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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on July 27, 1998
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Please read the important topic discussed in the July 21 Notes 1 & 2, and the July 26 Note-3 ..
July 27 Notes
Mahesh's first round opponent at the $100K+H big challenger in Istanbul, Turkey, is the 4th seed Adriano Ferreira of Brazil. Once again, Mahesh gets a seeded player, though Ferreira is not one Mahesh cannot take care of. Ferreira is ranked #180, but has come up a lot in the last 6 weeks, winning the Colombian challenger on clay, and then reaching the finals and quarterfinals of the Bristol and Manchester challengers on grass .. This will be a good win for MB to pull off .. By the way, Mahesh's ranking has slipped to #407, after he lost the biggest set of points in his list, from the LA infiniti last year .. This is the right time to pick it back up .. The draw is,
6-Petr Luxa (CZE) vs Gabriel Trifu (ROM) \ Andrei Stoliarov (RUS) vs Eyal Erlich (ISR) / \ Eyal Ran (ISR) vs Q-Barry Cowan (GBR) \ / 4-Adriano Ferreira (BRA) vs WC-Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) /
By the way, nice of them to give Mahesh a wildcard out there .. I wonder if they expect him to play doubles in return ? .. The doubles draw isn't out yet.
Leander is the top seed at the Winnetka challenger (Diego Nargiso is the second seed) .. LP faces qualifier Chris Groer (#966, USA) in the first round. LP is still having some upper body trouble after the fall last week. It still hurts, and he is hoping to be ready by tomorrow (Tuesday) night for the first round match .. Lleyton Hewitt is a troubling possibility in the second round (remember that this kid won an ATP event, out of the blue, down in Australia in January, upsetting everyone who came his way). Nohm Behr is not an easy foe either. First he needs to be healthy enough to beat the qualifier Groer in the first round, though .. Here is the immediate draw:
1-Leander Paes (IND) vs Q-Chris Groer (USA) \ Noam Behr (ISR) vs Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) / \ WC-Michael Russell (USA) vs WC-James Blake (USA) \ / 8-Geoff Grant (USA) vs Justin Bower (RSA) /
Niru has not played her match at Stanford yet..
July 26 Note-4
Yeah, go Niru, Go !! .. Nirupama Vaidyanathan won the second round of qualifiers over the 8th seed Erica DeLone (#153, USA) today, and is in the final round of qualifiers tomorrow at the $450K Bank of West classic .. The tourney office didn't know the score yet, but said she is cheduled to play the final round of qualifiers tomorrow against the top seed in the qualies, Elena Tatarkova (#69) .. She has 8 points so far, including 2 bonus points for today's win .. If she beats Tatarkova tomorrow, I believe that would be the biggest upset of her career, and will get her a big total of 21 points including 8 more bonus points ..
So, all you bay area fans, make that drive down to the Stanford courts and cheer her (she will play on court 2 at 11 am Monday) ! - Admission is free for the qualifiers, I believe ..
July 26 Note-3
Here is the Indian Express report today (I am told Sharda Ugra of The Hindu also had a story on this, but I haven't seen it):
Fazal's Coach Stirs Hornet's Nest
Nikhila Natarajan, Indian Express, New Delhi, July 25
"IT'S all bunkum," said R K Khanna, president of the All India Tennis Association, reacting to a letter written to him by Davis Cupper Syed Fazaluddin's coach, Andrew Sorrentino. In the letter, Sorrentino, coach at Temple University, where Fazaluddin is a student, has said, "It is an embarrassment to you, to Indian tennis and to the All India Tennis Association that Mr. Syed Fazaluddin has not received adequate financial and political support."
Though Khanna claims that Fazal's father and National football coach, Syed Nayeemuddin, said that "Sorrentino is not Fazal's coach," in a telephonic conversation with Davis Cup selection committee chairman, Anil Khanna, Nayeemuddin had a different version when contacted this evening. "Since I have not yet seen the letter, I misunderstood the name of the coach in question. Sorrentino is indeed Fazal's coach at the University and has helped him right through. I am proud that he thinks so highly of my son," he said on hearing the contents of the letter.
Elsewhere in the letter, Sorrentino says, "I have tried through very modest means to support Syed Fazaluddin's recent professional career but without serious financial support he will become another of the many talented players that burn out while fighting their way through the Futures tournaments. Thus far, the expenses that Fazal has incurred are in excess of $5,000. It is inconcievable that at the very least, the All India tennis Association cannot arrange for one of its own Davis Cup team members to obtain a racquet, clothing, or sneaker sponsorship. While the top 200 juniors routinely recieve free coaching and sponsorship, Fazal still buys his own racquets, clothing and shoes when he can ill afford them."
In any case, the larger issue of individual sponsorship to India's top tennis players is still in a limbo with R K Khanna stressing instead that AITA is bringing in a lot more international tournaments - 16 Satellites a year, and more WTA and junior ITF tournaments. "Everything's finalised. Now that our players can get ATP points in India they should play tournaments here rather than travel abroad and increase their expenses," Khanna reasoned. Later he did admit that it is AITA's policy not to go all out on individual sponsorship. "If we do that for one person, on what basis do we refuse the other players?" he asked. About selecting at least India's best talents Syed Fazaluddin, Prahlad Srinath - for monetary help, Khanna sidestepped saying that "they make enough money from Davis Cup".
As for Nirupama Vaidyanathan, the AITA and DLTA had pooled in Rs 4 lakh earlier this year. Asked whether they would continue with the sponsorship on a yearly basis, Khanna was noncommittal. He also said that bulk of the Rs. 2 crore annual income from the RK Khanna stadium was being routed to the new junior develoment programme. On that front, the latest development is that Rs 1.5 lakh has been given to each of 20 state associations for the new coaching programme and the sponsored, academy-based junior programme is scheduled to get underway in the first week of October where AITA will pay about Rs 60,000 per year for each selected student at the academy.
Hmm.. Looks like I started a little controversy here .. Now I feel a bit guilty in perhaps landing Fazal in a bit of a soup, when he was away in Greece and was unaware of his coach sending me a copy of the letter that started it all (July 21 Notes) .. Coach Sorrentino felt it couldn't hurt to publish it here, though it may have, to some extent .. I am sure the AITA response is not a surprise to anybody, and some of their problems in subjectively selecting one or two players and supporting them may be understandable in the Indian system where everybody else complains whenever someone is selected for support, even if it is based on objective criteria ! .. The letter was published here to show the fans and others the need to do something to help our talented players, not to really attack AITA .. By the way it was just 4 weeks back ( June 28 Note-1 here) that AITA released their new plans to introduce more international tournaments (see June 29 Notes), and I had a long piece commenting and disagreeing with a Times of India article that had some criticizm on AITA's plans .. Incidentally, Fazal was the first player who contacted me and said he was in agreement with AITA's schemes and how it would help a lot (see June 30 Note-4) .. Since I am in a bit of a damage control mode, I thought I would point that out, though I don't think that is going to reach AITA .. Brickbats always reach their destinations, bouquets often do not ! .. But then again, it's alright if AITA takes some heat, as that comes with their job .. All fans, like me, are much more on the players' side, always.
Basically the bottom line is that all these players need help. AITA has taken some good steps, especially this year, but I have to disagree with the above statement from RK Khanna that the international tournaments in India and acedemy-based coaching are the answer to all problems. They are good and correct steps, but a few other things need to happen too .. Sponsorship is a must and whatever AITA can do in organizing sponsorship deals for players, be it in contacting potential sponsors, putting players in touch with them, or keeping good information on the potential and progress of each of the top players and providing that to potential sponsors .. Things of that nature need to be done. AITA plans to spend good money on coaching programs and in supporting selected students with Rs 60K each at the academies, but all that will take them only to a certain level .. They are essential steps, and will help in identifying more and more potential talents in the 12 through 17 age range and starting them off right (if the coaches who are getting paid money do their job .. The old question of accountability comes up again there) .. The next issue that AITA cannot overlook is what happens when the players are ready to "take the next step" .. i.e, what happens when one has gone through the AITA's regional coaching, or the coaching at an academy like Dhaita, and wants to grow from there ? .. The international tournaments in India, however many, are not enough to continuously pick up or defend points, play against enough higher competition and move up the tennis ladder.
Let me ask a specific question: If, say, Fazal, Vijay Kannan or Harsh Mankad does well in the 2 satellites and 2 futures in India (i.e., pick up about 30-40 ATP points; it's very rare that anybody does better), and move inside the world top-400 or 600 by next February, where do they go for support to carry on ?? .. Are there any sponsors that AITA has in mind ? .. The IMGs of the world (the professional sponsorship/management folks) would want to wait till much later before signing anybody up .. Need an example ? .. Nirupama was 18 and had reached the world top-200 two years back, all with her father selling land and finding money .. Not an iota of sponsorship went her way till February of this year (she still gets nothing much, in fact) .. Remember that the players need to play week in and week out to keep their rankings, and need someone to look after and help them .. and AITA needs to just face the fact that players can and do out-grow Indian academies and need to go out and play on their own regularly in the tough junior or pro tours to move to the higher levels (this is a complicated issue, that we will get into another time, along with the issue of a national coach who keeps track of the players, nurtures them, etc) ..
.. And, about sponsors in India, the less said, the better. To quote from an email I received from a well-respected authority in Indian tennis (name withheld fow now), "On the Fazal Issue, It is the Corporate sector that needs to help. AITA's job is to serve the general interest of the game starting from the club player to Leander .. The bottom line is, the Indian Corporate Sector does not suffer from "social conscience". They do not think utilising a miniscule percentage of their MEGA profits (made by selling their SUB STANDARD products to the poor souls..) to promote TALENT in ANY SPORT, ART or any other form is necessary" .. The question is, if AITA does not have any plans to do something to elicit at least some response from the corporate sector, who does ?? .. I don't know the answer, and I am not saying that AITA has the ability, contacts, and manpower needed to find sponsorship for all the players either, though I feel they are in better shape than the players themselves in doing something ..
It all comes down to us fans too, which is why I started this off. Can we find support for our players by organizing ourselves ? .. There are tons of Indians around the world who can help if there is an avenue, I strongly believe .. I repeat, the strength of Indians, if nothing else, is in numbers and why can't those who like to see their home country continue its tradition in at least one sport where it has a good one, join in and support ? .. After all, tennis *is* the favorite game that most NRIs around the world play, isn't it ? .. Is a $200K in contributions (or even investments) a year in the name of a few players, that impossible ? .. I don't think so .. If we can do this, Fazal's coach wouldn't have to write to AITA, AITA wouldn't have to go on the defensive (or offensive if they chose to - I hope not), AITA can organize tournaments and run their academies, and I could just enjoy reporting results and news here. So, do write to me, if you can help, or have an idea, so we can start a concrete scheme for support .. That is why I am spending all this time on this issue. Fazal just sent a note saying how whatever we do would certainly help potential future players even if it doesn't help him right now (and if AITA takes out their anger on Fazal who was not the one who started it all, it may even end up hurting him; I hope it doesn't come to that).
July 26 Note-2
Just found something on 17-yr old Katarina Nimmers, whom Nirupama beat yesterday at Stanford. She is a good friend of Venus Williams and comes from the same South Central Los Angelese area, and the same hardcourts that produced Venus. Nimmers is considered talented, and there was some press publicity last month when she made her pro debut at the Santa Clara challenger .. Looks like she didn't pose much problems to Niru at all, yesterday.
July 26 Note-1
Nirupama is playing the qualifiers at the $450K (Tier II) Bank of West Classic WTA tournament at Stanford, California. Niru won the first round of qualifiers, 6-4, 6-2, over a wildcard player (Nimmers, I believe.. no WTA ranking as far as I can see) yesterday. She now faces the 8th seed in the qualifiers, Erika De Lone (#153, USA) .. Niru gets 3 points for the first round win, and can make it 8 if she can upset De Lone today afternoon and reach the final round of qualies set for Monday morning .. 32 players looking for one of 4 qualifier spots and Niru is in the same quadrant as the 8th seed De Lone and the first seed, Elena Tatarkova (#69.. yikes) who is the potential final round opponent.
July 25 Note-2
Not a good day today .. Prahlad Srinath lost in the qualifiers at the Winnetka challenger to Scott Humphries (#587) of the US .. The US challengers (and some of the Europen clay challengers) normally are some of the most competitive ones and it's never easy to get in. By the way, Leander is the second seed at Winnetka, behind Diego Nargiso of Italy .. LP has reached Chicago.
Fazal seems to have come back to the US, rather than go to UK for their satellites. The latest is that he may try getting into the Binghamton and Bronx challengers in the next few weeks.
Mahesh should be on his way to Istanbul (Turkey) for the challenger, I assume, as I have not heard of any change in plans yet.
Since the Indian Express online has not come up yet for Sunday (for some reason), I will hold on for a bit more before quoting Nikhila Natarajan's article on Fazal and AITA that I got by email earlier today.
July 25 Note-1
Bad news from Stuttgart : Bhupathi/Kafelnikov lost a close one, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (9-11) today in the semis .. Hmm.. I had said Delaitre/Santoro were a tough team, but to beat the boom-boom pair in a long 3rd set tiebreaker is something I didn't expect .. Anyway, Mahesh got some match practice out there and they shared about $20K for the semifinal .. More importantly, he defended the points he had to defend for next week (he was in the finals of the LA infiniti with Leach last year and had 118 pts to defend) ..
Leander seems to be thinking of skipping the Cincinnati Super 9 and going to the Binghamton (NY) challenger instead. Not a bad idea, as LP/MB do not have any serious doubles points to defend there, and it is a good week to pick up some singles points (LP wants to make sure that his ranking does not drop from what it is now, so that he can qualify for the Asian carpet tournaments in September and may be even the Stuttgart and Paris Super 9s in October .. I assume MB also would be going to Binghampton, but will confirm that later.
The Fazuluddin story continues .. The press seems to have followed up on the letter published here (July 21, Note-2), though to some extent I hadn't wished to create that much noise - just didn't want Fazal to run into trouble .. Anyway, I have got the Indian Express report for the Sunday edition emailed to me (thanks!) .. It is going to press right now, so I will wait till the newspaper comes online before publishing it here .. AITA has a response in the matter .. Coming later today.
July 24 Note-2
A correction on what I said earlier about whom MB/YK were to play today .. The ATP site said it was to be Ohlovskiy/Vizner, but the tournament site said Kempers/Kitinov.. Then Mahesh confirmed in a surprise email (one never knows when he sends a surprise!) that they beat Kempers/Kitinov .. Score: 7-6(5), 7-6(3) .. Looks like the big boom-booms were flying in the tiebreakers .. And they are in the semifinals !! .. They have got 133 points (including 18 bonus) so far. The semifinal opponenets will be Delaitre/Santoro .. Though they were not seeded here, I had expected them to be one of two possible semifinal opponents there (see the July 20 Notes .. since most of my predictions don't come through, I though I would brag about this! :-)) .. They are a very good team who have played together quite a bit and are ranked 42nd in the world.
In other news, The Telegraph reported a couple of days back that the Bengal Tennis Association is planning to hold a grasscourt tournament, which they expect to be the national grasscourts championship. The latest AITA calendar did not include a grasscourt nationals, and the reason given was that there were no takers for it. BTA says that they had talked to AITA and had said in February that they were willing to hold it for the next 5 years. AITA apparently did not get confirmation on this before releasing the calendar, I believe .. whatever the deal is, it looks like there will be some sort of national grasscourts again, and that is good news. Finding a free week on the AITA calendar seems to be a problem though. No free weeks are really available (hey, why not drop that Asia Cup and do this ? .. well, may be there is some deal with the Asian Tennis federation that makes thisd not possible, but it really seems unnecessary a few weeks before the Asiad itself) .. I also heard some rumors that the hardcourt nationals (Sreeram Open, Delhi) scheduled to start on October 5th, may have to be postponed due to some conflict .. Not at all confirmed, so if anyone knows anything, please let me know and I will update the schedules page ..
July 24 Note-1
MB and Kafelnikov play Andrei Olhovskiy and Pavel Vizner today in the quarterfinals at Stuttgart. AO/PV upset the 8th seeds Kempers/Kitinov yesterday in round 2 .. The other three semifinalists are already decided .. Delaitre/Santoro in MB's half, and Eagle/Grabb vs Haggard/Waite in the other half ..
A late note on the new rankings .. Due to the Davis Cup week that pushed tournaments forward by a week, the points from last year's tournaments are falling off a week early now. Even though the Legg Mason tourney is this week, the points from the 1997 Legg Mason have fallen off .. This affected MB, as his 7 qualifier points fell off .. He is down to 116 points and a rankings of 331 .. LP stayed at 103 .. Fazaluddin added one point (I believe this is from the Greece futures two weeks back .. I had thought it was a 64-draw futures and didn't expect any points from his first round win there .. May be it was a 32-draw) .. Anyway, one extra point brings his total to 26, and moves him up now to 628 .. Moving up and moving up .. Pretty nice to see him picking up points little by little everywhere he has gone. He has only played 8 tournaments and has points from 7 of those ! .. That means he has not been knocked out in the first round in all but one tournament ..
On the player-support issue (see below) .. Some stuff coming your way soon on Harsh Mankad, the 19-yr old with six junior national titles, but forgotten and neglected by everybody in India for over a year .. We will continue our crusade for supporting the talented Indian players .. Back to the baby-business for now.
July 23 Note-1
Hey, we have had another little fan in the LP-MB fanclub, starting early wednesday morning !! .. My wife and the little girl are doing great .. I think she decided to appear 2-3 weeks early .. picking a mostly tennis-free week to do it.. Anyway, that explains my sudden disappearance.
In other, more important news (kidding..), Mahesh and Kafelnikov are in the quarterfinals at the $915K Stuttgart Mercedes Cup after beating the Argentinian pair Lucas Arnold and Luis Lobo in the second round, 6-2, 7-5 (MB-YK had a first round bye) .. The 8th seeds Kempers/Kitinov are playing their second round match Thursday night againt the winner of the Thursday morning match between Hass/Safin and Olhovskiy/Vizner, with the winners of the night match playing in the QF against MB-YK on Friday ..
In other news, Leander had a fall during workouts on Monday, but is alright but for a slightly hurting ribcage .. X-rays are negative, and he should be fine by now .. He may ask for a Tuesday first round match next week at Winnetka to make up for a lost day of workout at Florida .. Good news: The Indian #3, Prahlad Srinath will be at Winnetka ! .. I think he will be playing the qualifiers over the weekend. Those of you in the Chicago area can go and cheer the guy up during the qualies (Winnetka is just north of Evanston in the Chicago area).
As for Nirupama, she had said she would be coming to the US for a few days of practice on hardcourts this week before starting the US hardcourt season next week (not sure where, but she could be playing the qualies this weekend at the Stanford Bank-of-West tournament if she can make the entry; otherwise, perhaps the Salt Lake city challenger next week). She should be in the bay area by now ..
Fazal should be on his way to England (the 4-week British satellite circuit starts next week) .. If you have not read the last two notes below, please read carefully, and respond to me, on the issue of how the fans can come up with a way to directly support Indian tennis players. So far, I must say I have not been overwhelmed by the response from you all, to put it mildly (:-)) .. A couple of very promising ideas are emerging though.
July 21 Note-2
Continuing on the theme in the last note below, on support for developing our top tennis players, here is something I received from Andrew Sorrentino, Head coach at Temple University, Philadelphia (the Atlantic-10 coach of the year, 1997), who has been coaching Syed Fazaluddin at the university. Just the outpouring of emotions from this one person should make us all sit up and think about how poorly India has handled one of our very best, Fazal .. I am reprinting the letter of July 4th, with permission from Coach Sorrentino, who is awaiting a response from AITA, which I hope will reach him soon.
From: Andrew Sorrentino c/o Aronimink Tennis Club 3600 St. David's Road Newtown Square, Pa. 19073 USA
To: Mr. Raj Khanna, President c/o All India Tennis Association DLTA Tennis Complex Africa Avenue New Delhi 110029 India
Dear Mr. Khanna,
I am writing to you on behalf of Mr. Syed Fazaluddin, whom I have coached in the U.S. for the past four years. Mr. Syed Fazaluddin came into my life looking to fulfill his dream of representing his beloved country in Davis Cup competition as well as obtaining an education at an American University. He has accomplished both with a strong work ethic and a passion seldom seen in young men, but often seen in Champions. I have watched this young man develop from a mere boy into a fierce competitor that would make any coach or parent proud. Mr. Syed Fazaluddin is the perfect representative of the sport of tennis, a gracious sportsman with the heart of a tiger, overflowing with talent and the desire to accomplish his lofty goals.
I write this letter with confusion in my mind and frustration in my heart. I do not understand how this young man, so committed to tennis and his country could meet so much resistance and be so poorly supported by his own tennis federation. It is an embarassment to you, to Indian Tennis and to The All India Tennis Association that Mr. Syed Fazaluddin has not received adequate financial and political support. It is, without a doubt, each nations responsibility to promote and enhance the careers of their most promising athletes. Any tennis association in the world would be proud to have a representative of Mr. Syed's character and ability. If Fazal was an American born player, the USTA would be grooming this gifted grasscourt player to win Wimbledon, not struggle on the Futures Circuit. Yet he has been ignored by your country, by your federation and by potential supporters of India's up and coming star athletes. In a country with little international sporting recognition, but with such a great history of tennis champions respected around the world, it would seem in the best interest of Indian Tennis to lend it's unconditional support to one of it's own world class athlete. Why has this not been the case for Mr. Syed Fazaluddin, Mr. Khanna?
I have tried through very modest means to support Mr. Syed Fazaluddin's recent professional career, but without serious financial support Mr. Syed will become another of the many talented players that burn out while fighting their way through the Futures Tournaments. With my help Fazal has paid his own way through this circuit which has taken him from Philadelphia to Florida, Canada, next to Greece and finally to England . Thus far, the expenses that Fazal has incurred are in excess of $5000.00. It is inconcievable that at the very least The All India Tennis Federation cannot arrange for one of it's own Davis Cup Team Members to obtain a racquet clothing, or sneaker sponsorship. While the top 200 juniors in the U.S. routinely receive free coaching and sponsorship, Fazal still buys his own racquets, clothing and shoes when he can afford them. These are incredible facts, but very true.
I do not claim to understand the political reasoning behind this neglect, in my mind politics should have no place in sports, but that would be in a perfect world. What I do know is that I have had the priviledge to coach, support, counsel, and love one of the most extraordinary young men I have ever met. I challenge you to take a hard look at the future and do the same. In a country so renowned for it's precious gems, it is hard to believe that you have yet to notice and covet this most brilliant jewel.
Take a deep breath .. That is about as powerful a letter as one can write to support Fazal, and it shows the frustration that someone like coach Sorrentino feels about the situation. Though the coach suspects that Fazal may be singled out in the neglect, the fact is that this is the case with all talented players in India. He makes a very important point about how tennis is one event where India has some respect around the world, and his confusion is fully justified about why India ignores one of her very best in the only International sport where India has any presence in the world arena (cricket doesn't count, much as we all like the game). The Indian #4 and the current Davis Cupper does not even have a shoe or racket contract .. And at this time, we don't even know what is up with our #3, Prahlad Srinath .. That is all a crying shame .. One needs to only go down to any Florida academy to see 15 year old kids (90% of them never cracking into the world top-200) with every kind of support from many, many, national tennis associations and other sponsors .. India's women #1, Nirupama Vaidyanathan, ranked near the world top-150 and the only Indian woman ever to break into even the world top-400 I believe, has had to be in Florida, paying her way for coaching, and watching these kids go around with support from all kinds of sources .. Uzma Khan, Radhika Tulpule, P.Vishal, Harsh Mankad, Akshay Vishal Rao, Manisha Malhotra, Vijay Kannan, Manoj Mahadevan, Shruti Dhawan, Sheetal Gautam, etc, etc .. The list is long, on talented youngsters who need coaching and support .. Clearly 950 million people can do more, and we have work to do.
I did not reprint that letter here to attack AITA (and neither did coach Sorrentino want it to be taken that way), and they have not yet had a chance to respond to the coach either .. As I have said before, AITA does a much better job than most other sports authorities in India. All I wanted was to make a point about how India as a country, and Indians as a group should realize how much we neglect our own talented ones. I know that most of us are aware of the situation, though it surprises coach Sorrentino .. I waited for a few days before publishing this here, as I did not want anybody to get upset about it. Then I chose to do it today, as I felt it is better for all of us to get upset than let the situation in tennis go on with no change.
As always, I am sure the fanclub here, and myself are willing to do whatever we can in organizing help for Indian players. I am talking fund-raising itself .. Anybody has a thought ? - I have some, but I welcome comments from all of you before embarking on any serious action-plan .. Any idea such as fund-raising groups, or support-funds earmarked in each player's name that we can contribute to, or any other schemes would be fine, with the caveat that we should avoid giving anyone the power to decide who gets what support .. I know there are many in India and around the world who would help if they knew it would go directly to the players .. I am sure each fan who reads this knows a few who have the wherewithal to contribute too .. Please send an email to me (r. jayakrishnan) if you have thoughts on what is the best way for Indian tennis fans to take matters into their own hands, rather than wait for the sports authorities to do anything .. And yes, we can count on support from those like Leander and Mahesh (I have already talked to LP who even spoke of more than moral support from him .. will chat with Mahesh when he is free next). I need input from the fund-raising and sponsorship experts among those of you reading this, and even lawyers on what all of you think is the best way to go about. Even if you think it is not going to go anywhere, write to me so we can see why we shouldn't try to do something .. Then we will set things in motion. I am dead serious .. Do not underestimate the power that internet has given directly to the fans to organize by themseleves to do something good. So, let us do it.
I said in an earlier note that you were warned .. Now you have been attacked .. So, Respond !
July 21 Note-1
17-yr old Uzma Khan and Helga Rieira (Angola) lost in the final of the Swiss Junior open tennis tournament this weekend, to Eva Dyrberg and Rikke Faurfelt (both of Denmark), 5-7, 6-3, 2-6 .. Eva Dyrberg is the 6th ranked junior player in the world in doubles, and is the #2 player for Denmark in their Fed Cup team, I believe. This grade-2 ITF junior tournament is a big one, and Uzma will get some good ITF ranking points to boost her doubles rank (not sure where it stands now, as ITF never seems to publish the world ranking below the top-20 .. my guess is that Uzma is somewhere in the top-60 or so) .. Congratulations to Uzma for doing that well with an unheard-of partner that she must have met only during this ITF-sponsored European tour (hey, who knew they even played tennis in Angola ? .. just kidding).
Talking of Uzma, is anybody doing anything about finding her some sponsorship ? .. AITA had promised a Rs. 1 lakh ($2400) a few weeks back, but that is barely enough to go to one or two foreign tournaments. Uzma turns 18 at the end of the year, and I believe will be eligible to play junior (18 and under) ITF events all the way through the end of 1999. She needs to be competing against top juniors from now on out, at the bigger international ITF junior events (such as the Orange Bowl in the US, Copa Ericsson in South America, etc) .. She cannot pick up enough ITF points otherwise to qualify for the grand slam junior events either .. I don't think she has anything much to prove in those lower-grade junior events in the Indian subcontinent - not a soul from the Indian subcontinent has beaten Uzma in about a year, in some 20-30 singles matches (playing in India, SriLanka, Bangladesh, etc). She has been consistently good in both singles and doubles. Thank God for the International Tennis Federation for selecting her for this junior developmental squad for Europe. This was the 5th and the last tournament of her tour, based on the news report I have from June. OK, now ITF has done their part. What is India doing to help this girl ? .. What about coaching ? .. Are we waiting for her also to sell all family property to try out the pro circuit, like Nirupama ? .. Forget it, if that is what AITA and everybody else is waiting for .. Indian girls just disappear at around this age if serious financial and other encouragement is not given for them to break out of the conservative soceital pressures that scares them away from the uncertain arena of pro tennis .. We cannot wait for miracle path-breakers like Nirupama to keep sprouting .. If we need women's tennis to improve in India, we need to work for that. Uzma has been playing Fed Cup for India since she was 16, and has an unblemished 5-0 record so far in Fed Cup. She is the most proven junior talent in the country right now .. What the heck are we waiting for ?
More coming on this .. next up: on Syed Fazaluddin.
MB's first doubles match (second round after a bye) may be on wednesday at Stuttgart. The first round match to determine their opponent hasn't been played yet.
July 20 Notes
The doubles draw is out at the $915K Mercedes Cup at Stuttgart .. Bhupathi/Kafelnikov are the #1 seeds there and have a first round bye. Here is the draw:
1-M.Bhupathi(IND)/ Y.Kafelnikov(RUS) BYE \ WC-M.Gustafsson(SWE)/ M.Larsson(SWE) vs L.Arnold(ARG)/ L.Lobo(ARG) / \ WC-T.Haas(GER)/ M.Safin(RUS) vs A.Olhovskiy(RUS)/ P.Vizner(CZE)\ / \ 8-T.Kempers(NED)/ A.Kitinov(MKD) BYE / \ 4-D.Orsanic(ARG)/ C.Suk(CZE) BYE \ / G.Kuerten(BRA)/ F.Meligeni(BRA) vs Q- J.Balcels(ESP)/ D.Bowen(USA)/ \ / O.Delaitre(FRA)/ F.Santoro(FRA) vs M.Hood(ARG)/ S.Prieto(ARG) \ / 6-D.Adams(RSA)/ F.Wibier(NED) BYE / 5-N.Broad(GBR)/ P.Norval(RSA) BYE \ B.Coupe(USA)/ P.Rosner(RSA) vs L.Pimek(CZE)/ T.Zdrazila(CZE) / \ A.Berasategui(ESP)/ A.Martin(ESP) vs J.Alonso(ESP)/ G.Koves(HUN) \ / \ 3-J.Eagle(AUS)/ J.Grabb(USA) BYE / \ 7-A.Kratzmann(AUS)/ M.Oosting(NED) BYE \ / WC-K.Braasch(GER)/ B.Karbacher(GER) vs P.Albano(ARG)/ N.Lapentti(ECU) / \ / WC-B.Becker(GER)/ D.Prinosil(GER) vs C.Haggard(RSA)/ J.Waite(USA) \ / 2-D.Johnson(USA)/ F.Montana(USA) BYE /
Not a very tough field, especially in the upper half where Bhu-Kaf are .. Kuerten/Meligeni and Delaitre/Santoro are the other good teams in the upper half .. Arnold/Lobo is an intriguing combination, as the two Argentinians normally play with Orsanic and Sanchez.. Orsanic, interestingly is playing with Cyril Suk .. Tommy Haas and Marat Safin is another curious combination .. The "young and the restless" .. More later.
.. Previous notes at Weekly Notes, ending July 20 ..