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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on July 24, 2000

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July 24 Note-1

More good news from Sunday, following on the Nirupama title reported below .. Our #2 on the woman's side also pulled off a title, also upsetting the top seed Sunday! .. Manisha Malhotra (#342) d. #1 seed Rika Fujiwara (JPN,291), 76(5) 67(4) 62 .. She was up 5-2 in the second and let it slip, but came back strongly in the 3rd.

Here is the story from the Baltimore Sun (excerpts): Malhotra pushes to USTA Satellite title: She wears down Fujiwara in intense 3-set match, by James Girza --- After her opponent, top-seeded Rika Fujiwara, hit a forehand volley wide, Manisha Malhotra walked to her chair on the sideline, up 5-2 in the third set of the finals of the USTA Women's Satellite Tournament of Baltimore yesterday at Druid Hill Park.  The situation was eerily familiar. Malhorta, the No. 2 seed, had led 5-2 in the second set only to blow three match points, drop the next four games and lose the set in a tiebreaker. "I was like, 'OK, you just need to go for it, and if you don't get it this time, you have another service game,' " said Malhotra, a native of India who played collegiately at Tennessee.   She only needed one game. Malhotra quickly went up 40-15, and on her fourth match point followed a big first serve to the net, knifing a backhand volley crosscourt to complete a 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-2 victory .. The 23-year-old Malhotra, ranked 337th in the world, looked up at the overcast sky, clenched her fists and let out a triumphant "Yes!" as 3:05 hours of intense tennis finally came to a close.  "I wasn't going to mess up that time," Malhotra said .... Emotion flowed throughout the match from both players. Fujiwara, ranked 291st, exhorted herself frequently with thunderous slaps on both thighs and yelled at herself in her native Japanese.  The fiery Malhotra, meanwhile, vocally questioned a number of line calls and confronted the linespeople and chair umpire after several of them .... Despite her frustration with the officiating, Malhotra stayed consistent from the baseline - a welcome improvement for her after she struggled with her control in a semifinal win against Anne Plessinger on Saturday. Also, she was  able to put her heavy first serve in with more regularity. Malhotra went to the net behind virtually every first serve, punishing weak returns from Fujiwara, who often could only get a piece of her racket on the ball.  Even when Fujiwara burned her with passing shots, Malhotra stayed aggressive at the net. "You've just got to keep pushing," said Malhotra, who won $1,600. "After awhile I could start figuring out, like, her backhand was always down the line. So you start figuring out patterns. She's better than me off the ground, so I had to come to the net."  .... After coming back to win the first-set tiebreaker, Malhotra looked like she was on her way to a quick victory in the second set.  She broke Fujiwara's serve twice en route to a 5-2 advantage, but wasted three match points in the eighth game as Fujiwara sent three service winners to her forehand side.  Fujiwara ran off the next three games before Malhotra broke her to even the set at 6-6 ... Fujiwara dominated the ensuing tiebreaker with some of the hardest-hit shots of the match, but the comeback seemed to take too much out of her by the third set. "I felt the pressure from her coming to the net," said Fujiwara.

Sounds like a terrific match between these two at Baltimore .. Attitude, Attitude -- that is a big part of winning tennis, and Manisha had that in the match .. Aggressiveness is a hallmark of her tennis, and that seems to have made the difference.  A win over a top-300 player, a hard-hitter like Fujiwara, is always good.  Manisha gets 5 more WTA points which will take her to a #325 ranking next week, I believe a career-high .. Manisha has been doing it the right way, playing a lot and becoming very experienced in the satellite level - she has only tried to play 2 or 3 qualifiers at the challenger level, making the main draw a couple of times outside of the Indian challenger .. It looks as though she is now more than ready to try her hand at the challenger level a bit more .. She may be taking this week off, unless she decides to go to the Evansville satellite in the US .. Perhaps she could play the qualies at the Lexington challenger in the coming weekend .. Go Manisha!

No doubt that our women have been giving us a lot more nice results these days than our men :-)

July 23 Note-3

Hey, good news - fresh off the courts from Mahwah .. Niru won her first doubles title in over three years today at the $50K challenger at Mahwah, New Jersey! .. Second seeds Nirupama (#225) and Evie Dominikovic (AUS,164) upset the top seeds  Irina Selyutina (KAZ,45) and Lisa McShea (AUS,72), 6-4, 6-4 ! ..  That is a much higher ranked team they upset there.

And you thought we were going to miss this one ? .. No way .. Here is a TennisIndia exclusive (:-)) report on the match -- from Babu Mallishetty who was there as our correspondent (:-)):

I watched Nirupama & partner play and win their Doubles finals against Selyutina & McShea 6-4, 6-4.  I was glad to see a few "Indians" among the spectators ... Niru was wearing nice cooling glasses and appeared to be having fun through out the match.  She was brilliant at the net and overall made very few unforced errors.  Her partner Dominikovic appeared nervous in the first few games.  She was messing up even simple volleys.  We could see Niru talking to her several times apparently giving her encouragement.  Niru appeared to be the floor leader with very positive body language.  Dominikovic improved a lot by the middle of the 1st set and consequently the 1st set service break came at 4-4 with McShea serving.  Even though Dominikovic had trouble in her previous service game, this time she held without trouble to close out the set.

In the second set, Dominikovic started to use the lob but not with much success.  Time and again she would put the ball up only for Selyutina or McShea to smash a winner.  Niru continued to be smiling and talking to her partner in a friendly way through this period.  Also in the second set, I noticed that while Niru was serving to Selyutina from the AD court, Selyutina was having a very easy time returning the service by gently lobbing the ball over Dominikovic.  This caused some confusion between Niru & Dominikovic as to who would pick it up.  This shot was used six or seven times with Niru & partner losing every time.  I was glad to see Niru make the obvious adjustment to start serving more to the center of the court thus eliminating this threat.  The second set service break came at 3-3 again off of McShea but with Selyutina missing on three overheads.  This was followed by Dominikovic and Niru holding to close the match.

Niru's volleying and presence of mind at the net may have been the deciding edge in this match.  While Niru made very few unforced errors, her second serve appeared to be a weakness.  Dominikovic's volleying often appeared a bit weak, even though on occasions she volleyed well ..  While being awarded the prize, the first question to Niru was about her cooling glasses.  After she answered that, she talked about how she and Dominikovic came together well even though they were playing for the first time.  Congratulations to Niru on a great performance! ..  This match was followed by Monica Seles winning 6-3 6-3 against Amanda Coetzer in the singles finals.

Thanks for the report, Babu! .. Yes, Niru's cooling glasses are quite well-known on the tour! .. Nice to see that they scheduled a doubles final before the exhibition singles final - something not done often enough.

The title gives Nirupama 40 WTA doubles points (including 4 bonus) to add to the 90 she has now, which will take her doubles ranking up from #225 all the way to about #175 .. Great show .. Actually 4 bonus points is a rarity in the challenger circuit - it isn't all that often that a team has a sum-rank over 125 .. The winning team won $2800, and so Niru added $1400 to the $2300 she made from the singles semi .. With the $800 she made last week for singles QF and doubles at Atlanta challnger, that is $4500 for two weeks of work .. That is a lot of money for Niru, who is essentially on week-to-week finances on the tough tour .. She had told me two days back that she will skip the Salt Lake city challenger and take rest this week, staying in the east coast and travelling to the Lexington (Kentucky) challenger next week (starting Jul 31st) .. After two weeks of heavy work load, she deserves a rest .. She made enough money to enjoy a few ice creams and watch a few movies too :-) .. Go Niru !

Gosh, we needed some good news to make us forget a bit of the sting from the Bastad chainsaw massacre ..

Talking of the Bastad massacre, here is the article by Nirmal Sekhar (The Hindu) and here is the article by Ravi Chakravarti (Deccan Herald) .. If you really really wanted to find a positive in today's reverse singles, it was just that Harsh managed to break Tillstrom's serve once, though Harsh was broken 5 of 7 times .. He clearly needs to improve his service game .. In singles, Harsh won just 8 games in 5 stes, though with three service breaks (two on Vinci) .. Srinath was even worse, winning a total of 7 games in 5 sets on his serve with not even a break .. That was about all we could do in singles there .. Ok, let's put it behind and forghet this whole episode .. Move on.

Come on Manisha, why don't you also win that title today at Baltimore ? .. We can use all the good news we can get!

July 23 Note-2

At the $10K Baltimore satellite yesterday, Manisha Malhotra actually won the semifinals (I had reported yesterday the Baltimore Sun news that the semis were done on Friday and that Manisha lost - the newspaper simply messed up, as the semis were yesterday!) .. Manisha beat Anne Plessinger, 76(4) 76(6) .. She plays the final against the #1 seed Rika Fujiwara (JPN) today .. From the newspaper today, "Malhotra, overcame a booming yet fickle serve and spells of erratic play before defeating Plessinger, 22, a Vanderbilt graduate playing in her first satellite .. The 23-year-old Malhotra, a native of India who played collegiately at Tennessee, captured the crucial points and came up big in both tiebreakers .. "That's going to be a tough match," Malhotra said of today's final against Fujiwara. "She's a good player. She's going to get a lot of balls in play, and I have to, again, play basic, simple tennis." ...

July 23 Note-1

As in the past three ties against Sweden, even in reverse singles we cannot even sneeze .. And as in most of the losses in the past too, whatever little fight there was, disappeared in the final sets too .. Srinath lost to Vinciguerra 26 16, and Harsh lost to Tillstrom 36 06 .. This one is mercifully over! Another 5-0 shellacking from Sweden that tells us we ain't worthy.

India stays in the Asian Group (Tier) I  next year and will have to play two regional ties and one World group qualifier to make it back into world group 16 in 2002 after a three year absence .. Let us hope Paes and Bhupathi will be healthy and in old form for a few ties in the next 2 or 3 more years.

July 22 Note-3

The dead-rubber reverse singles remain for us to play .. I know they don't mean much, but knowing that the Swedes have not allowed some of our best players to win even dead-rubber reverse singles matches (1-5 record in three ties), I would like to see us try our best .. I hate 0-5 losses .. I say, let's throw Vishal and Harsh out there - let them try their best, and at least get experience on such slow red clay.  The reverse singles are scheduled to start at Sunday 12 noon (3.30 pm India .. 6 am New York) .. I will be online in our chatroom with score updates - let us give the team our support till the end!

As for today's doubles, here is the article by Nirmal Sekhar in The Hindu, and here is the article by Ravi Chakravarti in the Deccan Herald .. Both say that Mahesh played at top-level and occasionally spectacularly too .. Fazal was on the other hand going hot and cold .. Cold initially in the first set when the Swedes went exclusively after him, and he dropped serve once .. He played very well for the next two sets, however, and India was cruising, with a break in the first game of the 4th set .. And then Fazal dropped serve in the second game of the set and the final slide started .. Fazal made a quite a few unforced errors in the last sets, unfortunately - many of them on easy put-away volleys .. With Mahesh perhaps beginning to tire a bit by the 5th set, it was over - India did put up a fight in the final set getting a break back, but that was not enough .. I can see people complaining a bit about Fazal for this loss, but come on, I would not be all that harsh on him this time - after all he did hold up there with Mahesh (sometimes it is very hard when the other team comes totally at you as they are so scared of your partner!) and they managed to take it to a 5th set .. Kulti-Tillstrom is a top-class team, don't forget that they had beaten Mahesh and Prinosil in the final at Halle just last month .. I would only complain that Fazal should get out of the habit of suddenly becoming very mistake-prone in some of his matches, especially at key junctures too - that has hampered his career significantly, because he has a lot of talent that gets wasted due to the inconsistency .. On the whole, I will give them credit for going the distance in this match .. A loss is a loss, nonetheless ..

Nirupama and Evie Dominikovic got an unusual rest day today before a final .. The doubles final at the $50K Mahwah challenger is scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon .. They face the #1 seeds, Irina Selyutina and Lisa MsShea in the final .. This is Niru's first doubles final since last October at the Albuqueque challenger with Marion Maruska ..  Niru-Evie won the semifinal yesterday, 76(2) 64 over  Karen Miller and Visnja Vuletic ..

Manisha Malhotra lost in the semfinal of the $10K Baltimore satellite yesterday to Anne Plesinger of USA according to the Baltimore Sun, but they did not report the score - I will find out later .. She had beaten qualifier Karen Haus (USA) 64 62 in the QF (earlier roujnds in July 21 Note-2) .. Manisha did not play doubles this week.

July 22 Note-2

The first time India and Sweden played doubles, back in 1985 in India, Vijay and Anand started the match and lost a set at 19-21 to Edberg-Jaryd - and the writing has been on the wall that even in doubles we were never going to win much against the Swedes .. Vijay/Anand lost the doubles in 1987 in Sweden to Nystrom-Wilander .. Then LP-MB lost the doubles to Bjorkman-Kulti in 96 .. Each time our teams, two of the best we have had, took one set each! .. The story hardly ever changes against Sweden .. We took two sets today, but the result is always a foregone conclusion against Sweden (we had won only one set in 20 in sweden before that - and mind you, 14 of them were played by Vijay, Anand, and Ramesh - between them they have won ONE set in Sweden -- and that group was India's best ever perhaps, who were playing the Davis Cup FINAL in Sweden) ..  You thought Mahesh and Fazal could change anything today ? .. Fat chance for that, though they seem to have put their hearts out today .. N.Kulti/ M.Tillstrom d. M.Bhupathi/ F.Syed 63 36 46 63 63 ..  After being 1-0 in the 4th set (I think we had broken the Swedes then - not sure) we went 5-12 in the next 17 games to lose the match .. As I said, the writing is always on the wall against the Swedes.

Make our record 1-17 in 18 matches against Sweden, 3-22 in sets played in Sweden, etc, etc .. We have lost 19-21 in a set,  we have not won more than 2 games in the final set 9 times in the 17 losses (3 or fewer games won in the final two sets an incredible 7 times) showing how we were just falling apart in the end in most matches, we have lost in the 5th set thrice (Vijay Amritraj losing final two sets against Jarryd in 85, LP losing final two sets against Bjorkman in 96, and MB-FS losing final two sets today), and we have lost in every which way, even a  3rd set tiebreaker loss in a dead-rubber reverse singles match (LP against Kulti, 96) .. Our only win remains the one by Vijay over Wilander in 85, that too a tough 8-6 9-7 win - silly as it sounds in a dead-rubber reverse singles match (and Wilander beat Vijay two years later in a dead-rubber match 62 60 in Sweden, lest anybody celebrated that solitary win!) .. Staggering statistcis of futility from us .. One would be hardpressed to find such domination of one team over another in ties near the final stages (of the four ties, two were world group final-8, one was a world final, and one a world group qualifier which is final-24).   Incredible..

July 23 Note-1

Today's doubles match,  Bhupathi-Syed vs Kulti-Tillstrom at Bastad starts at 2.00 pm (5.30 pm India, 8.00 am New York) .. There will be score updates in our chatroom .. Come on in and let us celebrate India winning only their second match in 18 attempts against the Swedes !! -- Hey, I am always optimistic, you know!

At the $50K Mahwah challenger, I think Nirupama and Evie Dominikovic won their doubles semifinal Friday night against Karen Miller and Visnja Vuletic, 76(2) 64 .. The match was at 5-4 in the second set at 11 pm when I heard last from the tournament desk .. A few minutes later there was nobody there - so I guess Niru/Evie won the semi  .. Will confirm later today .. That would be the sixth challenger doubles final in her career with six different partners - she has three doubles titles so far (actually she has gone to semfinal or better 11 times in her career with 10 diferent partners, I believe!)

July 21 Note-4

The newspapers for saturday do not have any details of the Srinath match as it finished a bit late for press deadlines, but both Nirmal Shekhar's article in The Hindu and Ravi Chakravarti's article in the Deccan Herald say that Harsh was simply outmatched against Vinciguerra, and it was not that was doin much wrong .. The difference in abilities shows in such situations .. Ravi still writes something positive about Harsh - The youngster (Vinciguerra) maybe just getting out of his teens, but he has already made a mark on the ATP circuit. In contrast, we had Mankad, an year elder to Vinciguerra, but still travelling on the Satellite levels .. The difference was indeed startling, but to Mankad`s credit, he didn`t let it bother him very much. The fact that he was playing against a top-50 player in the world may have flashed across his mind, but Mankad, ranked 545 to Vinciguerra`s 42, didn`t dwell on such mundane matters. It was just as well, for, the moment you get awed by your opponent, you`ve had it.  He knew that they were both debutants and that he was the underdog, yet he gave it all he could, but the slippery surface due to the rains as also the slow nature of clay proved to be his undoing ... Nirmal writes, "Within his limitations, the man from Mumbai, ranked more than 500 places below his opponent, did fairly well in the first half of the match. He did not make too many unforced errors and hit a few delightful winners on the forehand side, too" ..  OK, we are looking for whatever positive that we can find, eh ? ..

Actually Ravi had written in his Friday article in the Deccan Herald about Enqvist withdrawing, As far as Harsh Mankad was concerned, the situation was the same. Very short on words, Mankad said with a straight face ''All I know is I`m playing Vinciguerra tomorrow." .. It could be that Mankad has either been afflicted by a strong sign of nerves or it is just that, reality is yet to dawn on him ..  Oh, probably Harsh really wasn't all that nervous .. He seems to be that type - actually two days before he left for Sweden I talked to him and asked him to take it easy whatever happens .. He said, "that's one thing you don't have to worry - I won't be nervous" .. That's good, but the match still showed that Mankad has some ways to go before he can tackle those in the top 250 in ATP ..  He needs to put on more upperbody strength, get a lot more zip in his serve and get a lot more experience against top players - after all this is the first top-300 player he has ever played ..  At this point, it is still clear that we have nobody else among the young brigade showing much .. It's a sad situation but we have to carry on with the hope that at least Harsh will continue to improve, as he has done in the last year in the US.

Manisha Malhotra is in the quarterfinals at the $10K Baltimore satellite .. She is only playing singles there, as she is returning from a three week break for resting a sore shoulder .. She is seeded second, and beat qualifier Marlene Mejia (USA) 64 75 in the first round and then Megan Bradley (USA), 67(4) 60 62 yesterday .. She plays another qualifier, Maren Haus of USA today in the QF ..

July 21 Note-3

Well, Sri could do no better either -- [Match-2]  Mikael Tillstrom d. Srinath Prahlad 62 60 61 .. Nothing much to give as details in this match - the scoreline basically says it all .. OK, now what "smack" can I come up with ?? .. :-)

By the way, I was told there was no Doordarshan coverage of this tie in India - instead they were showing USA-vs-Spain Davis Cup .. That was a ridiculous, though it looks like nobody missed much in action from Sweden ..  Dorodarshan continues to amaze us with  their incompetence.

Nirupama and Dominikovic have reached the doubles semifinal at the Mahwah challenger, as Singian-Cargill gave a walkover yesterday, perhaps because Singian was too tired after two singles matches .. So, Niru-Domnikovic play Karen Miller (USA) and Visnja Vuletic (YUG) today in the semis ..  That is $400 more for Niru to add to $2300 from singles, in a really profitable week for her.

July 21 Note-2

Harsh Mankad had a baptism by fire out there .. [Match-1] Andreas Vinciguerra d. Harsh Mankad  63 61 61 .. Harsh started a bit nervous I guess, dropping serve in the first game and falling behind 0-2, but he regained his composure .. He broke Vinciguera once, but was broken a couple more times to lose the set 36 .. He started the second set well, breaking AV in the first game, but was broken again in the second game .. Then he had AV in a bit of trouble, having to serve deuces in game 3, but AV held - after throwing his racket and getting a bit rattled .. At this point (63 12) Harsh was looking good, but as is our luck in sweden, there comes the rain and a delay for about 90 minutes .. Based on at least a couple of matches Harsh lost in the US, and one other that he almost lost in the satellites, I guessed that he would be in trouble with windy overcast conditions - as though the world #42 needed any help against the world #550 ! .. Anyway, after the delay, Vinci kept on going to Harsh's backhand side and he just couldn't handle it .. Dropped serve 6 of the next 7 times to lose the match in 35 more minutes flat .. 36 16 16 ..

We have Sanjeevi giving us some updates straight from the Bastad courts (courtesy Wideyes, sponsors of the Bastad ATP tournament) .. Come to the chatroom for the next match starting soon at around 5.45 pm in Sweden - Srinath vs Tillstrom .. Actually during the rain-delay break, Mahesh, Srinath and Fazal came in to chat with us!! .. The team was actually happy then about how Harsh was playing.. Things went down fast after the break, though.

July 21 Note-1

The fun is about to start in Sweden! .. It's almost Davis Cup time! .. I don't know why, but I always get excited about it, whether we are playing Lebanon or China or somebody that we should beat easily, or whether we are playing Sweden or USA or somebody who we should lose handily to .. It doesn't matter - there is always hope in Davis Cup, especially when India is playing!

The fiirst match, Mankad vs Vinciguerra, starts at Båstad at 1 pm noon Friday (4.30 pm India .. 7 am New York) , followed by Srinath vs Tillstrom .. There will be Doordarshan coverage in India,  we will be chatting with online updates in our chatroom, and you can find score updates and live real-audio commentary at Wahindia.com  (Nice to have these guys committed to the davis Cup coverage .. Hopefully they will have all the snags worked out this time - actually for the Delhi Davis Cup in April, they had the realaudio commentary only about half hour delayed, though their live score updates were working fine by the final day) .. Anyway, those who are watching it on Doordarshan, please come into the chatroom and give us some commentary .. Actually I have had this request for a lot of events, and except a couple of press friends, nobody from India has come to the chatroom while watching it on TV .. People from the Gulf watching it on Doordarshan have come in and helped, though .. Sometimes I have had to call up people and set things up .. Come on, what is it with you folks in India?  Be a little nice, friends - there are a lot of folks outside India who can't get it on TV and could use some help from you all ! ..

There will be occasional score updates at the Mahesh Bhupathi page also during the matches, for those who have problem getting the chatroom to work.

Since nobody is showing the guts to talk some "smack" (as Jim Rome the US radio sports talk-show host says), I will do some .. Did you know that Tillstrom has a laughable 0-3 record in Davis Cup ? .. Yeah, the dude has lost to Kucera on his debut (lost the final three sets, that too) .. OK, that was Kucera .. Wonder what his excuse is, for losing two more just this April .. Lost to Tuomas Ketola in 4 sets, and then lost the second one to some 18 yr old kid in straight sets (Jarkko Nieminen - Mikael must have been clueless and figured he is a fomer top-5 player in ATP, not the ITF juniors), as the mighty Sweden struggled to a 3-2 win against Finland .. Finland ?? .. As in "who" ?? .. Really, this Mikael guy has lost 8 of the last 10 sets he has played in Davis Cup .. Make that 11 of 13 after he learns to say "My sore body" tomorrow after a shellacking from the Mysore boy .. I wonder how many guys had to eat Oothappam and fall sick for this guy to end up winning a title at Chennai .. Man, is he over-rated or what ? .. And then this Vin Che Guevarra kid - don't even get me started on him .. I mean, the guy had to come and beg us in Chennai for a wildcard to see what world class tennis is .. Rest assured that this baby "Vinci" (what a silly schoolboy nickname!) will be a nervous wreck in no time today, and will learn a "harsh" lesson about what Indian shotmaking is .. I would like to know if HIS grandfather was an international sports legend - or if his mother has played in Wimbledon - or if his father was the captain of any Ranji Trophy team up there .. I rest my case on that! .. And then there is doubles .. Mahesh, Mahesh -- need I say anymore ? .. Come to think of it, their doubles team (Kulti or Bulti or whoever) should be paying some money for getting a chance to hit against ITF's reigning world champion .. Quick - how many active Swedes have ever been #1 in doubles ? -- May be a big ZERO, unless Edberg pulls a McEnroe and picks up the racket .. They will have better luck trying to figure out how to say "Tippu Sultan Fazaluddin Syed" than to play against him .. Hey, Sweden ain't "all that", people .. I mean, can you believe that they have been watering the court for one week to slow it down even more .. Can we say "paranoid" ?? .. The mighty Goliath 7-time Davis Cup champions are feeling a bit of pressure from the little David team .. Scared that the biggest underdogs in Davis Cup world group qualifier history might jump up and bite? .. They have to slow the damn red dirt against these Indians whose only experience in even seeing red clay in India may be near a Paan shops in some bus stand .. How ludicrous! ..  Now for the bottom line stat :- The two Swedes playing #1 and #2 have a combined 0-3 record in Davis Cup, and the two Indians are actually better at 0-1 .. We are taking this, friends .. Yes sirree, jeetega, jeetega, Hindustan jeetega .. There .. I did my bit of smack when everyone is sitting smug :-) .. [All in good fun .. Come on people - lighten up and enjoy this Davis Cup]

July 20 Note-4

Niru's luck ran out in the semifinals once again -- At the $50K Mahwah challenger (New Jersey) today, Tracy Alameda-Singian (USA,187) d. Nirupama, 75 76(2) .. Seems like it was a tight match .. Unfortuantely this is the sixth challenger semifinal in a row that Niru has lost, over three years .. But we can't complain as she has had a great couple of weeks, pointswise, that will take her up from a ranking of 211 to about 180+ in two weeks .. She should be ranked just outside 200 next week, which should be suffieicnt to make the qualifying draw for US Open too .. She earned $2300 in prize money for reaching the semi this week .. I believe Niru and Dominikovic were to play their doubles QF later today at Mahwah - she will get another crack at Tracy there too, as it is against her and Ansley Cargill ..

July 20 Note-3

Nirupama's semifinal opponent today at the Mahwah (NJ) challenger is still not determined .. They couldn't finish the last QF match last night, and as of around noon there today, Tracy Singian vs Dawn Buth is at 62 25 .. It has been pretty hot weather out there this week - if this match goes to three sets, with the winner having to come back and play Niru in the afternoon, that's not bad for Niru .. Niru may be playing the doubles QF after the singles.

Still no news on Manisha's R1 match at Baltimore yesterday.

July 20 Note-2

Here it is, from wire service of Aftonbladet, Sweden -- Skadad Enqvist missar Davis Cup:  Svenske tennisstjärnan Thomas Enqvist tvingas avstå singelspelet i helgens möte mot Indien i Davis Cup-matchen i Båstad. Enqvist har fått känning av sin gamla axelskada.

That roughly translates (I just learned some Swedish!) as, "Injured Enqvist to miss Davis Cup:  Swedesh tennis star Thomas Enqvist has been forced to give up his singles meeting with India in the weekend Davis Cup tie at Båstad.  Enqvist is feeling his old shoulder injury" ..

Ah, the strange twists that Davis Cup ties take in the last minutes! - isn't Davis Cup wonderful ? (Not that I find it wonderful that Enqvist isn't well :-)) ... Wish we had MB and LP healthy for this - we could have even pulled one off! .. Anyway, in my mind, the chances for India to pull a miracle upset perhaps have gone up from roughly 10% to about 25% - and I say that because Tillstrom's form has been suspect in the last two months .. I will take it whichever way it comes .. Go India !! .. This is going to be more fun than I thought .. That first match between 20 yr old Mankad and 19 yr old Vinciguerra, both making their Davis Cuo debut, is going to be very interesting, though Vinci is one of the most talented yougsters in the game, with much much more big-game experience then Harsh - but things are often different in Davis Cup ..  Incidentally, India has kept Mahesh-Fazal as the doubles team for Saturday .. I guess Hesh's calf sprain is getting better ? .. We will find out more soon.

Some additional good news from Dr.Paes today - PTI reports he has repeated his statement that he does not see any problem for LP to be playing with MB at Bangalore .. He also said this - they may be seen in action in a couple of tournaments before Olympics! .. he said, "They cannot just go and play Olympics - so in order to get some practice together, they need to participate in a couple of tournaments.  However, first they will discuss it between themselves" .. according to PTI, on the prospects of a long-term partnership, he said, "I cannot tell you off-hand.  A lot of issues are ionvolved.  So any such decision would be preceded by detailed parleys between the two" .. I say, Hooray! .. Perhaps our prayers may get answered and they would do the right thing, playing at US Open before Olympics ? (and perhaps somewhere else before that too - why not Cincinnati masters, now that we are getting greedy?) .. Shall we say, "Go Indian Express!" again ?? .. May be not - I need to hear from the champs themselves before I start boiling any broth!

June 20 Note-1

Just got the draw for the Davis Cup, from ITF, London:  [Day 1]  Andreas Vinciguerra vs Harsh Mankad first, followed by Mikael Tillstrom vs Prahlad Srinath[Day 2] Nicklas Kulti/ Mikael Tillstrom vs Mahesh Bhupathi/ Fazaluddin Syed, [Day 3] Andreas Vinciguerra vs Prahlad Srinath, followed by Mikael Tillstrom vs Harsh Mankad ..

Hey, what happened to Enqvist ??? .. Hold on - I will fimd out more.

July 19 Note-2

Good news and bad news .. First for the bad news -- as though we needed anymore bad luck against the mighty Swedes, Mahesh came back from his morning jog with a sprained calf muscle (see Nirmal Sekhar's article in The Hindu) .. I got a note from Mahesh that the calf is sore right now and that he will be deciding tomorrow (Thursday) if he can play doubles on saturday .. He also said that the calf sprain is not serious and will go away in a few days .. So it seems like the Fazal-Uppal team may be playing the doubles .. Oh brother!  Can we get a break against Sweden, ever ?

By the way, Wahindia.com will be giving live coverage of the Davis Cup matches, and we will be having our updates in the our chatroom too.

OK, now for the good news .. Nirupama Vaidyanathan d. #6 Jill Craybas (USA,157), 75 63 to reach the semifinal at the $50K Mahwah challenger today .. Another upset, as she almost routinely does against players in the 125-175 rank range .. This is Niru's first semifinal since the Delhi challenger last september .. Actually the last time she reached a semifinal in a challenger with over $25K prize money was three years back at Bronx .. This gives her 22 total points (6 bonus points included) which is one of the highest point totals in her career .. Two weeks and she has picked up 35 points to add to 102 - terrific! .. Now let's get that first challenger final since 1996 tomorrow to add to the count .. Go Niru! Go Niru! .. Two of the quarterfinals are being held late at night, and her opponent for the semifinal (#187 Tracy Singian or #195 Dawn Buth, both unseeded) will be known by tomorrow .. The concurrent big money exhibition tournament has started there today with Coetzer playing Karsnoroutskaya ..  The big event has 6 invited players (Coetzer, Krosnoroutskaya, Kournikova, Mashona Washington, Capriati, Seles) with the two finalists of the challenger rounding out the eight players in the QF - I believe that is the format.

Here is a nice article in The Hindu about Vijay Amritraj, who deserves a lot of credit along with Krishna Bhupathi and the Chief minister S.M.Krishna, for the ATP tour doubles championship coming to Bangalore .. There may be those who accuse/suspect Vijay of being a bit too commercially oriented (actually there's nothing wrong in that), but Vijay's commitment and "persuasive power" with ATP were reportedly very helpful in bringing this event to India .. And he never loses that legendary "Vijay smile" - I was reminded of that seeing his pictures in many newspaper articles this week .. The team is certainly a good one - Bhupathi for running the show professionally as the director, Vijay for charming the hell out of everybody and the CM to be that powerful rock in the background .. The Times of India had this line today -- "SM Krishna has served an ace, and it's advantage Bangalore!"

We may have to wait till tomorrow to know about Manisha's first round match at the Baltimore satellite.

July 19 Note-1

Nirupama has a tough match today at Mahwah .. She plays the 6th seed Jill Craybas (USA,157) in the quarterfinal, after her 63 26 61 win over Yoon-Jeong Cho (KOR,221) yesterday  .. I hope she is not tired after two three-set matches yesterday though .. In doubles also she has reached the QF - Niru and E.Dominikovic d. Kelly Hyndman and Marie-Eve Pelletier, 62 36 64 .. I don't think she will be playing the doubles QF today.

Manisha's first round match at the Baltimore satellite is scheduled for today - I still have not seen the final draw to see which qualifier she is facing in the first round.

On the LP-MB topic - At least the two dads seem to be pretty upbeat about Leander and Mahesh these days - that's indeed a good sign .. Here is an article from Rediff.com's Rifad Jawaid, who talked to Dr.Paes .. Excerpts -  Dr Paes said Leander, who is undergoing treatment for his injured wrist, is awaiting his doctors' nod to get back to action. "His doctors are expected to pronounce a final decision within the next couple of days. But I am quite optimistic about a favourable report from the physicians currently attending to Leander's wrist injury," ... "I personally think that it would bring an the end to the duo's personal differences. However, I have my own reservations as well, primarily because of our past experiences" ... Commenting on his telephone conversation with Krishna Bhupathi on Tuesday evening, Dr. Paes said: "Well, both of us share so many common things between us. We have always worked hard towards ensuring that our sons continued to play together on professional circuit. Even when our sons decided to break up, we tried our best to prevent this unfortunate happening. Therefore, when he called me last evening, I readily confirmed Leander's participation and really hope that the doctors' reports are favourable."  .. OK, that's where it is right now .. There does not seem to be any obvious ill-will after the competing bids for the WDC, as we all feared - and that is very nice professionalism from the dads .. Leander and Mahesh themselves have been silent lately - let us hope that reconciliation is in their minds.

There is a PTI report today about Adidas confirming their sponsorship for the AITA junior circuit for three more years .. The big change from AITA is that they are scrapping the under-16 age group and will be sticking to under-14 and under-18 sections .. Not too easy to say what effect this will have .. One positive effect is that there will be a lot more tournaments for under-18 players to play - their schedule has been thread-bare for a few years with really only a handful of tournaments out there .. The tough part would be for the 14 and 15 yr old kids who may have to compete against players up to 4 years older .. It definitely makes the circuit less expensive for everybody though .. We will see if more details would be coming out .. Actually I have an idea - why not have innovative draws in the tournament where 32 players each from under-16 and under-14 are placed in separate halves with the draws mixing at the QF stage (four from u-16 playing four from u-18) ? .. It will add an extra round in the tournaments and keep under-16 players from staying away from tournaments for fear of losing against the older players -- If an extra round is not desirable, one could still do the tournaments splitting 16 each from each age group in a regular 5 round event, with the final two or three rounds being mixed .. Just some thoughts ..

July 18 Note-2

There were smiles all around today at the signing of the contract between ATP and KSLTA on the World Doubles Championships starting on Dec 13th .. But the big news at the function was a teleconference call organized by KSLTA amid "thunderous cheers" when Dr. Paes from Calcutta confirmed to Vijay Amritraj the participation of Leander with Mahesh .. "Leander has been invited to play with Mahesh Bhupathi at Bangalore.  I have conveyed their request to him and I feel for the country's sake, at an event like this, we should come together. I see no problem with Leander playing in the championship", said Paes (see the article in The Hindu) .. That's all good news, but something still leaves me with reluctance to celebrate a whole lot, till we see Mahesh and Leander themselves saying something about whether they still plan on a future together .. It is pretty much confirmed that they will play at Bangalore - so we will have at least that ..

Here is the latest update in The Hindu by Nirmal Shekhar from Bastad .. It still looks like Srinath and Harsh will be playing singles on Friday, and MB-Fazal in doubles on Saturday .. RK was supervising a practice session for Harsh with Tobias Hansson, a player who just graduated from college in the US, whose father (Roland Hansson, an ITF coach who has conducted coaching workshop for ITF in India) said, "Harsh is a very talented player. A lovely player to watch. But he is too nice. He has to be a little bit more active on the ball, a little bit more aggressive," .. Interesting words .. Harsh seems to have a rather laid-back looking style, though it may be bit a deceptive too .. Here is an article by Ravi Chakravarthi in the Deccan Herald, about how India has run into disaster against Sweden every time we were ready to "turn a corner" in Davis Cup - oh so true .. 1-14 record says it all (1985 world group QF in Bangalore, the 1987 world group final in Sweden, and the 1996 world group QF in Calcutta) .. Aren't we due for some really big breaks against the Swedes for a change ?

July 18 Note-1

Good news from the $50K Mahwah challenger .. In the second round today, Nirupama d. Yoon-Jeong Cho (KOR,211), 63 26 61 to reach another challenger quarterfinal .. Strong 3rd set for her today! .. She has picked up 13 points (including 4 bonus for two top-250 wins), which takes her two-week total to 22 points so far, adding to the 102.5 she had before .. Enough to bring her up by about 20 spots to near 190 in the rankings .. Good job! .. It's been a while since she reached the QF of a challenger higher than $25K and the $1300 prize money is always nice! .. Not sure whom she will be playing in the QF tomorrow .. She plays doubles first round later today .. Qualifier Sunitha Rao of USA lost in the first round to wild card Sarah Taylor (USA), 61 62, and lucky-loser entry Kavitha Krishnamurthy of Canada lost 62 61 to Irina Selyutina (KAZ) yesterday ..

Manisha will be playing her first round match at the $10K Baltimore satellite either today or tomorrow.

July 17 Note-2

Manisha Malhotra is the second seed in singles at the $10K Baltimore satellite .. She is drawn to face a qualifier who will be determined today .. I have not seen the doubles draw yet .. In keeping with this weekend's "Indian-foreigner" explosion, there is a player in the final round of qualies at Baltimore as well -- Jyotsna Vasisht of USA .. I had seen the name, but do not know much about her -- will try to find out.

Nirmal Shekhar has this preview article in Tuesday's The Hindu from Bastad, about the upcoming Davis Cup tie .. He says that Mahesh's shoulder is becoming fine, but that the decision now is not to push the shoulder with singles matches on clay .. RK seems to be inclined to play Srinath and Mankad in singles ..

July 17 Note-1

Here is an article from Wahindia.com, with some promising words coming from Dr. Vece Paes .. Excerpts - According to Dr. Vece Paes, Leander is open to the suggestion that the two former partners can play together in the Championship. " There is no reason why Leander will not play with Mahesh in Bangalore, after all the two have agreed to play together in the Olympics and Davis Cup," was the Senior Paesís reaction when asked if Leander is willing to play with Mahesh ... Asked when is Leander likely to come to a decision regarding this, Dr. Paes said, " Leander has been sent the invite and now he has to process the invite and also check his schedule whether he has dates available at that time or not. But I think there should be no problem." ... Good stuff, and it's quite nice to see that the little competition to host the event has not caused any big rift between the two dad's camps .. I don't think schedule is a concern - LP can't possibly have anything more important to do at that time! :-) ... But, as Neeru Bhatia writes in the Wahindia.com article, "However, it is all Papa talk for now. Indian tennis fans will only believe that their prayers have come true once they hear the confirmation from both the players themselves.  Till then we all will keep our fingers crossed!" .. Exactly .. The two guys need to meet half-way on their differences and decide to play .. I still insist that till these two remove the underlying mistrust between them, success is not automatic for them wherever they play .. To start with, let's hear about US Open together, guys!

The article also quotes Dr. Paes to be saying that LP has just started training to gain strength (the cast on his wrist for tendinitis, had just come off) - the wrist has to come to full strength  before he gets back on the tour .. My guess is that in about three to four weeks he should be back ? .. Anyway, there is one mistake in the Wahindia article (I believe this comes from an agency news article earlier) that it is the first time the World Doubles Championship is being held outside Hartford .. Not true - I believe in the 5-6 years before it went to Hartford for 5 years, it was held at Netherlands, Johannesburg and Jakarta for one or two years each ..

Also, Mr. CGK Bhupathi sent a note reminding me that it is "RACE to Bangalore" in this year's ATP terminology, not "Road to Bangalore," as I had written earlier .. He also says that "we have offered the wildcard to the DUO", in his words.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on July 17 ..

I am getting some enquiries 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 enquiring 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 enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.