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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on June 29, 1998

(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index)

June 29 Note-2

Both MB and LP advanced to the second round of mixed doubles today .. LP and Larisa Neiland had the easier game, winning 6-4, 6-3 over Tom Kempers and Karina Habsudova. The first set went with serves and was finally won after LP/LN got the service break in the 10th game. The second set saw them broken in the 3rd game, but getting the break back in the 4th. After they got their second break in the 8th game, they held serve to win it 6-3 ..

Mahesh and Mirjana Lucic were given a much tougher fight by David Dilucia and Sung-hee Park. This match went back and forth right from the beginning .. MB/ML went up with a break in the 3rd game, only to be broken in the next game to level at 2-2. They got another break in the 7th game, but were again broken in the 10th for a 5-5 tie. They then got their 3rd break of the set at 6-5 and served it out at 7-5 .. The second set saw MB/ML being completely outplayed for a while with them hardly managing a point, and it was 0-4 in a hurry. They then started a comeback with a break in the 5th game and held serve for a 2-4 score. Despite deuces in the next game, they could not manage another break and lost the set 3-6 .. In the 3rd set, LP/ML went up 3-1 with a break in the 4th game, but were broken right back again in the next game. Then MB/ML got their final break to go up 4-2 and held on in the next two service games for a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win ..

Neither is scheduled to play mixed doubles Tuesday, but LP/MB play their second round doubles against Gimelstob/MacPhie on one of the showcourts, the court 18. It is the first match at 11 am there (6 am EST, 3 PST, usa; 3.30pm India) ..

Vijay Kannan's first round junior singles match is rescheduled for tomorrow .. Also on schedule are Ramesh Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj and Anand Amritraj tomorrow, in senior doubles !! .. Ramesh and Jeremy Bates are the defending senior doubles champions there, and they play the last match on court1 against McNamara/McNamee .. Anand/Vijay play Jarryd/Nystrom (4th match on court 11) .. I am sure the fans there will have fun seeing these guys play again !

June 29 Note-1

If anybody thought that the rain would just go away in the second week at Wimbledon .. Fat chance ! .. They played less than 2 hours and down came the rain and washed the players out .. As of 3 pm, the Netcam at the wimbledon site shows all the umbrellas gone, so after 2 to 2.5 hours of rain delay, they may be getting ready to play again. LP and MB have mixed doubles matches which may start by 4.30 to 5 pm, if there are no other rain delays.

Earlier today, Justin Gimelstob (#71, USA) and Brian MacPhie (#84, USA) took out Byron Black and Richey Reneberg, 6-1, 6-4, and they will now face LP/MB in the second round, tomorrow. These two guys have been playing well together for a while now, and Gimelstob is a confident type, with 2 mixed doubles titles this year (AO and FO) with Venus Williams. I don't expect this to be an easy match for our boys, but certainly they should pull it off !

In some late news, Vikrant Chadha was at the USA F5 Futures at Lafayette, Louisiana last week (June 16-22) .. He went through 4 rounds of qualifiers (they had a huge qualies draw of 128 players!), lost in the final round, but made it into the main draw as a lucky loser ! .. He then beat Will Ritter (#1285) in the first round, and lost to the 7th seed Arnaud L'Official (#705) in the second round. Since it is a 64-draw $15K Futures, he gets a point only after a second round win .. So, it all went for naught, I guess. Still good for him to get some wins in the first tournament (I believe) since finishing his semester of studies at Univ of Mississippi this month and getting to the pro tour for now .. Well, that's how hard it is to get somewhere in a foreign futures tournament where you don't get wildcard entries (to underscore some of the points I made yesterday) ..

June 28 Note-1

No tennis at Wimbledon today, so let us discuss something else.

There is a very interesting article in the Times of India Saturday, by V. Srivatsa, about the new AITA calendar, the lack of a grasscourt nationals and the new emphasis on international tournaments at the expense of national tournaments. Quoting extensively from the article,

I can see the sentiments here .. The comment on the Calcutta South Club is certainly poignant (see my comments yesterday about a clay tournament in Calcutta!) .. But we have to realize that the world has given up on grass tennis. Nobody, except a few Australians are achieving anything on grass now .. Look how England has such a tough time producing anybody inside the top-150 in the world .. Same with India (Leander can hardly find 4 tournaments to play on grass a year) .. Let us face it, the world has gone to clay and hardcourts, and we have players skipping Wimbledon alrogether. It's the writing on the wall. Futile to fight it, hard as it is for us grass tennis fans in India.

Here I have to disagree .. Look where all the domestic "competition" has got us .. 4 players in the world top-1000 and the others have rarely beaten beat any foreigners in those one or two international tournaments India was having over the last couple of years. If the player is good enough, he/she will win a few international matches and get those valuable points. Just look at what it did to Syed fazaluddin just this year. He played in two india futures this year, won the title in one, and moved inside the top-900 .. One more win in the vadodara challenger, and he is inside the top-700. Now he has a chance to get direct entries into many futures abroad, as he has done in the last few weeks in the US and Canada. Now he can go and try the circuits in England next month. Could he planned to go fully into the pro circuit like this if he had played in 15 domestic tournaments and got no ATP points ? .. Remember that Indians find air travel very expensive (India is perhaps the one place that is farthest from most of the centers of tennis in the world and air fares are among the highest to go from and to India .. plus it gets even worse when you consider the Rupee exchange rates) .. Indians need international tournaments in India. Let those foreigners spend their money and come there, and the Indians can beat a few and garner points. I think the above paragraph has reverse logic that doesn't wash !

.. As for the "seniors", if you aren't able to make a move after playing in 10 or 15 international tournaments over 2-3 years in India, there probably isn't much chance you are going to cut it in pro tennis. Cruel reality, but that's how it is .. Now, there was a time when domestic circuits made sense, and that was when quite a few international players used to come to India (some even liked the cowdung courts, not to mention all the grasscourts, in India). The emergence of ATP has changed all that. ATP points are the name of the game now. You can't get that with domestic tournaments. What is important now is that every effort must be made to give the wildcrd entries to Indians in these tournaments. 4 wildcards plus a couple of direct entries and 2 or 3 qualifiers would give us 7 or 8 Indians in each tournaments (in the three India Futures, we had 8, 9 and 8 Indians in the main draw). As long as the junior circuit is going on extensively, as it does now with the Adidas support, we will know who the talented young ones are, who need to be given chances .. If there are 8 to 10 international futures/satellites, as AITA's schedule now plans, there will be up to 10 to 12 good players most of whom will get into at least 4 or 5 of those. That is plenty of opportunities. If the "seniors' get left behind, well, too bad ! .. Other than the few current seniors, this is not an issue in another 2-3 years .. The new plan gives a chance for several talented juniors (the Vijay Kannans, Manoj Mahadevans and Harsh Mankads) to try to fulfill their potential. More importantly, the Indian coaches will get a chance to interact and improve themselves with exposure to foreign coaches who come to India, the Indian people will have a chance to see upcoming foregin players and more parents and kids in India will consider the possibilities in pro tennis, sponsorship is somewhat easier for international tournaments, etc, etc, etc ..

There is of course the Chinese model .. there aren't a ton of internationals in China, but the players are completely supported by the government for foreign travel .. If India can do this well, fine. But I don't think that will ever work well, and we all know why.

Basically, I find it funny that we are complaining about AITA trying to do something. May be their plan will all backfire, but at least they are trying, and let us give them credit for that. What is out there right now isn't working, and let us see how the international tournaments will work. If we have to complain, there are other sports organizations doing much worse jobs than AITA .. Take football for instance.. did anybody notice that they fired a foreign coach for the junior team after barely a few months, after not even bringing him under contract .. something that some of us soccer fans felt was for sure coming when that Uzbek coach was speaking his mind frankly about what a poor job India had done so far in junior leagues etc .. where the heck is the Indian press which is eating up the tons of world cup soccer news, when it comes to objective criticism of the soocer development in India ? .. well this is a tennis forum, so let me not go on a tengent here (by the way, one of the fanclub members here, Arunava Chaudhuri has started an excellent Indian Football site .. check it out) .. the point remains that, we need to stop complaining about everything that AITA does .. I have made my share of criticisms here, but I will certainly wish them best on the current plans .. At least they have a "plan", whetever the reasons for them making one .. India has none in most other sports.

I think there is a good point here about private parties running the challenger/futures, provided we make sure of Indian players getting wildcards, etc .. As for the need for WTA and ITF tour events, my comments above hold .. Take Uzma Khan for instance. 17 year old, and almost exactly the same age as Rewa Hudson of New Zealand, whom Uzma beat in straight sets in New Zealand in the 97 April Fed Cup. Rewa is among the top-5 junior players right now (a top seed at Wimbledon). She has played in several foreign tournaments and has garnered ITF junior points while Uzma this year basically played only in the couple of ITF junior tournaments in India, one in Dhakka, one in SriLanka and one or two in Thailand or somewhere. She couldn't find money to go to French Open where she would have qualified. Indians do not normally have money to travel abroad and that *is* the point. What India does have are some pretty good tennis facilities in 5-6 cities and the ability to conduct some of these events during some excellent weather during our season when not too many places around the world is warm enough for outdoor tennis (Sep thru Feb) .. The foreigners find India relatively cheap for stay and expenses .. So let us have the tournaments and get them to come to India.

Now, that is a good question ! .. yeah, what the heck is the Asia Cup achieving ? .. who cares about Asia Cup ?

Anyway, despite my disagreements with some of the points in the article, I liked it very much. We need the press to do more of analysis like this in every sport.  Let us go after the soccer, hockey and basketball governing bodies (forget cricket .. I am a cricket fan but nobody outside of the few countries cares one bit about that game) .. For now, let us give AITA some breathing room .. wait and see how well they execute the plans and if it works (Hope I am not being too naive here and this whole "Spanish Model" is not smoke and mirrors from AITA, though)..

I should say that I am certainly not knowledgable enough to sound as authoritative as I probably do above in my comments .. I will wait and see how the senior commentators and tennis experts in India feel about all this. We will hear more in the future, I hope. Sorry for the length of the above piece, but I think this is an important enough topic, of great relevance to development of tennis in India.

June 27 Note-3

Both the mixed doubles matches were postponed, as the rain that started in the evening basically ended the day's play. As is the Wimbledon tradition, there are no matches on the middle Sunday (though they departed from it last year when they were even more behind due to rain), and thus both MB's and LP's mixed doubles matches are postponed to Monday (3rd match on court 7 for MB, at about 3 pm and the 3rd match on court 8 for LP, at about 2.30 pm) ..

The junior draws at Wimbledon are out. Vijay Kannan, as expected, is in the main draw (I believe as a direct entry on the basis of his ITF ranking around the top-50). 17-yr old Uzma Khan who is somewhere inside the top-85 was expected to play in the qualifiers or something, but anyway she is not in the draw. Pakistan's Aisam Ul-Haq is the 14th seed and Wei Jen Cheng of Taiwan is the 3rd seed. The other Asian on the boys' side is Danai Udomchoke of Thailand. As for girls, where it has been a long, long time since we saw an Indian girl in a grand slam junior draw (hello, AITA.. you noticing this ? .. Any plans to improve the situation ?..), we have 6th seed Wynn Prakusya (Indonesia) and Rika Fujiwara (Japan) as the only Asians .. Rather surprising to see no girls from China or Thailand in there. There is a Kavitha Krishnamurthi in the draw, but she is a Canadian.

Anyway, here is the draw for Vijay Kannan (top quarter of the draw):

 1-Julien Jeanpierre (FRA) vs Jorge Haro (MEX)         \
   Sebastian Aickele (GER) vs Filip Aniola (POL)       / \
   Markus Polessnig (AUT)  vs Vassilis Mazarakis (GRE) \ / \
11-Taylor Dent (USA)       vs Lazar Magdincev (MKD)    /    \_  to SF
13-Jacob Adaktusson (SWE)  vs Lovro Zovko (CRO)        \    /
   Tom Higgins (GBR)       vs Richard Brooks (GBR)     / \ /
   Bob Borella (DEN)       vs Vijay Kannan (IND)       \ /
 8-Ricardo Mello (BRA)     vs Andrew Park (USA)        /

Vijay vs Borella is scheduled as the 6th and final match on Court 8 on Monday .. Let us wish Vijay the best, as I believe this and the US Open are the last two grand slams he will qualify for, based on age, and this probably is his very first grand slam appearance too. By the way, we haven't heard anything from 16-year old Manoj Mahadevan in a while ..

June 27 Note-2

Wait .. I spoke too soon .. It is raining at 4 pm there in England (the land where the sun never comes out) .. Both the mixed doubles matches will be delayed and possibly postponed..

June 27 Note-1

Paes-Bhupathi got their first doubles win at the Wimbledon !! .. The match started an hour and half earlier than I expected .. I should have guessed that the previous match with Ferreira/Leach playing, would get done fast, as it did .. LP-MB had a rather easy match over Mirnyi-Olhovskiy. The only time LP-MB were in trouble was on a deuce on LP's serve in the 8th game of the first set. They warded that off and broke those guys in the 9th game. MB then served it out. The second set took only about 25 minutes with our guys getting breaks in the 7th and then the 9th game .. 6-4, 6-3 .. match over in 58 minutes. They now await the winner of Black/Reneberg vs Gimelstob/MacPhie in the second round. That match hasn't been played yet, but both those are pretty good doubles teams. So far there are no big upsets in the first round, and all the seeded teams who have played, have advanced .. Johnson/Montana (6th seeds and potential QF opponents to LP/MB) are behind 1-3 to Sapsford/Wilkinson in the first set in a match postponed from earlier, to be restarted later today.

They are not strictly following the published schedule for today but there is no rain and they are moving some matches around to get as many as possible done. MB may be back in half an hour (at about 4.30 pm there) for his mixed doubles match, but LP may get a slightly longer rest before his Mx-D match, looking at the progress of the ongoing matches.

June 26 Note-3

They started play at 8.30 pm on some courts but pulled down the shutters for the day in a few minutes. Another day almost washed out. Only 7 of the 32 first round doubles matches have been completed so far, and they are about 2 to 3 days behind in the doubles schedule .. The LP/MB doubles match against Mirnyi/Olhovskiy has been rescheduled again .. This time it will be the 3rd match on court 5 tomorrow .. Should start at about 3.30 pm (10.30 am EST, 7.30 PST, u.s.a; 8 pm India), but rain decided everything .. Later, LP returns for his mixed doubles match on court 4 (5th match) and MB returns for his mixed-D match on court 14 (5th match), after the mandatory rest period ..

The big news today is the updated Indian Domestic Schedule from AITA (See May 15 Note-2, in the weekly notes, May 18 for the earlier schedule released 6 weeks back, as well as the May 16 Note-2 for the news on Indian women's players complaining to AITA on the lack of tournaments for them). The new schedule is at the Indian schedule page .. Some of the mistakes in the original schedule that I had commented on, have been corrected. I had said that I would only believe it when I see the women's ITF tournaments on the ITF calendar. I checked up and, yes, the 4 $5K ITF women's futures do appear on the calendar (October 12th through November 8th), coinciding with the 4-leg men's satellite over the same 4 weeks. The earlier release did not mention the 4th leg at Kannur, Kerala, but I had added that in the may-15 schedule after hearing from ITF, and the new AITA release adds that in, along with the venues for the women's futures (Ahemedabad, Mumbai, Indore and Delhi in that order). It is a very busy schedule all the way from October to February with 2 satellite circuits, 4 challengers (2 new ones in Jan-Feb 99 have been listed) and one futures on the men's side and 4 futures and one big-challenger on the women's side .. There will be a $75K WTA challenger at Delhi starting on Nov 30th !!! .. That's great, and it is the first time a women's international of that magnitude is held in India, I believe. Other things to note are the big absence of grass events. There is no grasscourt nationals anymore ! .. The Hindu reports AITA to be saying that there are no takers for organizing that event. Hard to believe that India, one of the last bastions of grass courts, is also giving up on the grand old surface that tennis was meant to be played on (Marcelo Rios and the "grass is for cows" comments notwithstanding!) .. As it stands, there may only be one leg of the January 99 satellites (at Chandigarh) which may be on grass. Heck, even Calcutta, the place known for the grasscourts, is holding the Junior ITF international in december on clay ! .. The Aug 10 junior nationals at Chennai is also on clay .. We had heard about the "Spanish Model" that AITA now favors, in terms of large number of international tournaments etc, but India suddenly moving to clay ?? .. It just doesn't feel good, though more clay experience is certainly needed for our kids to do well internationally. All in all, AITA should be congratulated on setting up such a packed schedule, and so far the indications are that the events are slowly showing up on the international calendars. Not sure if the Indian women players concerns of more tournaments have been addressed yet (I assume the Jan-Fen 99 schedule for women is still under preparation, and some events will be added in there..).

June 26 Note-2

A second rain delay after 3 hours of play, at 6.30 pm .. The covers are off and play is starting at about 8.30 pm right now, and the first match is yet to finish on court 18 at Wimbledon. That means the LP/MB doubles match, the 4th one there, may not get played today either .. Oh, what a mess !

June 26 Note-1

The day started with a 4 hour rain delay at Wimbledon, but they are playing as of 3.30 pm .. and once again we have all the schedules messed up. Looks pretty certain that LP won't get to play his mixed doubles match today, but the LP/MB doubles match may get done late in the evening if there aren't any more rain delays .. Pretty big if, that is !

Our Canadian correspondent (:-)), Ed Toombs just sent the scores for Syed Fazaluddin at the Montreal Futures this week. Fazal beat Colombia's veteran Davis Cupper, Miguel Tobon, ranked #486, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 .. That is another top-500 upset for Fazal and a pretty good win, as Miguel has been ranked up around the top-200 in the past. Fazal's second round loss to #293 and second seed Mike Russell was by a score of 6-2, 6-3 .. Thanks, Ed ..

June 25 Note-3

It rained .. like that is something new out there ! .. About half the day's play was washed out in two rain delays. LP/MB did not get to play. The match is rescheduled to tomorrow as the 4th match on court 18, where play starts at 11 am. The match should be at around 5.30 pm (12.30 EST, 9.30 PST, u.s.a; 10 pm India).  The doubles matches have all been reduce from 5 setters to 3 setters till the quarterfinals, to save time (they had to do that last year too, with even worse rain problems).

LP will then have to return after a rest period of over an hour, to play his first round mixed doubles match with Larisa Neiland, against Tom Kempers (Ned., #50) and Karina Habsudova (SVK, #71) .. Kempers lost his first round men's doubles with Oosting today, to Koves/Tarango cheaply, 6-3, 6-4 , and Habsudova/Lugina lost their doubles match by the same score to Coetzer/Testud .. So they will be hungry for a win in the mixed doubles. Neiland and LP have played together, though for only one match at the French Open, but the experience would certainly help. MB's first round mixed doubles match with Lucic is not on the scheule for tomorrow.

Syed Fazaluddin is at the Montreal Futures this week, but lost yesterday to the second seed, Mike Russel of USA, ranked #293, in the second round (thanks go to Ed Toombs from Canada for the info) .. Will try to find out whom he beat in the first round. This is a 32-draw futures, and he gets 1 points for the first round win and his ranking will go up by a few spots again (at #678 this week). Syed has run up against seeded players often during the last few weeks after he plunged himself into a full-fledged futures/satellite season. He has a couple of pretty good upsets of top-500 players, but needs to string a few wins together to make a serious move up. Fazal is not in the doubles draw at Montreal according to Ed. There is one more futures in Canada next week. Syed will be leaving for England after that, based on what he told me a few weeks back.

An interesting tid-bit: Found an old name reappearing in the ATP rank list, in doubles .. Anand Amritraj ! .. Not sure when he re-entered the list, but he is listed at #1321 with 1 point from 1 tournament .. Wonder where he played, and with whom.. surely for fun, I would think. Man, one hell of a doubles player he was, once (not too bad in singles either .. his highest rank was #74 in singles) !

June 25 Note-2

Here are the mixed doubles draws for LP and MB till the quarterfinals (Both in the upper half of the draw):

 1-Leander Paes(IND)/ Larisa Neiland(LAT)   vs Tom Kempers(NED)/ Karina Habsudova(SVK)   \
   Michael Tebbutt(AUS)/ Cathy Barclay(AUS) vs Maurice Ruah(VEN)/ Florencia Labat(ARG)   / \_ to QF
   Pablo Albano(ARG)/ Mercedes Paz(ARG)     vs Danny Sapsford(GBR)/ Julie Pullin(GBR)    \ /
13-David Roditi(MEX)/ Paola Suarez(ARG)     vs Neville Godwin(RSA)/ Seda Noorlander(NED) /

 9-Daniel Orsanic(ARG)/ Patr. Tarabini(ARG) vs Donald Johnson(USA)/ Sonya Jeyaseelan(CAN)\
   Dave Randall(USA)/ Helena Vildova(CZE)   vs Gabor Koves(HUN)/ Barbara Schett(AUT)     / \_ to QF
   Karsten Braasch(GER)/Patty Schnyder(SUI) vs Luke Jensen(USA)/ Debbie Graham(USA)      \ /
 5-Mahesh Bhupathi(IND)/ Mirjana Lucic(CRO) vs David Dilucia(USA)/ Sung-Hee Park(KOR)    /

The potential quarterfinal opponents for LP/LN are the 7th seeds Cyril Suk and Helena Sukova, and for MB/ML are th 3rd seeds, Rick Leach and manon Bollegraf.  A semifinal clash between LP and MB would be nice ..

The rain has stopped at Wimbledon for now, but everything is running 3 hours late. Need to see if they reschedule the LP/MB match to a different court later.

June 25 Note-1

Leander and Mahesh are scheduled to play their first round match againt Mirnyi/Olhovskiy today (Thursday). It is the 4th match on court 3 which was originally supposed to start at about 7.30 pm there (2.30pm EST, 11.30am PST, usa; 12 midnight in India) .. But it is raining right now after some play was completed today, and depending on the delay, the match start could be later at night.

The mixed doubles draw is out for LP and MB .. LP is again with Larisa Neiland (#6, Latvia) and is seeded #1. MB is finally playing with Mirjana Lucic (#22, Croatia .. they talked about playing together after the Aussie Open, but couldn't do that at the French Open Lucic withdrew due to chickenpox), and they are seeded #5 in the same half of the draw as Leander/Larisa. LP/LN play Tom Kempers (Ned) and Karina Habsudova (SVK), and MB/ML play David Dilucia (USA) and Sunh-hee Park (KOR) .. Will post the draw soon.

June 24 Note-2

Here are the statistics for MB's match against Moya (MB's numbers after Moya's): 1st Serve %: 57 - 62, Aces: 14 - 9, Double Faults: 8 - 14, Winning % on 1st Serve: 59 of 84 = 70% to 61 of 85 = 71%, Winning % on 2nd Serve: 36 of 62 = 58% to 29 of 51 = 56%, Winners: 103 - 92, Unforced Errors: 8 - 14, Break Point Conversions: 5 of 12 = 41%, 5 of 20 = 25% Total Points Won: 141 - 141 .. Can't get more even than that, in a match. I have not seen any match statistics for the LP match, as it was on an outer court (MB's natch was on the center court).

Here is what S.Kannan wrote in Hindustan Times about the LP and MB matches: "..the 24-year-old Bangalore man swung his racket at everything and very nearly had Moya. In the end, on an unusually warm afternoon, it was cramps which got the better of Mahesh as he needed medical time out trailing at 3-4 in the fifth set ... Moya showed what it means to be a top 10 player, firing some crisp winners from the rear and closing out the match with precision as champions do. All the same, the entire stadium loved every moment of the battle where the Indian provided several pointers about his ability to play levels higher when the situation demanded .... It is just his legs and inability to cover the court that well which made the difference as the two attacked and counterattacked with aplomb. This was the first time Mahesh was playing someone ranked so high and he would go back satiated with his performance. More important, he would have been happy to see the familar Indian faces like Jaidip Mukherjea, Ramesh Krishnan and Vijay Amritraj come for his match as they had first decided to watch Leander ... As for Leander, Wimbledon singles continues to be a jinx. For someone who won the juniors title eight years back, his inability to win one round in the men's event here has flummoxed all. But today, it could be attributed to superior play from Black, who was meeting the Indian for the first time. There were no fancy shots, but solid grass-court tennis from Black .. "

Here are some exceprts from Nirmal Shekhar's article in The Hindu: Giving as good as he got, often even more, Bhupathi played one of the best matches of his career on a big stage before Moya squeezed through ... In the event, it was Bhupathi's legs, rather than the quality of his tennis or even his big heart, that let him down as the Indian, struck by cramps in his left leg - he took a three- minute medical time out midway in the decider - seemed a shorn Samson just when he needed to step forward and seize the bull by its horns ...Never once in the 159-minute slugfest could Moya have truly believed that he had things in control. Even in the first set, which the Spaniard won, Bhupathi was up 4-2 and 40-15 on serve. And, in the decider, after losing serve in the fifth game with a double fault, Bhupathi forced Moya to dig deep in the eighth game when the Indian had three chances to break back ... Finally, it was a comibation of Moya's experience - experience of winning from precarious positions - and Bhupathi's misbehaving legs that made all the difference as the relieved French Open champion played himself into the second round ... As for Paes' match, Nirmal writes, "Athleticism has never been Paes's problem. He is among the quickest players on the Tour. Without the gift of his legs, Paes wouldn't have done half as much as he has achieved in his career ... But, on a day when he couldn't do much right with the racquet, the gift of athleticism mattered little - especially because Paes chose to stay behind often even on his first serves .."

So, it was cramps that caught MB in the end, not a pulled muscle as I was told first .. Pity. As for LP, the most difficult thing to figure out is when his adrenaline would pump when he is not playing for India .. It's the same old story. After he had so many first round exits in challengers and at the ATP events in India, he came up with 10 days of spirited tennis this year to surprise us. We will have to wait to see when he will come ready to play at Wimbledon .. Will chat with LP sometime soon and find out if he chose to stay back in the match against Black because of his leg injury or if it was a tactical mistake. Both articles give credit to Black for his solid no-nonsense grasscourt tennis, though.

LP is in danger of not getting any points in the grass season, as he is now down to just the Newport tournaments after next week. He has 66 points to defend there, and it is important for him to defend that, or his rankings would fall by up to 20 spots or so (LP is ranked 123 this week, with 404 points). Speaking of rankings, MB is at 323 this week, and should stay at around the same ranking or a few spots higher after Wimbledon, as he has now defended his qualifier points from last year. By the way, if you want to cry, here is one: MB would have jumped up about 150 spots to the 180 range, if he had pulled off a win today over Moya .. As for others, Syed Fazaluddin and Prahlad Srinath remain at around the same rankings.  Nirupama is at #166 in singles and 195 in doubles this week.

June 24 Note-1

Oh, what a heartbreak.. well.. actually, what a show by Mahesh !! .. Moya beat MB, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 .. MB seems to have given it all he had, and but for a muscle-pull in the 5th set, he might have pulled off what I said earlier was well within his reach - a win over Moya .. Wish my prediction had come through, rather than it getting oh-so-close .. I still insist that MB is ready to break out and go on a tear with a few breaks his way (which he has not had for over an year now, when it comes to the luck of the draw) .. More later, based on eye-witness reports on the match.

Leander's plight continues at the grandslam that suits his style best, for a 3rd year in a row .. For the 3rd consecutive time, he has crashed out of the big-W in the first round (to Petchey in 96, Woodforde in 97 and Wayne Black in 98) .. I would like to think his injury from 4 days back had something to do with it, and once again LP was at Wimbledon nursing multiple injuries. He lost to Wayne Black, 4-6, 5-7, 4-6 ..  I guess we had to expect something like that, if the injury is indeed any sort of `ruptured tendons' as was reported .. There is always the next year, and his troubles going into Wimbledon just have to go away one of these years !

It's time to think of the doubles. Should be starting soon; perhaps as early as tomorrow for our guys. More later today.

June 23 Note

A quick note .. MB is supposed to play the 3rd match on the center court today (first one starting at 2 pm .. So this should be about 7 to 8 pm there.. 7 pm is 1 pm EST, usa, I think .. 10 am PST .. 10.30 pm in India). LP's match is the 3rd one on court 15, but there play starts at 12 pm, so it should be a couple of hours earlier than MB's match.

Anyway, it doesn't matter .. It is raining there as of 4 pm .. Could all be postponed .. The next update here may be only wednesday sometime.