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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on July 31, 2000

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July 31 Note-1

Mahesh and Mark Knowles are unseeded and have a tough first round match at the Toronto masters .. They face the 4th seeds Novak-Rikl .. I would have preferred about 30 other teams in the draw than those two, but if Hesh and Knowles click quickly, Novak-Rikl are beatable .. Will post the draw later today - slightly busy day for me .. MB-KN are not on the scedule today there.

Yikes - Nirupama did not make the main draw at the $50K Lexington challenger and is playing qualies there -- She is the second seed in the qualies, and has won the first round over Feriel Esseghir (ALG,584) 61 63 .. Two more rounds to go .. I didn't expect the draw to get filled above WTA 200 .. Manisha is not in the qualifier draw - not sure if she did not make it or decided to go to the Harrisonberg satellite this week.

No news or details from Poland on Fazal's qualifying final round.

July 30 Note-2

Update on the India #3 and #4 on the women's side - Sai Jayalakshmi (#429) was at the $10K satellite at Horb, Germany, this week .. She had a good first round win 63 76(5) over 431st ranked Marina Lazarovska (of MAK - that is Macedonia, more correctly Makedhonia) but she then lost in R2 to Zuzana Hejdova (CZE,364) 06 36 .. She did not play doubles there .. Rushmi Chakravarti (#519) was at the $10K satellite at Lido Di Camaiore in Italy this week .. She too won the first round, over Lisa Tognetti (ITA) 64 64, before falling in the R2 to Alberta Brianti (ITA,446) 26 06 .. In doubles, Rushmi and Denis Hofer (GER) were 4th seeded with a first round bye, and were upset in the QF by Tognetti and Elisa Villa (ITA) 63 46 57 .. Sai did not play last week, I think, but Rushmi was at the $10K Brussels satellite in Belgium and lost in the first round to Natasha Galouza (NED) .. In doubles at Brussels, Rushmi had a good run reaching the semis with Anousjka Van Exel of Netherlands .. They beat a Belgian pair, Emilie Bacquet and Evy De Mesmaecker 61 62 in R1and then upset the top seeds Galouza and Adrienn Hegedus (HUN) 64 46 60 before falling in the semis to Geraldine Aizenberg (ARG) and Shelley Stephens (NZL), 46 61 46  [results courtesy Alain Vincent] .. So, Rushmi got 2 doubles points last week .. Both Rushmi and Sai picked up one WTA singles point each this week .. They both seem to win a round very often, but I am still waiting to see either going deep in the draw to the semi or final in one of these satellites .. Again, we have to give it to them for keeping at it, in the pro circuit.

A small note about somethiong interesting that has started as an experiment in some of the lower level events of the men's and women's pro tour run by ITF -- they have introduced shorter sets now .. Sets ending at 4 games, as opposed to 6, but matches going to 5 sets .. Well, an Indian had a win of that type yesterday - Arindam Dutta, played the qualies at the USA F21 futures in Decatur, Illinois, and won the first round of qualies 42 41 41 over Eduardo Kranjevic of Croatia .. That is a strange score, eh ? .. By the way, Arindam is an 18 yr old who has been in the Palmer Tennis Aacademy in Tampa Florida (a private high school as well) who played the qualies at a few futures events in the US this year and last, with limited success - advancing a round or two (the futures qualies are tough 4-round affairs here) - he will be joining the Univ of South Florida next year, I believe .. Arindam has not played many junior events and is not ranked in ITF .. I guess he becomes part of a trivia question - who is the first Indian to win a pro match with shortened sets ?

July 30 Note-1

Just got word from Poland that Fazal has won two rounds of the qualies and is in the final round of qualifiers for the $100K+H big challenger in Poznan, Poland .. Good show .. The bad news is that Srinath had to withdraw from the singles draw, as his bad knee is acting up a bit (again :-)) .. Sri and Fazal are in the doubles draw .. Will find out the score of fazal's wins out there, soon.

I have not seen the doubles draw at the Toronto masters starting tomorrow, where Mahesh will be playing with Mark Knowles .. Will have that also soon, along with news from Lexington challenger for Niru, Manisha, etc.

July 29 Notes

Here is the latest  Mahesh Bhupathi column published today at Indya.com  - Mahesh seems to write one article every month or so for them .. MB says he will be playing with Mark Knowles throughout the North American hardcourt season, including the US Open .. He will play with Ai Sugiyama to defend his mixed doubles title at USO as well .. The week after US Open he will play with Leander at the Tashkent Open, starting on Sep 11th, for some "much-needed match practice before Olympics", as Mahesh says .. Actually the fanclub knew this plan, as Hesh had told the club members (Samarth, Florian, Sanjeevi, etc) at the Bastaad Davis Cup that he and Leander had decided to play Tashkent  .. Mahesh had said it would be difficult to drop his summer hardcourts season partner for the summer-ending main event, US Open .. We did not publish the news as we weren't sure if this was the final decision by LP and MB, and I was actually hoping that it wouldn't be .. It's certainly good news that they are playing together at one event at least before Sydney, but what concerns me is the schedule .. The Sydney doubles starts on the wednesday (20th) the week after Tashkent and goes on for five rounds into the next week .. If we count the US Open qualifying week as well (which LP is expected to play - not sure if MB will be playing that week), then it will be 6 weeks of continuous tennis for them .. Also, if they are in the SF or Final in Tashkent, they will only get ONE day to get used to the courts at Sydney .. That would be a concern .. It would have been defenitely better for them to play US Open  -- actually I never mentioned the Tashkent option here because I thought the schedule would be terrible that way, and I was hoping that they wouldn't think of Tashkent! .. Actually, getting practice at the Sydney court may not be a big deal for LP and MB, used to walking onto any surface and winning the title! .. The concern is really the continuous play for too many weeks .. Any time either of these two play more than three weeks at a stretch, I worry about injuries/fatigue - and past experience is that there is almost 100% chance for trouble any time they have gone to a 5th week at a stretch .. I still hope there is some way they can play US Open together, skip the next week, go to Sydney to relax and practice for a week before going for the Gold .. Now I have to hope that LP and MB wouldn't go deep into the doubles or mixed doubles draw at US Open and would get the USO second week for rest (sorry, I never want them to lose, but this time I may have no choice but to hope for that at the US Open! :-)) .. May be I am being too much of a worry-wart -- sue me, but I want them to get that Sydney medal so badly !

But, on the positive side, the INDIAN EXPRESS will be back soon, folks !! .. The boys have been in good communication lately and things seem to be looking up.

By the way, no confirmation yet about Leander's status for singles at the Olympics .. I thought LP told me about 3-4 months back that there should be no problem and that he would get at least a wildcard into the main draw .. All the recent reports seem to say that nobody in the Indian sports ministry or IOA have heard of anything .. It will be very unfair for ITF not to give the reigning bronze-medalist a wildcard .. After all, he was at about exactly the same ranking around #150 in 1996 when he got a wildcard entry as one of the lowest ranked players in the draw and upset three seeds on the way to a bronze .. He is much more accomplished now, than he was then - if he doesn't get it this time, it will be the biggest injustice I can think of.

No news from Poland or Lexington about qualies for Srinath, Manisha, etc over this weekend.

July 28 Note-2

We will know soon about Srinath and Fazal at the Poland challenger next week .. Not sure if Fazal will get into the qualies starting soon, as the competition is sometimes tough at the $100K+H challengers .. Also, we will need to look for Manisha at the Lexington challenger - she may have to play singles qualies this weekend .. Nirupama will be in the main draw.

At the Indonesia F4 futures in Jakarta, Mustafa Ghouse and Manoj Mahadevan won the first round of doubles against Derek Burden and Adam McNeil of New Zealand, 61 76(5) .. They then lost the quarterfinals yesterday to the 4th seeds Alan Mackin (GBR) and Luben Pampoulov (AUS), 46 57 .. So, Vijay Kannan, Rishi Sridhar, Rohan Bopanna, Mustafa Ghouse and Manoj Mahadevan, all had one doubles win each in the futures circuit in Egypt and Indonesia, picking up 2 or 3 ATP points each .. Only Rohan had a singles win though, which gives him one ATP singles point.

We have been discussing physical training among Indian players, and in a nice coincidence I just saw this article in today's Hindustan Times: Indians need to train properly .. Comments by Craig Schinck, an American physical training expert traveling in India with an organization called AIA ..  Excerpts -- "Indian athletes are very talented and intelligent, but they follow certain misconceptions about exercises, which limit their performance." Schinck is a member of Athletes in Action, a group of American physical trainers who visit countries not into scientific research in physical training' and teach the latest methods of exercises.  Schinck is currently on a visit to India, his fifth. This time, his schedule includes sessions in Calcutta, Hyderabad Chennai and Delhi. "If the Indians train properly, they can achieve a lot more than they are actually doing." Schinck has been to Bangladesh and Myanmar also, holding session at the Olympic training centers .. Having played American football in his earlier days, the 36-year-old trainer is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, the highest recognised certificate in strength training in the US.  Schinck believes that the current training methods in India were followed 30 years back by the more developed countries .. "There were certain misconceptions then, which are still followed in India." For example, it was believed that weight training increases the bulk, but limits the skill .. "Nothing of that sort happens. In India, I find that youngsters are advised not to go for weight training.  This has an adverse effect on their development as a sportsperson," Schinck says ..  Indians also do not concentrate too much on their abdomen muscles either. "This group of muscles is very crucial for a sportsman and without proper abdominal muscles, the sportsman is limiting his performance." Schinck stresses on strengthening the abs, which control a lot of body movements.  Schinck is currently writing a book on Indian athletes and is therefore, also involved in research work in the country. He wants to do a thorough study of the shortcomings in an Indian athlete. The Athletes in Action being a voluntary organisation, does not charge for the services it imparts. "Our aim is to increase awareness for improved physical training." ..

Actually Schinck is someone who has studied things like newer techniques for increasing bat speeds and throwing speeds for baseball batters and pitchers and has dealt with NBA basketball players too.. I believe he is also one who has advocated some different exercises based on "ballistic" or acceleration-based training rather than weight "lifting" which actually trains muscles in the "deceleration" mode resisting the weight - so he is no weight-lifting fanatic or anything ..  He also seems to be a "researchy" type, as I find that he has published research papers on things like improving the "twitch fibers", "Type-II twitch motors" and stuff like that which affect speed development .. I think he knows what he is talking about .. And I believe he is every bit correct about some of the mis-information prevalent in India about some mysterious bad effects of weight training and conditioning, which I am sure many a player has used as an excuse for laziness :-) .. Again, I ain't no expert on this - I am sure many of you readers know more .. Just leaving these things here as food for thought .. I do notice that there has been some tremendous advances in the west about techniques to improve speed etc, over the last decade or so .. I am reminded of the University of Texas football fans rejoicing a couple of years back that the new football coach Mack Brown, coming from U of North Carolina, would be bringing with him the famous physical trainer, Jeff "Mad-dog" Madden, who is considered an expert in improving athletes' speed .. It seemed the like the knowledgeable fans considered this trainer as one of the most important ingredients needed to place Texas back into the college football national championship scene .. That is the kind of awareness people have about the importance of physical training here in the US .. But I don't think it was not considered by many to be anywhere near that important even 15 years back!

Incidentally AIA (Athletes in Action) that brought Schinck to India is not just a volunteer organization, as the newspaper reported .. I am always curious why anybody would do something for free in India and looked at the AIA web site - found that  their programs are "designed to give Christian athletes and coaches intensive training in their faith and the opportunity to use the platform of their sport to share Christ with others. These international projects begin with a training camp where athletes train hard physically, receive instruction in ministry skills and cross-cultural communication, and learn to apply biblical principles to their athletic training and competition" .. That is a curious mix of religion and sports but hey, we should take good advice on strength and conditioning, whichever quarters it comes from, including even God! .. Just kidding .. Schinck seems to be talking a lot of sense.

Good to have a relatively free week in tennis, so that we could open up this important topic of physical training.

July 28 Note-1

Got a short email from Rohan Bopanna in Egypt (thanks!) - Rishi Sridhar and Vijay Kannan went down in the first round at the $10K Cairo futures, but Rohan made it to the second round before losing a to a Czech guy .. In doubles, Rishi and Rohan as well as Vijay and Mohammed Mamoun reached the QF stage before falling ..  I don't have the score details, but will find that out soon .. Looks like Rohan had a good upset of the eight seed Jalal Chafai (#621) of Morocco, before going down to Jeri Vencl (#919), who must be the Czech guy he mentions .. I will report the scores once I get hold of the completed draws later.

July 27 Note-2

The second seeds Srinath and Fazal lost in the first round of doubles at the $50K Tampere challanger in Finland yesterday, to Florian Allgauer and Filippo Volandri, 76(6) 63 62 .. So, the trip to Tampere was worth only a couple of hundred dollars each for Sri and Fazal .. The good thing is that this may allow them to get down to Poznan, Poland, well in time before the weekend for the singles qualifiers of next week's big challenger ($100K+H) there!

July 27 Note-1

No idea yet if Sri/Fazal won their doubles match in Finland yesterday.

I have seen the draw for the Egypt F1 futures, but no scores yet from there either .. Vijay Kannan plays Rafael de Mesa, Rishi Sridhar plays a qualifier Marko Neunteibl and Rohan Bopanna plays the 8th seed Jalal Chafai .. In doubles, Rishi and Rohan are the 3rd seeds and play Andrew Derer and Sam Swan in the first round .. Vijay and Mohammed Mamouun play a wildcard team, Omar Abdel-Aziz and Khaled el Dorry .. News is very tough to come by from Cairo usually, and so we may not know results till later in the week from ITF, via Steve Gocha.

The news is not great from the $15K Indonesia F4 futures in Jakarta this week (see last week's results from Indonesia reported below yesterday) .. Mustafa Ghouse, Vinod Sridhar and Manoj Mahadevan were seeded 2nd, 5th and 10th in the qualies with first round byes .. Vinod and Mustafa lost in the second round of qualies, and Manoj lost in the 3rd round .. So none made the main draw of singles .. In doubles, Mustafa and Manoj made the main draw and play qualifiers Derek Burden and Adam McNeil.

July 26 Note-2

Continuing on the thread below about our players developing physical strength - I just got on an idea .. How about AITA sponsoring some "strong man contests" ?? .. Come up with some decent prize money for an event every three months, rotating among the 4 major metros, and get our top-30 players to take part .. There needs to be some decent prize money to make it worthwhile and get player interest .. The winner also gets wildcard into the next futures event from AITA .. One can come up with some strength contests that make sense for tennis [ie, cutting trees and pulling fire-trucks that ESPN's strong man contests have, are not appropriate :-)] .. How about that ?  .. Any thoughts? .. Something ought to be done to drill the importance of diet, strength and stamina in our players.

Vinod Sridhar, Manoj Mahadevan and Mustafa Ghouse were at the $15K Indonesia F3 futures last week .. Mustafa, Vinod and Manoj were the 4th, 7th and 11th seeds in the qualies, all three with first round byes .. Vinod qualified in after two rounds, but Manoj and Mustafa were upset in the final round of qualies, with Mustafa making it in as a lucky loser .. In the main draw, Mustafa lost to top seed and eventual winner Danai Udomchoke, 61 62 in the first round .. Vinod also lost in the first round, to the 7th seed Robert Kendrick (USA) 06 26 .. In doubles, Mustafa and Minh Le (USA) were the top seeds in the main draw, but lost in the semifinals to the eventual winners Wibowo and Wiryawan .. Sorry that I noticed them going to Indonesia only now .. Will check what they are up to this week, soon .. No news from Egypt about Vijay Kannan and Rishi Sridhar who are playing a futures there.

Newsbit -- Kavitha Krishnamurthy of Canada (#762) won the first round at the $10K Evansville satellite, over Caroline Germar (GER,743) 64 61 .. Kavitha, a Canadian junior national champion etc, seems to never get any help from Tennis Canada (never seen her get a wildcard even into a Canadian satellite event, though junior players like Marie-Eve Pelletier whom she has beaten many times have got wildcards even into the WTA DuMaurier Open -- anyway, I don't know the details) .. Kavitha, a top-50 ITF junior player last year, was one of the top freshmen in US colleges this year, even reeling off a 26-match win streak which made big news .. She is one of the "Indian-foreigners" whom I watch closely.

July 26 Note-1

Srinath and Fazal were scheduled to play their first round doubles at the Tampere challenger in Finland today at 12.30 pm .. No news yet.

I have updated the domestic calendar page with the latest schedule from AITA this month .. The disappointing thing is that the men's schedule is thread-bare for the rest of the year .. Actually, other than the two challengers (Lucknow and Jaipur in late November) there are no international events on schedule .. Early in the year, there was supposed to be a satellite circuit in October, which was converted to three futures events as of the April schedule, but right now they are also gone .. The futures are now pushed to january of next year (when some futures events were due anyway) .. The women's schedule this year is excellent - the complaints from last year that women were not getting enough events has been taken seriously by AITA, it seems .. On top of the two $10 satellites and a 4-week $20K circuit already completed, the women have 5 more $10K satellites and a $25K challenger coming up .. That is 11 weeks of satellites and one week of challenger ($25K in Delhi in late November) for women .. The men end up with three weeks of futures, 4 weeks of satellites and 4 weeks of challengers .. Gender parity is being achieved in a hurry! .. Men actually had about 4 ot 5 fewer weeks of international events this year, compared to last .. In addition they also had an extra three weeks of Gold-Flake-Aces circuit in Tamil Nadu last year, and thus their schedule and prize money have been less by a big chunk this year .. I have to also believe that the less than sterling performance by a lot of the upcoming players, excepting Harsh Mankad in the 4 weeks he played in India, also added to the lack of excitement on the men's side this year (Fazal and Srinath skipping 6 of the 9 weeks of international events so far has not helped the situation either) .. We will hope that 2001 will be a better year on the men's side.

By the way, another thing worth noting is how few grass events are being held now .. This is a rather complex issue - should we skip grass and encourage our players to go the clay route, which modern tennis is taking these days ? .. There are some comments in the forum page on this by fans .. I personally have conflicting thoughts on this .. On the one hand, it is perhaps to our advantage to have a few players who can play on Indian grass - historically we have derived the advantage in Davis Cup, etc, from this .. On the other hand, if they need to do well in world tennis now, there is no getting away from clay .. At least this is the simplistic view .. When we look closely though, we will find that we have actually NOT been stressing grass for a long time, to such an extent that we hardly have any grass players left with us .. Other than LP, MB and Fazal, we probably only have Vishal and Saurav who are comfortable on grass among our top players .. I can't even remember when Harsh Mankad played on grass the last time - may be the junior grasscourts national he won once (do we even have a grasscourt event for juniors anymore?) .. Actually, we have not had a grass event south of the Vindhyas in years, I believe .. Other than the Kolkata grasscourt nationals, we only have grass at three challengers (Jaipur, Lucknow, Kolkata last year - same this year) and perhaps at one futures or so (normally at Chandigarh) - of which only about two events give entry to a lot of our players .. So, where are our players getting grass experience .. Even the players from Chandigarh these days seem to have more experience on clay than grass .. Jaipur and Lucknow are not places where there is serious tennis activity .. So, to say that we have been stressing on grass is just incorrect .. Some of the old-school coaches perhaps still teach our players some grass-style tennis, though the players are not playing on grass .. I think they should get at least a couple more events to play on grass .. Though grass season is barely 5 weeks on the ATP tour, grass is not going to go away till Wimbledon exists, and Davis Cup is not going to prohibit grass either .. Our youngsters are certainly better off learning claycourt tennis but making use of the fact that we do have a few grasscourts in India to develop some grass experience is worthwhile .. Doesn't grass grow in South India ? - What happened to the grasscourts in Thiruvananthapuram for instance (I *Have to* to take a dig at my home state Kerala, the place of best athletes, which has given ZERO to Indian tennis so far).

As for why our players are not strong on clay, that is not because they play on grass .. They do play a lot on clay, though perhaps the Indian version, quite different from European red clay .. The reason for their clay shortcomings come from not being used to the style of claycourt play that the European and South Americans excel in, which requires a lot of physical strength, stamina and patience .. Bhupathi Sr., who was online once in our chatroom talked about how the Indian players tend to go for winners on clay after a couple of shots because they want to finish off the match faster and not exert much - mostly because they do not have the physical tools to play long and hard too .. The true clay players will kill you with groundies from the baseline for ever, waiting for the mistake or the appropriate time to play the shot to win the point .. That style is not possible unless one is very fit physically ..  Ah, physical fitness - that age-old bugaboo .. Weight rooms ? .. What's that ?

By the way, I had a chat with Harsh Mankad just before he was returning from Sweden ..  He talked about what his primary problem was - and about all the people who talked to him about it too .. Pure lack of sufficient physical strength .. I saw that a lot of people were impressed with the style of tennis he can play - he has a reasonably modern style and he can play well on clay too .. He has all the tennis tools in terms of shots, mind, attitude, and even a decently accurate serve he can pull out while in trouble .. According to Harsh, his primary problem in the matches at Sweden was that the slow courts were forcing him to muscle everything across and he could not sustain that for too long .. The shots from Vinciguerra comes off the racquet with a lot of zip, and dies once it bounces .. Someone like Harsh who likes to time the shot and make great use of the opponent's pace, could not do much for too long because he wasn't getting any pace off the bounce .. He said he knew what he had to do, but simply did not have enough strength to play that style of tennis for long - especially once they had him pinned 5 feet behind the baseline all day and not even think of volleys which he could do well whenever he got a chance .. Harsh said he has seriously taken everybody's advice to heart (Mahesh's trainer, who was India's official trainer, also advised him on this - along with Ramesh Krishnan, etc), and will be doing his very best to hit the weight room and do what is needed .. From his stand point, the trip to Sweden gave that as the biggest learning experience .. He also got a lot of confidence that he can hang with the top-100 players if he toughens up on the strength area ..  I am sure he knows that everybody, starting from his coaches at DHAITA had wanted him to do more strength training, but if he was ever not a believer, he is now .. By the way, note that Harsh is not exactly a weakling or anything -- he is not one of those players who looks to be surviving on boiled barley, that is .. His stamina in playing all those matches in India during the satellites and being the last man standing while his European opponents simply ran out of gas, is a proof to that .. But the fact is that, top level tennis requires an even higher level of physical strength and stamina .. If Srinath, for instance had a better physique, I have no doubt that he would be a top-200 or even a top-100 player, because he has the tennis tools .. Same is the case with a lot of our youngsters - one reason why we have had so many kids in the junior top-100 in the last few years but none except Harsh seems to be getting close to or inside top-500 in ATP tour .. Even Leander's career would have been different if he were in top-strength more often .. He is one who has worked hard to build his strength, but a close look at his career would reveal one thing .. Extended breaks due to injury, illness, or doubles focus have often taken away from his strength training - and invariably he has gone farther away from top-100 everytime.

I mention all that, to make a point once again, that our players need to focus a lot more on strength training .. Too many people say strength training is not important in tennis, etc, etc .. Blah, Blah .. True to some extent -- one does not need to do the kind of stuff that say an American football player does, trying to bench press 200 kilos and all that .. One needs some pretty decent muscle-power to play top-notch tennis .. Take a look at Agassi's biceps .. Or take even a thin-looking Kuerten's arms .. Then compare that with what the Indian youngsters have .. There is a big problem .. I am absolutely no expert in physical training - but I know when I see the newspaper pictures of our players that what they have just simply has to be inadequate for world class tennis .. So, when our players read the western ideas about strength training not being important in tennis etc, they should understand that it may not apply to them, as even the minimum requirements which are assumed for any sportsman around the world are not met by many of them .. Any of you tennis/physical-training experts have thoughts on this ? .. Am I talking rubbish ? .. Sound off in the forum.

Once again, to repeat, all that physical strength and fitness requires is hard work (and a gym membership) - and there is 100% guarantee of success in your hard work .. In contrast, the God-given talent for shotmaking and the sharp tennis mind that a lot of Indian players show, cannot be just developed from scratch .. But if hard work is not put in to handle the former, the latter just gets wasted .. Sounds simple to me!

July 25 Notes

Srinath and Fazal are the second seeds at the $50K Tampere challenger in Finland .. They face Florian Allgauer and Filippo Volandri in the first round .. They are playing only doubles, as they could not play the singles qualies due to the Davis Cup over the weekend .. They have not played the first round yet.

There was an interview article in the Telegraph (Calcutta) today with some comments from Leander Paes .. Excerpts - “I can’t explain how much this break has helped... it has really rejuvenated me,” Paes told The Telegraph ... The damaged tendon in his right wrist has responded well to treatment at the Celebration Health and Fitness Centre in Disney, Florida — a state-of-the-art rehab centre for top athletes the world over. The cast has been removed and he expects to hit a tennis ball later this week. ... “Apart from the wrist rehab, I had a lot of other niggling injuries taken care of and even had a minor operation done on my forearm. Let’s say I’ve ensured my whole body is healthy again... I am feeling rested and relaxed,” said Paes ... Seven weeks down and at least three to go under normal circumstances, Paes is still not sure when exactly he’ll start competing on the ATP Tour again. “I hope to start tennis by the end of this week and I want to return to the Tour by the US Open (beginning August 28). Wrist permitting, I even want to play singles qualifiers the week before,”  ... Is there any chance of the Paes-Bhupathi pair taking court at Flushing Meadow, or will the Sydney Olympic and Bangalore World Doubles just be one-off appearances? ...  “My priority now is to recover completely from the wrist problem and get back to the court as early as possible... Thinking of the US Open is too premature at this point of time,” was all that Paes would say on a topic as hot as Bal Thackeray’s possible arrest .... A cautious answer, but one with camouflaged optimism. The fact that Paes hasn’t yet committed to any other partner for the US Open, could give new hope to fans who have cried themselves hoarse imploring him to rejoin forces with Bhupathi ... Another encouraging sign is reopening of the communication channel between the two separated stars after some months. Paes, while admitting he had called his Davis Cup teammates in Bastad over the weekend, stressed that it was only to cheer them up.

Okey-dokey!

Talking of Leander, John Wertheim of Sport Illustrated and CNN had an interesting answer in his mailbag question-answer column on the CNN sports site .. Reader's Question: We always hear about the conflicts and cliques among the players on both the ATP and WTA tours. I'm curious as to who you would list as the top three most popular players on both tours among their own peers?  .. John's answer -- Why not keep with tradition and make it a top-five list? This, of course, is entirely subjective, but here are some popularity-contest candidates in no particular order: MEN  1) Alex Corretja, 2) Todd Martin, 3) Pat Rafter, 4) Leander Paes, 5) Jonas Bjorkman ..  WOMEN  1) Mary Joe Fernandez, 2) Conchita Martinez, 3) Pat Tarabini, 4) Lindsay Davenport, 5) Nathalie Tauziat (kidding) .. Very interesting that those 5 guys would pretty much be in my favorite five list of nice guys too (except for having Mahesh in there instead of Alex or Todd!) .. However I don't think Leander is universally pupular on the ATP tour .. There are probably a few guys who do not like his very intense "I don't care a damn for you, man" look and actions on the court! .. Anyone who has spoken to him even briefly off the court cannot help liking him .. Those who don't like Leander are guys like Jeff Tarango, but who cares, eh ?  [Thanks go to Stanis Thiruthuvadoss for alerting me to this article]

July 24 Note-2

There are rumors going around that LP and MB have been in touch lately (buddies again ?) and may work out the details on their reunion tour, which may even start sooner than we think .. I don't want to give hope to everybody, but we will watch out .. Don't count on anything till an announcement comes from them .. I haven't heard from either on this matter.

LP, MB, Nirupama and Manisha are off the tour this week .. MB gets back to New York to do a bit of rehab and rest the shoulder before moving on with the North American hardcourts starting next week at the Toronto masters .. LP may be playing sometime in the next few weeks ..  Nirupama is in New York, taking a week off after two weeks of hard work . Manisha has been asked to rest her shoulder for a week (she had taken three weeks off to rest the shoulder, but it got some heavy work the past week at Baltimore) .. Both Niru and Manisha should be at the Lexington (Kentucky) challenger next week .. Manisha will need to play qualies of singles, probably, but Niru should be in the singles draw ..

Srinath and Fazal were supposed to go to the Tampere challenger in Findland this week - I haven't seen any draw yet .. Vijay Kannan, Rishi Sridhar and one more player (Vinod ?  Panja ? ..) are supposed to be in Egypt this week for the futures series starting there .. We will look for news.

Prakash Amritraj of USA (Vijay's son) has won two consecutive grade-4 ITF junior events in the Caribbean over the last two weeks .. Actually in Dominican Republic this past week, he had a double crown, also winning the doubles with Stephen Amritraj of USA (Anand's son) .. Prkash is 17 years old and was ranked around 175 in the world when I checked sometime recently - he should be moving up to around #125 or closer to 100 soon.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on July 24 ..

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.