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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the weeks ending on May 24, 2004
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May 24 Notes

The French Open doubles draw is awaited in a day or two, for LP and MB.

With the great show at the Fregana challenger, the Indian contingent raised their rankings this week .. Prakash has moved up to #231, Mankad to #334 and Sunil Kumar to #415 .. In doubles rankings, after Bhupathi at #5 and Paes at #19, it is Mankad at #172, Ghouse at #214,  Amritraj at #328 and Bopanna at #334 ..

At the $15K+H Saudi Arabia F2, Mustafa Ghouse plays Nick Crawley (GBR,726) in the first round .. Pakistan's Aisam Qureshi has gone from Fergana to Saudi and he is playing doubles with Mustafa this week, as the top seeds - they play Tom Bender (USA) and Christophe Freyss (FRA) in the first round.

Rohan Bopanna was playing a prize money invitational in Dubai last week .. He won the event with some good wins - the final was a 64 61 shellacking of ATP #386 Alexey Kedriouk (KAZ) against ..  Looks like Bofors is in good form .. He was originally in the Soudi futures list for this week but has withdrawn .. He is now listed to play the Kuwait $15K next week, which seems to have quite a weak field of players - he should be able to grab some good points and bring his rank back up in the next couple of weeks in Kuwait ..

The women's ITF $10K has started at Lucknow on the Avadh Gymkhana .. Rushmi, Ankita, Sonal, Sai, Suzanne Aigner (AUT), Liza and Iciri are the seeds in that order .. Not too much of foreign participation there; about 7 players from abroad ..
(6) Liza Pereira vs Sheetal Gautham and (3) Sonal Phadke vs Geeta Manohar are probably among the few competitive first round matches, but it will get interesting in the later rounds .. I think today's matches were mostly only in doubles .. Interestingly, Sai and Rushmi, long-term partners, are playing with others this week .. Rushmi has teamed up with Ankita and Sai with Archana .. Rushmi-Ankita are the top seeds, and they look like a team with soem potential .. No upsets in doubles today .. I will start a page and post the scores soon.

At the grade-1 ITF "Astrid Bowl" in Belgium, Divij Sharan (IND,31) went down in the R1 to Andre Miele (BRA,59) 62 16 26 .. Also in the field are Tushar Liberhan (IND,35) who plays Miles Kasiri (GBR,36) and Karan Rastogi who has a first round bye ..

Late scores from last week, as Karan finished runner up at the grade-A Italian Open, the biggest result in his doubles career so far (Congrats, Karan!) .. In the semifinal, Karan and Chu-Huan Yi (TPE) won an impressive barnburner over the 7th seeds Sergei Bubka and Mihail Zverev, 6-7(8) 7-6(2) 13-11, and they then fell 26 46 in the final to the best junior doubles team in the world right now, Brendan Evans and Scott Oudsema of USA who had won the Australian Open and are unbetaen in 15 matches  together this year .. Karan is now ranked #5 in the combined singles-doubles rank in the juniors.

May 22-23 Notes

A bit busy during this weekend .. Quick updates - Prakash fell 46 57 in the Fergana final .. Mustafa fell in the doubles final in Soudi .. Karan fell at the Grade-A Italian Open doubles final .. More later.

May 21 Notes

Apparently Mahesh feels fine with his injury problem from last week, and is leaving for Paris to play at the French Open, where the doubles starts by mid-week .. MB-MM and LP-DR will be there ..

But the big news is from Uzbekistan today, as Prakash Amritraj reached the challenger final!! .. He beat Kirill Ivanov-Smolenski (RUS, 434), 64 63 to become the first Indian in a challenger final since Leander won the Mumbai challenger in Feb 2000 (after 3 more semis by LP, and one ach by Mankad, Amritraj and Sipaeya) .. What a fantastic job by Kash! .. This is the first challenger final abroad by an Indian in over SIX years, since Leander's title at the Bangkok challenger in 1998 .. Gosh, I remember that day when our old friend in the fanclub, Panitnart "Jan" Kongtako sent the news on LP's title .. Never thought it would take six years for another final abroad .. But then again, for a while there since 2001 till April last year when Mankad made a challenger semi, we were beginning to think that we might never even see a semifinal again by an Indian unless LP got back to singles again .. Well, that is all over today .. Prakash picks up 35 big points and in just one week took care of all the points he will be losing in a few weeks for his India satellites last year .. His point total goes up to 162, and his ranking will now go inside top-230, which is the highest ranking for an Indian in 2.5 years, since LP fell from #232 to #250 on October 8th, 2001 .. Fabulous.

Unfortunately Sunil Kumar could not sustain the momentum after 5 big wins on the trot, as he fell to the top seed Igot Kunytsin (RUS,204) 57 16 today .. SKS had his first "breakout" week on the pro tour, as he picked up 24 points and will raise his rank to right outside top-400 .. Harsh Mankad's doubles run also ended in the final at 10 wins, as he and Aisam Qureshi fell to Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Jean-Julien Roger of Netherlands Antilles (AHO) .. This was the 13th doubles final in about an year by HM (eight titles) and his 3rd challenger doubles final in the last 9 months .. Harsh will move up to right at #170 .. I don't think he will play any doubles outside of challengers anymore, as the points really do not help .. The money helps but there is also a chance to get worn out from playing too much - there have been a couple of times lately when it seemed like he was beginning to run out of gas by late week due to all the singles and doubles matches .. He has played 28 weeks of tennis in the last year and with all the doubles also that he plays, it is tough .. HM will be taking the next week off, and probably the week after also unless he makes the main draw of the Tallahassee challenger .. He is 5 out from the main draw, but can't play qualies because of a wedding he has to attend on the sunday in the US .. Looks like a two weeks break for him till the Forest Hills grasscourt challenger in New York (June th) where he has a decent shot to make the draw (or he will play qualies) ..  Not sure of Sunil Kumar's plans .. Now that his rank has gone up significantly his schedule may change a bit.

Mustafa also reached another doubles final, as he and Jonathan Media (VEN) beat Nick Crawley and Michael Ouvarov (GBR) 61 63 at the $15K+H Saudi Arabia futures .. He plays the second seeds Jamie Delgado (GBR) and Leaonardo Tavarez (POR) in the final.

#695 Shruti Dhawan went down after a massive fight to #572 Lucia Jimenez-Almendros, 64 36 57 at the $10K at Santa Cruz De Tenerife (Spain) .. She did get two WTA points for one win and top-500 upset in the first round.

Lucky loser Somdev "Buji" Dev Varman put up a very good fight against the 7th seed Jose De Armas (VEN,364) before going down 26 63 16 in the second round at the USA F12 in Florida .. This was the 6th match at that event for Somdev (including the 4 qualifying rounds) and he probably did not have enough to sustain that nice second set comeback .. I believe Buji will return to India now, but he got a good amount of nice match practice in the US which will only help.

The 3rd seeds Karan Rastogi and Chu-Huan Yi reached the SF at the grade-A Italian Open juniors .. They beat David Navarrette and Daniel Vallverdu of Venezuela, 61 64 and now face the 7th seeds, Sergei Bubka Jr (yes, the son of the great athlete) of Ukraine and Mihail Zverev of Germany.

May 20 Notes

We continue to roll in Uzbekistan .. Sunil Kumar Sipaeya has made this his breakout breakout week, reaching the semifinal with a big three-set 16 63 64 upset of Harsh Mankad to recah the semi and Prakash Amirtraj showed that he is back to form with his second career semifinal in a challenger with a solid 63 75 over the 5th seed Tasuku Iwami (JPN,327) .. 24 pts for Sunil Kumar and 22 for Prakash .. Sunil will now move to a career high of #410 - more importantly, he has now pulled three solid top-400 wins and seems to be in full flow .. Prakash will move up to about #245 in ranking, the first one to crack top-250 since Mahesh Bhupathi seven years back .. Sunil plays the top seed Igor Kunitsyn (RUS,204) and Prakash plays unseeded Kirill Ivanov-Smolenski (RUS, 454) in the semis .. Despite the loss, Mankad himself has done splendidly, getting all of the point he lost 4 weeks back from the Bangalore challenger semi, and positioning himself for an outside chance to later squeeze into the Wimbledon qualies draw with a rank inside top-330 next week .. Mankad is not done, as he has reached the doubles final, coontinuing his unbeaten streak for three events in a row .. [SF] (1) H.Mankad/ Auisam Qureshi (PAK) d. Toshihide Matsui (JPN)/ Frttank Moser (GER), 61 76(4) .. They play Raven Klaasen (RSA) and Jean-Julien Roger (AHO) in the final tomorrow .. Harsh now goes inside a career-high 175 in doubles .. Wonderful show by our guys.

In other news, Lucky loser Somdev dev Varman had a very nice 63 41 (ret.) win over special exempt entry and last-week's winner Melwyn Op Der Heijde (NED) in the first round at the $10K USA F12 in Tampa, Florida .. He now runs into the 7th seed Jose de Armas (VEN,364) .. In the doubles first round Somdev and Chris Kwon (USA) pout up a massive fight against the 4th seeds Andres Pedroso and Todd Widom of USA before falling 57 75 57 .. Good job, Buji!

Mustafa Ghouse did not have a great day at the Saudi $15K+H futures, where he fell 46 36 to the 7th seed Michael Ouvarov (GBR,699) .. He is in the doubles SF, with Jonathan Medina-A;varez (VEN), with a 63 75 win over Mohammed Al Ghareeb (KUW) and Abdul-Rahman Shehab (BRN) .. They play the British pair, Nick Crawley and Michael Ouvarov next.

Shruti Dhwan was to play her second round at the $10K in Spain today .. She went down in the doubles QF (after an R1 bye) in the company of Helen Fritche (GBR), 46 36 to Anna Font and Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

Sixth seed Karan Rastogi was upset 64 61 by Juan-Martin Del Potro (ARG, 36) at the Grade-A Italian Open ITF juniors .. He has made the doubles QF there, however .. [R1] (3) K. Rastogi/ Chu-Huan Yi d.  Van Der Duin Antal/ Van Keulen Coen (NED) 6-3, 6-4 .. [R2] d. Stefan Kilchhofer (SUI)/ Denis Molcianov (MDA) 75 63 .. The QF is against David Navarrette and Daniel Vallverdu of Venezuela .. Funny how a lot of Venazuelan guys are crossing our guys' paths everywhere this week.

May 19 Notes

The "Beautiful Mind" (Manmohan) is about to become our Prime Minister, and the Indian guys decided to celebrate with some beautiful wins in Mughal country .. Today has become the best day in INdian men's tennis singles in a long time, as Three Indians have reached the final eight of the $25K+H challenger in Fergana, Uzbekistan !! ..  When have we had three Indians in the QFs of a challenger abroad? .. I have no idea - but I am pretty sure it has never happened .. [R2] (2) Prakash Amritraj (IND,272) d. Sebastian Fitz (GER,373) 76(3) 63 .. [R2] Harsh Mankad (IND,354) d. James Auckland (GBR,453), 75 64 .. [R2] (Q) Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (IND,522) vs (3) Lee Childs (GBR,274), 62 60 .. Look at that scoreline for Sunil Kumar's big upset! .. His second consecutive top-400 win .. Is he finally living up to all the promise from earlier .. Sure lookss so .. Now, that brings up the QF matches, where we are assured of an Indian reaching the semifinal as well .. [QF] Harsh Mankad (IND,354) vs Q) Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (IND,522) ..[QF] (2) Prakash Amritraj (IND,272) vs (5) Tasuku Iwami (JPN,328) ..
In doubles, Harsh Mankad continued his unbeaten streak .. [QF] (1) H.Mankad/ A.Qureshi d. (Q) Murad Inoyatov (UZB)/ Dmitry Mazur, 46 61 62 .. Harsh will now  go up to a career high of around #175 in doubles .. Fantastic! .. In another QF,  Ajay Ramaswami and Sunil Kumar went down to Raven Klaasen (RSA) and Jean-Julien Roger (AHO), 46 46 ..

All three Indians now get 12 ATP points each for their wins, with Sunil getting an extra 2 more for qualifying in .. A win tomorrow would give 10 more points .. This comes very timely, as Prakash Amritraj has now ensured that he will be in the qualies of the Wimbledon with a rank around #250 (he has a lot of points to defend over the next 2-3 months and was in dire need for some points too) .. Harsh Mankad will raise his rank back inside #330 after dropping about 60 from there about 4 weeks back as his Bangalore challenger points from last year fell off .. Quick work by HM to go right back up the rank .. A win tomorrow could help a lot for him to make the Wimbledon qualies, as the cut by the end normally falls to somehere inside #310 or so .. Wimbledon qualifying entries close based on next monday's ranking .. As for #522 Sunil Kumar, he has now jumped over Rohan Bopanna at #475 to around #455 or so .. If he is playing in top form like he has been this week, he could prove to be a handful for Harsh tomorrow.

May 18 Note-2

While the drama (tamasha?) is continuing in India with people keeping revolvers to their head and somehow misfiring, people resigning chief ministerships, people threatening to immolate themselves, ladies threatening to shave their hair, and still others breaking down in tears in the parliament hall as the the Italian-born may not become Pradhan Mantri, etc, let me bring some really great news from Indian tennis guys invading the Fergana valley of Uzbekistan from where our original foreign rulers (Babar) came ..

At the $25K+H challenger in Fergana today, Harsh Mankad (IND,354) upset the 7th seed Satoshi Iwabuchi (JPN,346), 26 63 64, and Qualifier Sunil Kumar (IND,522) upset Toshihide Matsui (JPN,490) 64 63 .. That completes a perfect winning record for Indians in three singles and two double R1 matches .. This brings up [R2] (2) Prakash Amritraj (IND,272) vs Sebastian Fitz (GER,373) .. [R2] Harsh Mankad (IND,354) vs James Auckland (GBR,453) .. [R2] (Q) Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (IND,522) vs (3) Lee Childs (GBR,274)

For more good news, Shruti Dhawan upset the 6th seed at the $10K ITF event in Santa Cruz De Tenerife in Spain .. [R1] S.Dhawan (IND,695) d. Anna Font (ESP,498), 61 62 .. Excellent win by Shruti.

Still more good news -- Indian-borns are in Italy too just like Italian-borns are in India .. 6th seed Karan Rastogi advanced to the PQF round at the grade-A Italian Open on clay .. In the first round he beat David Navarrette (VEN,66), 36 64 60 and today he beat Syrym Abdukhalikov (KAZ,150), 75 62 .. That brings up a PQF against Juan-Martin Del Porto (ARG,36) next ..

[By the way, now I have a problem with people acting like only one person can be Indian prime minister, just like I was against the idea that sky would fall if she did .. Get a grip on yourselves, folks! .. OK, back to tennis :-)]

May 18 Note-1

Bad and good news from the USA F12 in Florida .. Somdev again went down in the 4th round of qualies, 46 06 to a very talented US youngster, Nestor Briceno who had beaten him in the R1 last week .. He made the main draw as a lucky loser though .. He plays the special exempt Melvyn Op der Heijde (NED) who was the winner of last week's F11 - so again a touigh matych for Somdev .. In doubles, Somdev is playing with Chris Kwon (USA) and they face the 4th seeded Americans, Andres Pedroso and Todd Widom, again a tough team.

Added a bit more to the little political discussion below, for more fun (I promise, I will stop there and go back to tennis :-)) ..

May 17 Notes

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

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

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

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

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

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on May 17 ..

I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.