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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on July 15, 2002
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July 15 Notes

Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj (USA) went down in the second round of qualies at the Manchester challenger this weekend in the UK .. 8th seed Rohan Bopanna d. Ben Gudzelak (GBR), 64 62 and lost to wildcard Jason Torpey (GBR), 46 62 63 .. Prakash Amritraj (USA) had a big upset of the second seed Alun Jones (AUS,374) by a score of 63 26 62 before falling to Simon Dickson (GBR) 46 67(12) .. Prakash seems to have the ability to beat some big players and has had quite a few big wins in the recent months though he has lost to some players he would probably beat if things clicked .. He has that kind of a game, with a strong and natural serve and volley that he seems to have also now augmented with some solid ground strokes and baseline play .. I think Prakash has all that it takes to go higher, but I would also expect him to take some time to start winning consistently, because mixing things up is something that takes longer to learn .. This is perhaps true about Rohan Bopanna also, but I have not seen him play .. Both have very high "up-side" potential.

By the way, a non-tennis note -- BIG congatulations for a cheeky, improbable, never-say-die win pulled off by our Indian yougsters this weekend ..  No, I am not talking cricket (though, that was a good show too) .. I am talking about the Indian u20 football team that qualified into the Asian final-12, which is not normally expected of India, ranked 23rd in Asia! .. They needed 2 goals to advance in the 3rd game against Kyrgistan, were staring at disaster with 15 minutes to go and then pumped in 4 goals after the 74th minute to advance .. Hey, aren't Indians supposed to choke and wither away under situations like that? .. Kudos go to Malswam Tulunga (hey, if you have not heard the name yet, keep the Assam boys name in mind) and company, and to coach Islam Akhmedov .. It's been some 5-6 years since we did such a thing, but I was sad to see that only a handful of the so-called soccer-crazy Kolkatans showed up to see the national u20 team, a talented one with a few players appearing to be ready even for the senior team or for the u23 team for Asiad .. If you haven't seen the www.ndianfootball.com website and fanclub that Arunava Chaudhury runs from Germany, take a look! (Arunava is a longtime fanclub member in this faclub, and actually says he got inspired to start the football site a few years back seeing our tennis fanclub, by the way)

July 14 Notes

Still awaiting news on who all will be playing where this coming week .. The doubles draws at the three ATP events are not all out, to know if LP is playing anywhere .. Manoj Mahadevan is in the main draw entry list at the $10K futures (F10) in Jamaica and Ajay Ramaswamy is at the $1K Turkey F1 futures - draws comes out soon .. Harsh and Sunil are off this week .. Rohan may be at the Manchester challenger qualies .. Manisha was in the Frinton $10K main entry list for this week in UK, but she was also in the entry list for qualifying in a couple of other bigger events - not sure where she will be .. Rushmi and Sai are expected at the $10K in Algiers ..

Here are the scores from the final two days at the Tlemcen satellite in Algeria this week .. [SF] #3 Sai Jayalakshmy vs #7 Lisa Tognetti (ITA), walkover .. [F] S.Jayalakshmy d. #5 Elisabeth Bahn (AUT) 75 06 64 .. Doubles: [SF] #1 R.Chakravarti/ S.Jayalakshmy d. Assia Halo (ALG)/ Djamila Khaldi (ALG), 61 63 .. [F] #1 R.Chakravarti/ S.Jayalakshmy l. #3 Susanne Aigner (AUT)/ Elisabeth Bahn (AUT), 67(4) 64 67(4)

Here is an interview article by Kadambari Murali in today's Hindustan Times with Mahesh - "We split because Leander issued an ultimatum" .. The title is misleading, as it refers to the previous split, not the current one .. Anyway, the article basically indicates how far apart LP and MB are ..

Here is another article - about Rohan Bopanna, by Sukhwant Basra in the Times of India ..

July 12 Notes

Good news from Algeria - 3rd seed Sai Jayalakshmy wn the title at the $10K satellite in Tlemcen, Algeria .. I don't know the details, but here is the news that just came up at an Algerian news source -

CIRCUIT INTERNATIONAL FEMININ EN ALGERIE
Première étape 06-12 juillet Tlemcen
VICTOIRE DE JAYALAKSHMY
L'Indienne Jayalakshmi a rempoté la première étape en battant en finale l'Autrichienne Elisabeth Bahn. Celle-ci et sa compatriote Suzanne Aigner ont gagné le double face aux Indiennes Jayalakshmi et Chakravarthi.
Using my rudimentary French knowledge, I think that says Sai won the title beating Elesabeth Bahn of Austria (who was the 5th seed), and lost the doubles final with Rushmi to Ahn and Aignor (who were the 4th seeds)  .. No scores known yet, but that would mean Sai must have also beaten the 7th seed Tognetti of Italy in the SF yesterday .. Congratulations go to Sai for finally coming through - after almost a year of poor form, she seems to have slowly worked her way back! .. A very rare singles title for an Indian woman abroad, indeed .. Sai gets 5 points for the title and that should raise her ranking up by about 60 spots after a week, up from #592 and closer to top-500 again.

July 11 Note-2

At the Peoria $10K futures in Illinois, Sunil Kumar went down 16 46 to the 6th seed Raven Klaasen (RSA,610) in the second round today .. He is done with this week .. I didn't see his name for the USA F19 futures next week - he could go there for the qualies I guess if he is playing .. He got another ATP point this week and now has 16 points frokm the 6 events he has played this year, which is certainly a good start for the 19 yr old .. Yes, small steps these are, at the beginning of a long journey ..

We are done with men's tennis for this week .. Manoj Mahadevan will be at the Jamaica futures (main draw) next week, and Ajay Ramaswamy will be at the Turkey futures (also in the main draw) .. Rohan may go to the Manchester challenger qualies for next week .. Harsh Mankad wanted to spend some time on some specifics for the next two weeks before playing on a European clay event for the first time in over 5 years, in Estonia .. He has played two Davis Cup matches two years back against Sweden on red clay and that's the only experience on that surface for him since the junior days in 97 when he reached the QF of the Grade-1 German Open, I think! .. Harsh will have to play qualies everywhere for a while though.

Third seeded Sai Jayalakshmy beat the 8th seed Jenny Zika (AUT) 64 61 reach the semi, but top seed Rushmi was upset 63 63 by the 5th seed Elisabeth Bahn (AUT) today at the the ITF $10K in Tlemcen,Algeria .. Sai next plays the 7th seed Lisa Tognetti (ITA) who upset the second seed in the QF today .. In doubles #1 Sai-Rushmi beat Sihem Benyoucef (ALG) and Zora Mark (SUI), 61 60 in the QF; next up in the SF are Assia Halo and Djamila Khalidi of Algeria who surprised the 3rd seeds today.

July 11 Note-1

Sunil Kumar plays the R2 at the Peoria futures this morning.

Rohan and Mustafa lost 46 46 to second seeds Gaudi-Navarra in the doubles qualies at the Bristol challenger yesterday .. The score in Manisha's loss yesterday at the Flexistowe challenger to sixth seed Elena Baltacha was 46 26 .. Late yesterday, Manisha and Leanne Baker were upset in the first round of doubles 26 57 by the Australians, Christina Horiatopoulos and Sarah Stone.

July 10 Note-3

It would have been too much to expect Rohan Bopanna to upset a top-150 player after the good wins in the qualies, but that is what he needed to pick up more points (he had 3 for qualifying) at the Bristol challenger .. Rohan went down 46 26 to the 3rd seed Gregory Carraz (FRA,147) who was coming off a very good run at Wimbledon, having qualified in and reached the second round of the main draw - he was playing Rohan next after his loss to Hewitt a few days back .. So, tough luck in the draw for Bopanna .. Bopanna/Ghouse were to play the doubles Q1 in the evening today - no news yet .. Hopefully Rohan will be at the Manchester challenger next week in Britain for singles.

Another one with a tough draw, running into a hot player this week was the other Indian in a challenger - Manisha .. I believe today at the Flexistowe grasscourt challenger she could not get past the 6th seed Elena Baltacha (GBR,199) who has just moved up by about 100 spots after an unexpected run into the 3rd round as a wildcad at Wimbledon with an upset of seeded Coetzer! .. Interestingly Manisha had upset Baltacha (the highest ranked player she ever beat I think) in the QF on the way to her first and only challenger semifinal at Flexistowe .. But that was then .. Manisha hasn't had great singles results for quite a while .. I think she has been down with shoulder trouble ever since that run last year at this time, if I am not mistaken .. She will lose 14 of her 40 plus WTA points now which will drop her down from #382 by about 100 spots soon .. We should know the actual score of her match and any doubles results tomorrow.

Good news from the $10K ITF satellite in Tlemcen, Algeria, where #414 Rushmi Chakravarti is the top seed and #592 Sai Jayalakshmy is the 3rd seed .. Both have reached the QF so far .. Rushmi beat Julia Vorobieva (RUS) 60 64 and Sana Bensalah (ALG) 64 62 .. She faces the 5th seed Elisabeth Bahn (AUT) next .. Sai beat Marnie Mahler (GER) 62 61 and Iman Maloufi (ALG) 60 61 .. She faces the 8th seed Jenny Zika (AUT) next .. In doubles Rushmi-Sai are the top seeds and have a bye into the QF where they face Sihem Benyoucef (ALG) and Zora Mark (SUI) .. The competition seems to be a bit easy out there in Algeria.

By the way, Rushmi will be the #1 ranked Indian payer in a couple of weeks it seems .. Niru's ranking feel below 500 for the first time in some 7 years this week as she hasn't played in over 8 months now, and Manisha's ranking also will be dropping soon to near 500 .. Ironically, LP's ranking fell clse to 1000 this week too .. Niru will get an injury protected ranking right around 200 when to enter a few tournaments when she returns from the injury break.

July 10 Note-2

Shoot - correction .. I forgot that Fazal had qualified into the Tarzana (California) challenger main draw last September (heck, I watched the match and reported in here too, but I still forgot -- it was the day before Sep 11th and I guess that is why I forgot :-)) .. So Rohan is not the first to break our string of 6 qualifying finals losses abroad since 97 march .. Here is the record - Fazal lost in final qualies at Bronx (NY) in '99 and '01 and in Poznan (CZE) in '00 .. Harsh lost in the Tijuana (Mexico) final qualies in '98 and Granby in '01 .. Srinath lost in the Sopot (CZE) Q3 in '00 .. Fazal broke that streak last September at Tarzana .. I guess Indians have gone 2-1 in qualifying finals in challengers since last summer (Fazal and Rohan winning once and Mankad losing this weekend) .. Actually Indians had not even won a set in the final qualies for four years till last september .. Two three-set wins and one three-set loss since then .. By the way, Rohan is indeed the first one in at least 5 years to win three matches and make the main draw at a challenger abroad (as Fazal had a Q1 bye in Tarzana) .. That is not insignificant, as our players have often had trouble stringing wins together and it shows that Rohan has some of what it takes to be successful .. I know, these are all obscure stats, but interesting to look at.

July 10 Note-1

First some great news before I talk about something that upsets me .. #494 Rohan Bopanna beat Mark Hilton (GBR,537) 75 46 61 to advance to the main draw of the $50K Bristol challenger! ..  Rohan becomes the first Indian in over 5 years to qualify into a foreign chellenger if I am not mistaken (MB made it into the Puerto Vallarta challenger in Mexico in March 97) .. Actually we almost had two guys do it this week, Harsh coming a couple of points away from upsetting #497 Phillips to make it into the $75K Canada challenger too .. Rainey and Hilton whom Rohan beat in three sets each in the final two rounds of qualies at Bristol are quality players who are good on grass too - and it shows how far Rohan has come .. He faces the 3rd seed Gregory Carraz in the first round .. I think the rain in UK is probably delaying thing a bit at Bristol too - not sure when exactly he is playing the first round there .. If he can upset Carraz, he would run into Mark Nielsen of New Zealand in the R2, but Carraz will be tough ..

Good news also from the $10K USA F19 futures at Peoria, Illinois - Sunil Kumar who moved up over 200 spots to #745 this week beat Jean-Michel Pequery (FRA,874) 46 62 63 to reach the second round where he faces the 6th seed Raven Klaasen (RSA,610) .. Sunil is beginning to show some consistency at the futures level .. In doubles Michael Calkins (USA) and Raven Klaasen (RSA) beat Torus Jetli and Sunil Kumar 63 62 ..

Now, here is a news item from today, about Lleyton Hewitt, who wants to play Aussie rules football on day-3 of the Davis Cup tie .. News item from BBC online - "Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt could swap tennis for Aussie Rules football during Australia's forthcoming Davis Cup tie against India ... Hewitt will not take part in his reverse singles match if the Australians have secured the best-of-five tie going into the final day ... Davis Cup coach Wally Masur gave his blessing to Hewitt - a passionate Australian Rules fan - to play for the Adelaide Crows in a charity match ... John Fitzgerald, Australia's non-playing Davis Cup captain, has already consented to Hewitt missing the reverse singles if the tie is settled ... "I'm just happy he's available. If it's a live tie he'll play. That's what we want him for," said Masur on Wednesday ... To me, this is incredibly classless of the Aussies to be talking like this .. If he wants to go play a charity match, fine, go - but to talk about this now, is nothing but utterly disrespectful of their opponents .. Now, I am sure some of you will as usual jump in and start defending the other side which Indians are so good at ("but he is number 1, and he has the right to do it .. we are anyway going to get creamed .. come on Jay, wake up and smell the coffee", blah, blah) ... Keep it to yourself; I don't want to hear it .. And you Indian cricket fans who have all become numb from classless talk by Australians would probably find this fine too, but again count me out .. The "mighty" Australians should take a look at when was the last time India with LP and MB wasn't still in a Davis Cup tie going to the 3rd day of a Davis Cup tie (it has been over six years since that happened, while the "mighty" Aussies were out by the second day in the last DC they played, with even Woodbridge-Arthurs unable to win a match) .. I am not blaming Hewitt per se, by the way - he may have just agreed to play a charity if it is possible .. That the Aussie guys do not even seem to have said anything to give the traditional respect  always given to the Davis Cup opponent (like "we are not taking India lightly, and I don't expect he will be able to go on the 3rd day anyway") does not sit well with me .. And I hope LP and MB have noticed this ..

It rained all day yesterday at the Flexistowe challenger for women in UK, and all 16 first round matches are scheduled for today .. So Manisha would be in action if rain stays away.

July 9 Notes

Good news from the Bristol grasscourt challenger qualies in the UK .. 8th seed Rohan Bopanna had reached the final round of qualies yesterday with two wins .. He beat Philip Horyna (SUI) 46 60 75 in the Q1 and then beat our friend Nick Rainey (USA), 61 46 62 .. He now faces a tough one in Mark Hilton (GBR) who upset the second seed Alun Jones (AUS) 63 57 63  .. Mustafa Ghouse is also there, but he went down to Graydon Oliver (USA) 67(6) 46 .. Rohan and Mustafa are in the doubles qualifying draw, up against the 2nd seeds Igor Gaudi and Mose Navarra of Italy .. Incidentally, Rohan Bopanna was recently sent to Spain for a 4 week program by AITA (at the Sanchez academy) and Rohan reportedly found the training very useful .. It was to be a 6-weeks program but some visa hassles shortened it to four (I hope the Spanish embassy didn't ask the strapping guy to play some tennis to prove that he is not a Kodava terrorist or something, like the US consulate in Chennai did in asking a Kathakali troupe from Kerala to perform at the consulate to prove that they were indeed artists!) .. Anyway, things are looking up for Rohan and I am really excited about seeing how he does now.

Sunil Kumar should be at the $10K USA F19 futures at Peoria (Illinois) this week .. We will know the draw later today.

Manisha Malhotra is at the $25K Flexistowe (grass) challenger in the UK .. She is in the main draw, facing the 6th seed Elena Baltacha (GBR) .. In doubles, she is seeded tops with Leanne Baker (NZL) and they play the Aussie pair, Christina Horiatopoulos and Sarah Stone.

By the way, there was a bit of controversy in our forum, with some mistaking a (almost deliberately) misleading agency news headline from yesterday, that said "Bhupathi says he's playing better without Paes", from AFP .. Some took it wrongly .. One should read the words carefully, as the press can be careless, and is sometimes up to mischief too -- this thing between LP and MB sells the news I guess .. I mean, really, what is the need to bring Leander into it when one should be writing articles on what Mahesh did in winning a grad slam MxD title?? .. I am sure Lee cringes everytime he sees such unprofessional mentioning of his name in the middle of articles on MB ..

Anyway, if you want to know what exactly he said when somebody asked in the postgame interview about splitting or getting back with LP - Here is what MB said, according to Prajwal Hegde's article in the Deccan Herald - “When we split it was because we had hit a rut. Leander (Paes) and I decided to go our own way for a while .. It worked out great for me because I think I have been playing some of my best tennis this summer. But I won’t ever rule out  a chance of us playing together again. Right now, I am comitted to playing with Mirnyi and we are playing well so I would say why rock the boat? .. But in the future maybe we will play together again.” ... Another report also had MB saying, "I have been playing some of my best tennis since splitting with Leander .. It's like Todd Woodbridge", referring to how Todd has been playing so well after Woodforde retired .. That is all he said - and he said nothing about "being worse with LP", which is what the mischievous agency news heading implied! .. I think this matter should be closed, and it is nothing to be blown out of proportion.

It is probably true that MB has really been playing some great tennis lately - and sometimes a change of scenery can do that .. On the other hand, I am not sure I agree with MB that results with Max have been all that good, though they have certainly not been bad and there is no indication that it won't get even better later .. I would like to see how they do on the hardcourt season before I start slamming the partnership :-) :-) .. MB has confirmed that he and Max will play US Open also.

And I would probably like to see LP and MB playing at least one event together before the Asian Games that follows the US Open though .. Not that they need much time together to handle the Asian competition, but it is important enough not to take anything for granted - after all we normally only get 4 or 5 golds at the Asiad, and to let anything happen to the most sure gold we have there would be sad ..

July 8 Notes

Took me a bit longer to get back, and you all definitely know the big news about India's 7th grand slam doubles title in the last 6 years that happened at Wimbledon on Sunday with MB-Elena winning their first one together .. I think I have this unfortunate way of having to be away whenever Mahesh plays his best tennis for titles, like this one - and also at Hamburg masters and I believe the one in St.Poelten a couple of years back too .. The scores from Sunday for the record - [SF] #3 M.Bhupathi/ E.Likhovtseva d. #2 D.Johnson/ K.Po-Messerli, 64 16 63 and [F] #3 M.Bhupathi/ E.Likhovtseva d. #4 K.Ullyett/ D.Hantuchova, 62 16 61 .. Here are a couple of pictures:

Here is the match report from Wimbledon.org -- "The number four seeds and current Australian Open Mixed Champions, Ullyett and Hantuchova (of Zimbabwe and Slovakia respectively) began nervously, conceding their first service game. In contrast, Bhupathi and Likhovtseva found form early on, breaking Ullyett's serve in the first game and eventually taking the set, 6-2 ... The second set was almost an about-turn. Ullyett's serving became more consistent and at 2-1, Hantuchova and Ullyett obtained a break point on Likhovtseva's serve which they duly took. Ullyett continued to serve impressively, extending the lead to 3-1. At 4-1, Bhupathi's serve came under threat and Ullyett and Hantuchova went 5-1 up. Hantuchova then took to the stage to serve for the set. A volley from Ullyett won the game and squared the match ... The final set involved yet another turnaround with Ullyett not looking too comfortable. In fact, the Bhupathi/Likhovtseva partnership proved unstoppable as a 5-0 lead soon evolved. The pressure then turned to Ullyett who had to serve to save the match, a mammoth task considering his hot-cold play throughout. However, despite two amazing cross court returns from Bhupathi at the most acute of angles, Ullyett managed to save two Championship points and hold serve ... The pressure was then redirected to Likhovtseva who just needed to hold serve to put her and Bhupathi's names on the trophy. Likhovtseva kept her nerve and impressive serving gave her and Bhupathi two match points. The first was lost when a second serve was not quite punishing enough but the second did the pair justice when Ullyett attempted a return that did not clear the net and Likhovtseva and Bhupathi claimed the title" ...

This is the 3rd grad slam doubles title with three different partners for MB -- with Rika Hiraki at the French Open (1997), with Ai Sugiyama at the US Open (1999) were the others .. As for the 7 doubles titles by Indians, we have one in 1997 (MB-Hiraki at FO), 4 in 1999 (FO and Wimbledon by LP-MB, Wimbledon by LP-Raymond and USO by MB-Sugiyama), one in 2001 (LP-MB at the FO) as the other six .. MB and Lucic reaching the Wimbledon finals in 1998, LP and Lisa Raymond reaching the USO final last year and the AO and USO finals loss by LP-MB in 199 are the 4 losses in 11 grand slam finals for Indians in the last 7 years .. Those are some nice numbers.

For some bad news, Harsh Mankad went down to the 4th seed Tripp Phillips (USA,512), 64 67(4) 16 at the Granby challanger final round qualies .. So close, and this is his 3rd challenger qualifying finals loss (one in 98 in Mexico, and the other last year at Granby) .. Harsh may be a bit down on confidence (though it does not sound like that when I talked to him recently - he just said he has identified some more things to work on) - but his four losses in the last foru events have been to decent players .. He will be back in action in two weeks, after a bit more regrouping .. Let us see how things go from here on out.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on July 8 ..

I am getting some inquiries 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 inquiring 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 inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.