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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on July 21, 2003
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July 21 Note-1

Still awaiting the draw for women at the Lexington challenger for Nirupama Sanjeev .. It still has not been made, I believe.

Prakash Amritraj's match at the Indianapolis ATP main draw is the 3rd one on court-3 and should be at around 4.30 pm there .. Look for a later announcement here on where we will meet for the chat during the match - there will be point by point score updates.

The tournament web site's media notes today is actually predicting a Prakash upset in the first round! .. Here are some excerpts from the preview .. "If the Amritraj name sounds familiar, it should, because Prakash Amritraj is attempting to follow in his famous father, Vijay’s, footsteps  ...... Thus far this year, Roitman has lost both main draw matches he’s played – the first round on clay at Houston all the way back in May and the first round at the recent French Open. However, that French Open match marked a big occasion for the Argentine as he battled the defending champion Albert Costa of Spain. And it was indeed a battle -- Roitman actually held a two-set lead over Costa before the defending champion remembered who should be in charge, stepped up the pace and won the match in five arduous sets ....... Although Prakash Amritraj is now playing for India, he was born and raised right here in hard court country – California. This is an important point because he knows the ins-and-outs of hard court competition and that should give him something to fall back on. However, Roitman has the advantage of having experienced a big match, on a very big occasion, and he held his own admirably during the encounter. They head into battle on a pretty even platform but the hard court background should make backing Amritraj a little bit better bet. Amritraj in three sets" ..

Megha Vakharia is among the seeds for the $10K satellite at Evansville, Indiana .. The draw is not out yet .. Sai was originally in the qualifying list for the Lexington challenger .. Not sure where she is playing this week .. Rushmi is among the top seeds at the $10K Horb - have not seen the draw from there either.

A lot of our kids are in Africa this week .. According to the entry lists for the two weeks of grade-3 ITF events in Egypt (Giza this week and Cairo next week), 17 yr old Navdeep Singh and 15 yr old Vandana Murali are expected among the seeds .. 14 yr old Jeevan Nedunchezhiyen and 15 yr old Karthik Raju are also in the main draw list for boys, and 15 yr old Asha Nandakumar is in the girls' list .. Divij Sharan, R.Arunkumar and Punam Reddy should be at the grade-2 this week in South Africa, at Pretoria again.

The u14 tour with the ITF team in Europe is still not going great for Agnel Gladwin - he lost in the first round for the 3rd week in a row - this time at the Hauts-de-Seine u14 event, Rueil-Malmaison, France  .. Not getitng any help from the draw either, as he faced one of the seeds, Stefano Valenti (ITA) and lost 36 16 .. I hope the boy doesn't take it too hard .. He is not the first one to have such problem out there in Europe and he will only learn from these matches .. I have not seen the doubles draw.

July 20 Notes.

Oh yeah! --- we do have an Indian in an ATP event main draw abroad for the first time this year, and it is Prakash Amritraj [correction -- of course, Prakash was at the Newport ATP 2 weeks back as well, but wildcards don't count :-)] .. He beat Stephen Amritraj, 61 76(4) today to qualify into the $575K RCA championships in Indianapolis .. Though it was probably the easiest qualies ever in an ATP event (perhaps even for a challenger level for that matter), he made it in and became the first Indian to enter an ATP event main draw through qualies since Leander Paes at New Haven in 1998 and at Wimbledon in 2000 .. Tomorrow in the first round, [R1] (Q) Prakash Amritraj (IND,394) vs Sergio Roitman (ARG,137) .. Hey, not a bad matchup actually, and if everything clicks in Prakash's serve and volley game, he might event be able to upset the baseline player!! .. In doubles, Prakash and Stephen have a wildcard - [R1] (wc) Prakash Amritraj (IND) / Stephen Amritraj (USA) vs Nicolas Kiefer (GER)/ Sjeng Schalken (NED) .. Both Prakash and Rajeev Ram (USA) who is a wildcard, play on Monday .. We will be setting up an online chat session during Prakash's match in the late afternoon.

LP and MB are not playing doubles this week as well, as MB is in a three-week off period and LP is on a two weeks break .. By the way, Max Mirnyi played with Jared Palmer this week and lost in the semifinal of the Stuttgart outdoors ATP.

The draws are out for Harsh Mankad at the $50K Lexington challenger and Rohan Bopanna at the $25K+H Recanati challenger in Italy .. [R1] Harsh Mankadplays Andrew Ilie (ITA,418) .. Ilie is of course a former top-40 player who was in the top-100 even early last year .. He lost six months last year due to a stress fracture injury and is on a comeback trail .. Ilie is actually one of the most interesting and outspoken personalities on the tour and I have been a fan of his - but not on Tuesday when he plays HM :-) .. In doubles HM does not have a highly ranked partner and had to play qualies despite his #280 ranking ..  He is playing with Gabriel Montilla (PUR,713) .. They beat Phil Metz (USA) and Bjorn Munroe (BAH) 63 64 and play Evan Austin/ Greg van Emburgh (USA) to qualify in .. Actually it is useful for Harsh to get some matches on the courts before the singles and these qualies will actually help him .. At the Recanati challenger, [R1] Rohan Bopanna (IND,315) plays 5th seed Massimo Dell'Acqua (ITA,210) .. Not an easy match, as Massimo has been really playing well on grass the last couple of weeks .. Recanati is on hard courts .. IN doubles, Rohan has a very talented young partner - Santiago Gonzales (MEX) .. They are seeded first ..  The first round is against Joachim Johansson (SWE) and Niko Karagiannis (GRE) ..

Nirupama is also at Lexington for the $50K women's challenger there -- she is in the main draw, but I have not seen the draw yet ..

In other news, Vishal Uppal was at the qualies for the USA F21 futures .. He was seeded 2nd with aQ1 bye, but fell in Q2 to Andrew Hamar (GBR), 57 46 ..

Sai, Rushmi, etc will all be also in action next week, as will be quite a few of our kids in Africa, both in South Africa and in Egypt in the junior ITF circuit .. New tomorrow on all that.

July 19 Notes

Well, well, well .. Prakash Amritraj has been on a really cool run .. It is like everything the boy touches turns gold .. He does his part well with his own wins and then some careful planning works out in his favor too .. Prakash is at the qualies for the $600K Indianapolis RCA championships this weekend .. This tournament was in a later week in previous years but ended up being moved to this week with pretty much the maximum number of events (3 ATP events and some 6 challengers) .. So nobody who was not in the initial entry list came in for the qualies - they all went to the challengers .. Would you believe that the main draw cut was #171 and that the highest two ranked players who showed up for qualies were #181 Juilen Bennetau and #394 Prakash Amritraj .. I don't know if ANY ATP event has ever had a qualifying draw with the second seed below even 250 .. The main draw itself is of size 48 which should not have been allowed to happen at a 600K event .. This whole thing seems to be a bit of a messy thing too - because the event is now $600K event and not $800K like previous years - so technically I think it cannot be called a "Gold" series event and cannot have a 48-size draw, which does not even have a point table entry in the ATP 2003 rule book .. But the fact sheet for the tournament has alloted an arbitrary 5 points for playing the first round, still! .. ATP has nicely confused everybody by now and nobody is really sure of anything! .. The tournament still calls itself a "championship" event, though the terminology "championship series" was dropped, for no useful reason by ATP's thoughtless mandarins to "international Gold series" .. The tournament seems to be merrily operating like it is a big time event, but they are offering less money and thus there is a much worse field than normal .. What a joke! ..  Anyway, I can't complain when one of our players benefits! :-)

The bottom line is that the qualies are of just two rounds and PA got a bye too! .. Even more incredibly, his second round opponent is (would you believe?) Stephen Amritraj(!) .. Stephen is ranked with just one ATP point, though he is a better player than that if injuries have healed .. Stephen beat unranked Michael Calkins (USA) today 46 75 61 in a comeback .. OK, now what it all boild down is that, if we are reading the rules right, Prakash is in line to get 5 points for qualifying in PLUS five points for playing in the first round if he can beat Stephen tomorrow .. By the way, Stephen is not incapable of upsetting him .. 10 ATP points would be terrific, and Vijay should be given some credit for continuing to pull this kinds of magic in planning, and probably more for being incredibly lucky in his planning too :-) ..  How about that?

in the postponed QF match at the $10K Baltimore satellite this morning, Tara Iyer could not mount a comeback and lost to the 3rd seed Jewel Peterson, 46 26 .. Jewel beat the top seed Shikha Uberoi 61 62 and reached the final in the afternoon .. Still a very creditable show by the 15 year old Tara, who, if things go like some expect, is capable of creating more news in the town she was born in (Hyderabad - where else?) of the type Sania has been making ..  In the doubles semifinal at Baltimore, Megha and Sai lost a tough one to the 3rd seeds Tomoko Taira/ Mayumi Yamamoto (JPN), 76 57 46.

I just saw the Stanford WTA qualifying draw and Nirupama is not playing there .. I suppose she may have made the Lexington challenger main draw and decided to play there? -- She was in the qualies originally, and had planned to play Stanford WTA I thought .. We will find out.

Divij Sharan went down in the 3rd round at the grade-2 ITF in Pretoria, South Africa, and I was disappointed to find that Sanaa and Ankita did not go there, though thier names were in the entry list .. Tushar Liberhan ialso withdrew, it seems .. Arun Prakash won a round and lost a close three setter to a player who has otherwise won in easy straight sets upetting the #102 second seed and everybody else to reach the final .. Good to see Arun there .. .

July 18 Note-2

Tara Iyer was behind 4-6 1-1 in her match against the 3rd seed Jewel Peterson (USA,451) this evening when the SF at the $10K Baltimore satellite was postponed to 11 am tomorrow ..Hope she can regroup and do a comeback, but nice to see her player closely against a top-500 player ..  Doubles SF for Megha-Sai is postponed to tomorrow as well, I believe.

Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi went down in the SF at the $25K+H Manchester challenger in a close match -- 67(4) 75 57 to Daniel Kiernan and David Sherwood of Britain .. Still a good tournament for RB, who now moves to hard courts .. Next week is at Recanati in Italy, where he is in the main draw - actually among the top-15 players there ..  Harsh Mankad goes to the Lexington challenger tomorrow .. He is in the main draw there next week.

July 18 Note-1

Qualifier Tara Iyer who turned 15 only this month, did get a walkover yesterday from the 5th seed Ludmila Richterova in the second round to reach the QF of the $10K ITF satellite in Baltimore .. She plays the 3rd seed Jewel Peterson (USA,451) today .. Both Sai and Megha were ousted yesterday in the R2 though .. Megha Vakharia l. #2 Neyssa Etienne (HAI,448), 16 46 .. #6 J. Sai Jayalakshmy l. Olga Poutchkova (BLR,703) 26 36 .. In doubles Megs and Sai have reached the SF .. [QF} d. Audra Falk/ Aleke Tsoubanos (USA), 62 36 75 .. SF against 3rd seeds Tomoko Taira and Mayumi Yamamoto of Japan.   By the way, the top seed 20 yr old Shikha Uberoi (USA) and unseeded 17 yr old Neha Uberoi (USA) who upset the 4th seed Jackie Trail, have also reached the singles QF ..

Great to see Tara qualify into the satellite in only the second pro event she has ever payed and reach the QF with a top-600 win and some luck as well ..

By the way, I finally traced down at least the entry lists for the grade-2 ITF juniors in Pretoria, RSA that is ongoing this week .. Sanaa Bhambri was the top seed in the list for girls, with Ankita Bhambri also in the list, along with Punam Reddy .. On the boys' side, Divij Sharan was expected among the seeds and Tushar Liberhan was also in the list .. No news yet .. I am very glad to see Ankita back in the junior tour .. Of almost exactly the same age as Sania, Ankita still has a year left after this in the juniors if she choses to play .. She has established herself quite well in the pro satellites in India but I think playing the higher levels of juniors is not a bad idea for her (I always worry about players stagnatng in the pro levels at this age) .. Ankita's junior career has always been in start and stop mode as she has been mixing in senior event since last year, unlike younger sister Sanaa who has played it full time .. I think Ankita will be a handful for players down there in RSA despite her low rank in the juniors! .. Now, if only I could trace down any results from South Africa which has suddenly turned into a news black hole!

July 17 Note-2

Rohan and Aisam reached the SF of doubles at the Manchester challenger today .. They beat Gianluca Bazzica and Giuseppe Menga of Italy, 64 64 .. The semi is against Daniel Kiernan/ David Sherwood (GBR) .. That is 22 more points for Rohan which should be enough to move him up by some 30 spots to inside top-250 in doubles, and just ahead of Prakash Amritraj and Harsh Mankad at around #260 and #290 each, as the #3 in doubles in India ..

Tara Iyer got a walkover in the second round at the $10K Baltimore, I hear .. That's all I have heard about the Baltimore second round on thursday .. We will have the results for Sai and Megha by Friday morning here in the US .. Megha and sai, seeded first in doubles have reached the QF -- beat Marilyn Baker and Rochelle Goldthreate (USA), 62 60 .. The QF is against Audra Falk and Aleke Tsoubanos (USA).

At the $10K in Brussels, the second seeds Rushmi Chakravarthi and Jaslyn Hewitt (AUS) fell in the QF to Anna Font and Laura Pous Tio of Spain, 26 64 16 .. Rushmi is in the main draws of the $10K events in Europe for the next three weeks .. at Horb (Germany), Petange (Luxembourg) and Rebecq (Belgium) ..

I believe Divij Sharan is at the grade-2 ITF juniors in Pretoria, South Africa this week - no news yet on the draw or results.

Agnel Gladwin went down in the doubles second round at the u14 Windmill Cup in Netherlands this week (he had fallen in the singles R1 as reported below) .. Agnel and Hassan Abdel Ftah (EGY) won the first round 61 61 over Maxim Quiqueneau / Samuel Sanford (FRA), but fell to Thomas Fabbiano and Andrea Volpini (ITA) 46 46 in the R2 ..

July 17 Note-1

Rohan has been winning the first round at the challenger level these days but the second round has been a different story .. He is getting closer and closer though .. Today at the $25K+H Manchester challenger, [R2] R.Bopanna l. Cristiano Caratti (ITA,250), 67(9) 67(1)  [thanks, SP, for the news n the forum] .. Ooh, so close! .. It seems to be a usual pattern for RB to take people to tiebreakers - he won the first round in two TBs as well .. Caratti was a top-100 player not far back, and again these are all good players he is playing .. I am sure he will start winning some second rounds soon and learn to string together a few wins at an event .. He plays the doubles QF later this evening there ..

RB's point total goes up from 91 to 96 now - the rank should be going up about 12 spots from #315, next week .. Need at least another 10-15 more points in the next two weeks to have a chance to squeeze into the US Open qualifying list ..  We will see if he can do that at the Recanati (Italy) and Denver (USA) challengers.

Megha also advanced to the second round of the $10K Baltimore satellite yesterday .. [R1] MeghaVakharia (IND,554) d. Emily Marker (USA,833), 64 64 .. Sai, Tara, Megha and the two Uberois from USA play the second round today.

The locations for the three $25K+H ATP challengers to be conducted by the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association seem to have been finalized .. The latest AITA calendar update that just came out shows Tumkur (Sep 29 start), Dharwad (Oct 6) and Belgaum (Oct 13) officially .. Cool .. As usual the Indian events get on to ITF and ATP calendars only very late, something that AITA needs to do something about .. What I have heard in the past is that it takes a while to get all the sponsors, guarantee money and everything lined up in India .. These events are not in any official international calendars yet, but based on the good record India has in coming through in the end, I assume these will indeed be conducted .. So, Rohan will get to play in his home state with all the local support too! .. It is great that we have two players who will make the draws directly (RB and HM) and one more qho might squeeze in directly (Prakash) .. Hopefully Sunil, Karan, Vijay, etc can also make some big points from these challengers.

July 16 Note-3

Still awaiting news from the Baltimore $10K ITF satellite on how Megha Vakharia did in the R1 today (Sai and Tara play R2 tomorrow) .. Rushmi's return from the 5 week injury layoff to singles did not go very well today at the $10K ITF in Brussels, as she was upset by Tanja Hirschauer (GER), 62 64 .. Doubles QF tomorrow for Rushmi.

On the Sania matter, it seems ITF tried to email me with their press release earlier today but they had the wrong address for me and it bounced back to them .. Anyway, just got their press release forwarded to me again .. Here is the ITF press release which the Indian press had used in their thursday editions .. Nice of  ITF to send it to us, and I thank them for that .. But I still don't understand their reason for deciding to keep the group-A status and just take the bonus points away .. The press release all sounds nice and proper, but the problem isn't solved .. They had no logical reason for taking bonus points out .. Either no points till their junior competition committee meets, or reduced points for all 32 players, or no penalty to anybody - anything else would be wrong .. And my analysis below shows clearly that the line "In view of the ITF, the decision to reduce the draw detracted from the overall level of the doubles event at Wimbledon" is simply, unquestionably baseless .. ITF's view is wrong, and I fail to understand who had that "view" within a few hours of the final when the numbers were fed into the computer (the final was done by some 4 pm on Sunday the 6th and the ranks were out next morning) -- did they have a meeting to discuss this? - I don't think so, during the Wimbledon men's final! .. Who decided to have this "view" ? .. I would think there are enough reasonable folks in ITF who would have said it made no sense to take that view, if they knew .. Please, ITF, just do the right thing and let this matter die - we beg you! :-) .. Like you say, after all, it is a player whom you have supported with grand slam development funds in the past .. By the way, though I did not talk about them, Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau of Romania (the boys' doubles winners) also did not get their bonus points, but they have both been #1 in the past and it probably matters less to them.

In fact, ITF is correct that it all does not matter much anyway, and generally only the year end rankings and champions are kept for future record .. At this point, it is really only a question of doing the right thing .. I don't think anybody will get badly hurt in all of this (and I think Sania can certainly put that in her resume that she was indeed #1 -- if ITF does not agree, we don't care!) .. And we all need to make a point that organizations like ITF should not be cavaliar about these things ..  Thus our protests are all largely on principle.

Just for the record, as this is the second time I have been on a tirade against ITF (the first was on the Davis Cup draw last year - but I dropped it and took ITF's word on it), I should also say my true feelings about ITF as an organization .. Despite all this, I believe, and I have always believed that ITF has done 100 times more to help tennis than sham organizations (:-)) like ATP have done over the years .. I intended to write something about the ATP players' threat during Wimbledon to boycott it next year unless prize money was increased etc - which I thought was ludicrous .. In fact, I had kept a link to this article in The Guardian about ITF's president Ricci Bitti getting angry at the threat, but never got around to commenting on it  .. Incidentally he mentions how ITF has used grand slam money for tennis development and specifically mentions Leander Paes .. It is true - LP has personally told me once how much he appreciated all ITF has been doing over the years to take players from Asia to Europe, etc .. The fact is that ITF has always been a decent organization and has mostly done things right with the interest of tennis at heart .. And most serious tennis obervers (like the readers of this site) would agree that all our tirades on isolated matters like now, are no indication of what we feel about ITF as an organization! .. Just wanted to put that down for the record .. Now, back to the matter at hand - yeah, ITF is still wrong on the doubles points issue :-)

July 16 Note-2

First some good news, and then I will get back to my ongoing tirade against ITF :-)

Looks like we have a player who is rather consistently beating top-300 players and getting ready to move into the top-250 or 200 soon .. Great news from the $25K+H Manchester challenger - [R1] Rohan Bopanna (IND,315) d. #4 George Bastle (SUI,201), 76(5) 76(6) .. Don't forget that George Bastl is no slouch on grass - he is the one who upset Pete Sampras in 5 sets at Wimbledon last year, and was ranked in the top-100 over a couple of years back .. Big upset win for Bofors .. Next up is Cristiano Caratti (ITA,250) .. Rohan and Aisam Qureshi also advanced to the doubles QF beating Niko Karagiannis (GRE) and Fame Ketover (CRC) 64 62 .. Go man Go!

Here are two articles on the Wimbledon doubles winners' bonus points story - the unnecessary controversy that ITF started off to spite whoever (may be some Wimbledon folks - I don't know!) .. Sania is No.3, says The Hindu in their typically non-critical manner - but they have given all the details on why ITF is off-base in the whole thing .. The Hindustan Times article has the sarcastic title - Game, Set and Match, ITF! .. Excerpts from the HT article - A press releases issued by the ITF from London on Wednesday said: "In view of the ITF, the decision to reduce the draw detracted from the overall level of the doubles event at Wimbledon. As a result it has been decided that, at this time, the "bonus" doubles points will not be awarded and the matter has been referred to the next meeting of the ITF Junior Competitions Committee in October 2004." .... The release also added: "The decision to reduce the draw will be discussed by the committee during this meeting and at that time a decision will be taken whether to award the bonus points to the players concerned." .... The ITF admits that its website showed Sania as No.1 on Monday (July 14). "On Monday, an error occurred in the computer system used to calculate the ITF Junior Rankings, thus awarding the bonus points when they should not have been awarded. "The computer system is linked directly to the ITFJuniors website, and on Monday evening Sania Mirza appeared at No.1. This was an error... not discovered until the morning of Tuesday (July 15). The rankings were immediately removed from the site and replaced with the correct rankings," added the release .... The ITF apologised "for any confusion caused by this technical problem"!

Yeah, their "mistake" rankings (which are of course the correct rankings) stayed on for enough time for AITA and myself to get to work, informing all of the Indian press that they had placed sania at #1 .. Hey, their computer utilities made no mistakes! .. Somebody who made a decision to withhold bonus points was the wrong one in this .. Now they are digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole for that decision made on the Sunday evening after the Wimbledon doubles final! ..

As for their comment, "the decision to reduce the draw detracted from the overall level of the doubles event at Wimbledon" from ITF, I can only laugh -- where the hell did that come from? -- OK, I will bite .. I won't let this kind of a chance go .. Here are the top-20 ranks in ITF's listing today and see how many of them missed the doubles draw at Wimbledon --

1. Kirsten FLIPKENS (BEL) -- played doubles
2. Andrea HLAVACKOVA (CZE) -- played doubles
3. Sania MIRZA (IND) -- played doubles
4. Jarmila GAJDOSOVA (SVK) -- played doubles
5. Emma LAINE (FIN) -- played doubles
6. Alyona TSUTSKOVA (UKR) -- played doubles
7. Maryori BUELVAS FRANCO (COL) -- Pro. Hasn't played juniors since March.
8. Kristina CZAFIKOVA (SVK) -- played doubles
9. Adriana GONZALEZ-PENAS (ESP) -- played doubles
10.Michaela KRAJICEK (NED) -- played doubles
11.Casey DELL'ACQUA (AUS) -- played doubles
11.Adriana SZILI (AUS) -- played doubles
13.Aurelia MISEVICIUTE (LTU) -- Pro. Didn't play Wimbledon junior singles.
14.Marta FRAGA-PEREZ (ESP) -- Pro. Only played FO in juniors since Aug 2002
15.Alisa KLEYBANOVA (RUS) -- played doubles
16.Elke CLIJSTERS (BEL) -- Pro.  Hasn't played juniors since USO 2002
17.Iris ICHIM (USA) -- played doubles
18.Andreja KLEPAC (SLO) -- Pro.  Hasn't played juniors since AO 2003
19.Sanaa BHAMBRI (IND) -- played doubles
20.Agnes SZATMARI (ROM) -- Injured I believe. Didn't play FO or Wimbledon in singles or doubles.

11 of the of their top-12 played at Wimbledon!! .. Everybody but those who have stopped junior play played doubles there .. The draw size reduction must have greatly affected the quality! .. What a joke .. These are indeed the best junior players, after we have played three grand slams .. These rankings are not skewed by wimbledon points either - we know that Wimbledon does not give sufficient points without bonuses, as Alisa's rank after the title would show .. In fact the highest ranked player who was at Wimbledon for singles who chose not to play doubles was #21 Havartsova! .. And ITF claims that the draw was somehow weaker?? .. Anybody who follows the tennis circuit knows that fewer rounds in the doubles events (with the point table remaining the same) always results in a better field! .. This Wimbledon doubles draw was arguably better because it started late and had only four rounds instead of five.

Now, if ITF really wants to talk about doubles quality, they should look at some of the players they have given 180 points for winning other group-A events (same points as Wimbledon!) while they refuse to give extra bonus for SM and AK .. For example, let us take the epitome of their "high-quality" group-A events --- yes, that "prestigious" Banana Bowl down in Brazil in March that was won by Larissa Carvalho (BRA)  and Soledad Esperson (ARG) - ranked 41 and 31 now, but solely because of that title; those two players have never won a title above grade-4 in their careers (in other words, "who?) .. That group-A event had THREE players from the above top-20, and one of them was (wouldn't you guess) Alisa who gave a doubles walkover (!), as she was deep in the singles draw which she won without dropping a set! .. They are saying that SM and AK deserve only as many points?  .. Rather than focus on the need to give much higher points at Wimbledon for winning the title, ITF is talking about the reduced quality of the field ??  .. What really are these people smoking? ..

I mean, there is a limit to looking childish - They made a stupid mistake, a wrong decision that Sunday evening to take away the bonus points .. Well, it happens to the best of people .. Just admit the mistake and that they have no grounds on logic to do what they did .. They normally would have got away with it, but some of us happen to follow these things closely and knew that they made a mistake immediately .. Now they are making it worse and worse .. Come on ITF, give it up - you cannot win this battle with any fair argument! .. We won't be upset and we won't make fun of you if you simply do the right thing.  Please?

July 16 Note-1

A press friend asked about there being no sign of Sania ever being ranked #1 at the ITF junior website.  True.  They changed the rank list by Tuesday morning at London .. Her biography page showed her having a #1 rank on July 14th till Tuesday night there .. In between I saved the biography page -- here it is, exactly as it appeared on the ITF junior site yesterday .. Whatever the heck ITF is doing, Sania deserves #1, and we all will not take ITF's crap ..

But you know what is driving me crazy in this -- the attitude that ITF is displaying .. Total lack of sensitivity to the kids involved, and a total lack of decency and respect to people who have contacted them .. I see reports that AITA and others have all talked to ITF about this .. And whoever decided to do this thing, raising some seemingly non-existent rule and taking away the bonus points, is showing nothing but the age-old elitism that some in London are known for ..  I repeat again - there seems to be NO LOGIC in just taking away the bonus points for the two winning players ..  The ITF rule book does not say anything about not giving bonus points .. The rules do not even say anything about immediate penalties for the tournament (but does say that grand slams do have some flexibility to use their own rules) .. It only talks about the group-A status (but they DID give group-A points to all players, so what ARE they doing?) .. Ah, but had they reduced the grade to grade-1, there would be logic in it .. They didn't -- they kept it as group-A, and simply decided to not give the winners' bonus points .. They are creating an issue out of a non-issue .. They clearly had the prerogative to give the points and then let their committee or whoever decide the proper "punishment" to Wimbledon for reducing the draw size .. Nobody would have complained and nobody would have grounds to complain had they done that ..  I even suspect that somebody out there knew that Indians did care about this and decided to just "stick it to us" .. I am using harsh language here, but they give us no choice.

ITF owes Sania and Alisa an apology .. They owe the two national associations an apology .. They owe us tennis followers an apology .. If for nothing else, for the wrong (or right) ranks they showed at their website on Monday, which caused AITA to make a press release and the whole national press to write stories on it .. Who the hell do they think they are, to just quietly change the whole web site and make no mention of what they did? .. They think a rank release at their web site is not official? .. Come on, give us a break!

July 15 Note-4

Good news from the Baltimore $10K again .. 15 yr old qualifier Tara Iyer upset Maki Arai (JPN,564), 46 64 63 today in the first round! .. Yeah, you go girl! .. 6th seed Sai Jayalakshmy beat Tomoko Taira (JPN,735) easily, 64 62 .. Both Neha and Shikha Uberois from the USA also advanced to the second round .. Megha Vakharia plays the first round tomorrow .. Sai plays Olga Poutchkova (BLR) next, and Tara plays the 5th seed Ludmila Richterova (CZE) - both on thursday.

The second seeds, Rushmi and Jaslyn Hewitt (AUS) won the first round of doubles at the Brussels satellite, over Betina Pirker and Melanie Wolkersbergi of Austria, 26 75 64 .. Next up in the QF are Anna Font/ Laura Pous Tio (ESP) .. Rushmi plays singles R1 tomorrow.

Geeta Manohar's name is in the draw for the Puerto Ordaz satellite in Venezuela - but we will wait to confirm if she really went there.

July 15 Note-3

Rohan Bopanna plays his first round match at the Manchester challenger tomorrow (wednesday) ..

After a five week break following the unfortunate injury at the Q1 of the Surbitron challenger, Rushmi Chakravarthi restarts this week .. She is the 3rd seed at the $10K ITF satellite in Brussels, Belgium .. She plays Tanja Hirschauer (GER,631) in the first round .. In doubles, Rushmi is parterning Jaslyn Hewitt (AUS) and they play Betina Pirker and Melanie Wolkersbergi of Austria.

The European u14 tour with the ITF Team has not been going great for Agnel Gladwin .. He went down in the first round at the Windmill Cup in Netherlands yesterday .. The scores so far - [u14 Fila Cup, France; last week] Agnel Gladwin l. Fumiaki Kita (JPN) 06 16 .. Gladwin/ Li-Hui Xue (CHN) l. Thomas Fabbiano/ Andrea Volpini (ITA), 62 26 67(3) .. [u14 Windmill Cup, Netherlands] (Q) Christophe De Leeuw (BEL) d. Gladwin, A. (IND)  76 60 .. Doubles to be played - Hassan Abdel Ftah (EGY)/ A.Gladwin vs Maxim Quiqueneau / Samuel Sanford (FRA) ..

July 15 Note-2

Now this is getting totally ridiculous .. After ranking Sania as #1 yesterday at their website, ITF has changed the rankings today again and ranked her #3, taking away the grand slam bonus points ..  Today's rank list is still dated July 14th, but all of us saw their ranking yesterday .. Though the rank list changed earlier today, Sania's biography page today continued to say that she was #1 on July 14th, and I have saved it for proof! :-)  .. We can't let ITF get away that easily with the flip-flop ..  [and they changed that page also to a rank of #3 by 15th night in UK!] .. I am getting totally frustrated with what is going on .. I fail to understand why they are arbitrarily taking away the grand slam bonus for the winners, while giving group-A points for everybody else who played .. They claimed they knew exactly what they were doing, last week in their email to me, but I don't see what rule they are following in this, either -- So I went and checked ITF's rule book (you can read for yourself) --  here is the relevant section:

SPECIAL REGULATIONS FOR GROUP A (SUPER SERIES)
Group A tournaments shall follow the Regulations for Group 1-5, with the following exceptions and additions. It should be noted that the Grand Slam tournaments reserve the right to implement alternative rules. Regulation 39• shall replace Regulation 39* in the main Regulations [Emphasis on the GS special status is mine - Jay].
39 • . Entries and Draws
Tournaments in Group A shall have the following minimum number of competitors in each event:
Boys’ Singles: 64 Boys’ Doubles: 32 Girls’ Singles: 64 Girls’ Doubles: 32
If a Group A event fails to have the above entry, or fails to accept players in accordance with Regulation 40•, the following year the number of points awarded to the tournament will be decreased. If the entry falls below 48 for either of the singles events, Group A status may no longer be given. [Emphasis on "following year" is mine - Jay]
Tournament committees should bear in mind that no points are awarded to a player until he/she has won a round and should therefore do their utmost to ensure that the number of competitors in the draw allows the maximum number of points to be awarded.
Tell me where it says that grand slam bonus points for the winners should be taken away if the draw size is reduced by the tournament organizers (in this case Wimbledon) ..  If they had reduced the points across the board and said it cannot be a group-A event (and given it grade-1 points or whatever), that would have made more sense .. In any event, it does appear that Grand Slams do have special status in following the rules .. It looks as nothing but an arbitrary decision to me, and it is really sad that ITF does not realize that two girls who put their heart and soul out there to win the damn thing are the only ones penalized ..  Where is the logic in that? ..  Penalize Wimbledon next year for reducing the draw this year, as the rule says, if they must .. This whole thing is driving me up the wall!

July 15 Note-1

Good news from Baltimore (Thanks Neil!) -- [Q3] Tara Iyer d. Sabitha Maharaj (USA) 61 61 yesterday and she made the main draw of the $10K satellite .. Kavita Krishnamurthy (CAN) went down to Danielle Wiggins (USA) 36 06 though .. In the main draw, Tara faces Maki Arai (JPN,566) .. Sai Jayalakshmy is the 6th seed and plays Tomoko Taira (JPN,737) .. Megha Vakharia plays Emily Marker (USA,834) .. In doubles, Sai and Megha are top seeds and play Marilyn Baker and Rochelle Goldthreate of USA .. So glad to see young Tara doing well again - she seemed to be in a bit of a funk for about three months, since the Eastern ITF junior tour.

July 14 Note-2

Hey, ITF did the right thing! .. They corrected the doubles ranks and Sania Mirza is indeed the #1 doubles player in today's new world junior rank list! .. Here is the rank list -- 1. Sania Mirza (IND, 15 Nov 1986, 790 pts) .. 2. Kristen Flipkens (BEL, 10 Jan 1986, 690) .. 3. Andrea Hlavackova (CZE, 10 Aug 1986, 680) .. 4. Alisa Kleybanova (RUS, 15 Jul 1989, 600) .. 5. Jarmila Gajdasova (SVK, 26 Apr 1987, 600) ..  How about that ? !! ..

Harsh Mankad's second week on full-time challenger circuit also came to an end in a close match today in doubles - [R1] Harsh Mankad/ Jay Gooding (AUS) l. Ivo Heuberger (SUI)/ Brian Phau (GER), 75 46 46 .. Again, it is a long haul and we all need to be patient to see where he gets on the challenger circuit .. Next week at the $50K Lexington challenger in Kentucky .. He is in the main draw of singles there, and we will see who he will have as a partner there in doubles.

Rohan Bopanna did not get a great draw at the Manchester challenger where he made the main draw as the last entry .. [R1] R.Bopanna vs #4 Geirge Bastl (SUI, 201) .. Tough match .. In doubles he continues with Aisam Qureshi (PAK) .. They are seeded second and face Fabio Colangelo and Massimo Dell'Acqua of Italy, the same team they beat last week at Bristol in three sets .. Most of the main draw starts Tuesday there.

By the way, Rohan is in the main draw list for the Recanati challenger in Italy next week - after that he will be in the US at the Denver challenger.

Some good news from the qualies for the women's $10K ITF satellite at Baltimore .. Tara Iyer, who turned 15 last week, had reached the final qualies yesterday, upsetting a seed in the first round  -- [Q1] Tara Iyer (IND) d. (1048) #7 Kathleen Blaszak (USA) 36 62 63 .. [Q2] d. Jessica Landes (USA) 61 76 (5) .. [Q3] Tara Iyer (IND) vs. Sabita Maharaj (USA) .. Sabita herself is of Indian origin (I assume) and is a talented youngster in the US .. Also reaching the final qualies is Kavitha Krishnamoorthy of Canada .. Sai Jayalakshmy is expected as the 3rd seed in the main draw with Megha Vakharia also possibly as the 8th seed or so .. A couple of Indian names from the US are also in the main draw list - Shikha Uberoi and Neha Uberoi .. We could have some 5 or 6 indian names in the main draw in the end .. I have not seen today's final qualies results or the main draw, yet .. Incidentally, Manisha Malhotra had won this satellite at Baltimore three years back in one of her nicer wins, upsetting Rika Fujiwara in the final ..

LP and MB are off this week .. Actually Max Mrinyi is playing at the Stuttgart ATP woth Jared Palmer in doubles .. MB is in India .. Was at Bangalore over the weekend, as they inaugurated the synthetic courts at the TennisVillage .. I am told it is a nice facility, with floodlights and viewer stands and all that ..  Sania Mirza was also out there .. She will be undergoing some coaching soon, and will probably also go to Florida for coaching .. I am glad to see that she has been mentioning the need to do a lot more work (over several months) to get ready for the proverbial next level .. By the way, Sania news articles have flooded the Indian media .. I think it is all a bit of an overkill - after all it was a junior title, you know; impressive as it is .. If it was anybody but Sania, I would have been very concerned about over-exposure .. Sania is used to all the praise, over-praise and hype and she has always kept her head on her shoulders and focused on the hard work at hand - I trust she will .. Nothing has been proven, and till she reaches top-5 in the juniors beating the European machines or reaches top-200 in the WTA rans, we cannot say anything! .. I see some predicting top-50 and all that -- come on, a whole hell of a lot more is needed to reach such levels - proper coaching and months/years of hard work, still .. Back to Mahesh, it was reported in the Telegraph (Kolkata) that he will be at the Jaideep Mukherjee academy to do some clinics for kids, etc.

July 14 Note-1

Well, I am having a hard time predicting the rankings these days .. It turns out that ATP reduced the points for the Swiss Open .. It was 200 points last year and is 175 this year .. The prize money apparently reduced from 600K to 550K .. This is utterly ludicrous of course .. They even play a 5-set final for singles at Swiss Open and it has the same points as the $350K annual mickey mouse dog and pony grasscourt show at the Hall of Fame (with due apologies to great players who have won it in the past) .. I mean, Robbie Ginepri wins Newport beating nobody in the top-90 and gets the same points as Jiri Novak who toiled for five-sets to beat Roger Federer at the Swiss final .. Come on, ATP had a perfectly logical ranking and point system a few years back with points, bonuses and everything and they messed the whole damn thing up with fewer point levels (supposedly for people to understand it better - yeah right!) ..  All they really did was to confuse everybody with two separate rank lists (race and entry) and get the press off their back about rankings .. The US and European press had this pet story then, that the ranking system was illogical because somebody who was ranked #1 had not won the latest grand slam or whatever .. That was one of those "safe" stories that "sounded like" constructive criticism but without any substantive suggestions for change, like the doping story these days, that the press pulled out whenever they had nothing else to talk about! .. Anyway, it is ridiculous to see the Swiss Open getting short-changed, though it was according to the book .. So, anyway, LP got 25 points less and so Fabrice Santoro at 3085 points is ahead at #10 in the ranks and LP at 3070 stays at #11 .. So, unlike what I said yesterday, LP needs to wait some more to crack the top-10 again .. Also, MB-MM stays ahead of LP-DR by 5 entry points (one race point - 498 to 497) at the #3 spot!

The top five doubles teams are - #1 Bob Bryan/ Mike Bryan (655 pts), #2 Mark Knowles/ Daniel Nestor (640), #3 Mahesh Bhupathi/ Max Mirnyi (498), #4 Leander Paes/ David Rikl (497), #5 Jonas Bjorkman/ Todd Woodbridge (405) ..

Have not seen the Manchester draw for Rohan yet .. Also the Aptos doubles draw for Harsh.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on July 14 ..

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.