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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the weeks ending on May 23, 2005
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May 23 Notes

Prakash Amritraj had a very good win today at the $50K Busan challenger in Korea, 63 62 over James Auckland (GBR,322) .. When he wins, Kash wins in style, as PKB said in the forum .. He seems to be in good form after a few days of rest .. His next round opponent will be decided Tuesday ..

Sania's R1 match at the FO will be on Tuesday afternoon .. The doubles draw came out for her today, and SM is playing with an old partner, Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) ranked 56 in singles and 462 in doubles ..  Anna is a very talented 18 year old  who had partnered Sania once in the juniors - two years back at the grade-1 Canadian Open where they reached the final .. I assume they made the draw on the basis of their singles rankings, because both SM and AC have low doubles ranks .. Their first round match is against Kristina Brandi of Puerto Rico and Nana Miyagi of Japan ..

Rushmi, Isha, Megha did not play today at the $25K challenger in Phuket (Thailand), but qualifier Parul Goswami went down 26 57 to fellow qualifier Shona Lee (NZL) ..

Harsh Mankad won one round of qualies with an easy 62 61 win at the Oxford $10K grass futures today, but the final round of qualies were postponed to tomorrow due to rain .. What is new? -- It is England after all .. It is the very first grass tournament of the season and it is already delayed beore even the draw can  be made; HM needs to qualify in before they can make the main draw, as he is the is the potential top seed in the main draw! ..

Nothing much else today ..

May 22 Notes

Sania's match at the French Open will be on Tuesday .. The doubles draws for Leander and Mahesh will be out in a couple of days ..

Prakash Amritraj is at the $50K challenger in Busan, South Korea .. He faces James Auckland (GBR,322) in the first round there .. Prakash's ranking has dropped today to #364, as he just lost the 35 points for the runner-up finish at the Fergana challenger last year ..  Sunil Kumar withdrew from the Busan challenger, probablyjust to take a week of rest before the 4-week Indian satellite circuit that starts on May 30th at Gurgaon .. Prakash is also in the doubles draw at Busan, playing with a very good partner - Brandon Coupe (USA) .. They face a qualifier pair to be determined.

Isha and Megha made direct entry at the $25K Phuket challenger in Thailand .. Not sure if they have gone there, as they made the main draw only a couplke of days back .. Isha just won the title at the Indore satellites yesterday .. Rushmi Chakravarthi is the 6th seed at Phuket and is drawn to play Isha in the first round .. Megha has drawn Thassha Vitayaviroj (THA) in the first round .. Parul Goswami, who was the second seed in the 2-round qualies with a first round bye, made the main draw with a 63 62 win over Saovana Kamonthip (THA) .. Parul plays anpther qualifier, Shona Lee of NZL .. Rushmi is also in the doubles draw, playing with Wilawan Choptang of Thailand .. They play a wildcard Thai pair, Penporn Chantawannop and Porntip Mulsap ..

Harsh Mankad decided to go up to UK and start on the grass season early .. He is the top seed in the qualifying for the $10K Oxford futures .. Has a first round bye and would have to play two rounds Monday to make the main draw, where he will of course be the top seed .. He had not expected to play next week, and so had not entered there .. Good to get some grass practice out there early .. That is the only reason he is at Oxford, as he had stopped playing $10K futures quite some time back .. A bit unusure still about whether HM would make the Wimbledon qualifying in 4 weeks .. He will be playing the Surbiton grass challenger qualies next week, and then trying a couple of ATP events qualies ..

Next action for Shikha Uberoi seems to be at the $25K Surbiton grasscourt challenger in UK, starting on the 30th - she is in the main draw list .. She has not entered for any event this coming week .. Neha was at a $10K event in El Paso, Texas .. She had  not entered the event and had to play qualies .. Got in easily and went three rounds .. She was the top seed but fell in the semifinal in a tough three-setter .. Neha is also getting back to good from after the injury problems from late last year.

Isha Lakhani has given some notice that she is beginning to get back to her old form, with a title this weekend at Indore, beating Sanaa Bhambri in a tough three-setter in the final .. Isha had beaten Ankita in the semifinal, as Sanaa beat Megha .. See the Indore $10K page for all the scores from there.

May 20 Notes

The singles draws came out today for next week's French Open main draw .. Sania Mirza has got a pretty tough draw, facing the 30th seed Gisela Dulko (ARG,33) in the first round, with 6th seed Kuznetsova as the potential R3 opponents if she somehow manages to get that far .. Twenty year old Gisela is a tough player - a top-5 junior player three years back and having a pretty conmsistent career over the last year and half .. She reached the 3rd rounds of the French Open and Wimbledon last year and won a round each at the USO and Australian as well .. She was also in the news for having beaten Martina Navratilova at both the FO and Wimb ..  Being an Argentinian, she is of course quite comfortable on clay, as her qualifying into FO in 2003 as an 18 year old would show .. Sania has some tough work to do to get past Gisela.

Sunil Kumar has withdrawn from the Busan challenger starting next monday in Korea .. Prakash is still expected to be going there - hope he is all fine after resting his minor knee thing for a few days.

At the Indore $10K ITF women's event, the sixth seed Isha Lakhani showed that she is slowly getting back to her old form, with an upset of the top seed Ankita Bhambri in a tough 3-setter, 63 26 76(4) .. Sanaa Bhambri reached the final with a straight sest win over Megha Vakharia, who also is slowly getting to form after a long injury layoff .. Ankita herself was troubled by injuries earlier .. Anyway, it is great to see all these girls getting back in the swing of things .. Go girls .. The Bhambri sisters won the doubles title today in another tough 3-set match against Isha-Megha .. See the Indore $10K page ..

By the way, Megha and Isha have now moved up to the first and second spot in the alternate list for the main draw at the $25K challenger in Phuket, Thailand next week .. Rushmi was already in the main draw in the initial list .. Hopefully both Isha and Megha would make it in and get there to play it ..

May 19 Notes

Qualifiers Sania and Kachlikova played another impressive match thoughh they could not get over the hump in the end, in a 67(2) 61 67(5) loss against two very good players - Marta Domachovska (POL) and Marlene Weingartner (GER) .. Though the run ended, we have to give credit for Sania, ranked a lowly 271 to have made such a heartening show in doubles in the company of Kaatarina who herself is lowly ranked below 200 .. The 52 points would not hurt, but more importantly, this gave Sania some much neded confidence and court-feeling after the long layoff .. It is actually better that they went down yesterday rather than have to be in Strasbourg for another 2 or 3 days .. She can now get to Roland Garros and put ins ome nice singles practice to get ready for next week.

Things have gone according to the book at the Indore $10K .. The surpris was actually from Kartishma Patel, who agains played a surprisingly tough match in three-sets against Megha vakharia .. Despite the loss, and despite the fact that she may have caught Shruti and Megha when they were not at their best form, Karishma showed that she may have taken a step up in her own game .. See the Indore $10 page.

The Indian u14 boys also could not advance to the world group, losing a 2-1 tie against the 2nd seed Taiwan, where only Yuki Bhambri at the #2 singles spot could win a match .. Chrsitopher Marcus could not come through in two key #1 matches in the last two ties and our  boys' close 3-set loss to Japan yesterday put them in a hole as the second in the pool having to face Taiwan .. Japan got unseeded Philippines and beat them 3-0 to advance to the world group ..

I must once again say that we have a bit of a problem brewing in the junior ranks, in the ages 12 through 16, where we are quickly getting behind the world .. This is the first year in quite a while that we find none of the four world events, u14 and u16 boys and girls, has one of our teams in the world final-16 .. It is shameful, really .. The problem has been happening over the last few years and I have hinted/mentioned it occasionally here .. A year or more back I talked about us developing a plan to send our very young juniors abroad for some tough matches .. What is really happening, in my layman view, is that the talented kids like Chris Marcus (who I believe is a tall kid with some excellent tools and talent) are not getting enough of tough matches in the domestic circuit .. When you don't have much experience in playing "big matches" where you are possibly an underdog, you are going to have problems when faced with such matches in an ITF event (by the way, I don't know that Chris has this problem at all - so I am not implying that at all - just making an observation on many kids) .. This partly happens because of the nature of our large country, that causes most domestic AITA events in the u14 levels to get only regional participation .. AITA's junior circuit itself is impressivley extensive now, compared to a few years back.  The tournaments in the vast junior "talent series" and higher levels are conducted with seriousness too .. But there is nothing much we can do to make sure that the top juniors would all play each other in tough matches and improve, as that would involve too m uch of domestic travel .. We need to find a way for some of the top u14 and u15 players to get experience to "get toughened" .. I had a suggestion earlier that we should send a u14 team of 3 or 4 top players each in the boys and girls section with a coach for a 6-week type tour to Europe .. The European Tennis Association conducts a lot of excellent junior events in the u12, u14 and u16 levels .. I have found that many Asian kids from places especially like China (which also has serious domestic circuit problems, by the way) go to these ETA events in Europe .. The only Indian players who ever go are the ones picked by ITF, which is perhaps one or two players at best every year or two .. Then we can also see that 3 out of 4 such kids picked by ITF have been found wanting in terms of "fighting spirit", "fire in the belly" etc, which was not as apparent when they went up the ranks in the Indian events with easy wins .. When your ward says, "coach, I am winning, no?," and the parents say "why should my son/daughter hear this crap about getting tough from you?,"  it is difficult for even our good coaches to make a case about working extra hard on physical and more importantly mental aspects - There lies a part of the problem.

We do a very good job at the 16+ ages by conducting the ITF u18 junior events and exposing our players to some foreign competition and then taking the top u18 players to the asian circuit and grand slam junior circuit .. But talent identification, especially when it comes to the intangibles like how a player responds to tough competition, is rather poor in the 12 through 15 ages in India .. Then it is all late once they are 16 or 17 .. I reiterate that we need to develop a plan for taking u15 players abroad .. It is really a critically important issue .. We *cannot* have another year without a u14/u16 team in the world final-16 .. We need to have more players identified than just one Yuki Bhambri in the 12-15 age groups .. Hope somebody reads what I am saying here, and hope I am not talking about a non-issue .. [And then there is the age-cheating issue, which is a killer, and particularly acute in some states in India! .. That is a whole other discussion for another time!]

May 18 Notes

Shikha Uberoi went down in the first round of qualifying at the French Open, 67(4) 36 against 18 year old Jarmila Gajdosova (SVK,231) who was a top-5 junior player a couple of years back and is a talented player who is moving up the ranks, and in a hot streak with a title at an Italian challenger two weeks back, etc .. You would remember her qualifying into the Hyderbad Open recently and winning a main draw round .. The match was pretty close and took an hour and 40 minutes and the real difference was the 34 unforced errors Shikha made (including seven double faults) .. She still broke JG three times but got broken 4 times due to the serve problems .. She did have 4 aces too but lost quite a few points on the second serve .. Shikha did fgight all the way, as she usually does, though .. Well, clay is probably not Shikhka's best surface anyway, and there was again not much expectations from her, even though she was seeded 21st in the qualies ..

The one who has been doing some great work in singles lately, has been Sunitha Rao (USA,177) who has advanced to the second round with a 64 64 first round win over Chani Scheepers (RSA) .. Sunitha has done well just this weekend as well, qualifying into the main draw of the Strasbourg Open with a big upset of #112 Selima Sfar, etc .. She could not win the firt round match at Strasbourg on Tuesday but then wwent down to the French Open qualies wher she won the first round (one is allowed to play two events like that this week if one is out early enough at the first event and does not intend to play anywhere next week -- I remember Niru doing this at the FO once too) .. Anyway, Sunitha who has been out with an injury problem or so for a few weeks recently, seems to be playing very well again .. I won't be surprised if she upsets Mara Santangelo today in the Q2 and then goes on to qualify .. That is if she is not tired after all thes matches on consecutive days starting from saturday ..

The big news today was of course from Sania Mirza, who decided to take advantage of a little free time this week to play some smash-mouth doubles .. She had qualifed into the main draw with Katarina Kachlikova (SVK) .. Sania is ranked #272 and Kachlikova #220, but that did not stop them from upsetting the top seeds in the main draw, 25th ranked Bryanne Stewart and 26th ranked samantha Stosur .. 64 36 63 win for our girls in a big upset! .. After taking the first, SM-KK were iummediately down 0-3 with a drop of serve in the second game, and it went with serve from that point on till late in the 3rd set when our girls went ahead to 4-2 .. They then dropped serve, but followed it with another break to go ahead 5-3 and serve it off for the big win .. They play Marta Domachovska (POL) and Marlene Weingartner (GER) in the QF tomorrow evening .. This is some terrific job Sania is doing in doubles - for one thing it gives her some serious doubles points to raise her rank now from #272 to near 205 (she has picked up over 50 points so far, including 8 bonus for beating a top team and 8 for qualifying in) .. But more importantly, she is getting play and get that "on court feeling" back .. Doubles is also a good way to bring the ankle along withoiut too much strain this week .. It would help her to go all out next week in singles at the French Open main draw.

Sunil Kumar and Dmitri Sitak went down in the doubles SF at the Fergana challenger to the top seed Yen-Hsun Lu and Danai Udomchoke, 26 67(3) ..

At the $10K Indore ITF women's event, 7 of the quarterfinalists are Indians .. Except for Shruti Dhwan running into some injury problem in singles and doubles, everythings went by the book .. See the scores in the Indore $10 page.

Vinod Sridhar and Vishal Uppal could not do much again at the THA F3 futures, but P.Ravishankar has upset the 7th seed and made the quarterfinal .. Good job..

At the u14 World Junior Tennis qualifiers in Melbourne, our 3rd seeded boys lost a heartbreaker 3rd set doubles match to lose 1-2 to 6th seed Japan, 1-2 with Yuki puilling off the one win .. They finished #2 in the pool but made the QF against #2 Taiwan tomorrow .. The girls had even more of heartbreak, as the 6th seeded Thailand, who beat us 3-0 on the fiorst day b efore we came back with a 2-1 upset over 4th seed Korea, decided to lay an egg against Korea, losing 0-3 and allowing Korea to edge us out in a three-way tie at 2-1 .. So the girls missed the QF and will fight for the 9th spot .. I have posted the score details here in the forum.

May 17 Notes

Harsh Mankad (IND,255) played a matfch which seemed to be catch-up all along against Zbynek Mlynarik (AUT,263) and just could not get over the hump today at the French Open qualifying first round in a 36 46 loss in a match that was closer than what the scoreline would show .. Mlynarik seemed to be ahead on points all along, though Harsh closed the gap midway through the second set when he went ahead 4-2 .. From that point onwards Mlynarik went on a 21-10 run including two breaks off Mankad to finish the match .. I have posted the stats in the forum FO thread, but basically the main difference was that HM had only about 4 trips to the net comparted to 12 by Mlynarik, which means he probably got pinned down behind and that means his normal winners which come from moving up did not happen .. That showed in the column on winners - Mlynarik had 24 and HM only 8 ..Well, one of those days I suppose .. I had some sort of a bad feling abouty this match as soon as I saw the draw, because Mlynarik is a very experienced player who moves quite well on court,  and he has much better clay experience than Harsh too .. HM did break him 4 times in the match but got broken 6 times too .. The worst was when Mlynarik somehow saved 5 break points on his serve when HM was trying to retake the lead at 4-3 in the second set .. The match was certainly not lopsided or anything - Harsh had 60 points to 75 by the opponent .. It took an hour and 30 minute .. Both players had a lot of unforced eroors, about 45 each too .. So, it wasn't a beauty of a match either .. Anyway, Harsh being one of the alternate entries, there was not too much of expectations on what he could do there .. Hopefully this is the first of a few grand slam qualies Hm woould be playing and he will have better days in the future ..

Shikha Uberoi plays the Q1 at the French Open tomorrow afternoon .. 137th ranked Shikha is the 21st seed and plays Jarmila Gajdosova (SVK,231) who is a very talented 18 year old who will not be an easy opponent .. Shikha's match is will be at about 11 am there.

Sania Mirza and Katarina Kachlikova qualified into the doubles main draw at the Tier-II $170K Strasbourg Open witha 63 76(1) win in the final qualies over Kim Grant(RSA) and Yvgenia Savransky(ISR) .. They had beaten Emilie Bacquet (FRA) and Magda Mihalache (ROM) by an 8-4 superset score yesterday .. In the main draw they play the top seeded Australian pair, Bryanne Stewart and Samantha Stosur tomorrow afternoon ..  Though she only played 2 singles matches, she has now got three doubles matches also at Strasbourg which is a nice way to play herself into some comfortable form this week without over-doing it .. After all this is the first week, coming back from a long injury layoff ..

At the Fergana challenger in UZB, Sunil Kumar went down in the R2 to Evguni Smirnov (RUS,449), 26 63 36 .. He will lose some points now, as he had 24 points last year for a semifinal at Fergana and defended it with only 5 points this time .. He has a good chance to pick up points next week at the Busan challenger where he and Prakash are in the main draw .. SKS will also be in the Indian 4-week satellites starting the wek after next where hes is in the entry list (see the forum thread on $25K+H India-1 satellites where I have posted the entry list) .. Sunil is in the doubles semi at Fergana though - [QF] (4) S.K.Sipaeya/ Dmitri Sitak (RUS) d. Sarvar Ikramov (UZB)/ Akmal Sharipov (UZB), 36 61 54 (Default.) .. In the semi they playthe top seeds Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) and Danai Udomchoke (THA) ..

The $10K ITF women's event has started at Indore this week .. No surprise so far, as all the t op Indian women have advanced .. See the scores at the Indore $10K page .. Also, I forgot to mention yesterday about last week's Ahmedabad $10K ITF women's event where Ankita Bhambri was the runner-up .. See all the results at the Ahmedabad $10K page ..

The Indian u14 boys team (Christopher Marcus, Yuki Bhambri and Mansingh Athare) and girl's team (Sweta Solanki, Janaki Rao, Prerana Maitri) are at the World Junior Tennis u14 Asia-Oceania Qualifying rounds at Melbourne .. An excellent start by the 3rd seeded boys who have won the first two ties against Malaysia and Indonesia and faces the 6th seed japan tomorrow .. The unseeded girls team started with what appeared to be a poor 0-3 loss against the 6th seed Thailand but came back with a strong upset of the 4th seeded Korea to get themself into contention today .. See the scores I have posted in the junior thread in the forum ..

May 16 Notes

Sorry folks, for the long silences from me in the last few weeks .. Only a temporary thing .. Just a busy time at work .. Got a couple of emails about whether I am discontinuing the notes .. Hey, NO!! .. nothing like that .. I will get it going soon .. Just not getting enough focussed time lately to put in the comprehensive notes in .. But I have been chipping in th forum with news, as and when possible .. Do read the forum for now, but I will be back full-swing very soon ..

Harsh plays French Open Q1 tromorrow against Zbynek Mlynarik (AUT,263) .. Not a terrible draw for him but it is never easy there .. The women's draw is not out yet - waiting to see whom Shikha is playing.

Sania came back on court yesterday after the long injury-layoff .. Won one match 61 61 against a low-ranked ALT player, but the could not play her best (understandable after the time off) in the Q2 match, also yesterday .. 36 36 loss to Vakulenko (UKR,214) in the Q2 .. Sania should be hopefully back in form by next week at the French Open in the main draw.

LP-Zimo made semi last week at Hamburg, and LP has moved to his highest rank in 5 years (!!) at #7 .. MB-Todd went down in the QF there .. Karan made a big semi at the UZB futures last week .. He went down in the R1 of this week's challenger, but Sunil Kumar won the R1 today .. Prakash withdrew last week from Fergana, just to take care of a minor knee thing .. He will be there at the Busan challenger next week .. Vinod Sridhar had a decent run at the Thai futures, as the top seed made a semi there ..

Later ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on May 16 ..

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 playera, let me know .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan