LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on July 3, 2000
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July 3 Note-1
Mahesh will get an extra day off at Wimbledon, as he is not in the schedule for Monday .. In a way it is better for Mahesh to not have to worry about mixed doubles this week and keep the shoulder nice, though it was rather sad to see MB and the great lady lose in the first round .. The shoulder seems to be less and less of a worry now, however .. The doubles draw has reached the final-16 stage and here is how it looks now:
1 T.Woodbridge/ M.Woodforde vs M.Bertolini/ C.Brandi \ 8 J.Novak/ D.Rikl vs 9 S.Lareau/ D.Nestor / \ 3 A.O'Brien/ J.Palmer vs J.Oncins/ C.Suk \ / \ 5 J.Bjorkman/ B.Black vs 11 N.Kulti/ M.Tillstrom / \__ Winners 6 D.Adams/ J-L.DeJager vs W.Arthurs/ B.Ellwood \ / 4 E.Ferreira/ R.Leach vs Gimelstob-Knowles or Prieto-Ran / \ / 10 M.Bhupathi/ D.Prinosil vs R.Federer/ A.Kratzmann \ / 2 P.Haarhuis/ S.Stolle vs O.Delaitre/ F.Santoro /8 of the top 9 seeds are in the final-16, which is rather unusual .. The only top seeds to lose so far were #7 Damm-W.Ferreira, ousted by Federer-Kratzmann, who now play our pair .. Five of the eight PQF matches are on Monday, and Mahesh's match should be one of the three on Tuesday.
June 2 Notes
Today is the traditional off-day, the middle Sunday, at Wimbledon ..
Finally got the results since Wednesday, from the $10K Greece F2 futures in Nafplio .. Srinath Prahlad advanced to the semifinal on Thursday, beating the 6th seed Tasos Vasiliadis (GRE,575), as he retired at 4-1 in the first set .. In the semifinal on Friday, Srinath went down to the second seed eventual winer, Konstantinos Economidis (GRE,392), 67(5) 46 .. Srinath and Jason Marshall lost in the semifinals of doubles to Dustin Mauck and Keith Pollack of USA (also, the eventual winners), 46 57 .. I had reported the earlier main draw round scores below .. Srinath picked up 4 points each in singles and doubles - so a pretty good week for him with 4 singles wins .. Actually, I hadn't noticed that he had to play two rounds of qualies to enter the draw there, though, as he had not entered early enough .. After a firsts round bye as the 2nd seed in the qualies, Srinath Prahlad defeated Nemanja Lalic 63 63, and then beat the 15th seed Olivier LeJeune 63 63 .. Pakistan's Aisam Quereshi was the top seed in the qualies, and he also made it into the draw .. Then both became seeded in the main draw, with Aisam ranked #272 actually becoming the top seed! .. He too lost in the main draw semifinal, though.
Srinath will continue with the $10K Greece F3 futures next week at Syros .. This time he is a direct entry and the just-released draw has placed him as the 5th seed .. Sri faces 955th ranked Ulrich Tippenhauer in the first round .. If he wins, the second round opponent will be the winner between a qualifier and 1239th ranked wildcard Niko Karagiannis (a Greek player we all know well, as he has come to the Indian satellites a few times) .. Sri should be able to make it to the quarterfinal without too much problems .. In doubles, Srinath will continue with his partner from last week, Jason Marshall .. They are unseed and play unseeded Karagiannis and Daniel Norberg (SWE) in the first round .. Thanks go to Steve for sending all the draws to me.
July 1 Notes
I don't have any details, but the first round mixed doubles match became a classic, but the ending was not good for Mahesh -- M.Bhupathi-M.Navriatilova lost to J.Siemerink-M.Oremans, 4-6 7-6(5) 16-18 .. I couldn't follow the match, but the stats show that MB-MN converted only 1 of 10 break chances in the 3rd set (I believe 0 for 8 today after play restarted at 8-9 in the 3rd on serve) .. JS-MO converted the one chance they got today, to go 2 for 2 in break conversion in the 3rd .. That seems to be the key stat, as both teams ended with exactly 172 points each in the match - a very close one.
Dr. Sanjeevi, our onsite correspondent in Sweden emailed me today with
some news on the upcoming Davis Cup (Jul 21-23) .. He says, The Swedish
Davis cup team was announced yesterday. Calle Hageskog (captain) said the
team against India will consist of: Andreas Vinciguerra,
Magnus Gustafsson, Magnus Larsson or Thomas Enquist,
Nicklas Kulti, and
Mikael Tillstrom ... Magnus Norman will not be playing for the tie against India in Bastad. Instead he will be playing in that week in Stuttgart to defend his title and to retain his top ranking. I do not think this is any consolation for India as others are as good! .. Thanks Sanjeevi for the news ..
June 30 Note-3
Mahesh continued his doubles winning streak at Wimbledon to 8 matches by reaching the pre-quarterfinals today - Bhupathi/ Prinosil d. F.Bergh/ P.Nyborg, 64 76(6) 46 76(11) .. I could not follow the match due to some schedule conflict, especially because the match started much later than I thought (the previous doubles match went to five sets), and some rain delay caused it to take even longer to finish .. The match seems to have been somewhat more difficult than expected, actually .. Their opponents for the 3rd round are not determined yet.
Due to rain in the evening, they never got around to playing that unfinished first round mixed doubles match for MB and Martina against Siemerink-Oremans, postponed from yesterday .. They will play that tomorrow (Starurday) as the 4th match on court 3.
At the Delhi masters, Chadha and Majmudar won the doubles final over Ghouse-Uppal .. Ghouse-Uppal won the unfinished semifinal earlier over Mankad-Ramaswamy, who actually had 6 match points the previous night before Ghouse and Uppal tied it up in a second set tiebreaker and play was stopped due to bugs in the air .. After winning the singles title in the morning, Harsh was probably not focussed enough today either, as Ghouse-Uppal won the 3rd set 6-2 to reach the final .. Harsh and Ajay did pick up 3 bonus points for 26 ATP doubles points each with their #2 finish in the circuit in doubles behind Chadha-Majmudar who got 6 bonus for 33 ATP points each .. Vishal and Mustafa picked up 20 points each .. See the Delhi masters page and the circuit/ATP points page .. I received the official circuit and ATP points table, and have corrected a couple of minor mistakes I had earlier in my calculations.
No news on how things went today for Srinath in Greece - he was in the QF of singles and SF of doubles in the $10K futures.
Jan 30 Note-2
Mahesh's match won't start till at least about 3.15 pm at Wimbledon, as the previous match is going to the 5th set there ..
It seems that Mahesh did ruffle some feathers with his coments about Fazal's inclusion .. Apparently the selection committee would have anyway agreed to his suggestion of keeping Fazal in, which was conveyed to them by captain Ramesh Krishnan .. RK was in favor of not dropping Vishal as he was impressive with his temperament and had helped us wonderfully at Delhi .. but I have not heard that RK had anything against Fazal either .. I had written yesterday that in a choice between Harsh and Vishal, the pick was clear (in my opinion) .. As it turns out though, Harsh's inclusion was a forgone conclusion anyway and the only question was about dropping Fazal and keeping Vishal .. I think they were ready to send a team of five anyway, leaving the option of the final four to RK once they finish practices in Sweden (at least that is wht they said) .. The committe chairman Shyam Minotra had some candid words objecting to Mahesh speaking out on this, though he said that the main player's opinions should of course be considered .. It seems like the newspapers did not help much either, immediately publishing Mahesh's comments on this - including some unfortunate remarks about how Vishal lost some matches in the satellites .. I would like to think Mahesh did not realize how it would get blown up - otherwise he would have just left it for RK to handle .. Let us hope RK can smooth things over between everybody and keep the team spirit up .. An interesting thing the press mentions is the order in which the team was announced - MB, Srinath, Mankad, Fazal and Vishal - what I hear from press friends is that everybody wants to seriously consider Mankad for singles too, if Hesh does not play singles .. As it is on clay, perhaps it is not a bad idea, though Fazal's experience should not be overlooked - but these are all best left for the captains's judgment based on the form showed out there in Sweden .. Ramesh will decide what to do .. The selection committee and we should all stay the hell out of that !
June 30 Note-1
Mahesh will first play their second round doubles match today, before coming back and finishing the mixed doubles first round match postponed from yesterday .. MB-Prinosil play the Swedish pair, Fredrik Bergh and Peter Nyborg in the second round .. The match should be starting at about 2.30 pm (9.30 am New York, 7 pm India), plus/minus half hour .. Our chatroom will be open .. They have not announced a time or court for the completion of the mixed doubles match, but it won't be before MB takes rest for at least an hour after the doubles match.
Harsh Mankad has won the singles title at Delhi today, beating Danai Udomchoke 63 61 and take his record against the Thai to 2-3 .. Danai did not have much to play for except the extra money and pride from the title, but based on the PTI report, Harsh did not give him a chance to even think of winning this one .. Incidentally, a newspaper friend passed on the number for Harsh at Delhi, and I called half hour before his final match to convey our congrats for his inclusion in the Davis Cup team - Harsh basically assured me that he would win the title - "I have been feeling terrific all week - the best I have ever felt; I am sure I can beat Danai today" .. He said he was not feeling any elbow pain or anything of that sort after all this tennis, which was nice to hear .. Harsh finishes with 71 circuit points behind Udomchoke's 80, for 31 ATP points .. That will bring up Harsh's ranking to around #550, which is the highest rank by any 20 yr old Indian since Mahesh Bhupathi .. For now, technically that will place him at #3 in India behind LP and Srinath, as Fazal has now fallen to the 600s.
As for his semifinal win yesterday, he basically had yet another player (Thornadtsson this time) reeling by the second set and basically giving up .. Harsh fired 13 aces in the match and was actually serving big whenever he needed to .. He was behind 3-5 in the first set but came right back breaking the Swede, and then won the set with a couple of aces too .. When he is serving well, Harsh is very very tough to beat, because he is unusually steady, consistent, and soild in the rest of his game ..
Here are some articles from yesterday on Harsh - Impressive display by Harsh Mankad (Kamesh's The Hindu article on his SF win), Harsh Mankad in Davis Cup squad (The Hindu), Mankad, Udomchoke in final (Times of India), Mankad makes Davis Cup squad (Indian Express) .. Here is an interview article on Mankad from the Indian Express - US scholarship holds Harsh in good stead .. Good to see the kid finally getting his due .. For over two years, I was feeling that I was the only one who was talking about Harsh, whom I had consistently considered the #5 in India from 1998, despite what every other player was doing .. I will compile some of my writings on Harsh Mankad, for those who want to know more about him (or had forgotten him) .. A small correction in what the reports say - Harsh Mankad is not 21, he is only 20 years old (also, Danai is not 17-year old which is in quite a few articles too - he is 19) .. Harsh's birthday (Nov 79) is perhaps one of the reasons for some of the trouble he has had .. Those who have a birthday early in the year tend to get effectively an extra year in the juniors .. In face, had Harsh been 2 months younger, he could have played the junior events for an extra year and perhaps got a lot more exposure in 98 .. As it turned out, he had to hit the senior circuit and hardly got any support from any quarters - and Vijay Kannan, who was 3 months younger and had an extra year in the juniors picked up a lot of headlines with a series of junior titles in 98 .. By mid-1998, Harsh was basically at serious cross-roads, and came over to the US for a 2 month session at the Ojai Academy (with some little money from a personal sponsor in Mumbai - you see, his dad played test cricket for India before the glory days of Rolex watches, diamond merchants, and guys trying to get run-out all the time!) .. As luck would have it, Nick Rainey from Washington, who is a member of this fanclub ended up as his room-mate at the Academy .. Nick put me in touch with Harsh then .. I remember driving Harsh down across the border to Mexico to play a $25K challenger qualifier (he made the main draw there!) - what struck me then was how confused he was about how he could continue on, with no support coming from any quarters and not even getting a wildcard into any pro event in India - even the Maharashtra state awards last year where a whole bunch of players got cash rewards did not consider Harsh who had just finished #4 in the satellites but could not play other domestic events as he was taking his HS and SAT exams, if I remember correctly .. Anyway, at least this fanclub could offer a little bit of moral support (see, see, everybody wants credit now, eh ?:-)) .. Anyway, that's all old story .. He stuck with his plan, took highschool exams last year, a couple of years late, and came to college .. It's a great story to see his hard work paying off with a Davis Cup selection .. His college coach David Geatz at University of Minnesota deserves some credit too, for how well Harsh has done lately - Had he not seen Mankad's qualty immediately and placed him at the #1 spot rightaway, Harsh would not have got a chance to play so many top college players in his very first year here and improve .. But the work isn't done and he has to keep the fire burning while looking for bigger and bigger achievements. I got a couple of emails asking, "what's the story on this guy Mankad?", "where the heck did HE come out of?", etc - so I thought I would put in another small bit on him .. He never went away .. We just forgot him! :-)
June 29 Note-3
Doubles news from Delhi satellites masters semis today - Chadha and Majmudar won over Gavrilov and Siikhanov to reach the final .. Harsh and Ajay are tied with Ghouse and Uppal 64 67(7) 11 when play was postponed with too many bugs in the air at night after a rain spell :-) .. Harsh will complete the doubles match only after the singles final tomorrow - and if he makes his sixth consecutive final in doubles here, he will have to play the doubles final also tomorrow.
A bit of bad news from Wimbledon -- Sunil Kumar (now officially listed as Sunil Kumar Sipaeya by ITF) was the 8th seed in the Wimbledon qualies, but lost in the first round to unseeded Tom Burn of Britain, 57 64 26 .. To add to that, 3rd seeded Sonal Phadke lost in the first round of qualies to unseeded Cristelle grier of Britain, 64 57 79 too .. Yikes .. Prakash Amritraj ha reached the secon round there, though.
June 29 Note-2
In a match suspended at night, things are nicely balanced - Bhupathi-Navratilova vs Siemerink-Oremans, 46 76 89, with Mahesh to serve first tomorrow whenever they restart the match ..
The first set started well .. MB started it and held serve easily .. Then MB-MN had Siemerink down 0-40 in the very next game, but could not convert three break chances .. Then in the 5th game, MB was also down 0-40 and had to fight off four break attempts to hold serve .. Then, they were down 15-40 again on Martina's serve in game 7 .. This time JS-MO converted their first chance, to go up a break .. MB held easily in game 9, but the set ended at 4-6 .. In the second set, our pair was up 2-0 after converting the first break chance at 30-40 off JS's serve .. Martina got broken again in the next game however and it was even again .. In game 5, MB was up 40-0, but was at deuce soon .. In a sequence MB had a double fault, an ace, a double fault and another ace to hold serve ! .. The set then went without any drama to a tiebreaker and our pair evened it up there .. The 3rd set also went with serve for long time, till the 9th game when JS had to srve a deuce, but he held .. It went on like that, till the 15th game when Oremans got broken at the first break chance .. Promptly they broke our pair back in the next game off Martina's serve too and it was even at 8-8 .. Then Siemerink held serve to go up 9-8, and play was suspended ..
June 29 Note-1
Mahesh will get to play along-side the great one in a few hours at Wimbedon! .. Bhupathi-Navratilova vs Siemerink-Oremans in the first round today .. It is the 4th and last match on court #3, which should be starting at 5 pm London time (12 noon New York, 9.30 pm India), plus/minus half hour .. Our chatroom will be open for ball-by-ball .. I will post the mixed doubles draw soon.
PTI reports that the Davis Cup team for IND @ SWE has just been announced - nobody should have complaints now, as they brought in Mankad and will send a team of five .. Bhupathi, Srinath, Fazal, Harsh Mankad and Vishal Uppal .. Good show!
Harsh Mankad had to dig deep after a jittery start today, but then "demolished" (according to PTI) the 4th seeded Swede, Per Thornadtsson (#453), 76(6) 62 to reach yet another final (3rd in a row) .. #454 ranked Thornadtsson was my "dark horse" pick in this circuit, mostly because he is a quality player who had done that trick in the masters at Turkey last month where he went in unseeded and beat 4 seeds in a row, including Miles MacLagan (353), the experienced Briton and Kalle Flygt (455), the circuit #1 and #2 there .. Harsh has beaten Per twice in a row now, without dropping a set - quite good .. In the final, Harsh once gain runs into Danai Udomchoke, who beat Sandeep Kirtane rather easily, 61 64 in the other semifinals .. Doubles semifinals may be in the evening and I have not seen the score yet .. See the Delhi masters page .. With the win, Harsh made sure he will finish as #2 in this circuit and get the 3 bonus points for that .. He now has 30 ATP points total .. Danai has already reached the maximum possible point total of 36 with the 6 bonus points for the circuit topper, and really has only pride to play for, tomorrow .. For Mankad, he can get one extra ATP points if he beats Danai tomorrow .. See the circuit/ATP points page .. I am sure Harsh will be charged up tomorrow to get at least one win over Danai after losing to him three times in this circuit (he is 1-3 lifetime to Danai now) .. Anyway, one has to congratulate Harsh for this incredible show of focus and consistency .. He had not played domestically for over a year and he just had to prove his worth in four weeks, and he did that in wonderful style - getting past three big-game foreigners (Gueit, Fulcher and Thornadtsson) without dropping a set in the masters leg, right after playing the most number of matches than anybody else (singles and doubles) in the previous three legs is amazing .. And he got rightly rewarded with a Davis Cup selection .. Go Mankad !
I need to give some bad news too -- Fazal had a bad day yesterday at the $15K futures in Chico, California -- he lost his second round match to lucky loser David Martin (USA) 62 67(6) 36 .. In doubles, Fazal and Steve Burke had lost in the first round the day before 76(4) 26 36 .. Two tough losses in matches where he led after a set .. Oh well .. At least Fazal will be happy to know that he is still in the Davis Cup team .. I can't say Fazal had a great trip in the US circuit for 7 weeks as he reached the QF only once in singles, but he did have a top-250 win and showed some determination in fighting it out -- he certainly did better than how he did for months when it seemed like he had lost his confidence in winning anything .. It may have been a good idea to stay away from the Indian satellite where he would have been under the microscope much more .. Though he lost a chance to pick up much more points (I believe he picked up only 7 or 8 ATP points in the 7 weeks in the US in singles), he got a lot of good match practice and seems to have got his mind and game in decent shape right now.
At least we will be going to Sweden with players like MB, Sri, Fazal and Harsh all in good singles form, unlike when Korea came to India when we did not have anyone but LP with any international wins to speak of, for months!
June 28 Note-5
Good news from Greece - Srinath beat Carlos Albert Rexach-Itoiz (ESP,617) 63 61 in the $10K futures at Nafplio .. 4th seeded Srinath next faces the 6th seeded Tasos Vasiliadis (GRE,575) in the QF .. In doubles also, Sri has reached semifinals in the company of Jason Marshall (from Purdue University - incidentally he was the first top-50 college player Harsh Mankad beat in the US, if I am not mistaken) .. Sri and Marshall beat wildcards Michalopoulos/Vlachos in the QF (our guys had upset the 2nd seeds in the first round) .. They face Dustin Mauck and Keith Pollack in the semifinals.
June 28 Note-4
Here are some excerpts from the wonderfully detailed article
from Kamesh Srinivasan in The Hindu about today's quarterfinals
at the Delhi masters .. "The second-seeded Harsh continued with his
magic spell, as he cruised to a 6-1, 2-0 lead against
Barry Fulcher when the Briton signalled his resignation, suggesting physical exhaustion ... Actually, it was more a case of Fulcher being mentally tired to stand up to the challenge of his opponent's steady play and his own erratic form" .. Ah, I love it when one of our players do that to somebody - I had mentioned earlier how harsh can do that to some people who think he can be just overpowered .. Kamesh says, "He may not have the power, but the 20-year-old Harsh has everything else to make him a serious challenger. Putting all his assets to good use, Harsh teased the Briton who had lost to him in three sets after enjoying a 6-3, 5-1 lead in the third leg. In fact, it was the third victory for Harsh over the Briton whom he had beaten in straight sets in Mumbai ... The towering Fulcher did not look to have recovered from the shock of last week ... While Harsh reeled off 14 winners, including five on return of serve, there was no sign of the Briton's big serves" .. Harsh has now had a couple of good matches on his own serve, and perhaps has looked more solid on his serve in these last two matches than in most of his earlier matches .. Five service return winners says something about Harsh's game too .. About Sandeep Kirtane's comeback 3-set win over Rishi Sridhar -- "Sandeep Kirtane allowed two early breaks to be neutralised and missed two breakpoints in the 11th game to allow the contest to meander into the tie-break. He sought medical attention after losing the first set, but stayed on to script a courageous win ... At the climax Sandeep showed his experience, stretching his exhausted opponent from side to side, making him play" .. About Ajay's loss to 4th seed Thornadtsson - "Thornadtsson showed that he had the uncanny ability to hit deep into the corners especially on the backhand with remarkable consistency. In a lively exhibition of big serves and sharp strokes, the Swede reeled off four aces, four service winners, three return of serve winners apart from ten other winners .... The strapping Indian with strong legs, the 20-year-old Ajay fired three aces, but had eight doublefaults. He had 14 winners including five volleys to show for his positive play" - Ajay ended with 4 ATP points as he did not get any circuit points from the first leg where he lost in the qualies to Gavrilov of Russia .. He caught people's attention only after qualifying into the second leg and reaching the SF, but many seem to be impressed with his play and potential though - I even saw the Times of India article today about Davis Cup team selection tomorrow, which mentioned Ajay as an outside possibility ..
Talking of Davis Cup selection, Deccan Herald says that Mahesh will be less than pleased at any ideas of dropping Fazal from the team - see "Bhupathi demands Fazal's inclusion" .. Excerpts - Bhupathi said, ''There has been a lot of talk in the media about Sunil Kumar and Vishal Uppal making the Davis Cup squad. I put my foot down and told my dad (Krishna Bhupathi) that if I was going to go out and risk my shoulder I might as well do it with someone I am comfortable playing with. Otherwise I might as well take the week off" .. There has been talk of dropping Fazaluddin from the squad after his dismal show against Lebanon and South Korea. But none can doubt the Calcuttan`s commitment and it has never been for the lack of effort that he has faired poorly. Harsh Mankad, who has been beating most of the Indians in the ongoing Indian satellite series, was viewed as a possible replacement for Fazaluddin ... Bhupathi said, ''It would be good to have Srinath and Fazaluddin, Harsh deserves a break for all his effort in the past month and if they want to send a fifth player for exposure Sunil Kumar would be best. He is a left-hander and can be of great help for our practice sessions" .. This is a strange twist to the story .. I have been a big supporter of the idea that Harsh deserved some very serious consideration for Davis Cup .. But I don't see how we would (or need to) think of dropping Fazal to bring in Harsh .. Fazal and Sri are two we invested a lot on, and Fazal has some good Davis Cup experience too .. I don't understand why he needs to be dropped instead of Vishal Uppal, to bring in Harsh .. Frankly, though I have been a supporter of Vishal too, there is really no comparison between the records of Vishal and Harsh in the last 8 legs of satellites Harsh played in India [OK, here are the links for the 8 legs if anybody wants to check - May 99 one, two, three, four and June 00 one, two,three, four].. True that Vishal showed wonderful temperament with Leander in that doubles match against Korea, but we can't justify everybody making such a big deal of that doubles win .. After all, he had the world #1 playing with him, and they were playing two Korean guys ranked #350 and #502 in doubles - at home, on grass .. Come on, let us have some sense of perspective in these things .. To be fair, Vishal showed ice-water in his veins for the first few games before LP got going, and if LP was in the team instead of MB, it would be worth trying them out again .. But it is foolish to say that Vishal should be kept in the team based on one match, and that Fazal should be dropped - now if Vishal were a big claycourt player, we could attempt to find justification, but he is also not a claycourter, and Fazal certainly has much more experience playing on clay .. Harsh can play very well on clay however, and his win over Fazal last year in the Bangalore clay leg is also a point in his favor - but Harsh can be brought in without dropping Fazal, right ? ..
Though it may not be good in the long run for players to speak out and put the selection committee in a bind, I agree with Mahesh's observations about Fazal, Harsh and Sunil .. Bringing Sunil in for practice is good for the team and Sunil, but to put him in the team instead of Harsh is also not justifiable at all, at this point .. At the same age of 17.5, Harsh was ranked quite a bit ahead of where Sunil is right now in the world juniors (around #60 with twice the points that Sunil has at #92) and Harsh had 6 junior national titles including even a grass title (people say he can't play on grass) .. Sunil had a great week last year at the senior nationals, but I doubt we would have gone overboard putting pressure on the kid had Fazal or Harsh had played that nationals .. Sunil beat Laad, Shivshankar, Panja, Ismail and Mustafa there (good players but not exactly world-class), and has not had a win against anyone worth mentioning ever since, largely because he was put into the limelight and put under pressure to perform - too much for a 16 yr old .. Now, Sunil shows great potential with his abilities and style of play that impresses everyone, but experience is another thing altogether .. Modern tennis requires a lot of match practice and experience, and it's not like the old days anymore - this is one aspect everybody who expects Sunil to just start doing miracles forgets .. My dream is to see him dominating in a few years, but bottom line results are just not there -yet .. But it's all my opinions - take it with the usual pinch of salt as I am not one who sees any of these players play, and I don't even play tennis!
It is not usual that I speak in a tone less than supportive towards some of our upcoming players - but this is our tennis future, it is Davis Cup, and we can't mess around .. For all we know, two or three years from now we won't have anybody from among LP, MB, Fazal and Sri (all 26 and above) and we will be looking for *anyone* who can play on clay in Asia-Oceania ties where everybody will throw the dirt at us - getting someone like Harsh in is more important than everyone thinks .. Harsh has never been considered for anything at the national level and he has done everything basically on his own so far in builiding up some confidence to play international tennis .. A Davis Cup selection will add even more to the guy's confidence, which is really not that bad already .. Not that he is the next Marcelo Rios, but who else do we have right now between the age of Sunil and Fazal who can play on clay at some international level ?
Anyway, if this Times of India article is to be believed the selection committee is seriously looking at Mankad too .. We just need to respect the judgment of Ramesh Krishnan and party in the end .. Good to have those like him picking the team ..
I hope I don't jinx Mankad with all this talk - he is playing a big semifinal against (so appropriately!) a Swede tomorrow - he has beaten the 4th seeded Thornadtsson on clay at Bangalore earlier though ..
June 28 Note-3
The Wimbledon first round was a cake-walk for Mahesh in doubles .. Bhupathi-Prinosil d. Hood-Prieto, 63 62 64 .. The first set went wth serve with no trouble till the 7th game when MB-DP had to serve through some deuces but they held .. In the next game they got the crucial break and they served out the set at 6-3 .. In the second set, they had MH-SP down 15-40 immediately in the first game and broke them there .. Then they went up another break to 4-1 in game 5 and the set was over soon - 63 62 .. Then in the 3rd set, our guys dropped serve all of a sudden in the second game to go 0-2 .. No trouble though - they took MH-SP to a couple of deuces and broke them right back .. One more break in game 5 as well, and our guys were soon up 4-2 - and they cruised to the win .. The match took about 85 minutes.
June 28 Note-2
Mahesh's doubles match has just started at Wimbledon ..
In the $10K Greece F2 futures in Nafplio, Srinath won the first round singles against Zoltan Boroczsky (HUN,818) 64 76(2) today .. He plays Carlos Albert Rexach-Itoiz (egad! what a name!) from Spain, ranked 617 in the second round .. Good to see Srinath in decent singles form for now - we need him at Sweden soon.
At Delhi, Harsh Mankad reached yet another semifinal without spending much energy today .. He was up 6-1 when 7th seed Barry Fulcher conceded today .. He faces 4th seed Thornadtsson in the semi - the Swedish guy beat Ajay Ramaswamy easily today, 62 63 .. Thornadtsson (my "dark horse" pick for the masters) seems to be in good form - Once again, Harsh will need to play his best tomorrow .. The match of the day was by Sandeep Kirtane who came back from a set down against Rishi to move into the semis against Danai Udomchoke, who beat 8th seed Leysek easily .. See the Delhi masters page .. The singles and doubles semifinals are tomorrow ..
June 28 Note-1
Mahesh's first round doubles match is scheduled for today (Wednesday) at Wimbledon .. Bhupathi-Prinosil vs M.Hood - S.Prieto .. The match is scheduled for about 3.30 pm London (10.30 am New York, 8 pm India), plus or minus half hour .. We will have another chat session during the match, at our chatroom.
Here is what Prajwal wrote in Deccan Herald about MB's loss yesterday to Huet (excerpts): Bhupathi said, ''I have never seen how he plays. I asked around and everyone told me that he had a weak serve. Today I hardly won points on his serve in the second set. But I am happy that my shoulder held up," Bhupathi said. ''I feel positive about playing singles in the Davis Cup now. We are not going to be in full strength against Sweden and I'll be happy to go out there and play singles." ... Bhupathi started strongly, he was serving well and came in at every opportunity. He went up a break in a jiffy but was broken right back. Tactically it was a straight forward grasscourt game with both players going for broke. Games went with serve then and the set drifted into tie-break ... The Indian opened with a doublefault and was down 2-5 down in no time at all. Then in a stunning sequence Bhupathi pulled off the next seven points to close out the set. A forehand crosscourt winner and a down the middle second serve at set point was easily the pick of his play ... In retrospect, the first set drained the Indian mentally more than physically and he was a mere shadow of himself in the second set. Bhupathi made a brave attempt to comeback in the third where he once again served strongly but a poor tie-break took the fight out of him. In fourth set, Huet was all over the place. The difference between the two players was not so much in the serving as it was in the quality of Huet`s returns ...... Despite the loss, we should take it as a very positive development that Mahesh was able to play pretty competitive singles and more importantly that his shoulder held up pretty well .. His comment about playing singles at Sweden is great too - there were some concern earlier as he had mentioned just last week that he was not sure if he was ready to play singles there.
Some news on the World doubles championship .. Today's Deccan Herald mentions that Paes en Sport has been trying to bring it to Calcutta, and had tied up with Procam sports management firm and Zee TV for that too .. I remember that when Brad Drewett, executive vice-president of the ATP Tour, visited Bangalore a few days back, he was asked if there were any other cities bidding for the event - he had replied that he could not reveal that info yet .. I was pretty sure that no city outside India was really in a position to bid for it, but had suspected if Calcutta would, because there was talk of Paes en Sport considering a doubles tournament in Calcutta as early as in 1998 .. So I guess "Road to Bangalore" is not yet decided - ATP says they will announce it by the end of Wimbledon .. The report says that one way or other the tournament is coming to India and that only the venue is to be decided .. I will be glad if this does not add yet another wedge between Paes and Bhupathi and the respective camps .. Both parties have requested a wildcard for LP-MB .. The newspaper says that the wildcard looks certain, as LP-MB are the real selling point in any case ..
Incidentally, I read somewhere recently that Woodbridge's wife is expecting a baby in early December -- it was not sure if Woodies would play after Olympics at all anyway, but this might make it difficult for India to try to lure the legends to come for that very final tournament .. With the lead they have now, it will be difficult for any other team to overtake Woodies as the #1 team at the end of this year, but the Woodies have not said anything about playing the year-end doubles championship this year .. I doubt they would want to play it if they win the Gold at Olympics as that would be a fitting end for the partnership, to end it at home .. If they don't, the year-end championship may look more attractive to them ? .. I am just guessing here .. I thought I would mention that baby story, as that is bound to be around the same time as the doubles championship and put an extra twist in the matter.
By the way, S.Kannan had written this in an article in the Hindustan Times a couple of days back - With the strong possibility of Bangalore holding the World Doubles Championship this December and a wild card being given to an Indian pair, Mahesh is open to the idea of teaming up with Leander. "If Bangalore is allotted the tournament I will ask Leander. I can play with him as long as he does not say Piperno should not be my coach. There can be no strings attached," .. Check out the article - there are some interesting comments from MB about getting back with LP and also about playing with Martina Navratilova .. As for LP, he has been completely off the radar screen for a while .. MB has certainly been the more talkative one lately, unlike in the past :-)
But there is good news on LP today too -- Deccan Herald quotes Dr. Vece Paes to be saying that Doctors now think LP could be back earlier than originally thought and that there may not be a ligament tear on his injured wrist after all .. They have scheduled an MRI next week for confirming it, and if all goes well, he could be back in early August as opposed September .. Get well fast, Lee !!
June 27 Note-3
It seems the Indians had a pretty good day today at the Delhi satellite masters, with even the ones who lost going down with some fight .. Kedar Shah played very well in his two-tiebreaker loss to 8th seed Marian Leysek and Saurav Panja took the first set ina tiebreaker against 4th seed Thornadtsson before fading .. Kamesh Srinivasan reports in The Hindu that Kedar had 9 aces (4 in a row at one point) and fought all the way till the end .. Saurav was just a bit too tired after a while in the 2 hr 15 min loss .. Harsh played pretty well in his win over Gueit .. Harsh was a "was a picture of concentration and cool play. Once he saved three breakpoints in the fourth game and two breakpoints in the sixth, Harsh was on a song ... Once he took a 5-1 lead in the first set, Harsh dropped a mere five points thereafter in the next nine games. To his credit Harsh landed the big serves when needed, as he showed by delivering two aces to wind up the first set and came up with six aces in all in the match" .. I think Harsh is tough to beat if he is serving well,and can frustrate his opponent, which happened to Gueit in this match, as he "cracked quickly, shouting at himself, as he sprayed the ball all around the court in trying to whack with all the power he could muster" .. I love it ! .. A whopping 38 of the 58 points Harsh won in this match came from Gueit's unforced errors according to Kamesh .. As for Rishi Sridhar, the Thai opponent was no match .. Rishi "started the match with three aces in the first game, and never looked back, till he wound up the show in 40 minutes" .. About Ajay Ramswamy's win, he says, "the 20-year-old bundle of energy served hard, stroked with punch, and was agile on court to plug the escape routes of his opponent" .. Vijay Kannan fought well too in his loss to Fulcher, and Mustafa seems to be the only one who went down very cheaply .. See the Delhi masters page
A win tomorrow in the QF against Leysek will ensure that Danai Udomshoke will be the circuit leader in the end (who gets 6 bonus ATP pts) .. Right now only Harsh has a mathematical possibility of going over Danai's circuit points total .. A win tomorrow will almost assure that Harsh will finish #2 (with 3 bonus ATP points), as only Sandeep will have a chance to overtake him, though that would require Sandeep to win the title, possibly beating Danai .. It is the crunch time in the satellites for that final push for points.
Nirupama Vaidyanathan is not playing this week - she will be in India to handle a few visa matters, etc, and will be back for the hardcourt season soon, I am told.
No news yet on Fazal's doubles match today at Chico futures .. His first round opponent will be qualifier Davis Martin (USA) and he will be playing singles tomorrow (wednesday). No news from greece on Srinath either, yet.
Sunil Kumar is not playing at the junior grade-1 event at Roehampton, London this week .. I guess that means he is not in UK and won't be playing qualifiers for Wimbledon later in the week (his #92 ranking is a bit too low to get a direct entry) .. Also, no idea yet if Sonal Phadke (#78) will make the Wimbledon junior draw .. It was reported earlier that she will go to UK for that, and that she might play a few other junior events too, but I have not seen her in any of the UK grass events either ..
Here is something for everyone to take note of - 17 yr old Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan won the grasscourt grade-2 junior title at Surrey UK, last week and he has just come up to #10 in the world .. Somebody who wins on grass from Taiwan ?? .. Asia-Oceania ties are bound to get a bit tougher in the future, folks! .. By the way, Taiwan also has #27 Yeu-Tzuo Wang, who is only 15 years old .. Our own 17-yr old Sunil Kumar's climb has been much slower, actually, though the Taiwanese kids have not been bothered with senior events and Davis Cup and all that and they have played over 20 events each in the juniors, all over the world on all kinds of surfaces, as opposed to Sunil who has just played 11 junior events in the last year ..
June 27 Note-2
Fazal is at the USA F17 futures in Chico, California .. He is unseeded and faces a qualifier in the first round (I don't think the qualifiers are all determined yet) .. He is in a tough part of the draw, placed in the same quarter as 5th seed David Nalbandian (a top 5 junior till last year, from Argentina) and 3rd seed Zach Fleishman, one of the top US juniors till recently and a talented college player now .. In doubles, Fazal is playing with a new partner, Steven Berke (USA) .. Ben-Qiang Zhu with somebody else .. I got some inside info just now that there was some strange goings-on there, which caused that .. Let me just say that Fazal and Zhu would have played together, and some things happened beyond Fazal's control or knowledge - I was rather amused and puzzled that such things can happen, actually.
At the Delhi satellites, Four Indians made the quarterfinals, according to PTI .. Harsh, Sandeep, Ajay and Rishi .. I guess my crystal ball was pretty good from yesterday, as Ajay did prove to be a tough opponent for Majmudar from the US, whom he beat rather easily 63 62, and Rishi found Atabut to be an easy prey too for a 63 61 win .. Sandeep did not have problems with Sikhanov either - 64 61 win .. Unfortunately, Vijay, Mustafa and Saurav could not pull any upsets (Mustafa lost 26 16 to Danai) .. So, all three ended the satellites with just 2 ATP points each .. All news reports were implying that Harsh was ripe to be upset because Gwanael Gueit was in great form with his so-called "big-game", and I had worried a bit about how Harsh would do .. No problems, as Mankad murdered the French player 62 61 in 49 minutes today .. So he did his job of getting that key win to take his ATP points from 14 to 21, the big jump in the points curve when you go from 40 to 50 circuit points .. Danai vs Leysek, Sandeep vs Rishi, Ajay vs Thornadtsson, Mankad vs Fulcher in the QFs ..
I am very disheartened that the "group of 7" who were given a couple of coaching camps by AITA and had the services of a traveling coach with them, could not do better than what they did .. Vinod Sridhar picked up 4 ATP points; Uppal, Ghouse, Panja and Kannan got 2 ATP pts each; and Mohanty and Bopanna did not get any .. 19 yr old Manoj Mahadevan ending up with just one ATP point after a series of unlucky draws and tough losses was another sad thing this time .. Once again, I hope AITA will not get disheartened by this and will continue to support youngsters like they have started doing .. If not this group of players, perhaps the next group of players will benefit .. It certainly helps their morale and drive to know that they have people supporting them .. On the other hand, we have to be happy that Harsh, Vijay, and Rishi have really come up big this time, along with veteran Sandeep Kirtane (good to know that he is still out there if we need him!).
June 27 Note-1
Sorry, we had some disk problems at the server, and I could not update scores at the MB page -- even the chatroom was down for a while but I managed to somehow get that going.
Mahesh held up well for a while but faded in the end today .. Stephane Huet (FRA,107) d. Mahesh Bhupathi, 67(5) 63 76(4) 61 in the first round at Wimbledon ..
Mahesh started a bit shaky on his own service games, going to deuce in game 1 .. He went up 3-1 with a break on the first opportunty in game 4 .. MB was broken back easily in the next game though and Huet levelled it at 3-3 .. Then MB held serve at love, and we started felling a little better .. He held serve again easily in the next games and we were in a toebreaker .. MB lost a point on serve to start the TB and lost one more soon to go down by two minibreaks at 1-4 and face two serves .. He went on a tear there to win 6 of the next 7 points including three minibreaks and all of a sudden Hesh had the set in his pocket 7-6(5) !! ..
In the second set, I was looking for that old Mahesh habit of dropping serve quickly after winning the first set .. Nothing like that and he held serve easily at first .. In the 4th game, however, he was suddenly down 0-40 on serve quickly though, and was broken to go down 1-3 .. The troubles continued in game 6 as he faced a break attempt at 30-40 .. he won three points in a row and held there, however .. The set was over at 3-6 with no further breaks ..
In the 3rd set, things went calmly on serve for a while .. MB had SH on one deuce in game 8, but that was it .. In the tiebreaker, LP went down a minibreak early and lost the set at 67(4) ..
It was really a no-contest in the 4th set, with Hesh being broken in games 2, facing breaks points in game 4 and then getting broken again in game 6 .. We in the chatroom hoped he had not done any damage to his shoulder by now .. Hopefully not .. Huet was holding serve easily and won the set at 6-1 ..
The chat was good fun today, with Manisha Malhotra joining in .. Unfortunately she is nursing a bad shoulder for now, which caused her to reture in her match last week in the USA satellite series .. She will take a few weeks off to rest and strengthen her shoulder .. The trainers say she basically had too much of tennis for a while .. Hopefully she will come back stronger later.
June 26 Notes
Mahesh's first round match at Wimbledon is scheduled for Tuesday .. Mahesh vs Huet on court 10, after a women's singles match that starts at noon, and should get underway by 2 pm London (9 am New York, 6.30 pm India) .. (+/- half hour) .. We will as usual have our chat session following the scores ball-by-ball at our chatroom .. Come on in - it's been a while since we have a had a good chat session .. What better time than a during a Wimbledon main draw match ? [see the June 24 Note-1 below for info on MB's opponent Huet]
By the way, I got a couple of emails from fanclub people asking why I have not written more about Mahesh playing with Martina Navratilova .. I guess it is just that I was actually concerned about Mahesh playing three events at Wimbledon - just scared about the shoulder, though I am sure Hesh knows what he is doing .. In my mind, mixed doubles has often been a waste of time, except for money; not that it is not an honor to win a grand slam mixed doubles titles, and any time MB or LP went far in a mixed doubles draw I have always got excited about it .. But it is still an event that does not get much coverage anywhere, though like at Wimbledon last year, a ton of top players played mixed doubles, especially on the women's side (for women, mixed doubles gives really valuable experience facing the big servers from the men's side, but for men it perhaps does not help a whole lot as practice, right?) .. Of course, playing with Martina Navratilova is of course a great honor for Mahesh - it's going to be fun once MxD starts at Wimbledon later in the week, and quite a bit of attention will be on MB, the first one to play mixed with the great one in a long time! .. For now I am excited about MB's singles - it will only be his second singles match since playing the final round of qualies at Wimbledon last year .. Hard to believe! Go Hesh !!!
Srinath Prahlad is at the $10K Greece F2 futures at the beautiful coastal town of Nafplio, in the singles and doubles draw .. Sri is the 4th seed and plays Zoltan Boroczky (HUN,834) in the first round .. In doubles Srinath is playing with Jason Marshall, and the unseeded pair has already beaten the second seeds, Martin Sinner and Kobi Ziv, 62 63 in the first round today .. That sounds like a pretty good win, with a partner who is ranked over 900 spots below him in doubles .. Actually Sri has hardly played much in Europe (I wonder if this is doubles win is one of the first - at least I don't remember one for a long time) .. Go Sri ! .. [Thanks Steve, for the news]
This week's USA futures is at Chico, California - I have not seen the main draw to know if Fazal is there ..
At the Delhi satellites, the first round passed without any huge upsets to speak of, except a somewhat surprising win for Mustafa Ghouse over Vishal Uppal in straight sets, 76(5) 64 .. Vishal will end this satellites with one solitary ATP point, but the injury and fever problems he has had in this circuit was a big reason for the poor show .. Also Manoj Mahadevan lost a three-setter to Saurav Panja after having even a match point in the 3rd set (so Manoj comes close in a three-setter yet again - very strange, how he has done that so many times in the past) .. The scoreline of Ajay Ramaswamy's 61 60 win over Vinod Sridhar was rather surprising too .. The guy who will play Harsh Mankad, Gwanael Gueit of France, seems to be in a good form with a 62 61 win over Amod Wakalkar, even though Kamesh reports in The Hindu, that Amod played pretty well despite the scoreline .. Good to see Vijay Kannan winning easily, over Pracharapol Khamsaman (THA) - he has a tough second round match against Barry Fulcher .. Saurav Panja has a tough match also - against 4th seed Thornoadtsson, who is my "dark horse" pick to cause trouble in this leg .. Sandeep should be alright against Sikhanov of Russia .. On paper, it looks as though Rishi Sridhar has the easiest second round foe, Phoemphon Atabut of Thailand .. The tougher ones among R2 opponents for the seeds would be Ramaswamy for 5th seed Majmudar and Gueit for 2nd seed Harsh (and it doesn't get any easy for Harsh either, as he could potentially go through some guys like Barry Fulcher, Thornadtsson, Majmudar, Ramaswamy, etc in later rounds even if he gets past Gueit - ouch, baby :-)) .. Actually Harsh has the most important match tomorrow - he stands to gain 7 extra ATP points over the 14 he has now, if he can win tomorrow and raise his circuit points from 40 to 50 .. Looking at the draw, the upper half looks certainly the easier draw right now .. There was only an eight team masters draw, though by mistake I had said in the circuit points page that 12 teams would make it in .. Sorry .. Anyway, the four teams have reached the semifinal of doubles already - #1 Chadha/Majmudar vs Gavrilov-Sikanov and #2 Mankad-Ramaswamy vs Ghouse-Uppal in the semis .. Top seeds Chadha-Majmudar got revenge on Gueit-Fulcher for their loss in the last leg to them .. See the Delhi masters page.
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on June 26 ..
I am getting some enquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are enquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.