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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on July 20, 1998
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July 20 Note-1
The doubles draw is out at the $915K Mercedes Cup at Stuttgart .. Bhupathi/Kafelnikov are the #1 seeds there and have a first round bye. Here is the draw:
1-M.Bhupathi(IND)/ Y.Kafelnikov(RUS) BYE \ WC-M.Gustafsson(SWE)/ M.Larsson(SWE) vs L.Arnold(ARG)/ L.Lobo(ARG) / \ WC-T.Haas(GER)/ M.Safin(RUS) vs A.Olhovskiy(RUS)/ P.Vizner(CZE)\ / \ 8-T.Kempers(NED)/ A.Kitinov(MKD) BYE / \ 4-D.Orsanic(ARG)/ C.Suk(CZE) BYE \ / G.Kuerten(BRA)/ F.Meligeni(BRA) vs Q- J.Balcels(ESP)/ D.Bowen(USA)/ \ / O.Delaitre(FRA)/ F.Santoro(FRA) vs M.Hood(ARG)/ S.Prieto(ARG) \ / 6-D.Adams(RSA)/ F.Wibier(NED) BYE / 5-N.Broad(GBR)/ P.Norval(RSA) BYE \ B.Coupe(USA)/ P.Rosner(RSA) vs L.Pimek(CZE)/ T.Zdrazila(CZE) / \ A.Berasategui(ESP)/ A.Martin(ESP) vs J.Alonso(ESP)/ G.Koves(HUN) \ / \ 3-J.Eagle(AUS)/ J.Grabb(USA) BYE / \ 7-A.Kratzmann(AUS)/ M.Oosting(NED) BYE \ / WC-K.Braasch(GER)/ B.Karbacher(GER) vs P.Albano(ARG)/ N.Lapentti(ECU) / \ / WC-B.Becker(GER)/ D.Prinosil(GER) vs C.Haggard(RSA)/ J.Waite(USA) \ / 2-D.Johnson(USA)/ F.Montana(USA) BYE /
Not a very tough field, especially in the upper half where Bhu-Kaf are .. Kuerten/Meligeni and Delaitre/Santoro are the other good teams in the upper half .. Arnold/Lobo is an intriguing combination, as the two Argentinians normally play with Orsanic and Sanchez.. Orsanic, interestingly is playing with Cyril Suk .. Tommy Haas and Marat Safin is another curious combination .. The "young and the restless" .. More later.
July 19 Note-2
More news on Mahesh Bhupathi .. Just heard from a close source that he should be playing doubles at Stuttgart with Yevgeny Kafelnikov !! .. That is a very interesting combination .. He had decided to skip the Tampere challenger last week itself, as he thought he would need this coming week also for healing the leg injury. This week he felt alright and was hitting a bit at Bhupathi Sr's tennis academy in Bangalore .. Also, another important change .. The racket .. The big W is out .. Wilson is gone and Spalding is in, as I am told .. He wanted to see how that would turn out in some serious match play and practice with some big guns, and hence the trip to Stuttgart. The current plan is to go to Istanbul next week for singles and then to fly out to Toronto. Sounds good. Actually, it is always useful to play with good doubles players like Kafelnikov, as one does pick up more nuances of doubles-play with every good partner (and LP-MB lost to Kaf/Vacek last year at US Open .. may be LP can do a bit of spying .. sort of like infiltrating the enemy camp .. :-)) .. Best of luck to MB out there ..
Meanwhile, a press-conatct sent me this article from the Guardian, UK, from a few days back, talking about the surface for the India-Britain Davis Cup, titled "Lloyd brushes up on paint technology": Some people paint the town red but David Lloyd, Britain's Davis Cup captain, is planning to paint Nottingham's courts green. Britain are due to play India in a World Group qualifying tie at Nottingham in September and Lloyd is prepared for all eventualities. The Nottingham tie will be staged on a cement court outdoors, like those at the US Open, but if it rains the matches may be moved indoors. So Lloyd, who has been studying the form of India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi at Wimbledon, said: "I'm having extra coats of paint put down on all the indoor courts to make them the same speed as the outdoor ones. "Modern technology is wonderful. Did you know that you can now paint cement courts to make them exactly the same speed, indoor or out. I've got to keep Greg and Tim happy." ..
Yes, it is going to be nicely painted hardcourts. No grass. Somebody should call AITA and inform, if it did come from AITA that it will be on grass (see July 18 Note-1 below) .. Actually, who is on grass is the right question .. :-) .. reminds me of the old joke from Jay Leno: "Jennifer Capriati always plays well when she is on grass" .. Apologies to Capriati, who has mellowed down and is doing well on the comeback trail, though it's a slow comeback so far ..
Coming back to the Davis Cup, if the official position from AITA is that there will be no training sessions organized and that the players will be on their own to get practice wherever they are (the erroneous logic being that the rain in India would prevent practice on grass, the surface Britain has selected), I wonder if anyone has checked up where Fazal and Prahlad will be playing before Davis Cup .. Or it may be that nobody cares, as usual, and we are banking on just LP and MB as the prime guns .. It is only when last-minute calamity strikes as last time, that we all wake up. It is not comforting to know that India is an injury away (to either LP or MB) from being totally lost with no backup plan .. Remember that Vijay Kannan who was the 5th player selected as stand-by, was allowed to leave for a Thailand junior tournament even a couple of days after Leander informed that he couldn't lift his arm to serve and was bowing out of the India-Italy tie ? .. well, it caused Mahesh to fume during the Davis Cup week that they did not even have 4 players to practice a decent match of doubles .. I still believe that a bit more practice could have helped MB and Fazal to pull off a miracle-upset in doubles and put tremendous pressure on the Italians on the final day (and who knows what MB could have done in reverse singles if it mattered ?) .. Hey, we need to be prepared to fight till the end regardless of the rankings of the players .. Good early planning is important for that, and so far it is not sounding good, if we are unsure of even the surface, at this late stage (well, the players aren't, and I am sure captain Mukherjea isn't either, but the ones who need to organize things perhaps are).. Anyway, the good thing is that one can find a good hardcourt anywhere to practice on, though the speeds vary quite a bit.
July 19 Note-1
I am told that Mahesh may be on his way to Stuttgart and will be in the doubles draw there, at the the Mercedes Cup starting Monday. It's a big tournament with 280 points for the doubles winner .. I had heard earlier that he was going to skip the Tampere (Finland) challenger this week, that he had thought of playing at. That is a clay challenger (as is the Newcastle challenger in UK this week), and perhaps he felt it better to start playing on hardcourt, now that the hardcourt season is restarting again.
Some good news on 17-yr old Uzma Khan, perhaps the unofficial Indian #2 (as in our Fed Cup team) and junior #1 .. Sunday's Deccan Chronicle (Hyderabad) reports: Uzma Khan of India on Saturday stormed into the doubles final at the Swiss juniors tennis tournament for Group 2 with Angola’s Helga. They staged a superb rally to beat Muller and Schrnss of Germany 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 at Davos (Switzerland) to set up the title show with Denmark’s Dyradde and Sayrselg to be held on Sunday, according to information received here ... Uzma Khan, a student of Villa Mary College (Hyderabad), and Helga were taking part as an ITF team and were off to a lethargic start. Plus they lacked understanding as they lost the set 2-6 ... However they brought off their best in the second set. Facing defeat at 0-5, they struck a purple patch and roared back into the game evening the score at 6-6. Even in the tie-break they refused to bow out and saved eight match points before winning the second set at 10-8. Spurred by the success, they played the third set spiritedly and clinched the issue at 6-4 .. Wow, spunky fight there in the second set ! .. Good to hear about what Uzma has been upto. We haven't seen any reports for some time on the #1 junior players, Vijay Kannan and Uzma Khan, who are both in Europe with ITF developmental squads.
July 18 Note-3
Just talked to Leander in Florida again .. LP had a good laugh about the deal .. No problems, he will be playing Davis Cup. He was away for a couple of days on a short fishing trip (which he cut short as he felt like practising again, he says .. :-)) .. Perhaps people couldn't get hold of him. Anyway, that's that. No need to sweat to get his confirmation for Davis Cup .. And, yes, he said the Nottingham tie is on hardcourts, as was reported a few weeks back, and no change to grass.
July 18 Note-2
More stuff on India-Britain Davis CUp from Sunday's Times of India, titled, "Paes yet to confirm for Davis Cup" : The All India Tennis Association (AITA) are awaiting India number one Leander Paes's confirmation to play in the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie against Great Britain in September ... AITA secretary general, Ramesh Desai, said here on Saturday that the Davis Cup team, for the all-important tie -in England from September 25 to 27 - would be selected in New Delhi in the first week of September ... India will have to win the tie to remain in the elite group and the availability of Paes, who missed the last tie against Italy in Genoa in April, which India lost, citing a shoulder injury, will hold the key to the clash ... ``Once Paes makes himself available to do duty for the country, he would certainly be the number one player in the team especially after his maiden triumph in the Hall of Fame ATP tournament at New Port recently,'' Desai said.
Ah, come on .. What's with all this sensationalism stuff ? .. Did Paes ever say he won't be available for the upcoming Davis Cup ?.. He had said all along that he will play the next time. Give him a break. The guy just missed one Davis Cup when he couldn't lift his arm, and let's not act like we have to await his confirmation everytime. If he is healthy he will play. Period. We are talking about Leander Paes here - the man lives for playing for his country ! .. For the record, I talked to Leander just 4 days back and he said he has reserved the three weeks, one before Davis Cup, one for the Davis Cup and the week after already. "I will need that one week before to prepare and one week after Davis Cup to come back to normal", were his exact words when asked if he is planning to play any tournaments those weeks. Why can't someone pick up the phone and ask him, rather than kicking up unnecessary controversy ? ..
OK, I will call him again, but seriously, we need to show a bit more understanding based on what he has done in the past for India, and show some sensitivity towards how he would feel hearing about people doubting his availability for Davis Cup .. It could be that Mr. Desai was making a pretty routine statement that is being taken to mean more than it does, though.
July 18 Note-1
Some news on Saturday about the team for the Davis Cup between India and Britain coming up in September .. The Times of India has this UNI report : India will ``most probably'' retain the same Davis Cup squad, which lost the Group A round to Italy early this year, in their encounter with Britain in the relegation match in London from September 25 to 27 ... All India Tennis Association general secretary Ramesh Desai said here on Friday that he did not expect any change in the team composition of Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Syed Fazuluddin and Prahlad Srinath. However, the selectors have the option of making any change if they desire, he added ... Desai also ruled out any conditioning camp or trials for the Indian team before the crucial round which India must win to keep their superb record of staying in the elite group ... At home the monsoon lingers till end of September and Indians have to practice on grass since that will be the turf Britain will meet India on. AITA will leave it to the players to play abroad and get tuned for the match, Desai said ... No surprise there about the team, except for the "most probably" part ! .. There is no other team that makes sense now .. I am totally surprised by that last bit about practising on grass .. I thought Britain had picked hardcourts in Nottingham as their surface - a big departure for Britain from their customary surface, but one that shows their respect for our guys' abilities on grass .. Has something changed now ? .. May be AITA is a bit lost there ? .. Or is it a reporting mistake from UNI ? .. Interesting.
July 17 Notes
Not much news this week since everybody is done with the week .. LP and MB resting and Nirupama on her way to the US to get ready for the US hardcourt season ...
Heard today that Fazal again won the first round at this week's Greece Futures, but lost in the second round - once again he ran up against a high seed in the second round as in the Futures last week (Thanks go to Fazal's head coach at Temple University, Andrew Sorrentino, for passing on the information) .. So, points-wise, the trip to Greece didn't help Fazal much .. He will be off to UK now for some grasscourt play .. That is his favorite surface (hey, he is from Calcutta, you know! ) .. He has been steadily improving his ranking bit by bit, picking up some points at most tournaments he played at, till the Greece trip .. As far as I know, both the Greek futures were $15K events with 64-draws where you get a points only after 2 rounds each. More coming later, on Fazal and how something has to be done to help our top players .. Heck, the #4 player from 1/5th of humanity doesn't even have a shoe contract and has to buy his own rackets ! .. It's pretty disgusting situation.
OK, some good news, from Times of India, yesterday : Promising junior Manoj Mahadevan of India has secured a pre-quarterfinal berth in the boys singles at the tennis competition of the 1998 World Youth Games in Moscow. Manoj Mahadevan beat Trinidad's Mayers 6-2 6-1 in the second round after beating Mozambique's Alberto 6-2 6-1 in the first round, according to information received here ... The Indian team however had mixed fortune as Kedar Tembe lost to Alexandre (Uzbekistan) 5-7, 1-6. In the girls singles, Shruti Dhawan beat T Greaves of Barbados 6-4 6-4 and then combined with Sheetal Gautham to rout Namibians, Beyeveld and Dutott 6-0 6-2. But Sheetal lost to Luizia (Uzbekistan) 4-6 6-2 1-6. .. I am not sure this is an ITF event where you get junior ranking points (I don't see it in the ITF calendar), but the World Youth Games is always a prestigious occasion for talented youngsters ..
Talking of talented youngsters, Nick Rainey, one of the top 18-and-under players in the USA (who has been a longtime member of the LP-MB-fanclub) just told me that Harsh Mankad, the Indian Junior #1 last year, is in California for a short while now, at the Ojai Tennis Academy .. Since Harsh is about 19 now, he has moved up from the Junior rankings, which means he is going through the tough periods in tennis when you move up from the upper parts of the junior heap to the very bottom of the pro-tour, from where you have to slowly climb up .. That is why we saw guys like Nicolas Massu (top junior in the world last year) toiling in the swealtering Texas heat of Waco and College Station last month, playing the futures to move up .. Anyway, we hadn't heard much about Harsh for the last few months. Will find out more on how he is doing, soon.
July 16 Note-2
Nirupama Vaidyanathan reached another quarterfinal ! .. but the bad news is that she got upset today in the QF, at the Getxo Challenger in Spain .. Niru beat Katalin Marosi (HUN, #291) in round 2 in yet another comeback yesterday, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 (I guess he continued to have trouble with the slowness of the courts at there, as she complained after the first match where also she lost the first set and had to come back) .. She lost today in the quarterfinal to upset artist, qualifier Nuria Montero of Spain, ranked 339 .. Montero had already upset the 5th seed M.Kucerova, I assume (can confirm that only after I get the draws faxed to me) .. The score today, 2-6, 5-7 .. Looks like Niru tried another comeback in the second set but couldn't do it. Still, it is another good week, with 8 more points she earned .. The semifinal and quarterfinal in these two weeks should bring her just inside the top-160 in a couple of weeks, possibly her highest ranking this year - which is very good, as she had a few points to defend at this time from last year.
July 16 Note-1
There hasn't been much news lately .. Have not got any update faxes from the Getxo challenger folks on how Nirupama is doing there .. Need to bug them again and will update later on her second round match.
The new ATP rankings came out late Tuesday. Leander is #103 .. There are a couple of guys close behind him, and he could move down a spot or two in the next couple of weeks .. Mahesh lost the points from the first round win at the Granby challenger last year and is down to #320 now. He has more points to defend in the next few weeks too .. Hope he gets back in to the flow of things soon. His leg injury rehabilitation is coming along well in India, from what I heard. He was expected to play at the Finland and the Turkey challengers the next two weeks, but I believe will need one more week of rest - so it will be the Turkey challenger where we will see him next, before he goes to the Toronto Super 9 to play doubles. His plans could change though. The doubles rankings remain the same, at #3 and #7 for MB and LP, and #3 for the team.
Syed Fazaluddin has moved up about 40 spots in the rankings, with the 3 more points from the Canada futures going into his list .. He now has 25 points from just 5 tournaments and is up to #636 !! .. Keep going, Fazal ! .. No news from Greece on how he is doing at the Athens futures. The one who has been MIA for a while, the Indian #3 Prahlad Srinath, is still stuck at the #467 ranking for a few months now. I am told he is doing well in Germany. Since no new tournaments are going into the computer, I have to guess that he is playing some club tennis in Germany (which is not a bad thing, as there are a lot of good players who do that there).
By the way, I am planning to soon kick up some noise here again, on support (actually lack of it) for Indian players .. Every now and then, we need to do that. This being a relatively slow period, it looks to be time for that .. Keep checking here .. Some interesting items coming up soon .. You have been warned ! :-)
July 14 Note-3
Nirupama Vaidyanathan plays Katalin Marosi (#291, HUN) in the second round at the $25K Getxo challenger in Spain (not sure when, but probably wednesday) .. Katalin is a talented young player, 18 yr old, who was ranked near 200 earlier in the year, but has fallen a bit now. She upset #219 Petra Rampre in the first round. Nirupama has not played Marosi before in singles, but lost to Marosi and Sylvia Plischke in doubles at the Bol (Croatia) WTA event two months back ..
July 14 Note-2
Looks like last week was a good week for the women's #1 from India too ! .. Just found out from Spain, that Nirupama was at the Pucheim challenger in Germany last week and reached the first semifinal of the year at the $25K Pucheim challenger (her last semi was at Bronx, in August 1997) !! .. She had reached the quarterfinals at Pucheim last year and had 10 points to defend, and did one better this year, going to the semis, beating Alina Jidkova (RUS, #256), Emmannuelle Curutchet (FRA, #258) and Virag Csurgo (HUN, #219) .. She picked up 14 points there .. Csurgo was the one who beat Niru last year in the QF at Pucheim, and this is the first win in three attempts for Nirupama over her .. She lost in the semifinals to a veteran player Lubomira Bacheva (#186) of Bulgaria .. The 4 extra points will go into the computer next week, and will bring her ranking up inside #165 (she was in danger of falling down to about #180 had she not defended her points from last year) .. That positions her well to squeeze into the qualifier entry at the US Open.
More good news on Nirupama : She won today in the first round of the Getxo challenger in Spain, beating Selima Sfar (#254) of Tunisa .. Though she likes clay courts, Niru found the surface at Getxo a bit too slow, and struggled a bit before pulling it off in a comeback, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 .. Gives her 4 more points, but this tournament will take a couple of weeks to show up in the WTA computers. Nirupama is also playing doubles at the Getxo challenger, with partner Karen Cross of England ..
July 14 Note-1
Here is another newspaper report on Leander's title match at the Newport Hall of Fame. The article in the Providence Journal-Banner seems to agree with us on the two key points in the match .. Excerpts : These two points are the only play-by-play you need to know how things went in the singles final of the Miller Lite Hall of Fame Tennis Championships yesterday ... Neville Godwin of South Africa, who had just broken Leander Paes of India for a 2-1 lead in the first set, was trying to save a break point on his own serve in the fourth game. He hit a shot that had winner stamped all over it, but Paes ran the ball down and blasted a forehand passing shot down the line for a winner and the service break ... ``That set the tone for the match,'' Godwin said later ... If so, then an exchange in the second set was the exclamation point. Serving at 1-3, 15-0, Godwin crushed an overhead smash into the corner of the deuce court. Many a player would have conceded the point. Not Paes. He anticipated the shot, dashed along the baseline, stretched for the ball as he approached the scoreboard and somehow launched a lob toward the net. Godwin, standing at the net with an open court before him, watched the ball descend. Instead of another smash, he opted to dump the ball just over the net. Paes never could have reached such a shot ... Problem was, Godwin dumped the ball into, rather than over, the net. Paes went on to break Godwin's serve for a 4-1 lead .. Pretty good summary, actually ! .. More from the article: Paes surprised Godwin with several excellent passing shots .. ``Normally my passing shots are not my strength,'' the champ said. ``My coach (Bob Carmichael) said that I don't have to hit the ball hard, just pick a spot. If he gets it, he's too good. That's what I did,'' Paes said ... Paes didn't surprise Godwin when he chased balls many players would have nodded at. ``He's going to run down a lot of balls. He reads the game very well. That's one of his strengths,'' Godwin said ... Paes's final volley was typical, a well-angled placement that Godwin had no chance to retrieve. ``All day today I didn't hit one drop shot. I thought of the drop shot but hit the angle,'' Paes said .. That's right; Leander did not try a single drop shot that I remember. That must be a first for him. As ATP said last year (before his first round match at New Haven, I believe), Leander is known to play "every shot in the book" .. The difference in the Leander now may be that he is much more mature in selecting the right one to use.
ATP still has not posted the complete ranks online. I still guess a #102 rank for Leander .. By the way, the Bud Collins article (link in the last notes) mentioned that Leander is hoping for a wildcard into the Boston tournament, the week before the US Open, when he had originally expected to play the qualifiers .. I am not sure if he had sent in an entry for the Boston tournament .. The direct entry may be closing based on today's ranking, but as there are only two 32-draw tournaments that week, a good number of the top-100 players with direct entry to the USO would be playing and filling up those two draws. Will talk to Leander soon and see what the status is.
Incidentally, here is something interesting .. The Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz Cup website says in their press release last week announcing a wildcard to Ivanisevic (late entry, so he would need a WC): "Ivanisevic, 26, reached his third-career Wimbledon final this month. This year he continued his dominance against Rusedski defeating him at Split and Hamburg as well as Queen’s and Vienna last year. Ivanisevic last defeated Sampras in 1996 at Key Biscayne and has six victories overall against the current No. 1 player in the world. He defeated Rafter in their only meeting at Wimbledon in 1996. Ivanisevic won the title in his hometown of Split and reached the semifinals at Doha this year. He has also won four doubles titles in 1998, including Doha, Dubai, Chennai and Rome, with partner Mahesh Bhupathi." .. Hey, hey, how about that last line ? .. Hmm.. The folks there had told me a few days back that they were still expecting Leander to be in the draw even though he was 6th in the witing list, and said they were preparing his bio for player-advertisements (but they wouldn't tell me if he would have wildcard !) .. Make your own conclusions on what they are up to with their word-processors ! .. Anyway, the LA tournament, which has the new sponsor Mercedes-Benz, seem to be throwing quite a bit of appearance money around, and have pulled in Sampras, Rafter, Rusedski, Henman, Ivanisevic, Enqvist, Agassi and Ferreira so far, which makes it a really strong field for a #400K event (but the appearance fees they are paying has got to be many folds that) .. Leander, last I heard, was planning to be at the Winnetka challenger rather than at LA after the two-week rest.
Awaiting news from Spain later today on how Nirupama's first round match went at the Getxo challenger .. No news yet from Greece on Syed Fazaluddin at the Athens Futures ..
July 13 Notes
The new rankings are not out yet, as ATP is waiting for the scores from the Bristol challenger finals which was postponed to today, due to rain .. I am pretty sure that Leander will be #102 this week; may be 103.. Meanwhile, here is an article by Bud Collins in the Boston Globe today .. Check it out ! .. Bud is one who is always enjoyable to read. He even finds out some little trivia that nobody else seems to find out - Did you know that Leander's ear-ring was a gift from Bhutia, the Indian football captain ?? ..
And.. Aha .. Finally, we have a Nirupama Vaidyanathan sighting !! .. Just got news from Spain that she is at the $25K Getxo challenger there .. They tell me that she is scheduled to play Selima Sfar (#254) of Tunisia, in the first round tomorrow .. Nirupama stays at around the same ranking this week, down two spots to #168. This is an important week for Niru, as I think she has 10 points from last year's Pucheim challenger (germany) quarterfinal to defend.. Those points fall off next week, I believe. Even if she does well at Getxo this week, I am not sure if those points will enter the computer next week. If not, she is in danger of falling about 10 spots in the rankings on July 20th, which may cause her to miss the early entry cutoff for the US Open qualifiers next week (but she may be close enough still to get in by the time the qualies roll around). I have not looked closely enough at these numbers to be 100% sure though .. WTA's computer is a bit uncertain with points from tournaments going in at odd times, not necessarily the week after. She has fallen quite a bit this week in doubles though, from 196 to 224. I don't have the results with me, but I believe these were the doubles points from the Vaihingen challenger last year in Germany ..
July 12 Note-4
"I'm Indian .. It comes naturally" .. that was a great answer from Leander to the TV announcers' post-game question on how he finds it so easy to play on grass. Then the granddaddy of tennis peers, and a hall of famer himself, Bud Collins announced it during the prize ceremony : Indians own this tournament ! .. reminded off Vijay Amritraj's three titles here, LP said: "I wouldn't mind winning this event three times, like he has," ..
The game was pretty strightforward: Once again, LP was ready from the beginning, and his opponent had trouble getting into any flow in his game. Godwin would put two great shots together and then follow it with a double fault and an unforced error or get pressured into netting or hitting out something by Leander who kept him off-balance with his chips and charges and often charges without any chips ! .. The game started with Godwin making 4 double faults but still somehow clinging to dear life tying it at 1-1 after a couple of deuces .. After 44 consecutive service game at Newport where he hadn't dropped one, LP then dropped serve, going to that old bugaboo twice, the backhand slice from the baseline, which Godwin returned well .. the breeze and sun in the eyes also seemed to cause a bit of a problem, adding to the nerves that both showed at first .. LP broke back immediately though to tie it at 2-2 with a very nice bakhand crosscourt, and turned it up a notch at the right time, winning four games in a row to go up 5-2, the fourth game showing his intentions amply .. Serving to stay a break up at 3-2, he was down 15-40 but came up with some classic Leander tennis including the shot of the match, running left to right and smashing a forehand passing shot down the line from 5 feet behind the baseline .. Godwin was constantly running into trouble with his serve, but held in the next game, but LP served it out at 6-3, winning the set on his first ace, right down the middle.
The second set started with Godwin serving a double fault immediately, and LP was up a break after 7 deuces. LP could have finished off the break faster but for him teeing off on every break point, sending a backhand top spin return long, and getting the strings broken once - pure, unadulterated aggression was LP's game then and Godwin seemed to be cracking under that pressure .. Down 0-1, Godwin produced some good fight of his own and broke Leander back to even it at 1-1 .. LP was not done though, and came right back to break Godwin again, this time showing clearly what LP's game does to people in the point of the match .. A backhand return from the left corner and a full sprint to the right to retrieve a smash from Godwin at the net that not many in pro tennis are fast enough to catch up to .. A classic lob from way back in the right corner that took for ever to come down to Godwin who looked so confused with that great lob that he tried a cute drop shot which didn't make it across the net ! .. That was the end of the game. Godwin looked clearly deflated at the silly mistake, and LP was ready to pounce. LP was up a break 2-1, and went through 5 consecutive games, going up 5-1. The set ended on LP's serve for a sweet 6-3, 6-2 win. That made it 10 consecutive sets won by Leander, with some cool $39K going into his pocket.
First title and 151 points (inluding 11 bonus points) that will take his point total to a career high 489 (the previous being 462 after the Chennai semifinal). The ranking this week may be right outside 100 at around 103, and he may not go over his career best ranking of 98 this week. The good news is that he only has about 120 points to defend for the next 8 months, which would mean that he could go higher, much higher, pretty soon.
What a week ! Just last week it appeared as though, incredibly, Leander would be going through the whole grass season with ZERO points (he had 30 points from the Vadodara grass challenger in India but that is not part of the 5-week ATP grass season). But we really shouldn't have worried, huh ? .. The man likes grass and needed just one week to show what he can do on that.
It was nice to see Leander thanking coach "Nails" Carmichael during the award ceremony. We finally see Leander taking the next step after a year and half of pretty good coaching from Nails, though the singles' "step" came only a year after the big strides in doubles .. "Nails" looked genuinely happy, when Bud Collins asked him to stand up to an ovasion, raising his cap .. And Leander did not forget to thank another man who has made a huge difference - his new trainer, Sanjay Singh, who looked a bit shy at the camera focus .. I don't know what he did with Lee's ankle Friday night, but that miraculous ankle recovery was a big key behind all this.
Now it will be two weeks of peaceful rest at Florida. He *will be* in the main draw at the US Open, for which the cutoff rank date is next Next Monday (July 20th). That also means that he will most probably be playing at the Boston ATP tournament the week before US Open, as he does not have to play the qualifiers. I don't think the Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz-Cup folks would come through with a wildcard for LP there, so we should be seeing him getting back into action 3 weeks from now at the Windy City Classic challenger at Winnetka outside Chicago. It will be a nice way for LP to get back onto the hardcourts, with the North American hardcourt season starting now and ending in the US Open.
.. Previous notes at Weekly Notes, ending July 13 ..