander is not giving enough credit to his intelligence, that's a reasonable position too .. Mahesh has known Leander for many many years - so, if he is not trusting Leander and his reasons now, well, we can't say much, can we? .. Also, whatever Hesh decides, he also has to consider what he needs right now in his comeback trail, and also consider his own self-respect in a situation where he does not want to be just doing things because LP is telling him to .. He too is not a fool .. Rico has been a close friend to him for so long, and he has to be reasonable in how he handles his friend .. Again, the bottom line is that there is no easy way out of this .. All we can do is to leave both of them alone, to do their own thing for a while and think clearly to figure things out - and hopefully they can trust each other again some time in the future.
But I must say one thing - this is the weirdest drama I could have expected three years back, almost to this day, when I was so excited (before this web site started, when we only had an email list of enthusiasts) and predicted after they won Chennai, Prague challenger, Prague Open and Jerusalem challenger in a 4-week period, that they could be top-5 soon and that they had a chance to be even #1 .. All of that came true, but look where it is all going now! .. Anyway, I thought I should write this piece of more "armchair analyses" or "self-styled expert comments" (:-)) because I continue to get emails from lp-mb fans who are confused about exactly what is going on, who think I know more .. I can't exactly figure out what's going on either, but the above is how I look at it .. I hope not to have to write more about this sad and unpleasant topic.
May 15 Note-2
[couldn't post the following yesterday due to some technical snag.. Mahesh won the first round doubles 75 64 today at Hamburg .. More later]
Here is the draw for Mahesh at the Hamburg German Open:
1 A.OBrien/ J.Palmer vs W M-K.Goellner/ M.Kohlmann \ T.Carbonell/ D.Johnson vs W.Black/ A.Kratzmann / \ W L.Hewitt/ P.Rafter vs Q A.Martin/ A.Portas \ / \ 8 M.Bhupathi/ M.Knowles vs W K.Braasch/ D.Dier / \ _ Final 3 T.Woodbridge/ M.Woodforde vs J.Tarango/ D.Vacek \ / G.Ivanisevic/ D.Prinosil vs W J.Knippschild/ R.Schüttler / \ / D.MacPherson/ P.Nyborg vs L.Arnold/ J.Oncins \ / 5 B.Black/ P.Norval vs P.Galbraith/ B.MacPhie /Slightly btter draw for the first two rounds than last week .. Hewitt-Rafter .. hmm .. interesting ..
The results from the Mumbai (second) leg of the ITF women's satellites in India are at the Mumbai satellites page. 6th seed Nikita Bhardwaj went down cheaply again, and according to The Hindu, she seems to be unfortunately under some serious mental slump .. 8th seed Nandini Perumal was the other seed to fall .. Eight remaining matches are on schedule for Tuesday.
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 ..
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on May 15 ..
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.