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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on July 29, 2002
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July 29 Note-1

Lee is playing the doubles first round today at the $2.9M Toronto masters .. L.Paes/ M.Hill vs (wc) M.Ciszek/ P.Gubenco .. This is the only doubles match today and will be at around 5 or 6 pm this evening.

Here is a Deccan Heraldarticle on the Amritraj cousins, with a complimentary comment from Mahesh in there.

Harsh Mankad has reached the final round of qualifying at the $10K Estonia F1 claycourt futures at Parnu, a nice resort town in the Baltics .. He had a first round bye and then beat Maris Sipkovs (LAT) 60 60 .. 9th seeded Harsh faces the 7th seed Ivan Caballero (ESP) in the final round .. At the Jamaica F12 futures, #8 seed Ajay Ramaswami is drawn against Dustin Brown (JAM) and Manoj Mahadevan is drawn against a qualifier to be determined today.

Sania, Isha, and Tara were in the news for the last couple of weeks, but they are not the only ones who have been doing well lately on the Indian girls' side which now has a very healthy look with about 6-7 excellent prospects in the 14-17 age group (the above three plus Ankita Bhambri, Sanaa Bhambri, Kartiki Bhat, etc) .. Late update on Sanaa Bhambri who toured last month with the ITF junior team for the u16 circuit in Europe during a 6 week tour that ended in early July .. 14 yr old Sanaa won the maximum number of matches among the ITF team that included talented players such as Rui Du from China and Sandy Gumulya from Indonesia .. Sanaa went 12-5 in the matches which is very impressive against u16 competition in Europe (the ETA junior tour is extremely competitive by the way) .. I have been trying to find score details of the matches, but they are tough to find .. As an example, I saw Sanaa reaching the semifinal in her first tournament itself in Italy, as an unseeded player in a 64-draw, upsetting seeds along the way, and only losing to the eventual winner in a three setter .. She reached two semifinals, a QF and three PQFs in 5 tournaments .. Tushar Liberhan, who was with the team on the boys' side did not fare as well, and had a 3-5 record, not going past the second round in any of the singles events .. Big congratualtions go to Sanaa for what seems to be one of the best set of results from an Indian kid traveling with an ITF team in Europe - also remember that she turned 14 only this March and she is paying a u16 series on red clay in Europe which she has never played on before!

July 28 Note-2

I have added a couple of missing results in the the roundup scores in yesterday's notes, including Manisha's threeset score in the QF loss to 4th seed #177 Elena Baltacha at the Pamplona challenger.

Manisha and doubles partner Leanne Baker were just outside the original qualifying list for the $50K Saint Gaudens challenger in France this coming week, which means they would be low in the qualies there, if they went there this weekend .. Haven't seen the qualifying draw .. As she was in Spain on Friday playing the singles QF, I am not sure if she went for the St.G qualies - it's probably better for her to take a break from singles for at least 2-3 days, after having played 6 matches last week (the last four going to three setters) which is the most she has played in a long time .. I assume Rushmi will be taking a well-deserved week off after three weeks of tough work in Algeria ..

According to the acceptance lists for this coming week, Rohan will be about the 3rd seed at the $15K USA F22 futures, Ajay will be seeded with Manoj also in the draw at the $10K Jamaica F12 futures, and Sunil Kumar will be at the Egypt F2 futures .. Sunil had withdrawn from the Egypt F1 this week and Ajay had done the same at the Jamaica F11; I am not sure if they are having any injury or visa problems .. Mustafa seems to be injured again, and he has withdrawn with a medical reason from the Turkey F3 futures this coming week .. Harsh Mankad is the 9th seed in the qualies for the Estonia futures; no news yet on the qualies.

July 28 Note-1

Leander Paes is playing with Michael Hill at the Toronto masters which starts on Monday .. Not a bad partner actually .. They are unseeded and will face the Canadian wildcards Michal Ciszek and Philip Gubenco in the first round, so they get a bit of  break from the draw .. Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi are seeded 3rd and will play the singles-entry pair, Younes El Aynaoui (MAR)/ Tommy Robredo (ESP) ..

The Amritraj cousins (or Armitraj cousins like the scoreboard said - most Americans have been spelling the name wrong for decades!) did not have enough today to get past Justin Gimelstob (USA) and Michael Llodra (FRA), going down 36 26 in the featured late night doubles match at the $400K LA Mercedes Cup ATP .. The tricolor socks were again in display, but even that wasn't much help last night .. Really nothing much to say, except that the youngsters just could not get anything right at all .. JG and ML were serving really well, both often going into the 120-130 mph range and going right at the boys .. I counted some eight or so returns from PA and SA which found only the net .. Both the cousins made a handful of volley errors too, and it isn't easy to do that and win against a top pair .. Gimelstob was almost untouchable, and I remember only one earned point on his serve in the whole match .. JG-ML won quite a few points with superbly placed shots into the doubles alleys beyond the kids' reach .. Prakash said after the game that they just simply could not seem to get a grip in the match at any time .. PA dropped serve in the 5th game of the first set after saving one break point, but that was enough for the other guys, with their service games never going to even deuces .. In the second set, Prakash dropped serve in the first game and then Stephen in the 7th game .. PA seemed to have a bit of first serve problems and the serve speeds went up a bit only in the second set .. Stephen did have a 122 mph ace at one point, but that and a couple of acutely angled cross court volleys by Prakash were the only real highlights .. Simply an off day, with the other guys not missing anything all day .. Despite the semifinal loss, the two guys really have done something tremendous .. Not too many eighteen year olds can team up and win two matches (against two teams having a grand slam doubles winner each!) in their very first ATP tour event .. Like a coach at the stadium said, "the scary thing about them is that they can only get better" .. I have to agree - their wins have come despite a lot of mistakes they made .. With experience, these two can go a long way, as they have the proper genes, talent and physical tools .. Both need to improve their court movement a bit more .. Anyway, big congratulations to them! .. As they both have to keep their amateur status for college tennis (Prakash being in college, and Stephen joining Duke Univ in a few weeks), they could not accept the nice prize money, which would have been the best purses of their careers! .. I am sure the papas have enough dough to buy them both a couple of extra pizzas though :-)

Manoj Mahadevan went down 36 67(4) to brandon Wagner at the Jamaica F11 semis on Sunday .. Brandon Kramer (USA) and Nenad Toroman (RSA) beat Rohan Bopanna and Morgan Wilson (AUS) 62 62 at the USA F21 doubles semifinals also.

Sania and Isha had won the doubles title also yesterday, beating Tammy Day and Tarryn Terblanche of RSA 63 61 .. So these two swept all four titles in the two Pretoria events - sharing one singles title each and winning both doubles titles .. They will both be ranked inside the top-30 in doubles next week, and right outside top-30 in singles.

July 27 Note-2

It turns out that Prakash and Stephen's show this week marks the first time in ATP history that the sons of dads who have won ATP matches together have won a match on the ATP Tour events! .. By the way, the dads had won back-to-back doubles titles at LA in the mid 70s .. I cannot find out which is the youngest team ever to reach an ATP tour semifinal, but at 18 yrs 10 months (Prakash) and 18 yrs 4 months (Stephen), the sum age of a semifinalist team could not have ever been all that much lower ..

OK, as promised, here are the details of all kinds of matches for Indians .. A correction -- Rushmi and Zachariadou of Greece won the doubles title at Algeria .. They didn't lose in the SF as I said! ..

Manisha Malhotra (IND,476) at the $25K Pamplona challenger (hardcourt), Spain ..  Manisha was the top seed in the qualies - nice win over Raissa in Q3 to make it in.
[Q1] d. Ivana Bracun (ESP,703) 64 62
[Q2] d. Jennie Loow (SWE,878) 61 61
[Q3] d. Raissa Gourevich (RUS,500) 57 60 76(3)
[R1] d. Yvonne Doyle (IRL,363) 46 76(2) 76(3)
[R2] d. Anne Keothavong (GBR,284) 16 63 63 (Anne had upset 6th seed Mireille Dittman)
[R3] l. #4 Elena Baltacha (GBR), 26 63 16
The five wins in a row including three good quality top-500 wins (all three in fighting comebacks) gives her 1.75 for qualies, 7 for main draw and 3 bonus for top-500 wins.
Doubles for #3 seed Leanne Baker (NZL) and Manisha
[R1] d. Leslie Butkiewicz (BEL)/  Anne Keothavong (GBR) 64 64
[QF] l. Yvonne Doyle (IRL)/ Susanne Trik (NED) 46 46

Rushmi Chakravarti (IND,407), seeded first at the $10K Algeria satellite
[R1] d. Q Habiba Efrakh (MAR), 57 63 63
[R2] d. Kati Wolner (AUT,781), 63 62
[QF] d. #6 Elisabeth Bahn (AUT,577) 63 60
[SF] d. Meryem El Haddad (MAR,NR) 63 26 61
[F]  l. #3 Isabel Collishonn (GER,555) 63 46 67(3)
Rushmi had a comeback QF win over Collishonn after dropping the first set last week, but the German returned the favour this time)
Doubles for Rushmi and Christina Zachariadou (GRE), seeded first:
d. Sana Bensalah (ALG)/ Alexandra Zotta (ROM), 62 41 (retd.)
d. Martina Strussova (SVK)/ Kati Wolner (AUT), 75 62
d. #4 Diana Costa (POR)/ Hiromi Okazaki (JPN), 61 63
d. #2 Asimina Kaplani (GRE)/ Maria Pavlidou (GRE), 62 62

Rushmi picked up 8 points the last two weeks for successive runner-up finishes.  Her point total will go up to around 45 for a rank around #370
in two weeks, which I think will be her career-best .. Great to see her among wins abroad, something that jhad eluded her for a long time -- she looks to have surely got over whatever mental blocks she may have had earlier .. Manisha got 11.75 points this week and will climb some 80 spots, all the way back just inside top-400 with around 39 points in two weeks .. Very nice to see that Manisha is mixing up some singles once in a while and doing a fine job along with all the doubles success (she is 178 now, but has some points falling off soon - she will easily stay inside the top-200 though)

Manoj Mahadevan (IND) at the $10K Jamaica F11
[R1] d. (q) Robert Haybittel (AUS) 75 64
[R2] d. Jason Mallaiah (USA,978) 76(2) 63
[QF] d. Dustin Brown (JAM,966) 6-4 0-6 6-3
[SF] vs (SE) Brandon Wagner (USA)
Bown had upset the #531 ranked top seed in the first round, and Brandon is the winner from last week.  Tough match today for Manoj - he has picked up 4 ATP points from the semifinal, so far .. Good job!
Doubles for Toshiharu Kato (JPN) and Manoj Mahadevan:
[R1] d. #4 Mario Alvarez (USA)/ Rafael de Mesa (USA) 62 67(8) 75
[QF] l. Dustin Brown (JAM)/ Julien Cassaigne (FRA), 61 67(5) 46 -- close loss there.

Rohan Bopanna (IND), seeded 7th at the $15K USA F21 futures
[R1] l. (q) Shao-Xuan Zeng (CHN) 75 16 36
Doubles for Bopanna and Morgan Wilson (AUS), unseeded
[R1] d. (wc) Ytai Abougzir (USA)/ Nick Monroe (USA) 67(5) 62 64
[QF] d. Raven Klaasen(RSA)/ Michael Kosta (USA) 64 63
[SF] vs Brandon Kramer (USA)/ Nenad Toroman (RSA), today

Grade-2 Pretoria ITF junior international
Isha Lakhani (IND,35) seeded #2
d. Tarryn Rudman (RSA,379) 64 62
d. Katie Muller (RSA,532)  61 60
d. Tapiwa Maroebela (BOT,382) 61 61
d. #14 Tara Iyer (IND,282) 64 46 62
l. Sania Mirza (IND,45) 62 36 26
Sania Mirza (IND,45) seeded #1
d. Fadzai Masiyazi (ZIM,554)  61 62
d. #13 Mandy Septoe (RSA,453)  63 63
d. #5 Michelle Snyman (RSA,124)  62 61
d. #3 Kelly Anderson (RSA,45) 36 60 75
d. #2 Isha Lakhani (IND,35) 26 63 62
Tara Iyer (IND,282) seeded #14
d. Tegan Edwards (RSA,NR) 61 60
d. #4 Tarryn Terblanche (RSA,79) 62 63
d. Polina Zaretser (USA,652)  7-6(7-2) 6-2
l. #2 Isha Lakhani (IND,35) 46 64 26
Doubles:
for Isha Lakhani (IND,46)/ Sania Mirza (IND,26)
[R1] Bye
[R2] d. Shilla D'Armas (VEN) / Polina Zaretser (USA) 64 62
[QF] d. Lize-Marie Cloete (RSA) / Sylvanie Spangenberg (RSA) 60 64
[SF] d. Roxanne Clarke (RSA)/ Tarryn Rudman (RSA) 76(5) 76(5)
[F] vs Tarryn Blanche and Tammy Day (RSA), today.
for Tara Iyer (IND) / Channell Meijer (RSA)
[R1] d. Suzaan Blanche (RSA) / Marcelle Boshoff (RSA) 6-0 6-1
[R2] d. Claudia Dresselhaus (NAM) / Kate McDade (RSA) walkover
[QF] l. Roxanne Clarke (RSA)/ Tarryn Rudman (RSA) 62 62
I don't have the rest of the doubles scores yet, but Isha-Sania were playing the final again today.

Upset of the 4th seed for the second week in a row by Tara ..  Very impressive for a 14 yr old to pull off two top-75 upset wins in a row .. Sania's win over Kelly who had beaten her last week was interesting .. A typical Sania match, I believe .. After losing the first set she went on a big tear winning 11 games in a row .. Then, in the 3rd set, before everyone blinked she was facing elimination at 0-5, 0-30 .. She broke back there, then faced double match points at 2-5 as well, but still went on to win the match! .. This girl just never gives up and that is a tremendous quality in a player .. Isha is now 7-1 in junior ITF finals .. Her ranking will move up about 5 spots from the current #35 with the 75 points here .. Sania will move up about 15 spots to around #30 with 100 points this week .. Sania has made sure that she will stay in the top-50 and qualify for US Open juniors even if she does not defend the Movenpick (Egypt title) next week (she also has another 80 points dropping in mid August) .. The two South African events had only about five or so top-100 quality players each, and credit goes to Sania and Isha for winning all the matches they were supposed to win and coming through against the top players (Tara's upsets also helping, actually!) .. That is sometimes the toughest thing to do - and from experience, the South Africa events normally have some unknown players doing very well along with a few over-rated players as well.  The Indian girls come out of there with a lot of useful points and confidence.

Jul 27 Note-1

Sania just won the singles final a the grade-2 Pretoria ITF juniors, 26 63 62, her second successive three sets comeback, ending Isha's 9 match win streak .. Doubles finals must be getting done now .. Grade-2 titles back to back y Isha and Sania - yeah! .. Rushmi finished runner-up at the Algeria futures for the secnd week in a row, but she picked up 4 more points and will move up inside #375 now .. Sai did not play this week for some reason (hope not injured) .. Rushmi had fallen in the QF of doubles there .. Still waiting for the Manisha vs Baltacha QF score from yesterday .. Manisha and Leanne had lost in the QF of doubles there eaflier.

Harsh Mankad is in the qualifying draw at the $10K Estonia futures .. More soon.

July 26 Note-2

Man, Is this fun or what? .. I guess the name Amritraj has some magic in it -- how else can one explain two diaper dandies, each hardly 19, playing in only their very first ATP tournament doubles draw (that they had to win a shootout to get into), beating a team involving the defending US Open doubles champion, to reach the semifinal .. That too in a 63 64 straight set win .. That is exactly what happened at around 11 30 pm tonight at the UCLA tennis stadium where the LA ATP is played.

I had not asked for press credentials for the LA ATP (I thought nothing of interest to us would be happening - what did I know) .. The day was a sell-out with Agassi-Kuerten three set semi going on as I reached there at 9 pm after a long day of work - and it was too late to get hold of Stephen or Prakash either .. I have to thank Barbara Estes and Edna at the tounament for helping me out in the last minute once I said I was from the Indian press (oh, well, I guess I am!) .. Then I find both  guys walking in, taking the leaf right out of LP's New Zealand fashion book (:-)), left socks light orange and right socks dark green, and both sporting an odd looking white knee bandage as well .. I am sure only a few of us figured out the symbolism behind their tricolor combination out there (the others probably thought this was just two LA guys being flamboyant, I guess!) ..

The match was really an up and down one in terms of the quality, but with quite a good amount of exciting exchanges .. Unexpectedly, it was the two kids who seemed to be able to raise their game at the key points .. 4th seeds Neville Godwin (RSA) and Kevin Ullyett (ZIM) are no spring chickens (Godwin was once Paes' partner and they also have challenger titles together; Ullyett and Black are the defending USO champs) .. In fact many at the stadium who had seen the 4th seeds' first round win over Roddick and Tarango seemed to think that the Amritrajs didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell to do anything against them .. More impressive was that they won with Ullyett and Godwin actually playing very well and not making too many mistakes .. The kids never dropped serve in the whole match, and Prakash facing break points at two different occasions were the only break chances for the RSA-ZIM team .. The real story of the match was the return game from Prakash and Stephen and their relatively high percentage service game as well .. Temperament and attitude at key junctures were what made the difference.

Set-1: PA-SA showed their intentions by taking KU to a couple of deuces in the second game, and with Stephen serving a 124 mph service winner in the 3rd game (I didn't know he had such velocity on his serve; the rest of the time he was serving in the low 100s though) and both the cousins seemed to get a lot of service winners as well, with some very nice variation in their serve speeds and spin/kick .. The games went with serve till the eighth when a nice crosscourt return from Prakash found the chalk and made it deuce off Godwin .. Then Prakash and Stephen came up with lobs in succession - on balls that nobody would expect a lob off! .. Seeing SA going for that lob, I am sure many thought "Noooo" .. But he found the corner and NG-KU looked absolutely perplexed at whatever the heck the kids did .. Next point was Prakash's screaming return (I mean, he literally screamed!) which was followed by a chest-butt a la that famous Indian combo, as the kids had found their break and it was 5-3 .. Prakash faced an AD out BP in the next game but a service winner, a gutsy NO scream from Prak to Stephen to leave alone a ball that was just an inch out, made it deuce .. Another service winner and the set was over .. Set-2:  Things went with serve and for 4-4 and the other guys were hardly giving a point on their serve with SA-PA struggling a little bit to hold serve, but avoiding trouble and staying calm and composed .. Prakash faced one BP in the 6th game but a Prakash volley to the corner was put into the net by Godwin (you could see how desperate NG-KU had become when NG simply slumped to the court and rolled backwards in exasperation) .. A 104 mph ace followed by a 54 mph service winner that was superbly placed by Stephen in the 8th game was fun to see too .. Then at 4-4 we had the classic game when our kids played out of their minds in going for broke .. Prakash was on fire, with two more screaming returns that were unplayable; it became 0-30 .. One return from Stephen was a bit too long and he was upset - Prakash simply would not let him dwell on it, pushing him back three paces and talking to him .. At 30-30, LU netted a return from Stephen and it was break pt .. KU came up with the goods to make it deuce .. The next point was when the kids' talent really showed -- a 12 shot sequence that had every kind of shots all over the place, which went our way .. The crowd was now standing up and screaming by now (these two guys are well known in the LA tennis circles and there were a lot of supporters) .. Out come the chest-butts again in classic Express style .. The whole thing must have shaken Ullyett's concentration, and he double faulted at AD out! .. In the next game, Prakash was cool as a cucumber, as he served two aces to finish the match, the final point at 116 which was his fastest serve of the day - how about that?? ..  It was immediate pandemonium out there with about 25 odd people (including the more famous Amritrajs of course) rushing onto the court and a whole bunch of school friends of these two going "what just happened? .. How the heck did you two idiots win?" in playful jest.

The cousins served 6 aces to 2 by the others .. One doubles fault by the kids, 2 by the veterans .. 2 of 3 chances converted by the Amritrajs; 0-2 by the other guys .. The match took 1 hour 10 minutes .. Overall, I felt that Prakash, who has really improved a lot after an year of college grind, was really playing top-notch tennis and was steady; the younger cousin Stephen (a top-5 world junior doubles player) came up with a lot of great stuff too, but was a tad bit more error-prone today .. This is a relly talented pair of players.

They play Justin Gimelstob and Michael Llodra (who upset the top seeds Johnson-Palmer to reach SF) tomorrow night .. The win gives PA and SA 75 total entry points which take their rankings stright inside the top-500 after just two matches on the ATP tour level!

I better go to sleep -- I promise I will give a roundup of all of the week's scores tomorrow .. Manoj Mahadevan made the singles SF today at Jamaica (the good news keeps on coming), but fell in the doubles QF ..  To add to the Sania-Isha singles final today, Sania/ Isha (last week's champions) are in the doubles final at pretoria grade-2 as well .. Later.

July 26 Note-1

Wow! what a week .. I went away for four days and all hell broke loose! .. Amritraj cousins pulled off an incredible, unbelievable win in the main draw doubles at the LA Open over Bastle/Stolle to start the week off .. But the success stories are all over the place from Algeria to Spain to Jamaica to South Africa! .. Manisha qualified in and has reached the QF at the $25K Pamplona challenger .. Rushmi is in another singles final at the $10K Algeria satellites (and won the doubles title today it seems) .. Manoj Mahadevan has reached the singles and doubles QFs at the $10K Jamaica futures .. And then Sania, Isha and Tara all reached the SF at the RSA grade-2 with the barn-burner Sania-Isha finals coming up .. What can I say, I am breathless! .. The only bad news seems to be Rohan's upset loss at the USA F21 futures, but he is in the doubles semis there .. More later with all the details.

July 22 Note-1

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

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

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

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

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on July 22 ..

I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.