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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on June 7, 1999

(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 99)

CONGRATS LEANDER, MAHESH !!

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June 7 Note-1

Many newspaper articles have come up today about our duo's historic title - the first of many more to come .. Here is an article by Kamesh Srinivasan in The Hindu, by S. Kannan in the Hindustan Times and by Uma Venkatraman in the Times of India  .. Here is an article in the Indian Express with comments by Ramanathan Krishnan .. Here is a nice compilation of Agency news items in the Deccan Herald (there is also a nice photograph of them there, as does this article in the Hindustan Times) ..

Since some of the articles talk about how it all started a few years back at the  Jakarta challenger, and how they won the Aruba challenger in 96, I think I should put my two cents too, reminiscing the days when our pair was starting on the journey .. One incident that stays in my mind was in late 1996 .. I remember the Singapore Straits Times articles talking about the Olympic medalist playing doubles with Pat Cash, who had been given a wildcard - then a few days before the tournament Leander decided to play with Mahesh - in an interview with Straits Times, he said this - "I have informed Pat of my preference to play with Mahesh - basically because I see the doubles future to be in the company of Mahesh - Pat understood" .. Pat Cash played with somebody else and LP-MB lost in the first round there! .. LP did turn out to be pretty prophetic about the future! .. The other instance that I remember was my prediction in the fanclub mailing list in April 97 when our boys went 15-0 in four tournaments (Madras Open, Prague challenger, Prague Open, Jerusalem challenger) without dropping a set ..   I said that there was an outside chance for them to somehow end up near top-10 and get into the Hartford championship field - I was just hoping that would happen, and had no idea they were about to start going right to the very top .. As we know things changed very quickly after that and we found them in the Hartford finals .. I must say that I expected the first grand slam title sometime last year though, but it took a little longer.

Incidentally, LP-MB now have a record of 14-4 in finals (not counting challengers) .. After starting 11 of 12 in finals, they lost 3 of the next four finals, and now have won the last two .. Their 14 titles take them one over Vijay and Anand who had the previous record for doubles titles from India (though over many more years than the current duo) .. LP and MB are aware that they have a long way to go to reach all the goals they have set (I had a recent email exchange with them both on this, by the way, and we should rest assured that they have a lot of goals!) .. They said yesterday that the Woodies are their idols and that kind of longevity is what they are looking for .. Let's hope our pair shows that kind of ability to stay on top for several years and reach 50+ titles .. Those who occupied the top spots will all say it is tougher to stay on top than to reach the top .. Another 6 more titles will place LP-MB inside the top-10 teams ever in history, and that's the immediate goal .. The Woodies won over 10 grand slam titles, though I doubt if they ever won the FO - their best was always at the Wimbledon where they won it 5 years in a row before losing in a 12-10 fifth set to the Dutchmen last year .. LP-MB have so far found Wimbledon to be their worst grand slam and grass to be their worst surface .. They have a chance right now to change all that, starting in a couple of days at Queens (London) where they are the top seeds, with a first round bye.

Nirupama doesn't seem to be at the Tashkent tournament - I need to launch an immediate investigation into where she is hiding lately :-) .. Archana and Arthi Venkatraman lost in the qualifiers at Tashkent - I will post scores later.

June 6 Note-3

The Prime Minister, Sri Vajpayee has congratulated Leander and Mahesh on the historic title, in a message today!

Here is an article at the French Open site about the win, with some comments from the players .. It says (excerpts), The match featured contrasting styles. Bhupathi/Paes, Australian Open finalists, have surgeon hands and parked at the net volleying everything. Ivanisevic/Tarrango are much more solid pounding groundstrokes, so they ripped away ... Tarango, who paid his partner the ultimate complement saying "if it wasn't me out there Goran would have won," had trouble holding serve throughout the match .. "I was just having trouble serving." he said. "The ball just seemed a little bit heavier out there on Court Central in the finals. I was a little bit uncomfortable nerve-wise .. Paes likes to return my serve, for some reason." Tarango continued. "He doesn't like to return anybody else's serve but mine. He just kept hitting that little dink. It was a good shot. It was really, really difficult for me to hold serve." ... Bhupathi said, "we were pretty relaxed being in the position we were in. It was better than going in a set all. We knew we had broken Jeff three times. We knew if we were ready to get on the ball as soon as we came out, we had a good shot at breaking him again. We warmed up really well and it worked out pretty good." ... "This is not just two weeks of work, it's been about three or four years of work that we've put in." Paes said. "We lost a very tough match in Australia in the finals. That match really egged us on to do well again." ... Jeff tries to take a little dig at LP ..  We will let it pass for now, eh ? .. :-) ..

Here is an excerpt from a PTI report - The Indian pair clinched the second matchpoint on Paes' service when Ivanisevic sent a return high and long, threw up their arms in triumph and embraced each other to cheers from their close friends and relatives. As play began, the Indians quickly gained upper hand when they straightaway broke Tarango's serve to go up 6-5. At the first matchpoint, Paes fired what looked an ace, but he showed sportsmanship when Ivanisevic pointed out the ball was just wide, though it had been called good. Paes earned a second matchpoint when Tarango netted a return which they converted to clinch victory. It was second time lucky for Paes and Bhupathi who had lost their first grand slam final, the Australian Open this January, after an epic five-set battle against Aussie Pat Rafter and Swede Jonas Bjorkman described as one of the classic doubles encounters of the open era ..

June 6 Note-2

The guestbook page is there for all of you to leave your messages for Leander-Mahesh ..  They do read that page, but I will remind them anyway that our congrats messages are there ! .. Here is a page that Madhav Nayak has already put up congratulating our boys - take a look !

June 6 Note-1

Ta Ta, TaRanGo - GoRanGo ..

This thing was over in a hurry today at the French Open, as our boys wasted no time in picking up a break and serving it out for their first Grand Slam title !! .. Bhupathi-paes d. Ivanisevic-Tarango, 6-2, 7-5 ..

Starting at the overnight score of 5-5 in the second set, the Indian Express quickly jumped on Tarango's service today and reeled off three points when he was serving at 30-15 to go up a break to 6-5 .. Then LP held serve after a couple of anxious moments to win it .. LP was up 30-15, but served a double fault to go 30-30 .. Then he served a match point at 40-30, only to see it go to deuce .. That was the last bit of resistence from the "mad men" (name given to the other guys by the official french Open site yesterday!) .. LP-MB won the last two points to finish it off and pocket some Rs. 110 lakhs ($268K) to share ! .. So, the "mad men" who had a 10-set unbeaten streak going in, found out why the #1 team in the world is #1 ..

By the way, special thanks should go (I never thought I would say this!) to Doordarshan for promptly showing live the 10 minutes of action today - actually even the French Open web site was inaccessible for most people due to some internet connection difficulties at that time - We were getting commentary from India at the chatroom, based on the DD telecast!

With the 876 points here, our boys are now way ahead of everybody else at #1 and #2 with 3993 and 3922 points (MB and LP) .. The next at #3 is Stolle with 3254 points! .. Even more impressively, our pair does not have anything much to defend for 2-3 months now, till the US Open .. This time they will keep their top rankings for a long time .. In calendar year team rankings, the Indian Express is at #1 with 1969 points, just about exactly where they were last year at this time .. Though they had 4 titles then, and two this year, they have bigger titles and a big AO final appearance too, giving them 1428 points from the two grand slams alone! .. And they are ahead of the #2 team by over 300 points (only about 5 teams have over 1000 points this year) .. These are some terrific numbers .. We must all thank them for providing us with some excitement - I was quite a bit down in the dumps, as I am sure were many of the sports fans in India, after the Ind-Aus cricket heartbreak! .. By the way, LP-MB will leave for England soon, and they hope to catch some world cup action if the schedules permit that (they are playing doubles at the $725K Stella Artois tournament at Queens, London in the coming week).

In other news, I saw the qualifier draw for the $112K WTA event at Tashkent (Uzbekistan), and two Indians have made it into the qualifiers ! - Archana and Arthi Venkatraman .. They play 8th seed Angelika Bachmann (288,GER) and somebody named Mossiakova who seems to be unranked (may be a Uzbek wildcard or something?) .. Looking at the top seeds in the qualies, I believe Nirupama Vaidyanathan is in the main draw already, but I have not seen the draw yet to confirm it .. Manisha lost in the semis yesterday at the Little Rock futures, 6-0, 6-3, to 2nd seed Jenny Hopkins (#259, USA) .. The result does not surprise me much, as I believe Jenny is one of the most talented upcoming players - she will be in the top-100 pretty soon at the rate she is going .. Manisha will be at the South Carolina futures next week, I believe .. We will keep following her exploits .. She picked up 2 or 3 more points here, and may have just cracked inside top-400 now.

I have also added the entry list for the men's satellite masters starting at Delhi this week, and my calculations of the circuit points from the three legs so far (I believe they are pretty accurate), at the Delhi satellite masters page .. Take a look !

June 5 Note-4

Well, the Indian Express will have to wait for one more day to get a chance to win their first title, as the match is postponed due to rain, with LP-MB leading GoRan-TaRanGo, 6-2, 5-5 .. As the match start was delayed by over 2 hours, I had to be away due to a prior commitment that I couldn't wriggle out of, but those who followed the match in the chatroom tells me (Thank you Lia, Mahesh Sharma and Ajay Verma) that the first set was a breeze for our guys, as they finished it off fast, breaking Tarango twice, in game 3 and game 7 ..  Things, as usual tightened up in the second set, with MB dropping serve in the second game, and our boys finding themselves down 2-4, when they broke Tarango for a third time to get back on serve .. When it was 5-5, the rain came down .. Since it was past 9 pm, they have postponed it to tomorrow .. The match will be completed starting 12 noon Sunday .. Later with more.

Here's Ajay Verma's report of how things went in the more eventful second set, "Second set started with Goran holding his serve, when the rain Gods came to their rescue. The rain break did break the LP-MB momentum as when they came back, MB lost the serve to be down 0-2. Tarango also held for the first time in the match to make it 3-0. There was lot of pressure on LP serve as LP was down 15 30, recoverd to 40-30 only to let it go to deuce. LP managed to close the game to win there first game after the rain break 1-3. Goran was serving as usual and won the next game at love to make it 1-4 for LP-MB. MB was serving next and looked like they were still not out of trouble at 30-30. But then LP-MB might have said "that is enough" and moved on to higher gear. MB winning his game to make it 2-4. Then they attacked Tarango's serve, took him to deuce and then breaking him 3-4. LP was on fire after that as he won his sevice game at love and it was 4-4. But they still couldn't do any thing on Goran's serve who again won his game at love to make it 4-5 for LP,MB. MB was not going to be left behind and came up with his boom-boom and won his game at love to make it even at 5-5. The last three service games were all one sided with server winning the game at love. It was Tarango's serve and a chance for MB-LP to break again when Rain Gods came to his rescue again. So that's the story for today. The final script will be written tomorrow" .. Looks like Goran can still make it tough for our biys .. we will see.

By the way, if you are wondering, Graf did come back and beat Hingis, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 .. "We're not worthy!" :-) ..

By the way, here is the circuit points in the Indian satellites, after the 3rd leg finals (Srinath d. Fazal, 6-4, 6-3) today at Delhi .. 1) Srinath Prahlad (IND) - 52 .. (2) Artem Derepasko (RUS) - 46 .. (3) Fazaluddin Syed (IND) - 31 .. (4) Harsh Mankad (IND) - 26 .. (5) Vinod Sridhar (IND) - 17 .. (6) Anton Kokurin (UZB) - 15 .. (7) Minh Le (USA) - 11 .. (8) S.K.Shivshankar (IND) - 11 .. These will be the seeds in that order at the masters leg (also at Delhi) starting next week .. I will calculate the full point lists and post it soon.

Good news keep coming from Manisha Malhotra .. Yesterday she defeated Maria Pavlidou (GRE), 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, to reach the semifinals of the $10K futures in Little Rock, Arkansas ! .. She faces 2nd seed Jenny Hopkins (#259, USA) in the semis .. I expect that to be a *very tough* match for Manisha .. Jenny has been coming up for the last few months, and has wins over those like Jelena Dokic, etc .. Let's hope Manisha takes the big next step here.

June 5 Note-3

Serves me right for counting out the legend that fast - Graf charging back .. It is in the 3rd set, and Graf is up 4-6, 7-5, 3-1 now .. at 5.45 pm .. The doubles match may be as late as 6.30 pm or a bit a later (9.30 am PST, USA .. 10 pm India) ..

Srinath beat fazal in the final at the delhi satellites today .. More later.

June 5 Note-2

Rain, rain, go away ..

The start of the women's final was delayed about an hour and half today due to rain at FO, but Hingis is making up some time, by going after Graf .. She is leading 6-4, 3-1 right now at 4.45 pm .. If she holds on, this should be over by 5 pm and the doubles final should be starting by 5.30 pm (8.30 am PST .. 9 pm India) .. See you all in the chatroom ..

June 5 Note-1

The rain-delayed Agassi-Hrbaty semifinal in the beginning of 4th set (Agassi leading by a set) is postponed to saturday, but with a 12 noon start on court centre at the French Open .. Barring further rain, the women's final should still start at 2.30 pm and the doubles final should be at about 4.30 pm there (7.30 am PST, USA .. 8 pm India) .. The match will be telecast in India on Doordarshan Metro (DD-2) at 8 pm .. As usual, our chatroom will be open during the match

So, how good is Ivanisevic and Tarango ? - who the heck knows ! .. All we know is that these two have been on a tear at FO, not having dropped even a set against anybody in 5 matches - and that includes 12th seeds Lareau-O'Brien, and 5th seeds Bjorkman-Rafter (perhaps the best other doubles team right now with LP-MB, considering the rather weak form Woodies have shown lately) .. The "odd guy" and the "mad guy" are certainly making everybody go "what the #@$% ??" so far .. I am told that when their second round doubles score was flashed during some TV match, John McEnroe commented that the pair should "enjoy it while it lasts - they ain't gonna go too far" !! .. Well, they have made Johnny Mac eat his whole foot so far .. By the way, Tarango has three titles in doubles this year in smaller tournaments in the company of Daniel Vacek .. They are ranked #9 in doubles and won Auckland, St.Petersburg and Tokyo titles .. Tarango has never been in a grand slam final .. Ivo on the other hand was in the French open doubles final with Korda almost a decade back in 1990, I believe - nobody remembers anything about it now I guess :-) .. Ivo looked good in a few tournaments last year, pulling some upsets with his Croatian Davis Cup doubles partner Sasa Hirszon (again, "who" ??), but that dude has not been seen much this year .. Ivo has only played three doubles tournaments the whole year and just has one win in 1999 before this unexpected show! .. Goran seems to have jelled with his "odd couple" partner this time, in any event.

By the way, do you all remember that little incident in the US Open a couple of years back, when Tarango was playing with Gillaume Raoux of France and lost in a third set tiebreaker to the Indian Express ? - If I remember correctly, Tarango went ballistic at one point for some strange reason like a volley hitting him or something .. The US TV network covering the match, who rarely acknowledge that doubles exists, chose to even cut away to show a couple of minutes of that match which was getting very exciting! .. Also, I am sure you all remember that infamous "incident" with Tarango, his girlfriend, and the umpire at Wimbledon a few years back too .. Tarango is a very good doubles player as his #26 ranking would indicate .. He is at his career-high ranking now, and the 31 yr old American has 9 doubles titles in his career .. He has played in the company of many a partner (Vizner, Braasch, Raoux, Palmer, Vacek, Nijssen, Koves, Wibier, Lareau, Delaitre, Ondruska, Mirnyi, Knippschils, Roditi, Suk, etc, etc in the last 2 years) .. He has, for some reason not been able to keep a partner - jee, I wonder why! :-) ..

Anyway, this final is going to be *very* entertaining .. Leander and Mahesh should not take these two lightly - they have nothing to lose and will be out there having fun! .. Both are left-handed, and that may have caused some tactical problems to other teams who faced them at the FO .. LP-MB will need to be sure to plan well and use their experience and strategies against the lefty-pair .. Earlier this week I saw a little tidbit that LP and MB were having some fun in practice playing with their left hands - I am sure they weren't anticipating this final! :-) .. By the way, somehow (horror!) if Ivo and Tarango pull the upset they could very well become one of the lowest ranked (162+26=188) doubles teams ever to win a grand slam title!

In other news, 18 yr old Sheetal Gautham won her first national title at the AITA women's ranking tournament at Bangalore today .. She beat perhaps the hardest-hitting youngster in India, Radhika Tulpule, in a comeback three-setter .. Radhika, as you may remember, had won a satellite leg last month and reached the final of another - so this should go as a very good win for Sheetal .. To make it truly memorable, Sheetal and Radhika also won the doubles title! .. After a rather poor 1998, Sheetal has truly made huge strides this year and established herself as among the best young talents we have, along with Shruti Dhawan and Radhika .. She is in good hands, being coached by Bhupathi Sr. at the TennisVillage in Bangalore .. By the way, Sheetal is the highest ranked junior this year, and is the only Indian player, male or female, who has a chance to make it into any junior grandslam draw this year (she has been consistently ranked inside the world top-85 for most of this year - roughly the same ranking as Uzma Khan had last year) .. I believe she is also looking for some sponsors, especially for expenses if she makes it to the Wimbledon junior draw she has entered for - a trip to Europe to play a few tournaments would certainly help her, but she is certainly not a rich kid .. Do write to me if any of you have thoughts .. By the way, I have not dropped the ideas to start some serious player-support initiative with help from all you readers and others .. Some of you had written to me as early as a year back, and both Mahesh and Leander had offered to help too .. We have been waiting for the right time to start something - actually I have been sitting on my behind a bit too long! .. Sheetal would qualify for some immediate help right now, though ..

June 4 Note-3

Tomorrow's French Open doubles final is scheduled after the women's final which starts at 2.30 pm .. The doubles final start time is about 4.30 pm Saturday (7.30 am PST, USA .. 8 pm India) probably even slightly later since I have a suspicion that Hingis won't be able to finish in her customary 50 minutes, against somebody like Graf .. The doubles final will start about 30 minutes after the women's final, as there will be a prize ceremony to go through.

June 4 Note-2

I have just been informed by a friend that, as she was (in her words) "watching Australia make kheema of India (44 for 4 in 12 overs and need 289) in cricket" she saw the newsflash that Doordarshan will actually be broadcasting the FO Doubles Finals live tomorrow !! .. Let's hope they come through ..

June 4 Note-1

Leander and Mahesh play the French Open final against Goran Ivanisevic (CRO,162) and Jeff Tarango (USA,23) tomorrow (Saturday) .. I will post the exact time of the match soon.

Srinath Prahlad and Fazaluddin Syed won the semifinals today at the Delhi satellites (PTI report) .. Srinath seems to be in irrepressible form, as he beat Harsh Mankad, 6-1, 6-0 in the semis .. Harsh will hopefully take the bad loss in stride and regroup - after all the 19-yr old has shown excellent improvement so far in this circuit and is in line for a top-4 seeding in the masters and a lot of points .. But, ouch .. Come on Sri! .. Show some mercy! .. In the other semifinal, Fazal won a hard-fought first set tiebreaker 7-6(4), when the top seed Derepasko (RUS) conceded owing to severe exhaustion .. Two three set matches yesterday in singles and doubles must have taken its toll on the Russian .. So, the buddies meet in the final .. I will update the Delhi satellite page later with doubles semi scores.

More good news from Manisha Malhotra - she has reached the quarterfinal at the $10K futures at Little Rock, Arkansas .. She faces wildcard Maria Pavlidou of Greece, who just graduated as an All-American from the University of Arkansas, and is in her first pro tournament after graduation .. Here is a snippet I found in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today on Pavlidou, who had even upset #292 and 4th seed Lindsey Lee in the first round : Maria said, "When I called my dad last night and told him I beat the 292nd player in the world, he said, 'See, I told you.' " .. When she realized who her quarterfinal opponent would be, Pavlidou's playful attitude turned serious. "Yes, I know her very well," Pavlidou said of India's Manisha Malhotra. "She played No. 1 for the University of Tennessee all the time I was at Arkansas. It'll be like another college match against her so you could say there is a rivalry there." .. Both U.Arkansas and U.Tennessee are in the same collegiate conference, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) .. Manisha beat Kyung-Yee Chae (#566, KOR) 7-6, 6-1 in the second round and has picked up another 1.5 more WTA points now .. She has been very consistently beating players ranked below the top-400 lately, and that's a very good sign .. I will call up and find more details later on Manisha's other results and doubles .. This girl Pavlidou sounds like a tough opponent for her in the QF today, though! ..

June 3 Note-2

The win today gives Paes-Bhupathi a total of 652 points .. That is 1735 points this year which places them in front of the current #1 Ferreira/Leach (with over 1600 pts) as the new #1 team in the world .. It's rather interesting that despite being in the top-10 for about 2 years, top-5 for over a year and being #2 or #3 for most of the period, the Indian Express never reached #1 in calendar-year ranking .. They have came one win away from reaching the top a couple of times in the past .. In a way I like the fact that they have not been #1 before, as a team should be consistently reaching grand slam summits (hopefully winning too) before reaching #1 ranking, unlike how Rios became #1 in singles a while back based mostly on Super 9 points .. The QF win gave them the #1 and #2 individual rankings for good (now about 500 and 400 points ahead of everybody else), the SF win gave them their first #1 ranking as a team, and the next win is to get them their first grand slam title .. The prize money for reaching the final is about $134K (though the FO prize money has gone up a bit this year, it is effectively around the same or slightly less than last year, as the dollar has strengthened against the Franc :-)) .. Winning the final will give them a total of 876 points and about $265K to share .. Another interesting thing is that out of the 1735 points they have, 1310 have come from the Australian Open and the French Open .. Our guys do show up when it matters, for sure, don't they ? ..

At the Delhi satellites, only Srinath had an easy straight sets win in the quarterfinals .. Though the other three top-4 seeds advanced, they all had to go through three-setters .. 4th seed Harsh Mankad had to come back from 3-6, 1-3 and win 11 of the next 14 games to win the match against the big-serving Russian qualifier, Andrei Youznyi .. 6th seed Vinod Sridhar gave Fazal a run for the money by tying things up in the second set with "breathtaking strokes from difficult angles, and consistently passing the net-rushing Fazaluddin, with sharp strokes and lobs," as Kamesh Srinivasan reports in The Hindu .. However, Fazal is experienced-enough now and knows how to hang tough against tough opponents .. Top seed Derepasko had to fight till the end in a third-set tiebreaker against the Uzbek, Kokurin .. It's good for everyone to get such tough match-practice .. Quoting Kamesh, "the higher seeded players won through as they used their head much better than their opponents, and retained their composure when the going became tough, while their rivals cracked under pressure unable to capitalise on their hard-earned initiative ... None of the other three were as assertive as Srinath, who had the vibrant streak of aggression. The shots flowed from his racquet, especially on the backhand with remarkable fluency. The athletic Srinath also served harder than ever before, and sent out a warning to the rest of the lot after the contest that he was capable of playing a lot better" .. There have been upsets galore in doubles as the only seeds in the SF are Fazal-Ford .. Srinath-Vasu are also in the semi .. See the Delhi satellites page.

At the Bangalore women's AITA ranking tournament, 18 yr old Sheetal and 17 yr old Radhika have reached the final .. Here is a Deccan Herald article with some excellent insights into the tennis by the youngsters Radhika, Sheetal, SK Tara etc, there .. Sheetal/Radhika are in the doubles final too.

June 3 Note-1

Oh yeah ! #1 team in the world now !!

LP-MB beat Kulti-Tillstrom, 6-4, 6-3 today to reach the final against Ivanisevic-Tarango .. Second consecutive grand slam final appearance for the Indian Express Dynamic Duo .. Today's semifinal was a pretty straight forward match .. LP-MB quickly broke Tillstrom in the 3rd game to go up a break and was not troubled in the set as they won it 6-4 .. In the second set, Tillstrom was quickly broken again for a 1-0 lead, but our guys gave it right back as LP was broken in the second game on the second break chance at AD out, after he fought off a 30-40 break attempt .. Then it went with serve till 3-3, after a rain delay for 55 minutes .. Then Kulti was broken at 30-40 in the 7th game and our boys cruised to a win, as LP served off the next gme on the 3rd match point at 40-30 .. LP-MB were 3 of 5 in break chances, the opponents were 1 of 2 .. More later - I gotta run.. :-)

At Delhi, Derepasko, Srinath, Fazal and Harsh are in the semis after todays QFs.

June 2 Note-2

LP-MB are scheduled to play the 3rd match on center court (action starts at 2 pm) on thursday, following two women's singles semis - the LP-MB vs Kulti-Tillstrom match should start by about 5 pm (8 pm PST, u.s.a .. 8.30 pm India) .. We shall meet in the chatroom to follow the match! .. Winning this match will give our pair the #1 team rank for this year - so it's another big match .. A lot of money (an extra $60 or 70K to share) and about 190 points are also at stake, not to mention getting closer to that first grand-slam title.

Kulti and Tillstrom is not a team to be taken lightly .. They have been playing together, on-and-off for a couple of years now and has beaten a lot of good teams (Lareau/O'Brien, Ferreira-Leach, Knowles-Nestor, etc) in the last 6-7 months too .. They won the title at Stockholm indoors in November, and had won 3 rounds at the Australian Open too .. Ranked 23 as of last week, but should be inside the top-12 next week .. LP-MB last played them in Oct 97 in the semis at Singapore and won it in a close match.

At the Delhi satellites, the Harsh Mankad story continues .. Today he blew Nitin Kirtane off the court with a 6-0, 6-4 win to reach the QFs again .. The margin of win does surprise me, as Nitin is a tough one to beat in that manner .. Kamesh Srinivasan reports in The Hindu that Harsh even had a second serve ace today, and looked fully confident in throwing down aces even when he was down 0-30 and in danger of being broken at 3-4 in the second set .. Actually all the newspaper reports have been talking about the terrific tennis Harsh has been playing .. I hope he gets better and better - it has been a long while since anybody gave us any serious hope for the future (actually not since Fazal made the splash in Jan 98) .. The top 3 seeds and 6th seed Vinod Sridhar moved on to the QFs .. Srinath and Fazal have been quietly winning .. Kamesh also reports that Saurav Panja has returned to Calcutta due to injury and will miss the masters week (I believe he can get a couple of ATP points for the circuit points he has picked up so far, even without playing the masters, as it's due to injury - same thing applies to Mohammed Khaliq who has gone back to Pakistan) .. That frees up a spot, and so there won't be a play-off to pick two from the last three for the 24-size draw for next week's masters' leg - Vijay Kannan, Ashley Ford and Manoj Mahadevan are all in .. All of the doubles got rained out today at Delhi .. see the results at the Delhi satellites page.

At the Bangalore women's tournament, 5th seed Radhika Tulpule beat top seed Karishma Patel - that is not really an upset, as Radhika has had better results than Karishma in the past, and it's only because of the AITA point totals that Karishma was the top seed - Radhika and Sheetal are perhaps the best two players in the field there .. The other top 4 seeds are in the semis there.

June 2 Note-1

Got all the results from the $10K El Paso futures tournament last week .. Golly, it was an incredible tournament for Manisha Malhotra - better than what I thought, as she had also upset two top-400 players on the way to the singles final .. As though that was not enough, she had also won the doubles title there !!! .. Yeah! .. In singles, [R1] MM d. Seiko Okamoto (JPN,523), 7-5, 6-2 .. [R2] MM d. 8th seed Wendy Fix (USA,385), 6-4 (retd) .. [QF] MM d. Patty Murren (USA,516), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 .. [SF] MM d. 6th seed Riei Otakeyama (JPN,350), 6-4, 7-5 .. [F] Sarah Walker (USA,750) d. MM, 6-3, 6-3 .. By the way, though Sarah Walker was the last direct entry in the tournament, she is very talented and had upset the top seed Petra Rampre (SLO,235) and 4th seed Leanne Baker (NZL,311) in straight sets too .. Actually Manisha must have got two extra points over the 4 which I mentioned earlier, as she upset two top-500 players too .. Now the stuff I just learned about her doubles title .. Julie Scott (USA,235) was her partner .. [R1] Malhotra/Scott d. Pinchbeck/A Smith 6-1 6-2 .. [QF] Malhotra/Scott d. 4th seeds Falco/Tricerri 2-6 6-4 6-1.. [SF] Malhotra/Scott d. 2nd seeds L Baker/Hunt 6-3 6-4 .. [F] Malhotra/Scott d. Grant/S Walker 6-2 6-4 .. So she did get some revenge on Sarah Walker in doubles .. That should boost her doubles rankings up pretty well too .. Excellent stuff .. Manisha must be at the Little Rock, Arkansas, futures this week - will find out some news soon .. Like they say here in America, "You Go Girl" !! .. I feel rather justified in having screamed "bloody murder" when she was cut out by the sports ministry from the Asiad field, though AITA paid for her, and then for her not being picked for the Fed Cup .. See my Jan 20 Note-1 in the 012599 notes (S.Kannan of Hindustan Times who wrote an insightful article on Jan 23 about that also deserves props!).

June 1 Note-2

The doubles semifinals at the French Open are scheduled for Thursday; so LP and MB will get a day of rest .. It has been rather hot out there, and playing six matches in the last 3-4 days has made them all a bit tired - the rest day is good .. They face the Swedish pair Nicklas Kulti and Mikael Tillstrom in the semis.

MB and LP have regained their #1 and #2 spots - the new individual points as of now are 3528 for MB and 3457 for LP .. Rgeardless of what happens from now on, the #3 and #4 ranked players after the FO will be Sandon Stolle with 3254 pts and Paul Haarhuis with 3144 points (Thanks, Ajay, for the numbers) .. Our guys can pick up about 450 more points if they win the title here, and that would make it almost impossible for anybody else (except perhaps Stolle with a Wimbledon final or something) to threaten them for the next few months .. Our guys hardly have anything to defend at Wimbledon and in the grass season, and don't have many points at the Cincinnati and Montreal Super 9s either .. It took 5 years for anybody to displace one of the Dutchmen or the Woodies from the top spot (Hesh did it last month) .. Let us hope that it would be another 5 years at least before our pair give up the #1 spot to anybody else .. By the way, LP-MB have also come back up to #2 spot with 1504 points, just behind Stolle-Suk .. One more win can get them the #1 spot in team rankings!

At Delhi, in the 3rd leg of the Indian satellites, the top 4 seeds (Derepasko, Srinath, Fazal, Harsh) and the the 6th seed Vinod Sridhar advanced today .. The sad story is that Vijay Kannan's travails continue, as he went down in three sets to Fazal, after winning the first set in a tiebreaker and then having a match point in the second set .. One has to feel for the plight this kid is going through .. He cannot seem to get a break - definitely not with the draw - and he cannot seem to shake off the mistakes and self-doubts either .. Kamesh Srinivasan's article in The Hindu mentions that his shot at match point was just 5 inches too long, or he would have had the kind of upset that could have helped a lot .. On the other hand, Fazal apparently was not playing with focus till late in the 2nd set either, though .. Vijay is in a strange predicament of having to be in a playoff, fighting with two others (Manoj Mahadevan and the Australian Ashley Ford) for the final 2 spots in the masters leg next week - one can get ATP points only by making into the final leg's draw of size 24 (the top 8 seeds get byes into second round) .. Vijay was in a similar situation in the last satellites too, when he showed a lot of character in coming through a playoff, and then reaching the semifinal of the satellites to pick up 7 points and finish 7th! .. All we can say is, "hang in there!" .. In another match today, Sandeep Kirtane went down in a third set tiebreaker to the top seed Derepasko .. Even worse, Nitin and Sandeep also lost in a surprise upset in doubles, as the top seeds went down to Srinath and Vasu .. In tomorrow's R2 matchups, Harsh Mankad playing Nitin Kirtane is perhaps the best one .. See the Delhi satellites page.

There is also another tournament going on in India - the AITA ranking tournament for women in Bangalore (Karnataka State Women's Open) .. Some talented youngsters are there - Sheetal Gautam, Radhika Tulpule, SK Tara, Geeta Manohar, etc .. This was supposed to be a Rs 75K tournament which they seem to have made into a Rs 39K (less than $1000) tournament due to the lower-than-expected field quality .. Huh ? .. Who did they really expect for less than $2K total money - Nirupama ? .. All they had to do was to look at the field at the Rs 50K tournament at Kochi to know who would show up .. SK Tara was the top seed there, and she is the 4th seed here - sounds like the field they should have expected, to me! .. Actually, even a couple of UP players and a WB player are there .. Anyway, the Deccan Herald says the players are less than happy with the reduction in prize money after they reached there .. If it was indeed a "bait-and-switch", it should be duly noted and condemned by all .. Heck, even getting some drinking water at the courts seem to have been a problem .. Boy, the women players have a tough time in India .. See the Bangalore Open page for results.

June 1 Note-1

Sorry that the web server was down for the last few hours and we could not chat during the big match today ..

Big win for the Indian Express today! .. LP-MB d. #8 seeds E.Ferreira-R.Leach, 7-5, 6-2, which puts them into their 6th semifinal in the last 7 grand slams, and places MB and LP at #1 and #2 in doubles rankings (..and this time they should be staying there for a a while too!) ..

As for the match, it started in a disastrous way with LP-MB dropping serve in the second game off MB's serve .. After Ferreira served a love game, it was 0-3 .. From that point onwards the Dynamic Duo seemed to play much better, though they couldn't get a break in the next 4 games and it was 2-5 soon .. Then, with Rick Leach serving for the set at 5-3, our boys started their timely attack .. Leach had to fight through a break attempt at 30-40 and then had a set pt .. LP-MB hung tough there, but wasted three more break chances before getting the break on the 5th attempt. Then MB held serve easily and it was 5-5 .. Now it was EF's turn to get broken, ad LP-MB reeled off 3 points in a row to break EF after he was up 30-15 .. Then LP held serve at love and it was a 7-5 set for our boys, who had won 5 games in a row!

In the second set, EF was broken quickly on the first chance itself in the 3rd game and our boys were up 2-1 quickly - the Indian Express had now converted three break chances in a row after wasting the first four in the match .. RL was taken to 2 deuces and a break attempt in game 5 as well, but he held .. Then there was a small downer, as MB found himself facing 2 break attempts at 30-40 and at AD out .. Our boys held for a 4-2 lead .. It was relentless attack again, as EF was once again taken to a break attempt at 30-40 and at AD out with our boys converting the second one (make that 4 converted in 10 - not too bad) .. The fat lady had pretty much sung "mangalam" by then, as LP served it off easily for a 7-5, 6-2 win .. It was an 11-2 shellacking in the last 13 games !! .. The match took an hour and 15 minutes.

Their semifinal opponents are yet to be determined .. A title here will give them another 450 odd points more and push them up out of reach from others for a while .. They have picked up 411 points now (they had 345 to defend) .. Oh yeah, the boys are bbbaaaaaaaaacccckkk!!!!

For bad news today, both LP and MB lost in their QF mixed doubles matches .. LP-Raymond lost to L.Neyland-P.Norval, 7-6(8), 6-3 .. The match was a very close affair, despit the straight sets score .. Also, MB-Sugiyama lost to K.Srebotnik and P.Norval, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7 .. MB's match seemed well in their hands at 5-2 in the 3rd set but they let it slip through, though they made KS-PN serve 5 match points before winning it in the 12th game fo the 3rd set .. I could not follow the break sequences in the two mixed doubles matches all that closely, but both seemed to be time-consuming, tight affairs.

May 31 Note-3

LP-MB play the big quarterfinal match tomorrow at the FO against the 8th seeds Ferreira-Leach (the current #3 team who just inched ahead of LP-MB who are now #4 in points in this calendar year) .. The match starts at 12 noon in Paris (3 am PST, USA .. 3.30 pm India) .. It's the matchup between the only two seeded teams left now .. By the way, I think I nicley jinxed the 16th seeds Kafelnikov/Mirnyi by hyping them up - they lost today's QF match to Albano/Carbonell in three sets .. The bottom half semi will be between Albano-Carbonell and Ivanisevic-Tarango .. In the other bottom-half QF match today, Ivanisevic-Tarango beat Prinosil-Vacek.

Why is this QF match so big for LP-MB ? .. Our resident doubles points specialist, Ajay Verma, wrote to me today - Definitely this is the most crucial match for both teams in this tournament as I feel one of these team is going to win and hopefully it would be LP-MB .. From the ranking pt. of view also, QF is the match which can clinch MB-LP, #1 & #2 ranking right away .. At the begining of the FO, the # 1 spot was wide open as most of the top 10-15 players were contenders .. But by the end of 3rd round, very few contenders are left .. In fact, the equation is very simple now - for the # 1 position, only two contenders are left, MB and E.Ferriera .. EF needs to win the tournament to clinch #1 spot - any other result means it goes to MB .. Lets hope MB-LP clinch the top spots in next match, and more importantly, go on to win their first GS Title .. So, come on into the chatroom tomorrow and let's party ..

Manisha Malhotra lost in the final of the $10K futures tournament in El Paso to Sara Walker of USA in the final, 6-3, 6-3 .. I am awaiting a fax with the full draw and results and will report on how she did in earlier rounds .. She gets another 4 more points last week to add to the 4 she had the previous week at the Jackson challenger .. This should place her at just outside the top-400 in rankings ! .. That is an impressive move up from near #1000 in about 6 tournaments by Manisha .. Here is what she has done:  She has only played 6 tournament in the last 9 months, since finishing her college tennis career at Univ of Florida - one futures in UK where she reached the final last August, the challenger in India where she qualified in and reached second round, and then the 3 challengers and this future in the US this month .. She had a qualy win in the Florida challenger, and then qualified into the main draw at the Virginia and Mississippi challengers, winning a round at Mississippi .. In between she had that triple crown in the national grasscourts championships in Calcutta too .. Let us hope that she will keep moving up !

Later, with results from the Delhi satellites.

May 31 Note-2

MB is also in the QF of mixed doubles .. Hesh and Sugiyama defeated the 15th seeds Morariu-Montana, 7-6(4), 6-2 today .. The first set was basically a break-fest, as all four players dropped serve once each, in games 4, 5, 7 and 8 .. In the tiebreaker MB-AS went up a minibreak immediately and cruised to a first set win .. In the second set it was all Ai-Hesh, as they broke both  Morariu and Montana in the 6th and 8th games to wrap it up ..

MB-Sugiyama have started their PQF match against Morariu-Montana just now at 3.50 pm Paris (6.50 am PST, USA .. 7.20 pm India) .. Come to the chatroom for ball-by-ball ..

Also, I have just started the Delhi satellites page - final qualifiers and seeds are listed .. More soon.

May 31 Note-1

OK, I got done with a very busy week - I will catch up on a lot of news today ..

First of all, LP-MB d. 15th seeds Norval/Ullyett, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to reach QF yesterday .. LP reached QF in MxD too, as LP and Lisa Raymond d. Catherine Barclay (AUS) and John DeJager (RSA), 6-3, 6-4 .. MB plays his PQF match in mixed doubles today at about 3.30 pm (6.30 am PST u.s.a .. 7 pm India) - MB-Sugiyama vs 16th seeds C.Morariu (USA) and F.Montana (USA) .. In another interesting news from last week, I was told Manisha Malhotra had reached the final at the El Paso futures as of saturday - I will find out more on her exploits soon.

As for the doubles match yesterday, it went like this: [set1: PN broken in game 11], [set2: LP broken in game 4 and 8, PN broken in game 7], [set3: PN broken in game 10] .. This was a tough match, but in all honesty, our guys may be making things tough for themselves with that little walkabout they do rather often at the beginning of the second set .. This match was almost a carbon copy of the first round match. They looked to be in good command in the first set, though the break came very late in the set .. Then our duo dropped serve at 1-2 in the second set .. They got back on serve in the 7th game of the second set, only to give the break right back .. Just like in the first round, they tried hard in the final game of the set taking PN-KU to deuces, before conceding the set .. In the final set, once again it looked scary with MB starting the 9th game down 0-30, but holding on. Just when it looked like our boys weren't getting any pts off the opponenents, they suddenly went up 15-40 on PN's serve in the 10th game, and won the match right there in a hurry!

Most seeds have all fallen, the bigger ones yesterday being the 4th seeds Black/Stolle and the 5th seeds Bjorkman/Rafter .. 6th seeds Delaitre/ Santoro had fallen on the day before .. 2nd seeds Knowles/Nestor and 3rd seeds Woodies had fallen earlier .. So, it is now,

 1-M.Bhupathi(IND)-L.Paes(IND)      vs 8-E.Ferreira(RSA)-R.Leach(USA)    \
   N.Kulti(SWE)-M.Tillstrom(SWE)    vs   W.Arthurs(AUS)-A.Kratzmann(AUS) / \_title
   G.Ivanisevic(CRO)-J.Tarango(USA) vs   D.Prinosil(GER)-D.Vacek(CZE)    \ /
16-Y.Kafelnikov(RUS)-M.Mirnyi(BLR)  vs   P.Albano(ARG)-T.Carbonell(ESP)  /

Now that all the top seeds have fallen, the match tomorrow (Tuesday) against the current #1 team, Ferreira-Leach has become the match of the tournament .. It turns out that LP and MB are now almost assured of #1 and #2 rankings after the French Open, though any more wins will put serious distance from all other players .. More later with Ajay Verma's calculations on that ..

By the way, my darkhorse pick when the draw came out (May 24 Note-2), the brand-new team of Kafelnikov and Mirnyi are the only seeds left in the bottom half of the draw - I am now picking them for the final.

Also, have you all noticed that the guy who beat MB in the final round of quals has reached the main-draw quarterfinal now ? - Yes, qualifier Marcelo Filippini (URU,137) is in the QF ! .. I still think MB was in very good singles form, and would have beaten most other players to qualify in, except that Filippini was red hot - he beat 12th seed Rusedski yesterday (Greg may not be a biggie on clay, but still..). Here is another thing that's impressive - in 7 consecutive wins (3 in qualies, 4 in main draw) Filippini has not dropped a single set! 14 sets in a row !

On to mixed doubles - this is how the draw looks as of now:

1-L.Raymond(USA)-L.Paes(IND)          d. 11-C.Barclay(AUS)-J.DeJager(RSA)     \
6-L.Neiland(LAT)-R.Leach(USA)         d. 14-I.Selyutina(KAZ)-D.Orsanic(ARG)   / \
4-E.Likhovtseva(RUS)-M.Woodforde(AUS) d. 10-P.Tarabini(ARG)-T.Carbonell(ESP)  \ / \
7-M.DeSwardt(RSA)-D.Adams(RSA)        d.    O.Barabanschikova(BLR)-D.Rikl(CZE)/    \
8-D.Graham(USA)-E.Ferreira(RSA)       v     N.DeVilliers(RSA)-G.Stafford(RSA) \    /
  S.Testud(FRA)-G.Raoux(FRA)          v     K.Kunce(AUS)-P.Vizner(CZE)        / \ /
  C.Black(ZIM)-L.Bale(RSA)            v     K.Srebotnik(SLO)-P.Norval(RSA)    \ /
3-A.Sugiyama(JPN)-M.Bhupathi(IND)     v  16-C.Morariu(USA)-F.Montana(USA)     /

Let's look for an LP vs MB final ! .. More later with MB's PQF mixed doubles match news, as well as news from the Delhi satellites starting today.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending May 31..