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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on June 14, 1999

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

CONGRATS LEANDER, MAHESH - 1999 French Open Champions !!

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June 14 Note-1

The "gentlemen's" (why are men so gentle in UK ?? :-)) qualifying rounds for Wimbledon are about to start at the bank of England sports club grasscourts in Roehampton .. Mahesh Bhupathi plays Ivo Heuberger (SUI,168) in the first round today .. I will report MB's match results later .. I think Mahesh has played Heuberger only once before - at the New Haven Pilot Pen qualifying rounds last August when MB lost a close one, 26 63 46 .. Heuberger is 23 years old .. Since reaching a career-high #125 in late 1998, he has done rather poorly recently, and appears not to have won anything much in the last 3 months .. He is a good grass player and had reached the quarterfinal at the Queens Stella Artois last year (though he lost in the final qualifying round this year to #213 Goichi Motomura last weekend - so Ivo's ranking will fall way down this week!) .. He was also one of the 16 players to qualify into the Wimbledon main draw along with Mahesh last year .. Very tough to predict which way this match will go, but there should be some boom-booms there .. I believe Heuberger is a tall guy with a good serve too, as is MB.

The women's rounds start only tomorrow and the draws are yet to be done ..

June 13 Note-2

Leander is only playing doubles this coming week, in the company of Jan Siemerink at the Heineken Trophy at sHertogenbosch (formerly "Rosmalen" - they are twin towns with the tennis center in between) in Netherlands .. LP-Siemerink are unseeded, and face Andrew Florent and David McPherson in the first round .. They are in the bottom quarter of the upper draw with 4th seeds Damm-Suk in the vicinity .. Haarhuis/Nestor are the top seeds and E.Ferreira/Rikl are the second seeds..

I just looked closely at how Leander ended up missing out on the sHertogenbosch singles this week .. Looks like he really couldn't have avoided this .. The entry deadline for this tournament was some time around Apr 25th, when Leander was at 105 and wasn't sure of Wimbledon entry (the sHertogenbosch entris are based on the Apr 26th ranking when LP moved up to 103) .. The problem is that ATP now has the rule that explicitly prohibits those who lose or withdraw in the main draw of a tournament to play the qualies for a grand slam in the same week .. Since LP did not know if he would make the Wimbledon cut (if he fell by another 3-4 spots by May 10th that was a possibility), he could not have entered for sHertogenbosch, because he would have made the draw and would have no options if in case he had to play qualies at Wimbledon this week ! .. As it turned out he made the entry when the draws closed for Wimbledon the week after (on May 3rd) when LP did not fall in ranking, but moved up to 102 .. Since they now do the qualifying entry list also at the same time as when one enters the main draw (though the qualy spots don't get filled up and quite a few can sign in on-site), LP's only option to play this week was to reach the tournament by Friday evening and sign in, which was impossible once their doubles match got scheduled for 8 pm on Friday ! - (see how doubles success messes them up ?) .. Anyway, that is the story .. I thought I would put in some details here, as I saw that there were a couple of big long-time LP fans in the fanclub who had vented their frustration in LP not playing singles this week, in the bulletin board .. I was myself quite disappointed at first, thinking LP was allowing his singles to slip, but I know I should have just taken LP's word a few days back when he said it didn't look like he would play this week, because he didn't know about the Wimbledon status (I thought he was making an excuse as we all knew he wouldn't have to play qualies at Wimbledon - but the fact is that he really couldn't have known that 6 weeks back!) .. Funny how we fans think we know all these details and get hassled when we think our star is getting lazy, and think we are hungrier for better performances than the star himself .. In reality, both LP and MB are still hungry for singles success, but do become victims of circumstances more often than we think .. No, they are not making lame excuses !

By the way, 5th seeds Lareau/O'Brien beat 2nd seed Woodies in straight sets today to win the Queens grasscourt title .. At Halle, Bjorkman/Rafter beat Haarhuis/Palmer in the final .. It looks like the top doubles players have all got nice warm-up towards Wimbledon on grass .. LP-MB will just have to surprise us all at Wimbledon with new-found grasscourt doubles success .. They have surprised us in two grandslams in a row by going in without much to show for warm-up .. why not a third ? ..

I believe the Wimbledon qualifiers start tomorrow or Tuesday for MB and NV .. As the qualies are played at another grasscourt venue (Bank of England sports club, Roehampton) and not at Wimbledon itself, normally there will be no online score updates, etc, at the official Wimbledon site .. I will try to update results here, as soon as I can find them.

June 13 Note-1

Nothing much going on right now .. There were some bits in newspaper reports from UK which indicates that LP may have gone to sHertogenbosch in Netherlands, but it may be only for doubles .. Since MB is playing at the Wimbledon qualies this week, it may be with another partner, if so .. I will update as soon as I hear something.

June 12 Notes

Not much news to report today .. It doesn't look like LP managed to reach Notiingham or sHertogenbosch for the qualies .. So, it will be a week of rest and then Wimbledon main draw for him now .. He will be getting to Wimbledon without any singles matches on grass .. That is his surface, and as long as he gets to Wimby early and gets puts in some practice, he should be alright .. It is crucial for him to pick up his first main draw win at the big W (and more) to put some points in the kitty - he has 151 points to defend the week after at the Newport Hall of fame tournament in the US.

At Queens, it is #5 Lareau/O'Brien vs #7 Arthurs/Kratzmann and #2 Woodies vs Ivanisevic/Philioppoussis in the semis .. The Woodies shared the title here last year, and are defending about 150 points .. LP-MB had only 96 points there last year, which will now get replaced by around 65 points from some other tournament (they got only around 45 points for reaching QFs this time at Queens) .. So their point totals will fall by about 30 pts - no big deal, and their rankings will stay up there with them having put a huge distance from the other players after the FO.

Nirupama is already at Wimbledon and getting ready for the qualies next week, I am told .. Grass is not a surface she is comfortable on, and typically Wimbledon qualies is the only thing she plays on grass in any year - so she can use some good practice there .. Mahesh will also be trying the qualies and trying to keep his nice record of qualifying into the main draw in the last two years (and he will hopefully not run into a top-5 player in the main draw once he qualifies in this time!).

I have added the ATP points list from the just-concluded satellites at the Points page .. The newspaper reports say that Srinath looked unexpectedly tired out in his match against Fazal - first time in the whole 4 week circuit when he showed he was human too! .. At first I thought he was doing Fazal a favor as he was already assured of 49 pts, but not really - he was in bad shape, having thrown up due to dehydration or something the previous night .. He wanted to stop playing when it was 3-5, but continued after some medical attention, and stopped with the doctor advising not to continue at 4-6 against Fazal .. Fazal was a bit disappointed as he didn't get another chance to beat Sri fair (these two buddies have played some good matches against each other - Fazal beat him in the second leg and lost to him in the 3rd leg), but must be happy with 42 points which will take him to 77 points and a career-high ranking of around 395 ..

June 11 Note-3

Not a good day for India in UK today .. Zimbabwe did not help us at all in cricket, and to make the bad day worse, LP-MB ended their 7 match win streak in a late evening match just now, losing to the 7th seeds, Arthurs/Kratzmann, 3-6, 6-7(4) .. So, we will just have to wait for that first grass title to come at Wimbledon! :-( .. I believe an Indian newspaper correspondent was in attendance, so we will await details of today's match in the Sunday newspaper .. I'm not sure if Leander has already missed the qualies at sHertogenbosch and Nottingham, due to the lateness of today's match .. He may have .. We will see if he manages to sign in for any singles qualies over the weekend, either at Nottingham or at sHertogenbosch .. Unlikely .. Mahesh will be at the Wimbledon qualifiers starting early next week.

June 11 Note-2

Manisha Malhotra advanced to the second round at the $10K futures in Hilton Head (South Carolina) this week, by beating Eugenia Maia (BRA, 614), 6-2, 6-2, but fell today in the second round to the top seed, Vanessa Webb (USA,201), 6-2, 6-4 .. Vanessa Webb, a top US collegiate player for the Duke University, has even beaten Nirupama (in a challenger in Australia in November), and so we won't hold this loss againt Manisha! .. She picked up one more point for her first round win, and has about 33 points now, which should place her at about #390 in a couple of weeks .. She is not playing doubles at Hilton Head, but I assume she will be playing at the $25K challenger at Mount Pleasant (South Carolina) next week .. She may have to play qualifiers there, as the draws must have closed when Manisha was ranked a bit lower a couple of weeks back.

The doubles title at Delhi was won by Mustafa Ghouse and Vishal Uppal in a three-setter over Sandeep and Nitin Kirtane earlier today, 6-4 3-6 6-3 .. This is a surprise, but the Kirtanes were already assured of top circuit points and about 45+ points .. I think Mustafa and Vishal will get over 30 points .. Good rear-guard action in the masters by them, as they were the lowest seed among the 8 teams !! .. Kiratnes have now lost the masters doubles final twice in a row (in the last satellite circuit, Harsh and Vijay Kannan won the title, in a similar last leg push!) ..

June 11 Note-1

LP-MB play the 7th seeds (and the #8 team in the world) Wayne Arthurs and Andrew Kratzmann in the semifinals, late evening today at the $725K Stella Artois Open in Queens (London) .. Arthurs/Kratzmann won the Hamburg Super 9 title a few weeks back .. Here is the QF draw:

1 M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes            vs 7 W.Arthurs/ A.Kratzmann  \
5 S.Lareau/ A.O'Brien           vs   B.Black/ W.Ferreira     / \ _ title
  G.Ivanisevic/ M.Philippoussis vs   S.Humphries/ J.Waite    \ /
2 T.Woodbridge/ M.Woodforde     vs   B.Ellwood/ M.Hill       /

Though there were a few tough teams in the bottom half at first, there were a few upsets - Black/Stolle, the 3rd seeds (and the #2 teams in the world) lost to Humphries/Waite, continuing their poor recent run after a very hot streak a couple of months back .. Kafelnikov/Mirnyi, the 8th seeds, had lost to Ellwood/Hill in another surprise, and Ivanisevic/Philippoussis upset the 6th seeds Grabb/Johnson .. By the way, the Indian Express became the first team to cross 2000 points this year with their win on Wednesday .. Only 7 teams have over 1000 points this year, and only two above 1500.

At Delhi masters final today, Fazal Syed beat Srinath Prahlad, his best buddy, as Sri conceded the match due to fatigue in the heat, after being down 4-6 after a set .. Srinath was already assured of 75 circuit points and the maximum 49 ATP points already and probably did not have much incentive to continue, especially against a never-give-up guy like Fazal ! .. Fazal comes out with 62 circuit points and 42 ATP points, including the 5 bonus for finishing #2 in the circuit .. The Russian, Artem Derepasko, finishes 3rd with around 30 ATP points and Harsh Mankad 4th with 22 ATP points .. This will boost Fazal's ranking from 579 to about 395 !! .. Srinath will move up from #446 to about #315 and Harsh from #863 to about #595 .. Not bad at all !! .. I am yet to see the result of the doubles final between the Kirtanes and Ghouse/Uppal .. Fazal will be taking off to Europe soon, says PTI .. I would expect to see him try to play the the three UK challengers on his favorite surface, grass, in the weeks after Wimbledon .. Srinath also will be going to Europe after some rest, I believe .. Srinath has a chance to get into the US Open qualies if he picks up another 30-40 points somewhere.

I had a phone chat with Harsh Mankad yesterday, as he was back home in Mumbai .. He was in good spirits, and assures all Indian tennis fans that the Indian youngsters in the circuit (Vijay, Mustafa, Vinod, Laad, Vishal, Manoj, Saurav, etc) are all in good morale and are all looking forward to working on improving their games and coming to the top, to take over from our current top four after a few years .. He says he is sure that a couple of guys would come right to the top (he also mentioned other good possible ones for future such as Ajay Ramaswamy and Vikrant Chadda in the US) .. OK, Harsh, we will take your word on that and keep our hopes on ! .. Harsh said that he feels there is nice camaraderie among everybody right now .. By the way, he said Vijay Kannan is playing very good tennis and that the only reason for his poor run was that he had just finished the college exams and had to go to Bangalore for the first leg without much practice - once he got into shape, the first two weeks were over, and losing the seeding made things tough .. Harsh feels that there is nothing wrong with the tennis that the younger squad plays, and more coaching, match play and toughening up is what is needed .. He thinks that India will probably lose the advantage in grass tennis in the future though, as most of them are not profiecient on grass anymore, though he mentioned a couple, such as Vijay, who still have a good grass game .. He was all praise for the good form Srinath and Fazal have shown and was happy to get all the match practice against them .. He also said he had met Anil Khanna at AITA this week, and agrees with AITA's view that more satellite weeks rather than futures would be better for Indian players (AITA plans to bring in satellites, see if state associations want to run any weeks, but would conduct the other weeks in Delhi if there are no takers) .. The futures tournaments get run over by foreign players in the top-400 with the Indian youngsters finding it tough to even move up into the top-750 .. Playing about two or three satellite circuits and a few futures in India with a couple of trips to 4-5 foreign futures would give everyone plenty of chances to improve (personally I agree about the good job by AITA for the men's circuit, though I must take a dig at AITA for still not doing enough on the women's side) .. Harsh as usual continued telling me about all the various shots he needs to work on (most of which doesn't make sense to me as I am no tennis expert .. :-)) .. When I told him that he will now reach the highest ranking by an Indian teenager since LP and MB, his reply was - "but you know it's nowhere near how high those like Ramesh Krishnan and Leander were when they were 18" - he sounded even a bit uneasy at me saying that! .. Anyway, Harsh is pretty well set to reach US by August and play in the reasonably tough Big-10 conference at the University of Minnesota.

June 10 Note-2

At the Delhi satellites today, Fazal beat the second seed Artem Derepasko (RUS) in a three-setter to assure Srinath of topping the circuit points, as Srinath reached the final beating Harsh Mankad .. Fazal, who has over 30 ATP points already, can bring it over 40 points with a win in the final tomorrow and Srinath will get around 50 in any event, as he will end up toppping the circuit points .. Winning tomorrow would place Fazal at #2 in the circuit and give him 5 extra bonus for the #2 player .. Anyway, it looks like Srinath will move inside the top-325 (Wow!) and Fazal inside the 450 (wow, wow!!) after this cricuit .. As for Harsh Mankad, consider this a watershed tournament for the teenager - he will end up as 4th in the circuit and pick up somewhere under 25 points (Kamesh Srinivasan's article in The Hindu says he will get 22 - since Kamesh is normally accurate, I think that will be what he will get!) .. That would give Harsh Mankad a 275-spot jump to somewhere between 590 and 600, which is the highest ranking by any teenager since LP and MB about 5-6 years back .. Harsh may have managed more points had he not had the misfortune of running up against Srinath three times in the semis .. His other loss was to Derepasko in the 2nd leg which Derepasko won .. Harsh can take pride in beating Fazal the only time they faced each other, though - that was in the first leg on clay ..

In today's semifinal, Harsh gave a spirited challenge to Srinath and "played spectacular tennis, hitting the ball on the rise with punch and placement, before going down 6-7 (3-7), 2-6 in about two hours," according to Kamesh in The Hindu .. After falling behind by a break in the first set, Harsh even managed to break Srinath back in the 8th game and then sent it to a tiebreaker .. Srinath, however, is really playing at another level altogether these days .. He won the tiebreak 7-3 and kicked it into high gear .. Sri saved three break chances in the 3rd game of the second set and broke Harsh in the 4th game, after which he did not allow Harsh to come back .. PTI adds, "Mankad's court coverage was fantastic and his agility won over Srinath in the eight game of the first set when he broke the top seed at love. Fourth seeded Mankad held his own to go 5-4 up on serve but after the set went into tie-breaker, Srinath was unstoppable" .. Good show, Harsh ..

PTI says, "the day, however, belonged to Fazaluddin who battled the Moscovite and sweltering conditions at the DLTA courts to emerge winner in two hours and 15 minutes .. In the first set, Fazaluddin grabbed initiative in the seventh game as he broke the second seed to earn two breakpoints and then came up with a double-fisted passing winner to take a crucial 4-3 lead" .. Kamesh says, "Fazaluddin must have been pleased with his form this day. He broke the resistance of Derepasko with his strong game, and volleyed his way to the final. Fazaluddin had 11 aces, four service winners and 16 volley winners. He had nine other winners including a passing shot ... he could have finished off the contest itself much earlier, but for Derepasko playing his best in the sixth game of the second set in which he saved seven breakpoints ... Having been broken in the third game, Fazaluddin struggled to strike parity despite serving at his best in the rest of the second set. To Fazaluddin's advantage, the whole exercise drained Derepasko so much that he was left with little energy to fight it out in the climax. Not that Fazaluddin was brimming with energy. He too was tired, but had the will to cling on to the task on hand, and used every ounce of available strength to stretch at the net for delectable volleys against the heavily spun shots from Derepasko" .. 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 was the final score .. The final between Fazal and Srinath will be on Doordarshan at 9.30 am Friday (in a few minutes actually, as I type!) .. In doubles, the Kirtanes are in the final (against Vishal and Mustafa, who are looking at some nice gains in points too) .. The Kirtane cousins are already assured of topping the circuit with 50 points .. That will move the cousins up another 75 spots ech to around #300 in ATP rankings - it should become easier for them to enter any challenger in doubles from now on to move up !! .. See the results from the satellites at the Delhi masters page.

I must write more about the real story in this circuit - 19 yr old Harsh Mankad, probably the best story in a few years - note that LP, MB, Srinath, and Fazal are all between 24 and 26 and we have not had any big gains in the ATP circuit from any youngster for a few years .. Though one can say that Harsh benefitted a bit from a relatively easy field in this circuit, we must give him the benefit of the doubt as he only lost to the #1 and #3 players in the circuit and beat the #2 player .. Harsh now plans to come to the US with a scholarship offer from Univ of Minnesota, if all goes well .. He seems to have worked hard recently and improved a lot with some advice and help from his good family friend Marcus Hilpert, who is often in India (remember the German who won our national grasscourts in 1997 - it took a German to help out our best junior ?  :-)) .. His biggest improvement may be in confidence, which was in shambles for a couple of years for various reasons I have chronicled here in the past, with people constantly doubting his potential due to lack of size and alleged reluctance to work hard, not to mention Harsh himself perhaps having unrealistic expectations about the tennis establishment .. He should have known that people in the Indian sports establishment do not encourage youngsters if they sense that they may not be able to take credit later ! .. Anyway, that's all water under the bridge - based on my contacts with him, Harsh has put that all behind and is very positive these days .. He says that he certainly needs more physical development and toughening up .. His touch and court coverage abilities are his best tools, not being a tall player with booming serves .. His best asset is definitely his tennis knowledge and his sharp mind .. We should expect that from the son of our multi-decade national champion, Nirupama Mankad .. There has got to be something in the blood, from dad Ashok Mankad and grandpa Vinoo Mankad too .. As for his plans, in my opinion, it may not be in his best interest to spend four years in the US and grow roots here (many a talented Indian player has perished here, losing focus, and being sidelined for the slightest mis-step) ..  I am sure he can make use of a success story such as Mahesh's, who kept his goals in focus during his two-year stint in the US, and kept up with Indian tennis by making frequent trips for satellite circuits in India, etc .. Advice from those like Hesh and Bhupathi Sr would certainly be valuable for Harsh .. I will keep everyone posted on how things progress from here on for Harsh, but I am sure he will take the best decisions on his career ..

June 10 Note-1

Leander and Mahesh will be playing the doubles quarterfinals tomorrow (Friday) at the Stella Artois Open, Queens .. 5 of the R2 matches were done yesterday and 3 more are being played today - no big upsets or surprises, except that the 4th seeds Damm-Suk lost to Byron Black and Wayne Ferreira, who will be meeting 5th seeds Lareau/O'Brien in the QF tomorrow - the winner of that match will play the winner of the LP-MB vs Arthurs-Kratzmann match in the semi.

LP seems to be giving singles a break for now .. I believe he could have squeezed into the draw at Queens this week, but he did not enter for singles .. He seems to be still working on getting to 100% physically - he had lost a lot of practice time due to the illness last month, right when he was recovering from the injuries and getting into a work-out regime .. As for next week, LP had said earlier that he was considering playing at sHertogenbosch (called Rosmalen in the past) in Netherlands, but he will have to play qualies as he had not entered earlier .. The main draw at sHertogenbosch (they call the place Den Bosch for short in Holland) closed at #100 five weeks back and LP would have anyway been next in line with a #102 rankings then .. If they win the QF at Queens tomorrow, LP won't be able to play qualies at Den Bosch, but I don't think he is all that bothered about it .. He probably wants to get to Wimbledon in good shape with enough rest rather than invite injuries as he did on grass in each of the last three years before getting to Wimbledon .. LP knows that the Junior Wimbledon champ in 90 has not picked up a single main draw win after that at Wimby, though he played only three Wimbledons (96 through 98) so far .. I think it's time to change that .. He being a true grasscourt player, it's time he did something big at the big W !! .. Rather than picking up nickel-and-dime wins in singles and getting tired, I am also beginning to think that he should go for some big accomplishments he is capable of, such as his great run at the Olympics .. Though I am somewhat concerned that the singles is taking a back seat, I won't comlpain if LP shows his class in singles with big wins .. Time will tell ! .. Also, we should understand that it is tough to play so many matches in doubles and still have a healthy singles career - not many have been able to do that .. OK, there are my thoughts on that - agree or disagree ? .. Feel free to sound off at the bulletin board/guestbook page.

Finally found something about where Nirupama was last week .. She was at the $25K Budapest challenger .. Had a pretty good run in doubles, with yet another partner - Sung-Hee park of Korea .. They upset the 4th seeds Christina Singer (GER,131) and Jasmin Woehr (GER,187) in the first round, 61 57 64, and then beat Annamaria Foldenyi (HUN,145) and Petra Mandula (HUN,202) 46 64 64, before losing to Eva Bes (ESP,101) and Mariam Ramone (ESP,161) - score unknown .. Niru picks up about 15 or so doubles points from this, and should finally get her doubles rankings back inside the top-200 next week .. She has been playing with so many different partners .. She could possibly be ranked much higher but for that .. In singles, her not-so-hot recent run continued, as she lost to Francesca Schiavone (ITA, 245), 26 46 ..

At the Delhi satellites today, Srinath and Fazal reached the finals beating Harsh and Derepasko in not-so-easy encounters .. Sri can pick up about 50 ATP points with one more win, and Fazal can get up above 40 pts with a title too .. More later on that.

June 9 Notes

I have this habit of predicting every match to potentially be a tough match for the Indian Express - I guess I am not cocky about how good our team is .. I should stop doing that - we are talking about the #1 team in the world, you know :-) .. Of course I hope our champs do not feel that way and would anticipate every match to be the toughest ever, taking John McEnroe's advice to fight like "there is no tomorrow", to heart .. Anyway, no problems at all today for our guys - Paes-Bhupathi  d. (Q) Maurice Ruah (VEN) Andre Sa (BRA), 6-2, 6-4 to reach the QF .. So, the move from clay to grass has been accomplished on a winning note .. Their quarterfinal opponent is to be determined from a later match today between 7th seeds Arthurs-Kratzmann and MacPhie-Tarango ..

The scene is set for the crucial final two rounds at the satellite masters in Delhi .. The top 4 seeds (Srinath, Derepasko, Fazal, and Harsh) advanced today and again established that that they are clearly a class apart from the rest of the field, with three of them winning their QF matches in easy straight sets [source: PTI] .. Once again, it's Harsh's 61 62 demolition of veteran Vasudeva Reddy that catches my eye .. Fazal, the only player facing a seed, 6th seed Kokurin (UZB), was stetched to three sets but won easily in the end, 36 26 61 .. Srinath took out Nitin 62 64 and young Laad couldn't do much against second seed Derepasko in a 26 26 loss .. These four have about 25 to 35 points already, and the next two rounds are for major points .. Harsh plays a red-hot Srinath and Fazal plays Derepasko tomorrow .. I will update the doubles semi scores later at the Delhi masters page once the Thrusday newspapers come online.

June 8 Note-3

The qualifiers, Maurice Ruah (VEN) Andre Sa (BRA) beat Coupe and Merklein 62 64 in the first round at the Stella Artois Open in Queens today, and will face LP-MB in round 2 .. Our pair will have to play a first round match against somebody who has had three matches on grass - not easy while moving from clay to grass .. The Indian Express normally finds the first match the toughest, but they usually pull through .. I have not seen the wednesday schedule to confirm if they are playing tomorrow, yet .. 5th seed Lareau/OBrien and 7th seeds Arthurs/Kratzmann reached second round today .. 8th seed Kafelnikov-Mirnyi beat the Bryan twins .. Goran continues to play doubles .. Ivanisevic and Philippoussis (there is an interesting team!) upset 6th seeds Grabb-Johnson today at Queens.

The Delhi satellite masters is reaching the critical stages now, when each win comes with a good number of ATP points (the circuit points from earlier three rounds count for ATP points - 3 circuit pts is roughly 1 ATP point - but the satellite wins give many more ATP points) .. The top 4 seeds (Srinath, Derepasko, Fazal and Harsh) advanced to final 8 today .. They are all assured of 15 to 30 ATP points so far .. A win tomorrow will push their totals by about 5-6 points more .. Srinath seems to be in ominous form (beat Sandeep Kirtane in easy straight sets today) and seem to want about 50 total points that a title here would fetch him, as he has a lot of circuit points already .. Two familiar names are making a late charge - Nitin Kirtane upset 7th seed Minh Le, and Vasudava Reddy upset 5th seed Vinod Sridhar .. Youngster Vinod did not disappoint in this circuit, but lost the chance to make a few more points over the 5-6 points he has so far .. Another youngster with potential, Vijendra Laad, got a bit lucky today as 8th seed SK Shivshankar, probably tired from 5-6 weeks of continuous and surprisingly good tennis, conceded in the second set due to heat-exhaustion and cramps .. 4th seed Harsh got a tough match from Vishal Uppal, but showed that he has grown considerably in focus and confidence, by winning the match in a 7-0 second set tiebreaker! .. The heartening story so far in this circuit is certainly from Harsh Mankad - the 19 yr old is in line to pick up a lot of points - enough to take him to the highest ranking of any Indian teenager (as far as I can see from my research) since Leander was inside the top-250 as an 18 yr old in 1991 and Mahesh reached a high of #501 as a 19 yr old in late 1993 .. One more win will assure Harsh of at least 20-25 ATP points and take him inside top-600 now .. Harsh has to face another tough cookie though - Vasu next .. Vijay Kannan, once again not getting much of a break in the draw, lost to second seed Derepasko today .. He will have to be content with 3 or 4 points .. There were no doubles matches today; the doubles semis will be tomorrow (Thursday) .. see the satellite masters page for all results.

June 8 Note-2

The qualifiers at Queens who will be playing Coupe-Merklein in the first round are Andre Sa (BRA) and Maurice Ruah (VEN) .. So LP-MB will be playing the winner of that match in R2 - as early as Wednesday, but probably only on Thursday.

June 8 Note-1

Our site designer web-guru, Prakash Hemdev, has redone our TennisIndia homepage with a nice picture of the champs .. Take a look!

The Indian sports ministry announced Rs 7.5 lakhs each for LP and MB .. Add that to the roughly 115 lakhs they have made already and the final 8 minutes on Sunday was worth about 75 lakhs ! .. :-) ..

Rain, as usual, is causing delays at the $725K Stella Artois tournament in Queens (London) .. Not sure if the qualifiers into the doubles draw are determined yet - That means the first round match to find the opponents for LP-MB in R2 will be delayed .. Our pair may not play till Thursday .. Last year I commented on Britain being the least internet-savvy place, at least based on websites for tournaments there - and it's no different this year .. Both Queens this week and Nottingham next week are without any real websites (the Lawn Tennis Association has a minor page for Nottingham, but not much there) .. It's strange not to have a website for a big tournament like Stella Artois with such high prize money .. So we will only know of results rather late, probably from ATP - if it becomes too delayed, I will find scores from alternate sources.

In case you didn't see the score updates I had put yesterday at the Delhi satellite masters page, there were no big surprises in the first round matches (the top 8 seeds have byes and play only today), except for young Vijendra Laad beating Mustafa Ghouse in a mild upset .. Vijay Kannan beat Anand Radhakrishnan to reach R2, but he runs into the second seed Artem Derepasko next .. Vishal Uppal seems to be in good form, as he beat Shailesh Dhoble rather easily - I have a feeling that Vishal can give a tough match to the 4th seed Harsh Mankad today, unless harsh continues his nice resurgence and keeps his focus as he has done in the previous three legs .. Both the Kirtanes and Vasudeva Reddy also advanced .. One disappointment was Manoj Mahadevan losing in three sets to Dimitri Mazur of Uzbekistan .. I will update today's results as soon as I see them.

Manisha Malhotra has moved up from near 500 to #412 with the points she got from the Jackson challenger and El Paso futures, replacing Sai Jayalakshmi at the #2 spot among Indians (Sai is at #449) .. She has 29.75 points from 6 tournaments .. With the 2 points from the semis last week going into the computer next week, she will move inside the top-400 !

June 7 Note-3

Aha .. We finally have pictures from the FO final - here is an animated photo album page with netcam pictures from the final, set up by Mahesh Sharma of the LP-MB fan club .. Excellent job, Mahesh! .. The FO site hardly archived any pictures of the top seeds .. Their reason may be that they keep pictures mostly from the Centre court and Suzanne Lenglen court only - our boys played their final three matches mostly by late evening and no good pictures were there .. I know I am making excuses for the shoddy job done by the folks running the FO site, who found it alright to keep 30-40 pictures from every day, and many pictures of the women's doubles final etc but completely overlooked our pair (they do have pictures of other men's doubles teams but not the Indian Express) .. Since I hate to complain "discrimination", etc, I will give them the benefit of doubt .. :-) .. Anyway, we are lucky that Mahesh Sharma did the work for us.

June 7 Note-2

More newspaper articles on our Duo's title, for your reading - Here is Amitava Dasgupta's article in the Telegraph (Calcutta) .. Here is Akshay Sawai's article in the Mid-day (Mumbai), and here is the article in the Indian Express by SK John .. Akshay's article says Mahesh told him about John McEnroe (who was one of the few who were present in the stands for that 8 minute match yesterday) advising them to "fight like there is no tomorrow" ! .. Another thing mentioned in some of the articles is that Leander actually had served an Ace at the first match point at 40-30 but showed sportsman spirit and agreed with Goran who pointed out it was out even though it was called in ..

OK , on to the next tournament - Leander-Mahesh are the top seeds at the $725K Stella Artois (that is a liquor company, for any teetoteller wondering out there!) Open in Queens, London .. Here is the upper half of the draw:

1 M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes           BYE                       \
  B.Coupe/ M.Merklein    vs  Q Qualifier/Qualifier       / \
  L.Bale/ G. Stafford    vs    B.MacPhie/ J.Tarango      \ / \
7 W.Arthurs/ A.Kratzmann vs    J.Greenhalgh/ N.Zimonjic  /    \__ Final
4 M.Damm/ C.Suk                BYE                       \    /
  M.Barnard/ B. Haygarth vs    B.Black/ W.Ferreira       / \ /
  F.Santoro/ L.Tieleman  vs    T.Middleton/ M.Tebutt     \ /
5 S.Lareau/ A.OBrien     vs    D.Roditi/ M.Sell          /

I frankly hate to see any qualifier team in R2 - especially when it is the first match on grass with hardly a day or two of practice on it .. If it is Coupe/Merklein, the Indian Express has a score to settle with them for the loss (one of the worst of their career) to that pair in Doha earlier this year, though it was probably also because of LP being badly down with a bronchitis .. Generally the upper half of the draw looks marginally easier here, with the 2nd seed Woodies, Black/Stolle and Byran/Bryan in the bottom half .. The Woodies and Bjorkman/Rafter had shared the title at Queens last year as the final was abandoned due to rain .. LP-MB had reached the semifinal (lost to Bjork-Raft) but has only some 90-odd points to defend here .. It would be nice to get that first grass title one of these days, though! .. It will depend on how quickly they get used to grass, after all the slipping-and-sliding on red brick powder at Roland Garros for two weeks .. They had checked out from their hotels before their match on Sunday and had left for UK soon after - I hope it was to get some practice on grass and not to watch world cup cricket :-) .. Only doubles for both at Queens .. LP plans to play singles next week at Rosmalen (may have to qualify for it though) to prepare for Wimbledon starting in the week after.

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 !

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending June 7..