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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on July 22, 2002
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July 22 Note-1

-- Have to be away AGAIN .. sorry .. the next update may be as late as Friday .. Those of you who find news/info, please post in our forum ..

Just found out that Prakash and Stephen Amritraj of USA won a tiebreaker shootout to grab a wildcard spot into the LA Mercedes Cup ATP main draw! .. Wow, that's good work by the kids .. Now I am kicking myself, that I cannot go and watch the two play tomorrow, as I will be away .. They face Bastl-Stolle early in the afternoon .. An Amritraj pair playing a doubles event on the ATP tour again, after many many many years! .. Let's wish the kids well, and I hope some of you in the LA area would go give the guys some support (of course, they both being from here, they will definitely have a big cheering squad) and post any match report in the forum, please.

Now, for some *really* bad news .. The latest calendar from AITA shows that the two challengers originally planned for December are now gone .. Both were originally to be conducted by Paes-En-Sport .. It would be the first time in so many years that we won't have a challenger in India the whole year .. Well, somebody has to conduct it and find the title sponsors, I guess (probably it is tough to find sponsors now with Hesh and Lee both not playing singles anymore; as I don't know more it's not fair to blame Paes-en-Sport) .. It is a very disturbing development and I can say a lot more on the need for challengers, but I will wait till I get back later next week.

Rohan will be at the USA F21 futures, and Manoj at the Jamaica futures .. Harsh will take off to Estonia this week for the futures next week - news on all that will be late (check out www.stevegtennis.com during the week for scores) .. Manisha my be at the Pamplonba challenger in Spain .. I will update the results from Manisha, Isha, and Sania late this week.  Rushmi and Sai may not be playing this week.  Leander is off for a 3rd week, but should be at the Toronto masters after that.

July 21 Note-2

Wonderful news from South Africa - we finally have a grade-2 winner! .. #2 Isha Lakahni beat #3 Kelly Anderson (RSA,62) 76(3) 75 today to win the title .. To add to it Isha and Sania won the doubles title also, giving India a clear sweep over South Africa - #1 Sania Mirza/ Isha Lakhani (Ind) d. #3 Roxanne Clarke/ Taryn Rudman (RSA) 76(2) 62 .. Isha has an unbeaten record in SEVEN ITF finals in her junior career .. That is something phenomenal, actually .. She won 3 grade-4 finals and one grade-3 final in India starting from last September, then two grade-3 finals in Bangladesh, and now this grade-2 in RSA .. Her finals have come against Rebecca Dandenia (GBR) twice, Kartiki Bhat, Pichaya Laosirichon (THA), Rui Du (CHN, walkover), Ting-Wen Wang (TPE) and Kelly Anderson (RSA,62) .. This girl does have some kind of a special winning spirit, it would appear - perhaps the kind of spirit that a young Leander used to show in his junior days, based on the news reports I remember reading about her fist-pumping self-motivating kind of game .. The 100 points for the title takes her point total to 360 (as 40 points for a grade-4 title goes out of the best-6 total) - her ranking next week will go up to around #35 from #52 .. She turned 17 this April, and has one more year left in the juniors .. It is good to see her and Sania do so well (of course Sania is 1.5 years younger, amazing as it may seem, knowing everything that that kid has done so far!) .. I am not sure if we have ever had an Indian girl win a grade-2 event (I am sure nobody other than Niru has done it, and I don't know all of Niru's junior results; it has been at least over seven years) .. It is great for Sania also to have another Indian ranked as high in singles and doubles in the ITF circuit - hopefully both will be seen in many top events for the next year and half .. They go to another club in Pretoria for the second grade-2 event starting wednesday.

July 21 Note-1

We had Rushmi in a satellite singles final, Manisha in a challenger doubles final and Isha in a grade-2 junior final this week, which was pretty good for the Indian women/girls .. So far we are 0 for 2 though, as I await Isha's results .. Manisha and Leanne Baker went down 26 36 to Elena Baltacha (GBR)/ Natacha Radriantefy (MAD) yesterday in the final of the $25K challenger in Valladolid (Spain) .. According to the El Norte Castilla newspaper from there, unforced errors were the main problem for Manisha and Leanne yesterday .. But still a very good week for Manisha - reaching the final of a challenger is always a good achievement .. I believe Manisha will proceed to the $25K challenger in Pamplona, Spain (also on hard courts) .. As of a week back, she was #3 in the qualifying list for singles .. Hopefully she has made the main draw - getting there for today's singles qualies would have been tough.

July 20 Note-2

Good and bad news from RSA today .. Isha Lakhani reached the final with a 75 61 win over the 5th seed Michelle Snyman (RSA,165) but top seed Sania Mirza got upset by the 3rd seed Kelly Anderson (RSA,62) in a close one, 36 75 62 .. Her ranking will fall a bit, and Isha may go past her in a couple of weeks, as it stands .. No big deal, but I think as soon as she gets done with the next few weeks of junior events (she has a bunch of point to defend to keep that top-60 ranking and make it to top draws such as at the US Open juniors), she needs to get back into some serious training program and work on some specifics .. I don't know exactly what needs coaching work - this is just my feeling based on her results not picking up in the last few months ..  It appears to me that she needs some coaching help to take the proverbial next step, but I have no doubt that she will be back among the top junior ranks and winning the top-75 matches much more consistently in a few months .. Isha has been cruising along at Pretoria, and has reached her first grade-2 final, only the second time that an Indian girl has reached a grade-2 final (the last was Sania's runner-up finish at Hong Kong last October) .. She raises her point total from 300 to 335 with the 75 points for the final, and will now get inside the top-45 .. Tough match tomorrow for her though.

In doubles, the top seeds Sania-Isha are in the finals with an easy 61 62 win over #4 Michelle Snyman (RSA) and Lara Giltinan (AUS) .. Isha-Sania is quite a formidable doubles team, and I hope they will continue to play together in the juniors .. They play the 3rd seeds Clarke/Rudman next.

Prakash Amritraj made the qualifying draw at the $400K Los Angeles ATP this weekend, where the draw closed below #1000 .. Tough match for him, against Jeff Williams (USA,346) today.

July 20 Note-1

Nice news from South Africa .. For the first time ever, we have two girls (actually I don't know when/if we have had two boys) in the semis of a grade-2 junior draw! .. #1 Sania beat the 10th seed Roxanne Clark (RSA,252) 64 64 to reach the semi against #3 Kelly Anderson (RSA,62) .. #2 Isha Lakhani had an impressive 61 61 shellacking of #8 Teodora Mircic (YUG,225) .. Young Tara Iyer went down 36 26 to #5 Michelle Snyman (RSA,165), but she picked up enough points with her upset of the 3rd seed thursday to bring her rank up by nearly 100 spots near #280 .. The semis are today .. Here are the scores in the second round on Tuesday which I had not reported earlier (all three indians had a bye into the R2) - Sania d. Adele van Niekirk (RSA), 61 61;  Isha d. Joanne Shickerling (RSA), 62 62; Tara d. Sidsel Lorenzen (MOZ), 62 62 and all three opponents were unranked.

In doubles, Sania and Isha have reached the SF as well -- they beat Tara and Chanell Meijer (RSA) 57 61 62 reach the QF - both teams had first round byes .. In the QF yesterday, top seeded Sania/Isha beat the 7th seeds Tapiwe Marobela (BOT) and Fadzai Masiyasi (ZIM), 60 61 .. They play the 4th seed Michelle Snyman (RSA) and Lara Giltinan (AUS) next.

July 19 Note-2

Manisha Malhotra and Leanne Baker reached the final of doubles at the $25K Valladolid challenger in Spain, beating Olga Blahotova (CZE) and Magdalena Zdenovcova (CZE) easily, 61 62, today! .. They face Elena Baltacha and Natacha Randriantefy in the final!

Rushmi Chakravarti finished runner-up at the Algiers $10K today, losing 36 46 in the final to the 7th seed Jennifer Schmidt (AUT, 683) .. Jennifer is a good player and had upset the second seed in the second round as well .. Rushmi will have to wait for her first foreign satellite title, but she picked up 4 more WTA points and should crack the top-400 now.

Rajeev Ram (USA) lost in the QF today at the $15K USA F20 futures to the top seed Takahiro Terachi (JPN), 26 36.

July 19 Note-1

An Indian will be in the final for the second week in a row in the Algeria satellites .. At the $10K event this week in Algiers, top seed Rushmi Chakravarti has reached the final, following Sai's title last week .. Today Rushmi beat last week's runner-up Elisabeth Bahn (AUT) 64 46 64 .. She beat 5th seed Isabel Collischonn (GER), 26 63 64 yesterday in the QF .. This is Rushmi's first satellite final abroad (actually even the first SF).

Good news also from South Africa, as the latest "baby" on our girls' side, Tara Iyer, has pulled off the best win of her career yesterday .. She upset the 4th seed Pichaya Laosirichon (THA,73) ranked over 300 spots higher and four years older, as three Indians reached the QF at the grade-2 ITF juniors in Pretoria .. Here are the R3 scores (courtesy: SATA, South Africa) - #1 Sania Mirza d. #14 Tammy Day (RSA,430), 62 62 .. #2 Isha Lakhani d. Tapiwa Marobela (Botswana,541), 62 61 .. #13 Tara Iyer d. #4 Pichaya Laosirichon (THA,73), 64 61 .. Sania plays 10th seed Roxanne Clarke (RSA,252), Isha plays 8th seed Teodora Mircic (YUG,225) and Tara plays 5th seed Michelle Snyman (RSA,165) next ..

Actually Tara's big win is significant for another reason too, as she is also proving that the National selectors knew what they were doing when they selected her along with Sanaa Bhambri and Sandhya Nagraj for the three-member team for the u14 World junior tennis final-16 in Prostejov, Czech Republic, in three weeks (Aug 12-17) .. It did look a bit unfair to drop Sandri Gangotri who was in the team for the Asian qualifiers as the 3rd member (though she only played one doubles match or something there) - but this was indeed a good decision by the selectors because Tara, having trained in the US for over a year and having played quite a few matches in the junior ITF circuit, is probably more ready for foreign competition than Sandri at this time .. Tough on Sandri, but her time will definitely come in the u16 level from now on ..

The team for Prostejov world u14 final-16 with their birthdays is, 1. Sanaa Bhambri (7/3/88) 2. Tara Iyer (8/7/88), 3. Sandhya Nagaraj (30/8/88), Captain: Kawaljeet Singh .. Note also that Tara is nominated as the second player which means she will be playing the #2 spot for us in all the ties, with the rules not allowing bringing in the 3rd player for singles other than under extenuating circumstances, from what I understand ..  On the boys' side the team is 1. Rupesh Roy (16/2/89) 2. Sumit Prakash Gupta (27/1/89) 3. Mathivanan Jeevan (20.10.88), Captain: Hemant Bendre .. Both teams had done extremely well in the Asian qualifier and let's hope they would put up a creditable show in CZE .. But this is the world final-16 and the competition will be something else out there altogether.

July 18 Note-2

Manisha and Leanne won their match today in Spain and are in the doubles semis at the $25K Valladolid challenger .. Manisha is really beginning to make a living from doubles these days I guess (probably not, I doubt the prize money is enough to break even still) ..  Here are the scores - [R1] #3 Leanne Baker (NZL)/ Manisha Malhotra d. (q) Olivia Sanchez (FRA)/ Neuza Silva (POR), 64 64 .. [QF] d. Caroline Ann Basu (GER)/ Chanelle Scheepers (RSA), 62 46 63 .. The SF is against the Czech pair, Olga Blahotova and Magdalena Zdenovcova.

At the Algiers $10K satellite, here are the scores till yesterday for the top seed Rushmi Chakravarti - [R1] d. (wc) Habiba Ifrakh (MAR), 64 62 .. [R2] d. Jenny Zika (AUT), 61 62 .. The QF is against the 5th seed Isabel Collischonn (GER) .. In the doubles first round, the top seeds Rushmi and Sai got upset, 16 64 75 by the Spanish pair, Julia Gandia and Mieiea Gol .. Sai's first round singles loss was to Susanne Fillip (AUT), 46 64 46.

Manoj Mahadevan went down in the first round at the $10K Jamaica F10 futures, 36 16 to qualifier Roger Anderson (RSA), who has upset the second seed today to reach the QF.

A couple of Indian-Americans have had productive results this week .. Wildcard Sunitha Rao (USA,392) won one round at the $50K challenger in Oyster Bay, New York, beating qualifier Kelly McCain (USA,514), 62 57 61 .. Actually 17 yr old Sunitha will be ranked higher than all the Indian women in a couple of weeks .. Rajeev Ram (USA) has won two rounds at the $15K USA F20 futures, beating a qualifier in the R1 and then upsetting the 7th seed Huntley Montgomery (USA) 46 63 64 today.

July 18 Note-1

Quick updates, as I continue to be a bit busy -- Manisha and Leanne won the doubles first round at the $15K Valladolid main draw .. Awaiting news on Sai, Rushmi, Manoj etc .. The Deccan Chronicle (Hyderabad) says that Sania advanced to the second round yesterday in the RSA grade-2 juniors (but as usual, DC does not give any news on anybody other than the city's own girl .. More later..

Something I am reporting a bit late - the India F4 futures originally scheduled for Ahmedabad in a few weeks has been noved to Gulbarga in Karnataka.

July 17 Notes

Last week's winner Sai lost in the first round of this week's $10K in Algeria, but Rushmi has reached the QF .. At the Jamaica $10K, Manoj lost the doubles first round .. Gotta run, more later..

July 16 Notes

Manisha is in the doubles main draw at the $25K challenger in Valladolid, Spain .. Seeded 3rd, Manisha Malhotra and Leanne Baker (NZL) face the qualifier pair, Olivia Sanchez (FRA) and Neuza Silva (POR) in the first round .. Manisha did not play the singles qualies there.

Rushmi Chakravarti and Sai Jayalakshmy are both in the upper half of the draw, seeded first and 6th, at the $10K Algiers satellite in Algeria .. Three more top-600 players have joined the draw this week, compared to last week .. Sai, who won last week's Algeria satellite, has a tough draw - she faces Susanne Fillip (AUT) first and then may run into last week's runner-up Elisabeth Bahn in the R2, and probably the 4th seed Maria Pavlidou (GRE) in the QF if she advances .. Rushmi has an easier draw till thge SF .. She plays the wildcard Habiba Ifrakh (MAR) in the first round ..  In doubles, Sai and Rushmi are the top seeds, facing GANDIA, Julia Gandia and GOL, Mieiea Gol of Spain in the R1 ..

Manoj Mahadevan is at the $10K Jamaica F10 futures at Montego Bay .. He gets a qualifier, Roger Anderson (RSA) in the R1 but could run into a tough R2 match against the second seed Julien Cassaigne (FRA) who also has a qualifier at first .. In doubles, Manoj is seeded 3rd with Tohiharu Kato of Japan and they play the wildcards Stephan Timu (CAN) and Scott Willinsky (JAM) ..

Ajay Ramaswamy was in the entry list at the Turkey F1 this week but is not in the draw .. I see that about 8 players in the entry list last week have not got there, and that seems to suggest some sort of visa problems or something .. Incidentally, visas have been causing a bit of trouble for a lot of players these days, with embassies being extra careful all over the place .. Rohan missed two weeks of Spanish training due to visa delays .. Harsh Mankad, who is packing up from Minnesota and spending a few days to tie up a lot of loose ends before leaving, seems to be having all kinds of trouble with visas to the Estonia/Latvia/Lithuania clay futures series in two weeks, with them asking for all kinds of strange documentation .. One of the consulates even asked him to send an extra ONE dollar by money order (they made a mistake in the published amount!), holding up the passport .. How pitiful! -- those who like to blame Indian bureaucracy at the drop of a hat should know of these things - by the way, in my experience in the US, the SF Indian consulate has been really prompt, courteous and good (I will never forget one gentleman there voluntarily offering to wait outside for an extra hour after closing time, just for an ordinary NRI friend of mine from LA to drive up and pick up a passport in a hurry!) .. Somehow we never hear of such stories, and I know I am in a minority among all the Indians who just cannot stop complaining about our good ole' country's ways .. but I digress, as usual :-)

Shivang and Nishank Mishra had reached the 3rd round of the 5-round (!) qualies at the $25K 4-week Spanish (clay) satellite first leg at Leiria, when I saw a couple of days back ..  Now that Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj have bowed out in the Q2 at the Manchester challanger, The only other Indian name playing this week seems to be wildcard Rajeev Ram (USA) at the $15K USA F20 futures in Joplin, Missouri - he faces qualifier Sanjin Sadovich (CAN).

Junior news - Sania Mirza and Isha Lakhani are the top two in the girls entry list for the two grade-2 ITF junior events at Pretoria, South Africa, the first one starting tomorrow .. Tara Iyer is also in the main list .. Draw coming soon .. None of the boys seems to have entered .. I hope Sania and Isha have got there - especially Isha, who really needs to get some foreign events under her belt .. She unfortunately missed two grand slam juniors (FO and Wimbledon) where she would have made made the main draw .. My understanding is that difficulties for family to accompany her was the real problem, though some travel funds for her could have come through .. This is really not an uncommon difficulty that Indian girls face - it is tough for Indian parents to send their girls far away without their own family accompanying .. We have to sympathize with that; though it is easy to say that this is the rough and tumble world of international tennis and that one has to do "whatever it takes", we have to be aware of the realities out there! .. AITA seems to know of some of these problems and is looking into what can be done, based on what Sunil Yajaman, the junior development officer, said recently.

July 15 Notes

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

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

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on July 15 ..

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.