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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on July 26, 1999

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July 26 Note-1

At the $325K Los Angelese Mercedes-Benz  Cup, Leander faces qualifier Eric Taino (USA,644) in the first round today .. The match is scheduled for about 9.30 pm - one of the featured night matches .. Wonder why this match is a "featured one" ? .. It's because Eric Taino is a former UCLA player, and the tournament is at the UCLA courts  - he was their top singles player when UCLA was ranked #1 or #2 in 1997 in collegiate tennis .. Don't let his ranking fool you; the 24-year old is a tough fighter .. He has had some good results in challenger matches - actually he has wins against Marzio Martelli of Italy when he was ranked in the top-150, and over Lionel Roux and Michael Hill in the top-250 this year .. He even took Andrew Ilie in the top-50 into a 3rd set tiebreaker in the Laguna Hills challenger earlier this year .. Plus he just came through three round of qualifiers; he was a bit lucky, getting  two wildcard players ranked below 1000, but he did have to beat Michael Joyce (#205) in the second round .. There will be all his UCLA friends out there, on the grandstand court, so familiar to him .. I think this may be his first match in the main draw of an ATP world series event .. I plan to be there with a couple of other fanclub folks and we will scream as best as we can to give Leander some support, but our screams may get drowned .. The tournament desk has given me a press pass for the tournament (they tell me it is the first time they remember anybody asking press passes for an online tennis page .. Heck, why not ? .. Indians are of course first in these things!) .. Since I am not a print press reporter, I don't have to follow the journalistic ethics and stay impartial, do I ? :-)

The other qualifiers are Magnus Larsson, David Wheaton and James Sekulov .. I believe Larsson (#63) had to qualify as he had not entered the tournament before the deadline .. Wheaton beat the current Asian #4, 20 yr old  Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand (#201), in the final round.

July 25 Notes

There was nothing to report for a couple of days .. Met Leander last evening at our first fan club get-together, in Los Angeles ! .. Funny that it has been three years that this fanclub has existed for, and we have never had an official in-person fanclub get-together with Leander, though many of us have met him and Mahesh at various places individually .. A few of us from California were there .. LP was in good spirits after a good afternoon of practice hitting the ball with Pete Sampras .. LP thanked everyone for all the support and enjoyed some Indian food .. His fine trainer, Sanjay Singh was also there .. LP is looking forward to doing well at LA .. We will put up some pictures from last night, sometime.

At the $325K Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz Cup, Leander has got the kind of draw that he seems to be getting often these days .. A qualifier first and then a high seed .. Here is the draw till the semifinals:

1 Andre Agassi   (USA)  vs   Jan-Michael Gambill (USA) \ 
  Leander Paes   (IND)  vs Q Qualifier                 / \
  Daniel Nestor  (CAN)  vs   Axel Pretzsch (GER)       \ /
7 Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)  vs   Alex OBrien (USA)         /
The upper half of the draw has 4th seed Rios, and the lower half has 2nd seed Sampras and 3rd seed Henman .. The final round of qualifying is going on at the UCLA courts today, and we will know LP's R1 opponent probably by tonight .. (The final round matches are, M.Larsson vs J.Weir-Smith,  P.Srichaphan vs D.Wheaton,  E.Taino vs D.Westermann,  and C.Caratti vs J.Sekulov) .. I expect them to schedule LP's first round singles match tomorrow (Monday) itself.

July 23 Notes

Leander got to Los Angles on Thursday evening, after a few days of break and some vacation (oh yeah, he deserved it - he says he enjoyed doing some horseback riding and all that!) .. He is in good physical shape, and not bothered by any injuries or anything (that's always a "touchwood" statement, for LP and MB!) .. Had some nice practice today and he is looking forward to some good results at the LA Mercedes-Benz Cup next week.

Not much else to report .. No news from Turkey still, on how Mustafa Ghouse did in the main draw of the futures this week ..  Actually I still have not seen the doubles draw there to know if any of our kids were in it.

There was a very interesting article in The Hindu today about some proposed amendments in the AITA rules and regulations, titled AITA proposes a 'cash for votes' amendment ..  Read it ..  I really have no idea if the propsed change is good or bad, and I am just not interested in getting into any political angle in there .. As long as there are enough tournaments and people don't forget the players while fighting for power, we will all be happy .. (But, really shouldn't the title be "votes for cash" scheme ? .. The title sounds misleading and makes AITA look worse, perhaps!)

Talking about what is perhaps more important for organizations like AITA to do, here is something I got by email just today from Fazaluddin, while he is on the futures circuit in the USA .. He says, "if you would like to mention it in the webpage, there are about 5 coaches from the USTA working with  the players at the venues taking notes, driving them, drilling them and monitoring them .. Maybe we could learn a few things back home" ..  I think Fazal has hit the nail on its head, and I hope somebody would try to do something about this matter .. This is where our kids are really at a disadvantage .. I keep going back to the comments that our former captain Naresh Kumar said, about our kids being "aimless kites" in the pro circuits because we provide no coaching or advice during their travels .. How about a scheme to give votes to anybody who can bring in sponsorship for a travelling unit of coaches ? :-) .. AITA has done better than most expected, in getting some international tournaments on the calendar (though it can certainly be even better), and has shown some initiative in starting the junior development schemes, though (I always have a disclaimer :-))  the lack of any news recently on that scheme makes me worry .. It's certainly time for AITA to do something about coaching during the tournament circuits, at least for a select group of players.

Will report any news on the Los Angeles draw, etc, tomorrow .. I have also been doing some other stuff with our web designer, Prakash Hemdev of the fan club .. We may have some interesting announcement soon too !

July 22 Note-2

The news I hear now is that there is a very good chance that Mahesh will have to skip the Montreal Super 9 (wek after next), due to the torn fibers in the abdomen .. He should be fine by the Cincinnati Super 9 the following week though .. I am not sure who Leander will be playing with, at Montreal.

Fazal Syed and Jan Boruszewsky (GER) just played a three hour 40 minutes quarterfinal match but came out at the wrong end against Jonathan Beardsley and Todd Meringoff,  7-6(12-10), 6-7(6-8), 6-7(4-7), at the $15K USA F11 at Godfrey, Illinois .. In fact there were a bunch of folks in the tournament office, who were waiting to go home, getting upset that this last match of the day had been going on for ever till 7 pm ! .. Talked to Fazal, who was disappointed but keeping good spirits .. He goes to the $15K USA F12 at St.Joseph Missouri next week .. He is unsure of his plans after that.

At the ITF junior international in Pretoria, South Africa, today, Radhika Tulpule and Carien Venter (RSA) lost in the semifinals of doubles to Chani Scheepers and Maretha van Niekerk (both from RSA), also in a 3rd set tiebreaker, 61 06 67(7) .. These being grade 3 tournaments, Radhika would have picked up some more good points for the semifinals in successive weeks in South Africa, to improve her ranking even further .. That finishes her pretty successful foreign swing.

Jan 22 Note-1

I had not looked into what the juniors have been doing for the last couple of months, since there have been no tournaments around .. Our highest ranked junior (18 and under) girl for next year, Radhika Tulpule, had been having some nice results in Africa during that time though .. A press friend just told me that he had heard about her being in Africa, so I hunted for some news .. Radhika was in Morocco for a couple of tournaments and has been in South Africa for two tournaments .. I don't know of her detailed singles results from Morocco, but she did win the doubles title at the Grade-4 ITF junior tournament at Mohammedia, Morocco late last month (Jun 21-26), in the company of Siham Bennacer of Algeria (ranked at #123 in doubles) .. Radhika has now become the top ranked Indian junior doubles player at #84, overtaking even Sheetal Gautam and Shruti Dhawan who have had so many titles together .. What is impressive is the number of different partners Radhika has done well with .. In singles, Radhika is now ranked #104, which puts her only a few spots behind Sheetal Gautam at #89 who is India's top junior .. Sheetal is in her final junior year, but Radhika has another year left .. As of now, Radhika is the second highest ranked player under 17 in Asia, behind Suchanan Viratprasert of Thailand who is at #35 .. In doubles also she is second in Asia among 17-and-under girls (behind Angelique Wijaya of Indonesia) .. Coupled with her senior satellite circuit leg title in India, Radhika is building up quite a good resume .. I hope she keeps up playing tough tournaments and makes a big jump next year, when she is sure to start the year among the top-75 or so in singles.

Anyway, I have no results from Casablanca  (Morocco) where she may have been in the week following Mohammedia, and perhaps at Tunisia in the week after .. She may have done more to improve her rankings even further (not sure which of the tournaments have gone into ITF's computer yet) .. I did find her latest results from South Africa where she currently is ..  She did not do all that well in singles at these grade-3 tournaments at Johannesberg last week and Pretoria this week .. She reached the quarterfinals last week beating  Candice Meyer (60 60) and Lyle Cupido (60 62) before losing to Chani Schepers (63 60) .. This week she beat Anca Anastassiu (67 61 64) before losing to Carien Venter yesterday (16 61 60) in final 16 .. In doubles she reached the semifinal last week in the company of Tsitsi Masviba of Zimbabwe after upsetting the 4th seeds .. This week, she is playing with Carien Venter (RSA) and they have reached the semifinal again, as of yesterday .. They beat Hailey Rudman and Anai Elazari (ISR) 64 64 in the first round and upset the 2nd seeds Tanya Okapala and Patricia Osedume of Nigeria yesterday in the QFs .. There is also another Indian junior in South Africa -  N.Mukundan .. He  won the first round in both weeks but was ousted by the 8th and 2nd seeds in the second rounds .. Most of Mukundan's matches seemed to be hard-fought though, based on the scores ..  He was playing doubles with a Clinton Jacobs from RSA, but they lost in the first round both weeks. (results courtesy: South African Tennis Association) ..

Good to see our kids playing .. The results themselves are not as important as the experience in playing at all these places .. South Africa is normally a place where tennis feels different, especially when played at the higher altitudes where the balls fly around a bit .. Radhika is expected back in India this week and I guess back home in Pune soon..

July 21 Note-2

News from the $15K Illinois futures .. Syed Fazaluddin won the first round yesterday against John James (642, AUS), 46 64 30  (retd.), but got upset this afternoon in the second round by Robert Sameulsson (1028, SWE) in a very close match, 76(3) 57 57 .. I believe he had to get to the 3rd round of this 64-draw tournament to get any ATP points, though ..  Fazal is in the doubles draw, with Jan Boruszewsky (GER,458), and they are seeded 4th .. They won today in the first round 76(2) 64, over the American pair, Keith From and David Martin .. They play the second round tomorrow afternoon, against Jonathan Beardsley and Todd Meringoff of the USA ..

July 21 Note-1

Leander Paes is expected in LA by tomorrow .. Nice to know that he will be in town early, preparing for the Mercedes-Benz Cup (formerly the LA Infiniti - the sponsors changed last year) .. He will be in the singles and doubles draws .. Playing doubles with Bjorkman, as I reported earlier .. The singles field at LA will be a good one - with Sampras, Agassi, Rios, Henman and some lower ranked players like Chang (can't believe he is down to #59 now - he even played a challenger last week in Aptos, to start a comeback trail) .. Would be a good place for Leander to try for some upset wins and bonus points.

Some good news from Turkey today - Mustafa Ghouse made it to the main draw through the qualifiers .. Vijay Kannan missed the main draw by a hair, and was the top seed in the qualies, with Mustafa the 8th seed and SK Shivshankar the 10th seed .. All three had first round byes in the qualies .. Mustafa beat unranked Kaan Dodooglu (I assume from Turkey) 63 64 and then beat, of all people people, SK Shivshankar, 46 63 64 .. SKS had beaten unranked Cagdas Ulukan (also of Turkey I assume), 46 75 76(6), to reach the 3rd round .. Vijay Kannan got upset in the first match (in round 2) by Mohammed Wafa (1245,EGY), 64 62 .. Still not a good weekend for our guys there .. Anyway, Mustafa Ghouse is drawn against Michael Logarzo (653,AUS) in the first round of the main draw.

Not much other interesting news to report lately .. Will trace down some results from the Illinois futures where Fazal is playing, later today.

July 20 Note-4

I was a bit puzzled about a few things today - first I found that this week's USA F11 Futures is not in Missouri, but in Illinois (at a place called Gottfried or something, I believe) .. I had been told that Fazal was to be at a Missouri futures .. Anyway, it turns out that Fazal is at this futures .. He is the 8th seed and is drawn to play John James (AUS, 642) .. I looked at the ATP database and it turned out that John James is a 48 year old guy ! .. Trust me, ATP says he was born in 1951 .. Looking further, I found that he was ranked as high as #91 in 1979, had stopped playing in 1984 and started again last year .. I thought Fazal would have to watch his serves and not be disrespectful to such elder citizens .. Anyway, further investigation revealed (with help from the one one who knows more about ATP's info than anybody even at ATP, Steve Gocha) the truth .. ATP had forgotten that the new John James has "Jr" with the name ! .. :-) .. The young guy is only 24 years old .. We will await scores from there, but at least we know that we don't have to worry about Fazal showing the Indian-style respect for elders and serving lollypops.

July 20 Note-3

Manisha Malhotra was at the qualifying rounds for the Peachtree City challenger in Atlanta this week, but lost in the first round of the qualies to Amanda Augustus (USA,959), 36 57 .. Sorry that I have been bringing only bad news lately .. Somebody will start winning soon, I am sure :-)

July 20 Note-2

Got an email from Turkey just now, with a correction - Srinath is not in Turkey, as he is sick .. He did not play in last week's futures .. So, Aisam Quereshi did not beat him either :-) .. It was a lucky loser player who lost to Aisam .. The results info that came from ITF is wrong .. I don't have any info on how Srinath is doing, but let's hope he too recovers well .. Damn, too many players down!

July 20 Note-1

Just got info from India that Mahesh is not playing this week, and has to rest a bit longer to heal his abdomen injury, which is of the type that needs about a month or more of rest ..  This is the 3rd week of rest for him, and it is expected that he will be at the Montreal Super 9, starting on Aug 2nd  - or at least at Cincinnati, starting on Aug 9th .. Rather unfortunate that he has missed a rare chance to play singles for a few weeks .. Get well soon, Hesh.

July 19 Notes

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

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

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

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

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

July 18 Note-2

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

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

July 18 Note-1

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

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

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

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending July 19 ..