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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on May 29, 2000

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May 29 Notes

The doubles draw at the French Open has not been posted yet .. It should be available by at least tomorrow.

Last week was not a bad one, despite Leander and Nirupama falling in the french open qualies .. There were four pro titles by Indians .. Mahesh's at St.Poelten, Megha's and Venkatraman sisters' at Pune, and also Manisha's doubles title - that's the most by Indians in any week that I remember .. Manisha Malhotra and Leanne Baker beat Kaysee Smashey and Varalee Sureephong of USA, 62 76(2) to win the title at the $10K ITF satellites at El Paso .. The title gives Manisha 5 WTA points ..

The 4th (masters) leg of the $20K Indian satellites (the only one that gives WTA points) starts in Delhi today .. With only the top-16 players from the first three legs making up the draw here, there should be decent competition from the first two rounds itself .. I will add results at the Delhi masters page as soon as they become available today.

May 28 Notes

Manisha Malhotra reached the doubles final with Leanne Baker of New Zealand (who is also in the singles final), beating Ally Baker and Shadisha Robinson of USA, 62 61 .. They face the American pair Kaysee Smashey and Varalee Sureephong of USA today in the final .. Joe Muench of El Paso Times had a nice article about the dreamy travelers on the pro tour, and about Manisha finiding a $28 room in San Antonio for next week's futures, planning the 9 hour drive from El Paso to San Antonio with her dad, etc .. Check out the article.

Here is a nice article by S.Dinakar in The Hindu about 15 year old Megha Vakharia's win in the Pune satellite leg final .. His comments on Megha's game caught my attention - "The striking feature of Megha's game is her instinct to go for the big shots, even when the chips are down, something that is not very common in women's tennis where there is a tendency to keep knocking the ball back" .. This kind of "winner instinct" is something missing from many Indians' game - male or female, and it's one big reason for the success of those like Paes and Bhupathi .. Dinakar writes, "Megha's stroke selection has also shown a marked improvement over the last few months" .. He wrote yesterday, after the semifinal, "Coached by Messrs. Jude D' Souza, Mahendra Gokhle and Manoj Vaidya at the MSLTA, Megha's footwork is good, and she hits the ball fluently on both the flanks. When fully fit, she has one of the best servers in the women's circuit, but perhaps her greatest strength is that she does not let pressure situations bother her" .. The coaches and MSLTA definitely deserve some credit for all the influx of young talent from there recently .. Anyway, it looks like Megha herself is a bit surprised at how well things have turned around in the last two weeks! .. Beating Archana and Sonal (the #1 and #3 seeds going into the final leg) both two times ach, shows that there is no fluke in what Megha has been doing .. It's funny how she literally "stole" the headlines away from Sonal Phadke who has had a couple of break-out months too ..

At the US colegiate (NCAA) national championships doubles, Vikrant Chadha and James Shortall of the Univ of Mississippi were unseeded but advanced all the way to the semifinals of the 32-size draw! .. They lost the semi yesterday in three sets though, after some heroics along the way, winning a three-tiebreaker match in R1, upsetting a seeded team in R2 and then coming back from losing the first set in the QF .. Congrats go to Vikrant for this - we almost had the first Indian in an NCAA championship final since Mahesh in 1995 .. This doubles tournament became quite interesting for me, because the finalists from the other half of the draw are Nick Rainey and Ryan Moore of Univ of Southern California .. Nick Rainey, in his second year at USC, is one who is known to this LP-MB fanclub as one of the oldest members in the club .. He joined us when he was in high school, as a top US junior player (he won the junior grasscourt nationals in Philadelphia) from Mercer Island, Washington .. He had become a Paes-Bhupathi fan, and wrote to me then to find out the whereabouts of Manoj Mahadevan whom he had met at some junior tournament .. Actually it was Nick who later put me in touch with Harsh Mankad when both were at the Ojai Valley tennis academy summer program in California two years back .. Nick also occasionally brings me some news about Nirupama and Manisha, as he has a close friend who plays in the women's tour whom he keeps in touch with .. Anyway, best wishes go from the fanclub to Nick in his doubles final today - there is some nice reward too - the winning team will get an automatic wildcard into the US Open doubles draw!

Here is a UNI report on the coaching camp starting today in Calcutta (thanks, Shailesh, for forwarding) - "Australian Institute of Sports Tennis head coach Christopher Paul kachel will conduct a training camp for top Indian tennis players in the city from May 28 to June 3 ..    According to Jaidip Mukerjea, the seven-day coaching camp, being organised jointly by Jaidip Mukerjea Tennis Academy and All India Tennis Association, will have almost all top Indian men's players .. He told a press conference Friday that Prahlad Srinath, Vishal uppal, Rohan Bopanna, Saurav Panja, Mustafa Ghouse, Vinod Sridhar, Vijay Kannan, Manoj Mahadevan, Akshay Vishal Rao, Vinod K Sewa have been selected for the coaching camp .. Beside them, local stars like Saif Ali, Harshit Sharma, Dhrub Kumar, Arka Mondal, Rupesh Roy, Sabyasachi Bose and Nirvik Mohinta were selcted for the coaching camp, sponsored by Indian Oil Servo .. Among the girls, Priyanka Parekh, Reedhina Parekh and Ragini Vimal were selected for the coaching camp" ..  That is ideal timing, with the 4-week $20K ITF Men's satellite set to get underway on May 8th (Mumbai, Bangalore, and two weeks at Delhi) .. Good work by Jaideep for putting it together, though AITA also gets some credit .. By the way, I am looking forward to the satellites, which will also have most of the top Indian players in the US colleges too (Harsh, Ajay, Vikrant, Amod, etc) ..

I am still waiting to find out what happened to Sai and Rushmi in the doubles draw at the $25K Ho Chi Minh City challenger this week - no news yet .. In singles, as I reported below, both bowed out in the first round.

May 27 Note-2

It took a while for the doubles final to get done at the $400K Reiffeisen Grand Prix in St.Poelten (Austria) .. Final -- Bhupathi/ Kratzmann d. Gaudenzi/ Nargiso, 76(10) 67(2) 64 .. There was also one hour rain delay in the middle, but that did not stop Mahesh from picking up his 16th title (first with somebody other than Paes) in the ATP tour .. The win gives him 175 more points and will move him a couple of spots in the doubles rankings, closer to top-10 .. MB and AK will share $28.5K for the title .. The match seems to have been a close affair, from the scoreline - I am sure they had to scratch and claw their way to a victory .. It looks like Andrew "scratching man" is a good partner for MB (I wonder if it's too late to scratch the plans to play with Prinosil at French Open) .. Anytime when one can start from scratch with a new partner and win an ATP tour title, it's impressive .. OK, enough of scratching :-) .. Congrats, Mahesh! .. What a nice comeback from the injury layover! .. It looks like he hasn't missed a beat.

May 27 Note-1

Mahesh's doubles final is going on at St.Poelten, as I type.  They are up a set, 7-6, 0-0 ..

15 year old Megha Vakharia's stunning run continues .. Today she upset 2nd seed Archana Venkatraman 64 75 to win her second consecutive title! .. See the Pune satellites page .. Man, oh, Man - are we getting hopeful and excited about the future of Indian women's tennis, or what ? .. OK, it's all fine, but before everybody jumps on the bandwagon and starts talking of sending Megha into Fed Cup team and all that, let us get her to play some junior ITF events for a couple of years and get more experience without any pressure.

So, Sonal and Megha are at the top 2 spots in the circuit points standing after three legs, with 36 and 32 points .. They will be the top two seeds in the 16-draw masters next week (which finally gives some WTA points) .. Archana will be the 3rd seed - she has 30 points .. Megha actually got her points from just two legs (she did not play the first leg, as she was with the Indian team in the world youth cup qualies) - that's some show by her!

Manisha malhotra won the doubles QF match yesterday with Leanne Baker, beating Dianne Matias and Kristen Schlukebir, 61 61 .. She went down in the singles QF to her friend Leanne Baker, the 5th seed, 64 67(5) 46 .. Though Manisha is seeded 4th based on last week's ranking, Leanne at #320 in ahead of Manisha at #328 this week .. It turned out to be a close match just like tha rankings would indicate .. Actually Leanne is the only seed left in the semis at the $10K El Paso satellite .. Manisha will get 1.5 point for the QF.

2nd seed Fazal and Cedric Kauffman lost to Dustin Mauck and Keith Pollak, 16 46 yesterday in the semis at the $15K futures at the Chris Evert tennis academy in Boca Raton, Florida.

May 26 Note-2

Mahesh was itching to get back into a big final after all the time off, and he seems to have had a partner who was scratching too .. And we have a final! .. #1 Bhupathi/ Kratzmann d. #4 Gambill/ Humphries, 76(5) 63 in the SF today at the $400K St.Poelten ATP .. In the final tomorrow, they will face unseeded Italians Andrea Gaudenzi and Diego Nargiso .. Mahesh has a bit of a score to settle with them - it's the same pair who beat Hesh in the company of Fazaluddin in Davis Cup in Italy in 1998 March .. I am sure Hesh will be ready tomrrow .. The final is set for about 4.30 pm there tomorrow (Saturday).

Fazaluddin won the doubles quarterfinal (with Cedric Kauffman) over Marcio Carlsson and Ricardo Schlachter, 61 36 64 yesterday .. They were to play the doubles semis today against Keith Pollak and Dustin Mauck.

They did play the doubles final at the Pune satellites today - Isha Lakahni and Megha Vakharia lost to the venkatraman sisters, 36 61 26 .. Incidentally, Megha had been icing her elbow throughout her 3-set semifinal against Sonal, somehow pulling it off .. She then showed tremendous grit by coming back and playing a tough doubles final too .. Much as I like the attitude shown by our young brigade, too much of tennis is of course a concern for all youngsters - Already we have had title-winning 16 yr olds from last two years going down with fatigue-type injuries (Shruti and Radhika) - we wouldn't want to see that with Sonal and Megha too .. But one should never tell any youngsters not to play to win though, lest we give the wrong message.

According to the reprt in the Times of India, Sonal will not be at the French Open juniors - as he rank dropped by about 10 spots recently, she seems to have narrowly missed the main draw as of now and will have to play qualies - so she seems to have opted to play the masters leg of the satellites next week at Delhi .. Sonal will play two ITF events in Roehampton and Manchster (grade-2 and grade-1 big events, before Wimbledon juniors next month), according to the report.

May 26 Note-1

Today's news at the St.Poelten ATP website - "Das dritte Spiel ist ein Semifinalspiel im Doppel zwischen den als Nr.1 gesetzten Mahesh Bhupathi (Indien) mit Anrew Kratzmann (Australien) gegen die beiden Amerikaner Jan Michael Gambill und Scott
Humphries. Die Sieger treffen am Samstag im Finale auf die Italiener Andrea Gaudenzi und Diego Nargiso. Sie besiegten heute Nachmittag, die Paarung Robbie Koenig (Südafrika) und Andrei Olhovskiy (Russland) mit 6:1 und 7:5" .. The AltaVista translation is, "The third play is a Semifinalspiel in the double between the Mahesh Bhupathi (India) with Anrew scratching man (Australia), set as Nr.1, against the two Americans January Michael Gambill and Scott Humphries.  The winners meet on Saturday in the final the Italians Andrea Gaudenzi and Diego Nargiso. They defeated this afternoon, the mating Robbie king (South Africa) and Andrei Olhovskiy (Russia) with 6:1 and 7:5" ..  I have a feeling Koenig and Olhovskiy would be less than pleased with how their partnership is characterized by Alta Vista! :-) .. We will know the results of MB's match later today.

4th seeded Manisha Malhotra won her R2 match at the $10K El Paso satallites against Lioudmila Skavronskaia 6-4 6-4 yesterday .. She plays the quarterfinal against her doubles partner, 5th seeded Leanne Baker of New Zealand (320) today, along with the doubles quarterfinal as well .. Top seeded pair of Manisha and Leanne play wildcards Dianne Matias and Kristen Schlukebir of USA in doubles.

In the $5K 3rd leg of the ITF Indian satellites at Pune, 15 year old Megha's sterling run continued today, as she upset the 17 year old top seed Sonal Phadke once again today (she won the final last week over Sonal) and reached the final .. 61 46 64 was the score .. 2nd seed Archana Venkatraman beat the 7th seed Sheetal Gautham 62 63 in the other semifinal .. "Sonal was not her usual self", said Megha [source:] .. It's not unusual for those who start hot in the first leg to cool off a bit by the 3rd leg a bit - not easy to keep the level high for that many days in a row .. These are after all young girls getting their earliest taste of the pro circuit drill  .. Not sure if the doubles final was played today .. See the Pune satellites page.

May 25 Notes

Mahesh's doubles semifinal should be tomorrow (Friday) at the St.Poelten ATP ..

Sometime back there was a news item about Chief Minister S. M. Krishna being asked to save Karnataka tennis by taking over at the helm of Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) which had been going through all kinds of political stalemates for a long time (if you ever wondered why Bangalore hasn't been much of a prominent stop in the Indian tennis tour map, this was one reason) .. Anyway, the CM, who is a long time tennis fan agreed to take over and salvage things .. Actually he still plays occasionally, and according to an interview in some time back, he even surfs the net a bit for tennis news .. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to Karnataka tennis .. Actually the Chief minister had said that he would do whatever it takes to try to get a grasscourt ready for future Davis Cup etc in Bangalore .. Things seem to be on the right track for now - here is an article in Friday's Deccan Herald about a lot of promising news from Bangalore - Borg, Cash confirm for legends meeting .. This seniors event tournament with those like Borg, Cash, Vijay Amritraj confirmed and with other possibilities like Connors, McEnroe, Noah, Leconte, etc, will be around November 6th .. CGK Bhupathi is taking a lead on this .. There is also talk of bringing the World doubles championship to the city .. Actually I am not sure if ATP has announced the site for this year's world doubles championship yet (I believe the contract with Hartford may have ended - there was some mention earlier about Lisbon, where the world singles championships will be held this year, also holding doubles - I am not sure about the latest) .. Would be great if Bangalore can get on the map! .. I wonder if it may be somewhat late for this year, as the tennis infrastructure in the city in terms of large enough arenas, etc are yet to be in final shape - perhaps some of the National games infrastructure could be used for tennis .. Anyway, that's all good news .. Check out the article.

I had not looked at the Mid-Day, Mumbai newspaper site for a while - here is an article from last week with some comments from Ramesh Krishnan about LP-MB .. About Davis Cup, he said to Mid-day (exceprts), ‘‘Their decision not to play with each other on ATP circuit will affect the Indian performance. The split will put us in a difficult situation,’’ he felt .. ‘‘I didn’t get time to speak to them. But it would have been better if they would have cleared their differences,’’ Krishnan added. [This was right after the news came out] ... ‘‘We all need to lie low. The less we talk about them the better,’’ signed off Krishnan ..  I was wondering why I had not heard anything much from RK about this .. But he is right - we will lay low and it doesn't help to talk about the issue more ..

Sai Jayalakshmi (#421) and Rushmi Chakravarti (#526) are at the $25K Ho Chi Minh City challenger in Vietnam .. Sai lost to Urska Vesenjak (SLO,413), 1-6 2-6 and Rushmi  lost to Sachie Umehara (JPN,384), 0-6 0-6 in the first round .. I believe this is the main draw, but I am surprised that all of them made the draw with their rankings - it could be qualifying rounds ? .. In doubles Sai and Rushmi face the Japanese pair of  Kaori Aoyama and Sachie Umehara  [Thanks, Luke Danker for the news!]

Manisha Malhotra played a doubles match yesterday and won it at the $10K El Paso satellites in Texas .. Top seeded Manisha and Leanne Baker (NZL) beat Courtnay Chapman (USA) Visnja Vuletic (YUG), 62 63 .. Singles second round must have been today.

The youth movement continues at the Pune satellites .. Only doubles semis were done today and two 15-year olds have reached the final - Megha Vakharia and Isha Lakhani, who beat Sonal Phadke and Nona Wagh .. Though I don't have much of a clear sense of where exactly our youngsters stand in world women's tennis, it is certainly true that there has a been a lot more of positive news from the young girls's side than from the young boys' side lately .. The Venkatraman sisters are in the other doubles final after a tough three-setter against Sheetal Gautham and Liza Pereira .. The singles semis and doubles final are tomorrow, followed by the singles final on Saturday .. See the Pune satellites page.

At the US collegiate women's individual national championships at Malibu (California), Jahnavi Parekh, junior at Baylor UNiversity and ranked #20 in US colleges, lost in the final-16 round tp Jessica Lenhoff (U.of Florida), 26 16 .. In the next round (QF) also played yesterday, #5 ranked Arthi Venkatesan (AUS) of U of Georgia beat Jessica, 76(7) 36 60 .. In the semifinal played today, Arthi lost rather unusually poorly to #3 ranked Laura Granville of Stanford 16 06 .. The final tomorrow is between #3 Granville and #1 Marissa Irvin of Stanford (the one whom Arthi upset in winning the team national championship for Georgia last weekend) ..  In the men's championship doubles at Athens (Georgia), the two Indians who were in the 32-size doubles draw, ended up facing each other in the first round .. Salil Seshadri and Akram Zaman of Columbia Univ lost in a very close encounter to Vikrant Chadha and James Shortall of U. of Mississippi, 76(8) 67(5) 76(0) .. Vikrant and Salil in their senior years have been able to do much better in doubles than in singles .. Amod Wakalkar and Darrin Curral of U. of Idaho, who had a good season in doubles, were 3rd alternates for the doubles draw but did not play .. As I said earlier, none of the Indians made it into the singles championship draw of 64, as 90th ranked freshman Harsh Mankad and 94th ranked junior Ajay Ramswamy are the highest ranked ones in singles .. Other than Arthi Venkatesan who lost in the second round of doubles, no Indian women made it into the doubles draw of 32 either.

May 24 Note-4

Mahesh seems to be having a good time at the $400K St.Poelten ATP with Andrew "Scratching Man" (trust me - I tried to translate a little blurb they had at the tournament website in German, using the Alta Vista online translator - and it translated his name as Andrew Scratching Man! :-)) .. Bhupathi/ Kratzmann d. (Q) Bowen/ Waite, 64 62 to reach the semis .. The top seeded EarthKing-ScratchingMan combo (or is it "EarthHubby" ??) will next face 4th seeds Gambill-Humphries in the semis .. I believe this is Hesh's first semifinal in an ATP tour event since Stuttgart Super 9 in late 98 in the company of somebody other than Leander (Hesh had a final with Leach in 97, and the Stuttgart SF was with Kafelnikov) .. Gambill and Humphries will be a tough pair, but MB-AK have looked fine so far there ..

7th seed Sheetal Goutham beat 4th seed Shalini Thakur (not really an upset, knowing Sheetal's abilities) to reach semis at the Pune women's satellites .. She will face 2nd seed Archana Venkatraman next .. Archana beat elder sister Arti today .. Sonal vs Megha in a repeat of last week's final, in the other semi tomorrow .. See the results in the Pune satellites page.

May 24 Note-3

Fazaluddin and Cedric Kauffman reached the QF in doubles after beating Simon Larose and Dave Abelson, 64 36 62 at the USA F13 $10K futures in Boca Raton, Florida .. Fazal could not come up with any upset in the first round of singles and went down to Mathew Breen (AUS), 16 46 .. The futures is on clay, I believe.

Good news from the US collegiate (NCAA) women's national championships individual singles - 20th ranked Jahnavi Parekh (Baylor Univ.) has reached the final-16 with a 62 26 62 win over #38 Teryn Ashley of Stanford .. She is the only Indian player who made it to the draw of 64 for singles, both on the male and female side .. 5th ranked Australian Arthi Venkatesan is also in the final-16 .. 39th ranked freshman at Princeton, Kavitha Krishnamurthy of Canada, lost in the first round.

May 24 Note-2

Heartbreak once again for Niru .. After a marvellous fight-back (actually a couple of comebacks) and leading by a break at 4-2 in the 3rd set, Niru lost to Desislava Topalova (BUL,155), 5-7, 6-3, 4-6 in the first round of qualifying at the French Open .. The tight match took over two hours.

Niru was down a break early in the first set, and was down two breaks at 2-5 when she started her patented fight-back .. Broke DT in game 8 and held serve to take it to 4-5 .. Then she fought off three set points in the next game and converted her first break chance in the game to tie it up at 5-5 .. But then NV dropped serve for a 3rd time .. Once again she fought off two more set points in the 12th game, eventually falling to 5-7 .. In the second set, Niru took DT to a couple of deuces in the 4th game but she could not find a break .. In game 5, Niru faced a break point but again held serve .. Then the 7th game on Niru's serve turned out to be a real dog-fight .. Niru was taken to 8 deuces, and faced three more break attempts, but she held on! .. The next game off DT's serve went the same way with 8 deuces, but Niru converted her 5th break chance to go up 5-3 .. The two games took a whole 21 minutes and Niru had done her job there .. She looked energized here, as she held serve easily to take the set, immediately broke DT in no time and held serve easily again to go up 57 63 20 .. She had another break chance in the next game off DT, but let that go [I think if she had converted that one chance, she could have had DT in a deep-enough hole she might not have climbed out of] .. DT held serve and looked energized as she broke right back winning 4 straight points off Niru to tie it up at 2-2 .. The momentum seemed to be shifting, but Niru showed her own resolve by putting a break to it immediately .. Niru won the next game rightaway with 4 straight points off DT too, to go up a break again ! ..  She also held easily to go up 4-2, and it all looked good .. But it was far from over and then the momentum shifted yet again .. DT won 8 straight points to hold and get a break .. It was again tied at 4-4 .. It was important right there for Niru to stop DT's momentum once again and take some points off DT's serve in game 9, but that did not happen as Topalova held serve at love .. Niru was up 30-15 in the final game but lost some points quickly and it was all over .. I think this was a game of cat-and-mouse where Niru had to turn the momentum around for a 3rd or 4th time, but failed to do so .. In the match, Niru was broken 6 times and Topalova 5 times .. Whoever got the final break was going to be the winner .. What can I say ?  .. The poor girl's heartbreak losses in grand slam qualies continue!

Good news from El Paso, texas .. 4th seed Manisha Malhotra defeated Courtney Chapman (USA), 63 64 in the first round of the $10K satallite ..  Actually that is "TWMUSTAWSEPPQMSPSCE", the Terry Walker Memorial/$10,000 USTA Women's Satellite of El Paso, Presented by QMS, a Prudential Securities Circuit Event, according to Joe Muensch, the funny reporter for El Paso Times! ..

May 24 Note-1

Mahesh and Andrew Kratzmann are scheduled to play at 3 pm at the $400K Reiffeisen Grand Prix ATP at St.Poelten today - not sure yet who their opponents are - either the wildcards Hipfl/Koubek or the qualifiers Bowen/Waite (whoever won last night - I have not seen the result, which seem to come out only very slowly from Austria - the so called "official website" is useless) ..

Nirupama is indeed in the qualifying draw at French Open -- At first I thought she was going to be at the Guimaraes challenger in Portugal as the 4th seed as reported below .. Same with the 2nd and 3rd seeds at Guimaraes, Raluca Sandu and Lea Ghirardi, who are also in the FO qualifying draw ..  All three are scheduled to play today as well .. Nirupama plays the 4th match on one of the courts, and the match should be around 2 pm at Roland Garros (8 am Eastern, USA .. 5.30 pm India) .. If Niru plays at the FO [I believe she is on site there for her to have made the draw - so she should be playing], we will be online in the chatroom during the match, following it ball-by-ball ..  Here is the draw for Niru:

 8 Meilen Tu          (USA,117) vs   Julia Abe             (GER,154) \
 W Camille Pin        (FRA,311) vs W Stephanie Rizzi       (FRA,410) / \
   Desislava Topalova (BUL,155) vs   Nirupama Vaidyanathan (IND,213) \ /
20 Louise Latimer     (GBR,131) vs   Adriana Barna         (GER,198) /
Nirupama has played Desislava Topalova at least once before - in the Mount Gambier challenger quarterfinals in 98 October - Niru lost the match 64 46 06 (she came down with some physical ailment in that match if I remember correctly, skipped the following week's challenger in Australia that she was supposed to play, and proceeded to Delhi instead for the challenger the week after) .. I assume that the Guimaraes (Portugal) challenger will now have the withdrawal of three seeds (the 2nd and 5th seeds played there today but I have not seen the news on whether Niru and Raluca have been already replaced with lucky losers - I saw that Lea Ghirardi's spot was taken up by a lucky loser who played yesterday, so I am sure the other two spots also are taken up  - source: Jl. de Noticias, Lisbon)

Manisha Malhotra is the 4th seed at the $10K satellite at El Paso, Texas this week [source: El Paso Times] .. She was scheduled to play Courtnay Chapman (USA), ranked 765 .. Manisha was the runner up at the El Paso stallite last year in June, by the way .. Let's hope for her to win the thing this time!

No news on Fazal's R1 match against Breen at the Boca Raton futures yet - the main draw only starts by Tuesday and Wednesday at these US futures with 4 round qualifying draws.

At the Pune satellites yesterday, all the 8 seeds have advanced to the quarterfinals .. Sonal Phadke took a little longer to win her match than expected .. Sheetal Gautham seems to be still not her old self after the wrist injury layoff for months, combined with time off for exams, etc .. She did show her well-known grit, by fighting hard for a three-set comeback win .. See the Pune satellites page .. It appears that about 17 players have qualified for the masters leg (basically as I had calculated in the circuit points page, but The Hindu quotes the tournament referee Dushan Deo to be saying that Isha Lakhani and Megha Vakharia have also made it in - that means the old requirement that players should play all three legs is no longer there?) ..

May 23 Note-2

Nirupama is in the draw at the $25K Guimaraes challenger in Portugal, seeded 4th  .. That means she has decided to skip French Open qualies - not a bad idea, as picking up challenger points is more useful for her right now .. She may have been doubtful about qualifying entry and may have decided not to lose the week ..  Here is the draw at Guimaraes (thanks to Alain Vincent):

5 Bahia Mouhtassine (MAR)     vs   Abigail Tordoff (GBR)      \
  Maria Gusheva (BUL)         vs   Antoaneta Pandjerova (BUL) / \ _ SF
  Andreea Vanc (ROM)          vs   Ludmila Richterova (CZE)   \ /
4 Nirupama Vaidyanathan (IND) vs Q Julia Biffar (GER)         /
Not a bad draw for Niru .. She is in the bottom half, with the second seed Melanie Schnell  (AUT,189) .. The top seed Raluca Sandu (ROM,188) and the 3rd seed Lea Ghirardi (FRA,200) are in the upper half of the draw .. Niru's R1 opponent Julia Biffar is unranked in WTA but seems to be a hot upcoming player, as she beat the top seed in the qualies, Vanessa Menga (#350) in a 3rd set tiebreaker and then the 6th seed Tamara Aranda (#508) 62 60 .. I don't know much about Biffar except that she is a 17 year old  who was in the junior team mentored by Steffi Graf .. She does not seem to be ranked in the ITF juniors, but is ranked highly in the German junior rankings .. Interesting matchup for Niru ..

Incidentally, Nirupama has had the same ranking in doubles and singles for two weeks now .. #213 in singles and #213 in doubles, with 98.5 and 97 points each!

Fazaluddin Syed is at the $15K futures (USA F13) at Boca Raton, Florida .. Not a great draw for Fazal, as he faces the second seed Mathew Breen (AUS,309) in the first round .. In doubles, Fazal and Cedric Kauffman are the second seeds, but face Dave Abelson and Simon Larose, the same team that upset them two weeks back in USA F11 ..

May 23 Note-1

Leander played the first qualifying round at the French Open as the 23rd seed but had a quick loss .. Tuomas Ketola (FIN,166) d. Leander Paes, 6-3 6-3 today .. Not good .. I had a strange feeling that Leander had lost a bit of steam in his singles plans ever since he was stricken with a strained groin in the final qualies at Indian Wells, right after the terrific match where he beat #50 Federer for his biggest win in a long time .. I don't think there is any injury problem, but he may have lost a bit of his rhythm .. Now he has lost 4 matches in a row to players ranked below him (LP is now at #136) .. Also, once he won two titles in doubles, it began to look like it would be again becoming tough for him to focus on singles .. I know clay is known to be not his best surface, on paper and on record, though I have always felt that he was a pretty good clay player whenever he showed the patience and drive to win on clay - his Davis Cup record shows it, and I am sure he would admit it .. This loss and the scoreline saddens me .. Perhaps others who have anyway written him off in singles would wonder why I am sounding so sad .. It is just that I had really wanted to see if Leander could show something in singles for the last time in his career and show how high he could go if that was his prime focus .. Hey, sue me for being a fan - but I really really wanted to see him inside top-50 for once (and he certainly is a player who had/has what it takes to do that), before going full-time into doubles for the last few years of his career which I understand is the best course for him in the end, both for success and money .. I was hopeful after Lee had such a nice period since December with three challenger titles and the good show at the Australian Open - and he seemed to have regained a lot of the physical strength needed for singles too .. But now he has going without any points for over three months in singles and he had nothing to defend in that time .. Perhaps things could get better during the grass season ?  - I think he will be fine on grass, but we may be looking at only two or three grass events for him (Queens/ sHertogenbosch/ Newport, or Queens/ Wimbledon-Q/ Newport), of which he will need to qualify at all places except probably Newport .. He also has 30 pts to defend at Newport .. I think doubles is all we will see for success for the next few months .. Then again, may be it's not that bad - he has nothing to defend after Newport till December (the period that coincides with his long losing streak last year in singles) .. OK, I will keep hope and wait more.

By the way, I was surprised to see that the Hall of Fame at Newport had faxed out a press release last week just to say that Leander Paes had entered the singles draw for this year's tournament (starting July 10th) .. Perhaps no player ranked below 100 has ever got such respect from an ATP tournament .. But they respect him a lot out there in Newport - the soft grass courts at the HOF are made for Leander (perhaps made for Indians! -- Vijay Amritraj had won three titles there too) ..

The women's qualifying rounds start only tomorrow - the draws have not been posted at the official site yet, for us to know Nirupama's status.

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 "" 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 would 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.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on May 22 ..

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.