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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on June 1, 1998

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June 1 Notes

Yeah Baybeeeee !! .. Third successive grand slam semifinal appearance ! .. LP/MB were the only team to be in the semis at US Open 97 and the Australian Open 98 .. And they are now in the French Open too .. How about that ?!!

The quartefinal match against Julian Alonso and Nicolas Lapentti just got done, 6-3, 6-4 .. Just a routine easy game for our guys. Except for one game, they were rarely troubled by the Spanish-Ecuador pair. First set went with serves until LP/MB got the break in game 6 and then held their serve to go up 5-2 .. They had one set point in the next game, but the other guys forced a deuce and held serve.. Then Mahesh served a love-game to take the set 6-3 .. In the next set, LP/MB came charging rightaway to force a break in the first game, but then dropped serve in the next game and it was tied at 1-1. That was the only game where they were troubled. Thereafter, LP/MB served solidly and continued to look for a break, coming close in the 7th game with a break point and then converting the break chance in game 9 to go up 5-4 .. This time Leander served out a love-game to finish the match at 6-3, 6-4 .. and.. Hello, SEMIFINALS!! .. The match took an hour and 5 minutes to complete.

The win gives them 345 total points including 20 bonus, and about $75K in prize money to share. Their point total this year has now gone up to 1979 from just 8 tournaments (WOW!! .. They have 4 titles and 3 semifinals now, from those 8) .. This places them above the Woodies (at about 1900 points after their 3rd round loss here) at the top of the team points list for now .. They have a good chance to come out of this tournament as the #1 team in the world, even though a couple of teams (Eltingh/Haarhuis and Johnson/Montana) can go ahead with a title or a final, if LP/MB lose the semifinal .. LP/MB are now 27-3 this year and has a record of 20-2 on clay, going back to February 1997 .. OK, I better stop there with the records.. I tend to jinx them whenever I pull out records .. :-)

This was the first doubles quarterfinal match today .. Others to follow soon. Their semifinal opponents will be the winner of Knowles/Nestor vs (10th seeds) Galbraith/Steven .. Leander should be back later today for the second round mixed doubles match, which was rescheduled from yesterday.

May 31 Note-2

Mahesh Bhupathi and Rennae Stubbs (3rd seeds) just got upset by Anne-Gaelle Sidot (France) and Sebastien Grosjean (France), in round 2, 4-6, 4-6 .. Each set had one break - MB/RS were broken in the 3rd game for the first set and the 5th game of the second .. And that was it. Quite a shock to see the defending champion bow out this early.

The doubles opponent for Leander and Mahesh in the quarterfinal will be the unseeded pair, Julian Alonso (Spain) and Nicolas Lapentti (Ecuador), who continued their upset run today, with a 3-set win over the 12th seeds Wayne Black and Sebastien Lareau .. They had upset the 5th seeds Ferreira/Leach in the first round earlier .. pretty impressive .. 6 of the 8 quarterfinalist teams are decided.. #3, #6, #7 and #10 seeds are in the QFs. The first seeds Eltingh/Haarhuis play later tonight. The remaining prequarterfinals match, between unseeded teams, Burillo/Goellner and Kuerten/Meligeni is later today.

LP/Neiland mixed doubles match is still delayed, as Serene Williams is playing in the late 3rd set of a tough match against Arantxa Sanchez, right now at 7 pm. It will be at least 8.30 pm before LP/LN play Serena and Lobo.

May 31 Note-1

"Rollin.. Rollin.. Rollin on the Railroad..", as the old song goes .. The big wheel keeps on turning .. The Express picking up speed, and going into the quarterfinals now !

They defeated Fredrik Bergh and Peter Nyborg, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7), in about an hour and 20 minutes .. The first set was a breeze and got over in 25 minutes, with LP/MB getting a break in game 7 .. The second set, once again, was a different matter. They found themselves down 0-2 after being broken in game 2 off Mahesh's serve. They promptly broke back in game 3, only to see Leander getting broken in the next game .. They were in no mood to stay down for too long though, and didn't waste any time getting the break right back again, in game 5. Then both sides held serves to take it to 6-6, even though LP/MB had a breakpoint chance in game 11 which went to several deuces before FB/PN held. In the tiebreaker also it was a close fight, but our guys prevailed in the end 9-7 .. The win means 163 + 14 (bonus) = 177 points .. and, Hello, quarterfinals !

The real huge news today are two upsets. The #2 seeds, The Woodies went down in flames, to unseeded (but top-10 quality) Knowles/Nestor, 6-4, 6-2 .. The Woodies have been quite inconsistent this year, playing very well in some tournaments and getting upset early by a lot of people in others .. This loss makes sure that LP/MB are the highest seeds in the bottom half of the draw with #10 Galbraith/Steven being the highest possible seed to face in the semifinals if they keep winning. In an even bigger surprise, the #4 seeds Kafelnikov/Vacek lost a tough 3-setter to unseeded Jordi Burillo and Marc Goellner in the only remaining final-32 game. They are the defending champions and this is certainly a huge surprise for them to not even make the final 16 .. As of now, 4 teams have advanced to the quarterfinals today: #3 LP/MB, Knowles/Nestor, #7 Johnson/Montana and #10 Galbraith/Steven.

The mixed doubles matches start shortly, between 4.30 and 5 pm there.. Will be back later with updates.

May 30 Note-3

Tomorrow (Sunday) is going to be a tough day for Leander and Mahesh, as both will be playing doubles and mixed doubles matches. The doubles prequarterfinal match is scheduled as the second one on court-2, and should be starting at about 1 pm at Paris (7am EST, 4 PST in USA, 4.30 pm in India) .. Then they both get back to play their respective mixed doubles match, probably within 2 hours (MB on court 2 and LP on court 10). Leander and Larisa Neiland play Serena Williams (USA, WTA doubles #59) and Luis Lobo (Spain, ATP doubles #28), while Mahesh and Rennae Stubbs play Ann-Gaelle Sidot (France, #107) and Sebastien Grosjean (France,475) .. Serena is of course the most well-known 15 yr old player out there. Don't let Grosjean's low rank fool you. He is among the most talented teenagers on the men's side too.

The draws for boys' and girls' singles have come out. I had expected to see Manoj Mahadevan in the draw (perhaps he never went there ?) and I thought we had heard of Vijay Kannan possibly going there too, but anyway, no Indians in either draw. There are 8 qualifier spots in each draw yet to be determined, however, and no news on whether any of our kids are playing the qualifiers .. Pakistan's Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi, Taiwan's Wei-Jen Cheng (9th seed) and Thailand's Danai Udomchoke are the Asian representatives on the boys' side .. It has been rare to see an Indian kid in a grandslam singles draw (Manoj Mahadevan was recently in some), and it has been a very long time since any Indian kid has been seeded (may be Leander was the last, in the early 90s ?) .. It's a bit troubling to see that .. The junior doubles draws will come out tomorrow.

Here is the final 16 draw for doubles:

 1 J.Eltingh (NED) & P.Haarhuis (NED)     vs    K.Braasch (GER) & J.Knippschild (GER) \
 7 D.Johnson (USA) & F.Montana (USA)      vs 9  J.Grabb (USA) & D.Macpherson (AUS)    / \
   J.Burillo (ESP) & M.Goellner (GER)     vs    G.Kuerten (BRA) & F.Meligeni (BRA)    \ / \
 6 J.Bjorkman (SWE) & P.Rafter (AUS)      vs 11 J.Eagle (AUS) & A.Florent (AUS)       /    \
12 W.Black (ZIM) & S.Lareau (CAN)         vs    J.Alonso (ESP) & N.Lapentti (ECU)     \    /
 3 M.Bhupathi (IND) & L.Paes (IND)        vs    F.Bergh (SWE) & P.Nyborg (SWE)        / \ /
10 P.Galbraith (USA) & B.Steven (NZL)     vs    M.Hood (ARG) & S.Prieto (ARG)         \ /
 2 T.Woodbridge (AUS) & M.Woodforde (AUS) vs    M.Knowles (BAH) & D.Nestor (CAN)      /

The draw for mixed doubles final-32 is:

 1 L.Neiland (LAT) & L.Paes (IND)         vs  S.Williams (USA) & L.Lobo (ARG)         \
14 G.Nielsen (USA) & J.Grabb (USA)        vs  unknown                                 / \
11 K.Boogert (NED) & D.Johnson (USA)      vs  unknown                                 \ / \
 5 H.Sukova (CZE) & C.Suk (CZE)           vs  F.Labat (ARG) & D.Roditi (MEX)          /    \_
 4 L.Raymond (USA) & P.Galbraith (USA)    vs  C.Barclay (AUS) & M.Tebbutt (AUS)       \    / |
10 R.McQuillan (USA) & D.Macpherson (USA) vs  S.Kriventcheva (BUL) & B.Coupe (USA)    / \ /  |
15 L.McNeil (USA) & B.Eagle (USA)         vs  K.Po (USA) & J.Waite (USA)              \ /    |
 7 A.Fusai (FRA) & D.Adams (RSA)          vs  unknown                                 /      |_
 6 N.Zvereva (BLR) & A.Florent (AUS)      vs  unknown                                 \      |
 9 M.Oremans (NED) & E.Ferreira (RSA)     vs  V.Williams (USA) & J.Gimelstob (USA)    / \    |
16 C.Vis (NED) & J.DeJager (RSA)          vs  E.Tatarkova (UKR) & A.Kratzmann (AUS)   \ / \  |
 3 R.Stubbs (AUS) & M.Bhupathi (IND)      vs  A-G.Sidot (FRA) & S.Grosjean (FRA)      /    \_|
 8 P.Tarabini (ARG) & D.Orsanic (ARG)     vs  M.Paz (ARG) & P.Albano (ARG)            \    /
12 K.Kunce (AUS) & F.Montana (USA)        vs  unknown                                 / \ /
13 S.Appelmans (BEL) & P.Norval (RSA)     vs  A.D-Balleret (FRA) & J-P.Fleurian (FRA) \ /
 2 M.Bollegraf (NED) & R.Leach (USA)      vs  S.Basuki (INA) & Tom Nijssen (NED)      /

Five of the first round mixed doubles matches are yet to be done. Will update this draw later with the winners of those matches.

May 30 Note-2

The prequarterfinal opponents for the Dynamic Duo are the Swedish pair, Fredric Bergh and Peter Nyborg, who upset the 14th seeds, Luis Lobo (Argentina) and Javier Sanchez (Spain) .. Bergh and Nyborg are playing together for the first time. 23 yr old Fredrik Bergh (ranked 137) played with old veteran Rikard Bergh last year, but has been with new partners this year, other Swedes like Kulti, Frederickson and Johansson. Nyborg (ranked 73 and has been in the doubles top-50 before) also has been playing with various partners like Prinosil, Kulti, and Tillstrom. Looks like Bergh and Nyborg must be clicking, as it's never easy to beat the clay specialists, Lobo/Sanchez, that too in straight sts, 6-2, 7-6 ! .. Our Duo gets another unranked team, but as always, they should take it one game at a time and not underestimate any unknown upstart team.

May 30 Note-1

The "Indian Express" keeps running over people and is in no mood for stopping at any stations .. LP/MB won the second round match against Neville Godwin (South Africa) and Tuomas Ketola (Finland), 6-3, 7-6 (2) .. No problem at all in this match for them, except that they failed to break the opponents a couple of times in the second set after coming close. They also had one at a match point with NG/TK serving at 5-6, 30-40. Those guys saved the match point to take it to the tiebreaker, and it was all our guys after that. LP/MB won the final 5 points in the tiebreaker to finish it iff at 7-2. More later in the day about their next opponents, etc..

May 29 Notes

Hey, it looks like they played the doubles match earlier than scheduled .. It was done by the time I woke up in the morning. Anyway, a tough match it seems, but LP-MB advance, beating Dave Randell and Greg VanEmburgh, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 .. Yeah ! .. It's always good to play a tough early match to get enough time and get used to the surface there (as long as it's a win!) .. Their next round opponents are yet to be determined, but we will know by later today.

The big news today is that the 5th seeds and the #3 team in the world, Ellis Ferreira and Rick Leach losing in the first round to Julian Alonso and Nicolas Lapentti, in three sets !! .. So, the next highest seeds in LP-MB's quarter of the draw are gone .. The other big upset so far are the 8th seeds, Stark and O'Brien (in the Woodies' quarter of the draw) who lost on wednesday. See the 1/4th draw for LP-MB below in March 25, Note-2 .. Eltingh/Haarhuis (#1 seed) won, and the Woodies (#2) are yet to play ..

May 28 Note-2

LP-MB's first round doubles match is rescheduled for tomorrow (Friday) as the 3rd match on court 7. If rain stays away, the estimated start time should be around 3.30 pm there (6.30 am PST, USA; 7 pm India). A lot of doubles matches were postponed to tomorrow, though they got most of the singles matches done, despite all the rain today.

Now, how about Leander and Larisa seeded as #1 in mixed doubles  ? .. The defending champion Mahesh has a new partner, Rennae Stubbs of Australia .. 32-year old Larisa Neiland is ranked #8 in WTA doubles, and is perhaps the most experienced doubles veterans on the women's side. She has 2 grand slam doubles titles and 4 grand slam mixed doubles titles to her credit, including a Roland Garros mixed doubles title in 1995 with Mark Woodforde. She was in the mixed doubles finals at the 97 Australian Open with Woodforde too. In her career, she has 61 women's doubles titles, which is simply amazing (for comparison, the Woodies have 49 titles) .. Larisa was born in Ukraine, used to play for the Soviet Union earlier and now plays for Latvia, since it became a separate country. She is playing with Anna Kournikova in doubles at the French Open .. Leander and Larissa were supposed to play mixed doubles together at the Australian Open this year, but LP had to withdraw from that because of the injury at Sydney prior to that .. As for Rennae Stubbs, she is 27 years old, is ranked #16 in WTA doubles and has 13 doubles titles to her credit. She was in the doubles semifinals at this year's Australian Open with Lisa Raymond .. She was in the finals of the 1995 US Open doubles with Brenda Schultz-McCarthy. Not a bad selection at all by Mahesh, considering that he must have had to scramble a bit after the Lucic withdrawal last week.

Leander and Mahesh are on opposite sides of the draw and can meet only in the finals .. Hope it turns out that way ! .. But really, the team to beat may be Leach and Bollegraf, the 2nd seeds. They have been together for a while and have done very well too. Having had some experience with each other always helps in doubles, and both MB and LP are playing with new partners .. But then again, Mahesh and Rika Hiraki (the diminutive Japanese girl we all have a soft corner for..) didn't seem to have any problem last year at the FO, after meeting each other for the first time over that weekend .. Hope a similar story develops again this year with LP or MB .. By the way, Rika is also playing with an Australian, Paul Kilderry ..

Now for some bad news: Syed Fazaluddin lost today, 2-6, 3-6 to Cyril Martin at the Boca Raton Futures (USA F3). I knew yesterday that he would be trouble after he, despite being ranked #1374, upset a very talented youngster, the 5th seed Jocelyn Robichaud in the previous round. Must be an up-and-comer to beat Syed so summarily. Fazal will be playing another futures next week in Florida.

May 28 Note-1

Nothing happening so far today .. There have been a couple of long rain delays at the French Open and it looks like only three doubles matches got done ..

LP and Larisa Neiland are the #1 seeds in mixed doubles !! .. Mahesh and Rennae Stubbs are the 3rd seeds in the boottom half of the draw !! .. Hope they play in the finals. They both get first round byes.. Later.

May 27 Note-3

Leander/Mahesh play tomorrow (thursday) their first round against Dave Randall and Greg Van Embergh. Third match on court 11 starting at about 4 pm in Paris (10 am EST, 7 PST in the US, 7.30 pm in India) .. Go LP/MB ..

Syed Fazaluddin upset the 12th seed, Egberto Caldas of Brazil (#570) in the second round at the $15K Futures at Boca Raton, Florida, today !! The score: 7-6(5), 7-6(4) .. He is now in the final-16 and faces Cyril Martin of France, who is only ranked 1374, but has just upset the 5th seed Jocelyn Robichaud (Canada, #443) .. Some of the low ranked players in these tournaments are some up-and-comers who may be very talented; so one can never predict things based on rankings.. By the way, as far as I can remember, this is only the 4th tournament Fazal is playing this year. The first was the Delhi Futures, in the first week of January, where he lost in the second round of qualifiers. Then came the Chandigarh Futures the next week where he won three rounds of qualies and then went all the way to win the title, getting 12 points. That put him up as #4 in India after just one tournament, with a rank around 900. The next tournament was the Vadodara challenger in April where he was a wildcard, and won a round to get 8 more points, to move up just inside #700 .. This is the next tournament he is playing now (he has been finishing his semester in college in US, I believe; hence the long periods away from tennis). That is an 11-1 record starting from Chandigarh in 3 tournaments so far. Pretty darn good, and I hope he keeps it up. He gets 1 point for the win today, and can make it 4 with a win tomorrow.

May 27 Note-2

Here is a news item that Steve Gocha just alerted me to: Nitin Kirtane reached the semifinals of doubles last week at the $15K Futures in Vero Beach, Florida, with a partner, Ashley Fisher !! .. That is a 32-team draw and they upset the first seed in round 1 and the 8th seed in the quarterfinals before losing to the eventual champions in the semis [Ashley Fisher/Nitin Kirtane d. (1)Alejandro Aramburu/Jicham Zaatini 6-4 6-1; AF/NK d. Eddie Jacques/Darren Otten 7-6(5) 6-3; AF/NK d. (8)James Davidson/Luke Milligan 6-4 6-2; (3)Simon Aspelin/Chris Tontz d. AF/NK 6-3 6-4].. Nitin gets 8 points for the semifinals to add to the 38 points he has, which should improve his doubles rank by about 50 to 60 spots from the current 712, soon. The points from last week's USA Futures F2 do not seem to appear in the computer yet, though (this seem to be true about some futures; they take a while before showing up in the computer .. sometimes only after a sequence of events get done.. I had a made a comment below about Prahlad not getting any new point this week even thugh I got some info that he had done well in Germany .. may be that also will take time to get into the computer) .. Will find out if Nitin is playing doubles at the Boca Raton Futures this week. He is not in the singles draw where Fazaluddin is playing the final-32 match today. Steve Gocha informed me that one gets points only after reaching the final 16 in the $15K futures (one gets 16 points for a title, as opposed to 12 for a $10 Futures)..

May 27 Note-1

At the US collegiate tennis championships, Manisha Malhotra and Margie Lepsi lost in the prequarterfinals of the doubles yesterday to the # seeded team of Stephanie Nikitas and Dawn Buth of the Univ of Florida, 6-0, 6-3 .. Can't say it was unexpected, as Nickitas-Buth are the two-time defending national champions, and have won 12 matches in a row at the nationals over three years in doubles .. Wow.

Leander-Mahesh should be playing the first round doubles match tomorrow, as their match does not appear in the schedule for today at the FO.

By the way, a note for those who have emailed me asking why Mahesh seems to be slipping in his singles ranking: I say, don't be alarmed. The man knows what he is doing, and is being advised well by his coach and father about how to go about his singles plan. What I have heard is that Mahesh's plans are to not waste a lot of time playing challengers and taking baby-steps towards improving his ranking. Many feel that he is a much better player than his ranking shows, and he is not one who lacks confidence either. You think you are only a top-400 player and you *need to* play challengers to get points, and you will remain a top-400 player ! .. One problem with many Indian sportsmen is that they have difficulty thinking big, and we don't want Mahesh to fall into that trap either .. I think he will still be focusing on qualifying for the tour events and beating the kind of top players he is capable of beating, and will be playing challengers only when it is appropriate to do so. He also needs to make sure that he doesn't lose grip in doubles while doing that; as the success there from going for the big one is what gives him confidence in his own plans. The strategy worked very well last summer when he qualified into 4 events and beat players like Nestor and came close to upsetting Javier Sanchez and had Jim Courier in trouble .. Rest assured that he is not going to now consider himself a journeyman singles player. He will get his breaks soon and you will see him much higher in the rankings .. Thought I should write that, to reassure the "edgy" fans out there !

May 26 Note-3

Indian news: There is a lot of news from the All India Tennis Association (AITA) today.  Basically they are responding to the letter written jointly by several top Indian women's tennis players demanding more opportunities to play, now that AITA has dropped a lot of their ranking tournaments, in favor of international tournaments (see my comments in the May 16 Note-2 two weeks back). AITA seems to have given out a lot more details of their plans ("Spanish model" for tennis development, as Anil Khanna of AITA explained it) in the press conference. It includes a national coach, funds for a few top players (Rs 1 lakh each), four ITF futures events with WTA points for women this year and a good number in coming years (I am right now interested in seeing the 4 scheduled events this year coming through.. I will believe it when they show up on the ITF calendar!), 50% subsidy for state units conducting international and national tournaments (all 20 of them will be *required* to conduct at least one national or international event), funding support to the 4 regional tennis academies (Krishnans' center in Chennai, Bhupathi Sr's center in Bangalore, Akhtar Ali's center in Calcutta and Gaurav Natekar's center in Mumbai), etc, etc .. I particularly like the idea of applying for the Indian regional junior events to be international Open events with ITF junior points to get international participation (by the way there have been a ton of junior events sponsored by Adidas in India recently, and you can see many in the domestic calendar .. I have not reported on these Junior events as they are way too many and the newspaper coverage has been patchy on them) . The AITA idea to increase the grade of the existing junior ITF events from 4 and 5 to 2 or 3 is also good for international participation and exposure for Indian kids to foreign competition. Finally, they announced a Rs 1 lakh fund support for Uzma Khan (I wonder whether, if that had come early enough, she would have considered going to the French Open junior qualifiers that she was reported earlier to be skipping due to lack of funds despite qualifying for entry).. Anyway, the plans are all good if AITA can come through on their promises .. now, that is a big IF .. See all the details in the Indian Express article, Times of India article and The Hindu article ..

May 26 Note-2

Leander must have had cramps sitting and waiting in the players' lounge, but nothing came off it.. He gets ready for doubles now (the first round starts tomorrow, and the schedule will be out later today).

Now for some good news: Syed fazaluddin won his first round match today, 6-3, 6-1, over Ludovic Pain (France, ranked #947) at the $15K Futures at Boca raton, Florida ! .. He is now in the final 32 of the 64-men tournament. I am not sure of the points table for a 64-draw futures, but he may only get a point for the win .. He next faces the winner of the match between John Goldfarb (USA, #1069) and the 12th seed Egberto Caldas (Brazil, #570) ..

At the collegiate championships (women) at the Notre Dame University, Manisha Malhotra lost in the first round of the individual singles tournament to a higher ranked player. Later yesterday, she won the first round doubles match, but I believe she and Margie Lepsie will be going against the #1 seeded doubles team next.

May 26 Note-1

As of 4 pm in Paris, Tuesday, 44 first round men's singles matches have been completed. 13 more are being played. Only 7 more to go, and so I assume that Leander will not be lucky enough to be a lucky loser entry .. Filip DeWulf, who had talked of withdrawing late last week, has just started playing .. So it is doubles and mixed doubles only for him there. He will lose the 26 points from last year, which will be replaced by 5 points and his point total will fall from 462 to 442 in 2 weeks. Not a big problem, as he is healthy now (touchwood!) and is ready to move on to grass for the 5 following weeks including Wimbledon.

By the way, the newly designed Mahesh Bhupathi Page is also up. Check it out ! .. Thanks, Prakash Hemdev for all the design work..

May 25 Note-2

The French Open doubles draw is out. LP-MB are the 3rd seeds, in the upper quarter of the bottom half. Here is the draw till the semis:

 5 E.Ferreira (RSA,10) & R.Leach (USA,11)      vs J.Alonso (ESP,102) & N.Lapentti (ECU,54)       \
   D.Sapsford (GBR,116) & C.Wilkinson (GBR,94) vs A.DiPasquale (FRA,537) & J.Jeanpierre (FRA,709)/ \
   L.Arnold (ARG,44) & D.Orsanic (ARG,24)      vs D.Dilucia (USA,123) & M.Keil (USA,103)         \ / \
12 W.Black (ZIM,31) & S.Lareau (CAN,25)        vs O.Delaitre (FRA,46) & S.Grosjean (FRA,475)     /    \
14 L.Lobo (ARG,28) & J.Sanchez (ESP,39)        vs G.Forget (FRA,1311) & R.Lavergne (FRA,234)     \    /
   F.Bergh (SWE,137) & P.Nyborg (SWE,73)       vs G.Grant (USA,108) & M.Tebbutt (AUS,61)         / \ /
   C.Brandi (ITA,89) & F.Messori (ITA,92)      vs N.Godwin (RSA,88) & T.Ketola (FIN,109)         \ /
 3 M.Bhupathi (IND,6) & L.Paes (IND,5)         vs D.Randall (USA,65) & G.VanEmburgh (USA,149)    /

Can't say it is an easy draw. It is a pretty tough draw, in fact. Brandi/Messori are the guys who took LP-MB out in the first round at Wimbledon last year (though they may not be great claycourt players). Lobo/Sanchez are great claycourters and gave LP-MB a very tough game at Rome two weeks back. Ferreira/Leach was even tougher at Rome and LP-MB beat them in a very close 3rd set tiebreaker. If LP/MB get through all these hurdles (that is if there are no upsets.. never the case), the expected semifinal is against The Woodies (They are the second seeds, behind Eltingh/Haarhuis. Based on individual rankings, Wood and Wood are at 2 and 3, with a sum-rank tied with Elt and Haar at 1 and 4, but the Woodies have played more tournaments) .. LP/MB can meet Eltingh/Haarhuis only in the finals.

Nirupama Vaidyanathan is not in the doubles draw. That means she may either have left the place after losing in the singles semis, to play elsewhere, or could not find a partner with high enough ranking to get into the main draw (her own ranking was 187 last week; so I think she would have needed somebody inside the 150 or higher as a partner to get in).

The ATP rankings are out. MB has fallen even further, after losing the few points he had at the Budapest challenger from last year. He is now at #321. Mahesh really needs to sit down and plan his schedule very carefully to play some singles somewhere. The next 2-3 months are crucial, as he has a lot of points to defend, but he is perfectly capable of getting quite a lot of points if he can go and play 4 or 5 challengers in a row. He deserves to have a ranking inside the 200, actually inside the 150 or higher. His singles game had improved a lot last summer, but ever since that he has played very few tournaments. Some of it has been bad planning, in my opinion, and some just plain bad luck as last week when he missed the qualifiers by a couple of spots; I was told he was in the draw till a half hour to go when the first round losers from Budapest showed up and took it away from him .. I would have never expected him to go through the whole clay season without even one singles match. The new rankings do not show any new points for Prahlad Srinath; so I am a bit confused about the report from a reliable source last week that he was doing well in Germany, which I took for Sri doing well in the Germany F7 Futures, which was the only international tournament there last week.