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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on July 19, 1999

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July 19 Notes

As far as I know Mahesh is not playing anywhere this week, and Leander is on vacation too .. I am yet to see the draws at about three of the 6 challengers this week, but MB may be taking another week off to rest his injuries ..

Finally got the results for Srinath last week in Turkey (thanks, Steve) and it's also not good .. He was the 3rd seed in the $10K futures there but got upset by Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan, 46 64 46 .. Aisam is a talented 20 yr old but I thought Srinath could pull that off .. Srinath, for some reason, has a tough time in most tournaments he plays west of India .. His best results have come in tournaments in the East or in India .. Let's hope he does better this week .. Vijay Kannan and Lior Dahan (ISR) lost in the first round of main draw doubles also at Turkey ..  So far Turkey has turned out to be causing our players to all lay big turkey eggs - two weeks and basically nothing to show for the four players who have gone there.

Will find out tomorrow about the draw for Fazal at the St.Louis futures, and also if Manisha is playing anywhere .. The latest I heard on Nirupama was that she will be playing at the Salt Lake city (Utah) challenger next week .. Looks like this will be a rather slow week again - it should heat up next week with everybody back on court.

Leander will be in Los Angeles by Thursday of this week, and will be getting ready for singles and doubles at the Mercedes-Benz Cup next week.

The new rankings show Nirupama at #202 in singles and #221 in doubles (she lost the points from the Puchheim challenger in Germany last year and dropped 11 and 14 spots respectively) .. She will be losing 8 more points in singles and 10 more in doubles next week as she is not defending the points from the Gexto challenger in Spain last year, and will drop another 10-15 spots each .. I believe she has nothing much to defend after that except for the 14 doubles points for the Lexington challenger semis last year dropping off in mid-August .. After a good month of break in India She will be in the US circuit for a few weeks, though her slightly lower ranking may cause entry problems at some places .. We will see .. All the other Indian women stay at around where they are in the rankings .. The ATP rankings are not out for this week, but they sometimes do not update the rankings after the Davis Cup week anyway.

July 18 Note-2

Mahesh has not gone to Stuttgart .. The singles and doubles draws have come out and neither Mahesh nor his expected partner Kafelnikov is there .. MB had said that if his abdomen injury does not get fully healed he would not risk playing at Stuttgart anyway .. I will try to confirm if he is taking this coming week off.

Fazal is in the US - I believe he was planning to be at the St.Louis (Missouri) futures starting tomorrow .. Still no news from Turkey on this week's futures .. Srinath, Vijay Kannan, etc should be staying in Turkey for the next futures starting tomorrow.

July 18 Note-1

There hasn't been much news in the last couple of days .. I am awating news from Turkey on how Srinath has been doing in the futures, but no luck yet - Turkey has generaly been a tough place to get news from (there was some coverage in Turkish newspapers last year during the Istanbul challenger, but nothing on the futures so far - we may have to wait till ITF gets the results from there).

The doubles draws at the $915K Stuttgart Outdoors tournament next week has not come out yet - waiting to see if Mahesh has gone there.

There was a PTI report a couple of days back that there will be another Indian Oil tennis tournament at Chennai: "Chennai, July 15 (PTI): Vinod Sridhar, ranked number six in the country will  seek to defend his title in the Indian Oil-Prime Tennis Championship commencing here tomorrow ... A record number of 534 entries had been received and events in men (90 entries), boys under 16, 14 and 12, women (144) and girls under-14 would be conducted" - I have only seen The Tribune (Chandigarh) carry this report .. I don't know much about the tournament .. The last IOC tournament (won by Vinod Sridhar) was in March of this year and I don't remember a tournament in July last year .. I am a bit puzzled.

July 16 Notes

A small correction from yesterday's notes - it was SK Shivshankar who was at the Turkey futures qualifiers this week - not PK Sreenivasan as I said in the last note .. More later.

July 15 Notes

There is a Srinath sighting this week ! .. Srinath Prahlad  is at the $10K futures in Turkey where he is the 4th seed .. He is drawn to face Aisam Quereshi (PAK, 511) in the first round ..  Vijay Kannan and Lior Dahan (ISR) are in the doubles main draw, playing Simon Leblanc and Ari Strasberg .. No main draw results available yet (Thanks go to Steve Gocha who passed on the info from ITF).

Otherwise, the news from Turkey and Mahwah aren't good - Vijay Kannan (#801), Mustafa Ghouse (#938) and PK Sreenivasan (1161) were all seeded in the qualifiers over the last weekend (5th, 12th and 15th respectively) but all three lost in the qualifiers .. Mustafa was upset in the first round of qualies by Anthony Maublanc (FRA, 1131) .. Vijay beat unranked Leo MacCabe 60 61 in the first round but then got upset by Ferran Ventura (ESP, 1310) 64 63 in the second round .. PK did somewhat better, beating unranked Marco Ezechieli 46 75 62, and then Jason Marshall (USA,1245), 67(3) 75 63, before falling to Raviv Wiedenfield (ISR,922) 36 26 .. To add to the qualy losses, Mustafa Ghouse and Nick McDonald who were top seeded, got upset in the final qualy round by second seeded Mounir El-Aaarej and Kamil Patel (Mauritius) .. So that was that for all the qualifying round.

After a few weeks' break, Manisha Malhotra (#387) was at the $50K Mahwah challenger  in New Jersey (it's a tournament that gets some pretty good participation, since it is done in conjunction with the A&P Mahwah exhibition tournament with invited players like Graf, Kournikova, etc - the finals of the challenger is effectively the QF of the exhibition, with the winner getting the one uninvited spot in the semis of the exhibition - that means good money) .. Anyway, Manisha  was upset in the first round of the qualies by  Joanne Moore (UK,586), 76 16 63 (source: Bergen-Hackensack Record, NJ) .. She was not trying any doubles there, and so we will wait for this weekend to see where she appears next - possibly at the Atlanta challenger.

Rather depressing news all-around so far this week .. May be Srinath can take out the Pakistani kid and go firther to cheer us up! .. Sri has a realistic chance of getting into the US Open qualifiers if he picks up some 25-30  points in the next 3 weeks when I expect him to be at some US challengers .. A title at this Turkey futures is worth 16 pts.

July 14 Notes

No tennis results yet, this week, to report .. Awaiting news from Turkey, where Vijay Kannan, Mustafa Ghouse, etc are playing the futures .. Sai Jayalakshmy and Rushmi Chakravarti, who were playing in the Netherlands futures series for the last 3-4 weeks, may be in Europe this week too - the $10K futures at Brussels (Belgium) is possibly where they are at, if so .. Manisha was supposed to be at the Mahwah challenger in New Jersey this week, but I have not got any results from there either, yet .. Srinath has been MIA for a while now - he was last reported to be going to Germany for some club tennis - he may also be on his way to US for the summer season here, along with Fazal .. I received info from a good press friend that Nirupama may be playing only two weeks from now, at the Salt Lake City challenger, next ..

Some news on our top prospect - India #5, Harsh Mankad, is all set to come to the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, on a full tennis scholarship (it's tough to get those full scholarships as a freshman, since NCAA allows only a few of those and many college rosters have several players getting only partial support till their later years) .. Harsh informed the university recently with his intention to join them .. He is 19 yrs old and is going to college a year later than normal .. Harsh had let his studies slip a bit earlier, before getting his act together this year .. He surprised everybody (including himself!) by going back and finishing the board exams and doing very well - he actually topped his class on a couple of papers, prompting his principal to call up his mother, Nirupama Mankad! .. Since his SAT scores were excellent, I am sure UMinn didn't think much before coming up with a full offer .. At an ATP ranking of #596, he will be among the top handful of players joining US colleges this year - normally players that highly ranked would get enough sponsorship in most countries to get excellent coaching and to jump into the pros .. In Harsh's case, he stagnated for a couple of years (why does that happen to our prospects ? - reasons like lack of coaching, sponsorship, and more importantly nurturing from those who matter, etc - but that's a big topic for another occasion) .. Thankfully, he took matters into his own hands, worked hard for a while earlier this year, and gave us all a pleasant surprise by finishing 4th in the satellite circuits two months back - a win over somebody of Fazal's quality in the first week perhaps helping his confidence a lot, in addition to help from Marcus Hilpert in his development .. Harsh still has some work to do .. Improving his physical fitness and toughness will be the most important, he himself admits .. Harsh told me recently that he plans to be in touch with Indian tennis as much as he can, and return for as many Indian tournaments as his time and budget would allow .. In fact, not to grow roots in the US and allow complacency to set in, and to be in India and at other pro tournaments as often as possible, was the advice Harsh received from Bhupathi Sr recently (there is somebody who can authoritatively talk about that - Mahesh's trip to US is a textbook case of success) .. If LP and MB are not available for fixtures like the Asia Cup later this year, I hope Harsh will get a look, based on he being the highest ranked player after Srinath and Fazal.

At the advice of his college coach, Harsh decided this week to come to the US two weeks earlier and play two futures tournaments .. He has now entered for the $15K futures at Decatur, Illinois (starting Aug 2) and Kansas City, Missouri (Aug 9) .. Those are 64-draw futures with 3 rounds of qualies where another 64 players play dogfight tennis to make the draw .. These US futures are the most competitive ones around with all the aspiring players trying their luck - one can win 3 rounds of qualies and a round in the main draw and still not get a point, as you need to reach final-16 to pick up a lone ATP point! .. Harsh is expected to make the main draw for both events based on his ranking .. If any of you fans are near those two places and would like to go and check out how he does, let me know .. Let us give the boy as much of support as we can!

June 13 Notes

It was reported in the newspapers yesterday that AITA will "recommend" Leander and Mahesh to the government for "Padma awards" .. Sounds like a bit of a cop-out to me .. Recommending them is easy, isn't it - and nobody can dispute that they deserve the highest honors any sportsmen can get in India ! .. But to be fair to AITA, they probably don't know what exactly to do, as the guys have reached some unprecedented stratosphere with their performance .. The normal response is to come up with some money, but I don't think they really need money from anyone, and it's not easy to come up with money that would be appropriate .. It would be funny to add on 5 or 10 lakhs to guys who have together earned close to 3 crores in just over a month ! .. So I sympathize with AITA and others, so to say : -) .. How about taking out a one-page ad in a national newspaper thanking them for what they have done in raising the pride and spirirt of Indian sports fans ? .. Or a Doordarshan TV ad like that ? .. Better still, pay some money to some big wig at Doordarshan so that they would start showing their matches and giving some coverage to tennis for a change ( -kidding - I shouldn't be advocating illegal schemes here .. :-)) .. Or spend some money to hold a few more women's tennis tournament (call them the "Dynamic Duo Women's Future series") .. Or, start a focussed scheme for junior-player development with direct input and support from LP-MB (under their control) and sponsor a team of 4-5 players - call it the "Paes-Bhupathi-AITA-Grand-Slam-Bam-Bambinos" scheme ? ..

By the way, I got the latest calendar (till Dec 99) from AITA yesterday (thanks go to PF Montes at the AITA office) and I have put that up - see the AITA 1999 calendar table page (or click here for a text version) .. As always you can find the links from our Indian tournaments main page .. It looks like there will be two women's futures (Thank you, Lord!) in November, before the Delhi women's challenger .. The 4-week $20K development circuit which was in the ITF calendar earlier has gone away - instead we have two $10K women's futures .. Will comment more on the schedule later ..

Saw the Manchester challenger draws and Fazal is not there .. He is actually scheduled to be in the US starting next week, playing a couple of futures in Missouri, etc .. May be taking this week off for travel to US .. More later, on anybody who may be playing this week .. generall this is a slow week.

If you haven't heard it yet, Todd Woodbridge took himself out from the Australian Davis Cup team that comes to the US this week .. He cited a "general loss of confidence" as the reason .. He has been fighting an arm injury, but more significantly, he seems to have let some of the uncharacteristic losses the legendary Woodies have had this year affect him mentally .. That is rather sad news - the Woodies have been champions and winners for so long - I certainly don't want to see them just go out in this manner .. No talk of the team retiring or anything though .. They are on record to be looking forward to the Sydney Olympics and had promised not to retire before that .. The champions will be back, I am sure, once Todd gets over his current injury and other problems .. For the time being, Sandon Stolle will replace him and play with Woodforde in doubles at the davis Cup in Boston .. Since Philippoussis is injured, young Lleyton Hewitt is in the team for singles, with Rafter .. Man, what luxury to have those kinds of talented players to replace Todd and Scud ! .. Pete Sampras has made himself available for doubles for the US (that's what he said, as he didn't want to take the spotlight away from Martin and Courier for all they have done for US so far .. everybody expects the captain to ask either Martin or Courier - probably Martin - to step aside and let Pete play singles!) .. I would love to see Stolle-Woodforde against Sampras-O'Brien !

Apr 12 Note-2

The new rankings show Leander at #129, his lowest ranking in over a year - He was down at #161 in April 98, and it took him just four months to move up to #73 .. Time for Leander to go do something like that again .. Throughout his career he has been taking these 3-steps-down-4-steps-up moves.. and I don't think he is done yet ! .. Mahesh is at #261, followed by Srinath at #330, Fazal at #419 and Harsh at #596 .. Interestingly, Leander still keeps his #1 Asian ranking, as Takao Suzuki (JPN), who has been having a terrible time in the last few months, has dropped about 25 spots this week to #145 as he was not able to defend his challenger title at Denver last year! .. In doubles rankings, Nitin and Sandeep Kritanes are 3rd and 4th at #310 and #318, followed by #5 Fazal at 358 (up about 40 spots with the challenger semi last week) and #6 Harsh at 559 ..

On the women's side Nirupama is at #191 in singles and #207 in doubles - she will lose some points next week though .. 14 in singles and 10 in doubles, for the Pucheim challenger in Germany from last year that she is not defending .. She will drop 15 spots or so in singles and a few in doubles .. She starts her US swing next week at Atlanta, as far as I know - I hope she has got recharged after the vacation in India and gets going again .. Manisha Malhotra has been off the tour for a few weeks, since playing 4-5 weeks on the trot .. Rushmi and Sai are in Europe and getting some good match practice - they have picked a up a few wins and a couple of points each in the last 2-3 weeks .. Rushmi actually had 2.75 points last week and moved up about 50 spots .. No big moves for Sai yet.

Finally got the Turkey futures results from last week (Thanks, Steve!) - and it's not good news .. Vijay Kannan lost 4-6, 5-7 to Timo Nigri in the first round .. Kannan and Lior Dahan (ISR) lost in the first round of doubles too, 5-7, 6-4, 3-6 .. Mustafa Ghouse, who had lost in the singles qualifiers, did slightly better in doubles - Ghouse and Nigri beat wildcards Alican Seren and Caner Ersoy, 6-3, 6-3, before going down to the Paki-Uzbeki combo, Aisam Quereshi and Dmitryi Tomashevich, 6-3, 5-7, 1-6 .. I think Mustafa gets 4 pts for this .. As for Kannan, we have wait still more to see him playing winning tennis like he used to.

July 12 Note-1

Here are some interesting stats on performances in finals - LP-MB have won 15 of the 19 finals they have played (not including challengers) - the only losses were to Leach/Stark in the 97 Hartford finals, to Woodies at the 98 Singapore final (week after beating them in the Shanghai final), to Lareau/O'Brien in the 98 Stuttgart Super 9 final (after having beaten them in the Montral Super 9 and the PilotPen finals in 97) and to Bjorkman/Rafter in this year's AO final .. Including the 98 Newport singles final, the Mx-D final at big-W and yesterday's Newport doubles final, Leander now has an incredible 18-4 record in finals .. MB has had the LA infiniti final loss in Leach's company (97) and the Wimb Mx-D final loss last year .. With the 97 FO Mx-D final, his record is a stellar 16-6 .. If you also want to add the three challenger finals LP won (98 Bangkok, and Calcutta and Delhi in 99), then starting from January 97, Leander has a 21-4 record in the finals he has played .. That is truly remarkable .. MB has lost three challenger singles finals since 97 - though two were to Leander - (Kyoto 97, and Calcutta and Delhi this year) .. MB has won a challenger doubles final with Tramacchi (Vietnam 98) and lost one with Natekar (99 Mumbai) .. His total record since 1997 stands at 17-10 .. Those are all some great numbers that show how our pair is ready for the big occasions .. One of the fans in the club asked me to report on the tiebreaker stats for LP-MB, which is also just about mind-boggling .. I have been reluctant to talk about that stat, ever since doing that during the 97 US Open semi and finding our guys lose in straight tiebreakers to Kafelnikov/ Vacek !! .. Old timer fan club member and our far-east correspondent, Kim Das, was in the chatroom during that match, and we decided that we jinxed them badly by bragging about the tiebreak record .. I am half-kidding .. I am not that superstitious - one of these days I will find time to verify that stat and report it!

Fazal and Sela lost in the semifinals at the $50K Bristol challenger late last week, to Bourgeois and Petrovic, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-3 .. If the semi was on Friday (not sure), he may have managed to get to the Manchester challenger qualifiers .. He has not made the main draw, and I have not seen the qualifier results from the weekend yet.

Though LP's rank will fall about 25 or more spots this week, and he has another 110 points to defend in 5 weeks for his big show at New Haven last year, he seems to be alright as far as singles entries are concerned, except for US Open (for which he will now have to play qualifying rounds) .. At the two tournaments after USO where he didn't want to miss singles entry (Shanghai and Singapore), he seems to be in line for wildcard entries anyway .. He has made the entry for LA starting in 2 weeks time, and Indianapolis starting in 5 weeks time .. Mahesh will join him for doubles at the Montreal and Cincinnati Super 9s in between those two tournaments, but LP will need to qualify for singles (not possible if he continues to do well in doubles and keeps playing on the weekends!) .. Same with the two Super 9s (Stuttgart and Paris) after Singapore -where only top-50 players make direct entry anyway .. He is has very few points to defend after August though and is planning to play 3 challengers in December .. Interestingly, another grass challenger (Mauritius) is back in the calendar again - LP is the defending champ there, from Dec 96, the last time they held that challenger ! .. See the schedule page that I just updated .. I am a bit unsure of Mahesh's schedule other than at the big tournaments where he will play with LP .. Both LP and MB are off this week, but MB may be in action next week at Stuttgart if the injuries get well by then (he is in Muscat with trainer Will Upton, according to newspaper reports) ..

LP plans to get to LA early enough, by Thursday next week and practice for the event starting on Monday the 26th - it would be nice to do well in singles there, though the field is very tough at this tournament which should be called the "appearance money vault" of the tour .. A $400K tournament that has attracted Sampras, Agassi, Rios and Henman ! .. Much more money than the prize money is spent in getting the top players, I am sure .. As they say down here, "only in LA" .. Here money rules and tennis is rather a sideshow for all the Hollywood bigwigs .. :-) .. It is a fun tournament though, and it being the closest to where I live, I certainly enjoy the show they put on - things like the Hollywood evening they had 2 years back, when Ashok Amritraj was an extremely funny chair umpire for an exhibition match that had comedian John Lovitz playing with Jim Courier and the "Nanny" TV show star Fran Drescher (sp?) was the match referee or something ..

June 11 Note-2

Hey, Leander wasn't going to leave his favorite place, Newport, without a title ! .. LP just won his 5th doubles title in just over 5 weeks! .. Paes-Arthurs d. S.Sargsian - C.Woodruff, 6-7(6), 7-6(7), 6-3 .. Once again Leander had to play a some tough tennis to pull off the win - and it must have helped to have a hot server like Arthurs with him too .. This makes it his 5th title with 4 different partners in over a month . Men's doubles title #17 for LP .. Not much points by his standards though - it gives him 144 pointss with 4 bonus .. He had 62 pts to defend here, so his point total will only go up fom 4913 to 4995 .. The winners share $22,300 for this title - so LP gets $19,650 from Newport including $8500 for the singles QF .. I guess that's enough for a couple of weeks of groceries :-) .. Good show, Leander !

I still haven't seen the result for Fazal/Sela in the doubles semis at the Bristol challenger .. Also, no luck yet in finding how Vijay Kannan did in Turkey this week.

July 11 Note-1

Paes and Arthurs recovered today from the problems in the second set and won the doubles semifinal at Newport, postponed from yesterday - 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 .. The doubles final will be against Sargsian/Woodruff, and should start at about 5.30 or 6 pm .. Leander will be going for his 5th title in 6 weeks ..

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending July 12 ..