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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the weeks ending on Aug 2, 2004
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2004)

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Aug 2 Note-1

First of all .. Good news doesn't seem to stop .. I believe Prakash Amritraj (IND,307) pulled a big upset over Frederic Niemeyer (CAN,197) today at the  $50K Denver challnger with a third set tiebreaker win .. I am waiting to see the full scores .. Hey, just 4 weeks back we were all down in the dumps about nobody getting a decent win anywhere, and now thinghs are cooking!

The big win in Toronto pushed Leander's rank up to #20, as Mahesh kept his #5 rank .. This week they are at the big Cincinnati Masters awaiting their second round opponents - our guys have a bye .. There were some newspaper articles quoting Mahesh telling everybody that we shouldn't have been concerned about their short preparation period -- "leave the preparation to us" .. That makes sense .. Though I was very impatient a few months back, I had adctually not complained for quitre some time about them playing only two events, as long as both were staying healthy and playing well - which both of them were .. It was a big risk that they took, but the benefit is also that they don't have time to get bored playing with each other and lose their spirit .. Right now, both of them are totally wound up to do well at Athens and they are on a roll .. If anybody thought there won't be a "fear factor" about them at Athens, do not worry at all .. The douboles world has certainly noticed .. Go Indian Express!

By the way, the last time they played together at Cincinnati, in 2001, they took the title, which was their last Masters series title together, before last week .. Hope the winning streak continues this week!

In other news, Harsh Mankad reached career high ranks in both singles and doubles .. #282 in singles and #152 in doubles ..  Fantastic .. Prakash may take away the Indian #1 spot this week itself if he goes a couple of round more in Denver though! .. It is nice to follow some friendly competition on that count!

Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (IND,386) faces the 3rd seed Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS,272) at the $25K+H challenger in Saransk, Mordovia (Russia) .. In doubles, Sunil and Norikazu Sugiyama play Philipp Mukhometov and Evgueni Smirnov of Russia ..

At the $25K+H Gramado challenger qualies in Brazail, Mustafa Ghouse was the 5th seed .. Won a round over Alessandro Ventre (BRA,NR), 64 46 62 before falling in the Q2 to Rodrigo Guidolim (BRA,1441), 64 36 46 .. In the doubles main draw, Mustafa, ranked #195 in doubles, is playing with Orest Tereshchuk (UKR,175), facing the Brazilian pair, Henrique Mello and Alexandre Simoni ..

The women's side which has been very quiet lately, gets back into action this week .. Sania Mirza is the 4th seed and Rushmi Chakravarthi is the 3rd seed at the $10K ITF in Wrexham, UK this week .. Rushmi faces a qualifier to be determined and Sania faces rebecca Llewellyn (GBR) in the first round.

At the Louisville challenger ($50K) in Kentucky, USA, Shikha Uberoi (USA,301) beat Kaori Aoyama (JPN,506), 75 76(2) in the Q1 and was to play Tanner Cochran (USA,330) today .. Younger sister Neha Uberoi (USA,341) was to play the 5th seed Casey DellAcqua (AUS,271) today in a delayed first round match.

Aug 1 Note-2

Here is a wonderfully written article sent by Jai Shankar from Toronto about today's final .. Read on ..

Sunday, August 01, 2004
Jai Shankar, Toronto

Invincibility is a sweet feeling.  It is even sweeter when it is result of synchronicity with another human being, not just from brute strength.

This is the story of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi winning the Doubles Title at Tennis Masters Series Toronto today – Sunday, August 01, 2004.  Mark this date in your history books, for when the story of the Indian Express is written, this will be a significant date. And for you doubters out there, get some faith.  Because, in case you have not heard, faith can move mountains.

For the record, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi defeated Max Mirnyi and Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 6-2. I was fortunate to have witnessed this match live at the Rexall Centre in Toronto.  This a gorgeous stadium, and a fitting venue for the return of two champions to winning form.

Tennis is a sport where your eyes, hands, feet, head and heart have to work together synchronously.  For 99.99% of human beings on earth this is a goal that remains elusive throughout their lives.  Even champion athletes rarely achieve it, and when they do they call it “being in the zone.”  Now imagine not only getting your own eye-hand-feet-head-heart combination going, but also matching it with another human being.  That is the ultimate challenge presented by doubles tennis.  When you watch Leander and Mahesh, you would think that they are identical tennis twins separated at birth.  They have not missed a beat.  They are so tuned to each other that when they walk back to the baseline after a point they do so in step!

I am not going to give you a point by point match report because you can get that from the tournament website.  What I will describe is the way in which Leander and Mahesh combined as a doubles team to serve up some doubles tennis magic at Centre Court in Toronto.

There was never any doubt that Leander and Mahesh would win the match today, even when they started the match 0-2.  Mirnyi started the match and held serve.  Then Mahesh served only to be broken.  That was then.  This is now and the Indian Express is back in their bays with the match in their pockets.

The story from a match perspective is Bjorkman’s abysmal serving record.  He was broken twice in the first set and then twice more in the second set.  That was the difference in the match.  When it was 0-2 in the first set, Bjorkman was broken without much trouble.

Leander then strides up to serve with an air of assurance that makes him look like a colossus.   He is 5-9 and Mahesh is over 6 feet tall, but they might as well be 10 feet tall.  Lee was not only serving with power, but was like a leopard at the net.  Then again, comparing him to leopard does not mean he leapt about like one.  It was more like he was stalking his opponent and then pouncing for the kill.  Over and over again.  It was not so much that he went for the ball as much as the ball came to him.  He just magically appeared to simply be located where the other guys could / would hit the ball.  And his serve was on.  At one point in the first set Lee was down 0-30 on his serve.  However, three service winners later, he had closed the game at 40-30.

Mahesh is no less impressive, but his style is different.  Solid punched volleys from the net, and searing shots from the base line are his hallmark.  At 2-3 in the first set, on serve with Mahesh serving, he played a point that he repeated many times.  He would target sizzling groundstrokes right at his opponents, which they would defensively block back.  Then Mahesh would feather a sharply angled backhand which Mirnyi and Bjorkman could only watch float by.

In the second set, Leander was simply toying with the other guys at the net.  He has this amazing volley that he actually slices at an angle!! It was especially effective when he hit it to ad court.  Bjorkman would lunge at it awkwardly, and if the ball came over the net, Lee was there to deliver a roundhouse punch to put it away.  It visibly demoralized Max and Jonas on several occasions.

Well, so much about the match.  Let me give you my perspective on Leander Paes the human being.

Earlier in the week, I was standing by an outside court watching a doubles match.  It was David Rikl and Petr Pala.  They were playing against Gaston Gaudio and Juan Ignacio Chela.  It was obvious that Rikl was the only guy on court who knew the game of doubles.  He was teaching a lesson in geometry with his cat like reflexes.  Unfortunately for him, he was playing with a partner who could not do what Leander normally does.  So the match turned out to be close – with Rikl and Pala winning 7-5 in a third set tiebreak.

But that’s not the real story.  Half way through the match, I turned around to see whom but Leander Paes himself standing next to me.  There he was, his hair in a ponytail, in t-shirt and jeans, totally anonymous.  I walked up to him, shook his hand and introduced myself.  I declare here and now – Leander is a most genuine, humble, pleasant and decent human being one can hope to meet.  You could tell that he was there to cheer on David Rikl.  There appeared to be a great friendship between these guys.  My guess is that, in the dog-eat-dog world that is the tennis tour, David Rikl is a good friend of Lee’s.

I asked Lee if he was here to cheer his former partner.  He laughed and nodded.  I told him that Rikl appeared to miss him because Pala was not making volleys that would have routine for Leander Paes.  He laughed again.  I commented that he appeared to have lost weight since I last saw him two years ago.  He said that he had been working out really hard and felt terrific.  I wished him the best for the Olympics, which he graciously thanked me for.

And here is another story that shows the grace, class and humor that belong to Leander Paes.  In his acceptance speech after the match, Max Mirnyi at the end of his speech  said “Congratulations to the dark boys over there.”  A collective gasp went up in the audience.  I do not attribute it to anything more than an uneducated attempt to be funny.  However, Mirnyi should have known better.  When it was Leander’s turn to speak, he first thanked Mahesh for “playing with me again, and putting up with me for this week.”  He then turned to Mirnyi and said “Max this is North America, I can probably sue you for discrimination.”  That was class and grace, and the audience laughed out loud.  Toronto is likely the most multi-ethnic city in the world, where a mosaic of cultures co-exist in an exciting community.  It was the wrong place for Max Mirnyi to make that statement.  I say to Max Mirnyi – Wake up and smell the coffee.  In case you have not noticed, this is the 21st century.  We don’t call you barbarians and you don’t call us “dark boys.”

Best wishes to Paes-Bhupathi on the path to Olympic Gold.

Great read .. That is really a weird stunt by Max to have said what he said  - obviously not meant as anything bad, after all he plays with a "dark boy" all the time! .. Looks like Lee diffused the situation rather well.  Thanks Jaishankar!

OK, need to report some bad news too --- Harsh and Jason ran into a guy who seemed to be on an unstoppable mood today .. Matias Boeker won double crown at the Lexington challenger today, first beating Jesse Witten 62 46 76(5) and then coming back and also winning the doubles final with Amer Delic, 75 64 over Harsh Mankad and Jason Marshall .. Great work still by HM this week .. He and Marshall were playing togther for the first time in 10 months (they had finished runner-up and champions in the Kiev and Donetsk challenger last September - so they have gone to the final all three times they played together), but I suppose we can't hope for everybody to do the kind of stuff Lee and Hesh does! .. Harsh's doubles rank will move up closer to #150 with the points this week .. he takes a week or two off now.

Aug 1 Note-1

Bring on whoever at Athens .. Our team is ready .. Hello Title #23 for the Indian Express!! .. They won their 5th Masters title together, 7 years after winning their first in Canada (at Montreal) .. It was all quite easy today, despite the two eminent doubles players across the net who are ranked as the #1 and #7 doubles players in the world  .. [F] (8) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. (2) Jonas Bjorkman (SWE)/ Max Mirnyi (BLR), 64 62 .. There was no TV coverage today, so no elaborate details on the match .. Our pair fell behind early in the 2nd game of the first set, but immediately broke back in the 3rd game .. In the 7th game, LP-MB got their second break to go ahead in the second set and close it out .. In the second, they jumped aheed early in the first game itself and led 2-0 .. They picked up a second break for insurance in the 7th game to go ahead 5-2 before serving it out .. 4 of 10 in break chances by our pair and only 1 of 2 for the other guys .. 68 points to 50 points .. Basically the Indian Express was never troubled much today, and there wasn't much drama to write about - one of those routine finals they used to play in old days ..

This is the 30th title for Leander and the 36th for Mahesh, and MB also defended the titlke he won last year at Canada wioth Mirnyi .. This will go as one of the most impressive titles by the Indian Express though, because of the quality of teams they beat .. The #9  and #10 ranked teams in the first two rounds, followed by the #2 ranked team and then the #2 seeded team .. They only dropped one set in four matches to take their 2.5 year unbeaten streak to 17 matches .. The win gives LP and MB 500 points each .. That is enough to raise Leander's ranking from #29 to about #20 .. MB's rank will stay right there, and he made sure that it won't drop next week when 500 points drop off from the title at last year's Canadian Open, which was a week later .. They made $51K each for the title .. Well, the doubles prize money has never kept up with inflation and has now really gone down .. Seven years back they made $73.5K each .. But, I don't think LP and MB are worried about the money as much now ..  They accomplished more this week than any of us though they would get a chance to do .. What a way to get on track! .. Hope they both stay injury-free and carry the form into the Olympics after the next two weeks .. Certainly they have made the doubles world a bit more worried about one more true contendor for a Gold at Athens, as they have shown that they can beat any good team ..

The only problem was that they did not get to play some "unconventional teams" this week, made up of singles specialists .. As Leander mentioned in an interview with Times oif India's Akshay Sawai yesterday, we need to also keep in mind that there will be some teams like Federer-Allegre, Coria-Nalbandian, Bjorkman-Johansson, out there in Athens .. It does not look like they will get a chance next week at Cincinnati though .. Not too many such teams there, except for Clement-Grosjean in the other half of the draw .. LP-MB are again seeded 8th at Cincinnati .. They get an R1 bye and play the winners of the Cermak-Friedl vs Haggard-Malisse match .. They may face KNowles-Nestor again in the QF .. I don't mind them playing a great team like Knowles-Nestor who are not going to be at Athens, but would prefer staying away from the Olympics pairs, just so they don't get a chance to know how LP-MB are playing now (most of them may not remember much about playing them three years back, where as LP and MB have individually been playing some of these teams and know what they do these days)  .. Black-Ullyett and Bryan-Bryan are the other seeds in the bottom half of the draw where LP-MB are ..  Go Indian Express!!

Harsh Mankad's doubles final is this evening at Lexington.

July 31 Note-3 

How about that .. Our team continues to roll .. [SF] (8) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. (4) M.Knowles/ D.Nestor, 64 64 .. Here is how the match went, thanks to Dhruv's great commentary off the Canadian TV coverage in our chat room .. They traded breaks early, our team going up 2-1 and then promptly getting broken back in the 4th game .. In the 6th game, our pair again faced three break points after a bad line call on a great passing shot from Lee (LP argued and the slo mo replay showed he was right, but no luck) .. Anyway, they saved the BPs and held serve .. LP-MB had one break chance in the next game that did not work, as the match progressed in a pretty tight fashion .. Then at 4-4, Hesh came up with a late forehand return at a great angle at ASD out to force a break .. 5-4 .. Then LP-MB had to save two break points (another bad line call there) before holding serve .. Second set was no contest at all initially, as our pair ran up a 4-0 lead with back to bak breaks in games 1 and 3 .. At one point a searing shot from Nestor hit LP right below his left eye and the trainers were on court .. He was fine .. A bit later another tough shot from Nestor and this time he hit Knowles on his cheek .. Trainers out again .. Interestingly that seemed wake up Knowles who went on a tear in the next game as Hesh was serving for the match .. Just when it all seemed to be too easy at triple match point, Knowles came up with a great return and MB hit a double faulty ..  Suddenly it was 5-3 .. They then held serve easily for a 5-4 score .. A bit of drama again with LP falling 0-30 and then he also hitting a double fault at match point .. Finally our guys converted their 5th match point to finish it .. That kind of little drama is so much like the old Indian Express .. Great match .. 71 points by our team, 64 by the others .. 4/6 in BPs by us, 2/8 by them .. The match took 1 hour 30 minutes ..

Some post match interview details .. [Q] First question was to Lee - How is your head after you took a nasty hit? .. [Ans] Well Its looks like Nestor had it in for everybody today, but its fine now. It hurts a little but nothing too serious .. [Q] What do you think of todays match /win? [Lee:] We competed well and they are a tough team. We had a couple of double faults on matchpoint but we came through in the end and that shoes the true character of the team .. [Q] You guys have been separated for a while and have gotten together for the Olympics ? How is the chemistry? .. [Hesh:] Our long term goal is the Olympics; we are playing well in the the tournament and it is good that we are winning. The more matches we get to play together the better it is and so the wins really help .. [Q] Now a question to both : So who is the captain of the team? .. [Lee:] It really all depends on who is playing well on the day but we've been playing together for such a long time that we really take turns at it. It isn't something that really comes up .. [Interviewer] That's all, and good luck for the final tommorow! ..

The win gives LP and MB 350 points each .. LP's rank will now go up almost to #20 from the current #29 .. Their opponents in tomorrow's final will be either Bjorkman-Mirnyi or Llodra-Santoro, asd their semi is later in the evening .. Both of them are great teams to play .. The Indian Express could not have asked for a better sequence of matches to get ready for Athens .. Playing all these really good teams (and beating them) is  better than what any of us could have imagined ..  Almost too perfect for comfort ..

July 31 Note-2

Harsh Mankad continues his great week .. An easy doubles win in the semifinal today at the $50K Lexington challenger .. [SF] (2) H.Mankad/ Jason Marshall (USA) d. Huntly Montgomery (USA)/ Ryan Sachire (USA), 64 63 .. This is Harsh's 4th challenger final, 3rd with Marshall, in the past year .. He had reached the Kiev challenger final and won the Donestsk challenger title last year with Jason in Ukraine .. He had also reached the Fergana challenger final two months back with Marshall .. Today's win gives Mankad 35 points which adds 23 more to his best-14 total of 294 .. Enough to move his ranking up from #166 to about #155 or so .. With a singles QF and a doubles final, he has picked up about $2360 this week, the best challenger total of his carrer ..  The opponents for their final tomorrow will Matias Boeker (ARG) and Amer Delic (USA), two of the best players to come from the college ranks in the last couple of years (Delic is the collegiate champion in 2003 and Boeker was the champion in 2002 when he beat Jesse Witten in the final, when Mankad finished at #5 and Witten at #4) .. Should be a fun match tomorrow.
July 31 Note-1

LP-MB's doubles semifinal at Toronto is set for this afternoon at about 3 pm (8 pm London .. 12.30 am Sunday, India), +/- 30 min .. Against Knowles-Nestor .. Come to the chatroom during the match .. It is on the center court following Federer's SF match on the during the afternoon TV slot and some of your aorund the world may get to catch it on TV if Federer's match ends fast, I think.

Harsh Mankad finally ran out of gas last night at the end of a long 5 week grind, in a 36 57 loss to Jesse Witten (USA) at the $50K Lexington challenger .. Witten is ranked in the collegiate top-5, and he is currently hot, having won the US futures last week and reached back-to-back futures finals .. Actually we were worried about hurting leg Harsh had after the three-set double win the previous night .. But HM said it did not bother him and that he lost mainly because of a lot of mistakes - generally from not being sharp enough on volleys and groundies, probably due to a bit of fatigue .. After 4 weeks of travel, funny things happen on the pro tour and one needs to always watch out .. He looked completely fine last week at Aptos and seemed ready to go a few more weeks but the hot and humid Kentucky weather after four weeks of cooler weather in France, UK, Canada and California, was probably what did him in, according to the trainer at Lexington ..  Harsh will take a couple of weeks of rest after an excellent run when he made QFs in 2 of the last three challengers .. He still has doubles to do with Jason Marshall - they play the SF today in doubles.

Congratulations go to Harsh Mankad for making the first quarterfinal by an Indian in a US challenger in NINE years, since Leander  lost in the QF at the La Quinta challenger in California in 1995 .. Leander himself had pretty bad results in US challengers after that and did much better in the ATP tour events like Newport and New Haven ..  HM picked up his career best win as well this week, over top seed Goldsten .. Harsh actually had made the cut for the Cincinnati Masters qualies (starting today) as the last entry yesterday .. He was taken off the list by late evening as his QF match was not done at Lexington and they had to make the draw at Cinci - anyway, HM would not want to make the 2 hour drive to Cinci and back before playing the Lexington doubles SF today .. After the doubles this weekend, Harsh will take rest and he plans to play the qualies for the Washingto-DC ATP in two weeks, followed by the US Open qualies a week later.

As for next week, Prakash Amritraj is in the main draw of the $50K Denver challenger .. At the mile-high altitude there, I would fancy his chances to go deep .. Watch out! .. Sunil Kumar Sipaeya is in the main draw at the Saransk challenger in Mordovia, Russia .. The draws are not out yet .. In other challenger news, Mustafa Ghouse is the 5th seed in the qualies starting today at the $25K+H in Gramado, Brazil .. He plays Alessandro Ventre (BRA) in the Q1 today ..  Rohan Bopanna is listed for the $15K futures in Teheran for the coming week, but I am not sure if he is making the trip there, as he is resting after a little bicep fare-up and getting it checked by docs in India.

Some pretty good news from the grade-2 ITF juniors in Pretoria, South Africa, where Punam Reddy won the doubles title upsetting the top seeds a couple of hours back [courtesy: SATPC, Pretoria] .. Here are the scores: After a first round bye, [R2] (3) Irena Pavlovic (FRA)/ Punam Reddy d. Wing Yau 'Venise' Chan (HKG)/ Hanneri De Klerck (RSA) 62 75 .. [QF] d. (5) Alexa Glatch (USA)/ Else Potgieter (RSA), 62 75 .. [SF] d. (7) Sarah AuLombard (FRA)/ Anna Bartenstein (AUT), 62 63 .. [F] d. (1) Wen-Hsin Hsu (TPE)/ I-Hsuan Hwang (TPE), 64 76 .. Impressive run in beating three seeded teams in a row .. Especially good was the final today against two top-seeded Taipei girls ranked #21 and #64 in the world, who had won their previous round dropping just 4 games! .. Punam also reached the singles QF in back to back weeks as the 7th seed each time .. She will raise her rank inside the top-125 with this nice show .. Left-handed Punam recently turned 17 and has one more year left to get better playing the juniors and get ready for the higher levels ..

An interesting item this week from a hard court grade-4 in Madrid, Spain, where I was surprised to see 15 year old GK Swetha, our top player at that age bracket, playing her first ITF juniors out of the subcontinent .. Not a great start, as she lost in the quarterfinals, but good to see her go abroad early and get a taste of how things are .. It is very good for our players to see early, when they are under 16, how the European physical training standards are, and start earnestly on the hard work themselves .. Shwetha is also listed for a grade-4, this time on clay, in Leiria (Portugal) this coming week .. Prerna Mythri from AP was also at Madrid but she lost in the first round ..

In other junior news, 6th seed E. Ashmitha was upset in the secound round after Kaushik Raju and Asha nandakumar had fallen in the first rouond, at the grade-3 in Egypt .. Not a gret trip to Egypt for our youngsters.

July 30 Note-2

They are already on a roll, folks! .. They have already taken out two top-10 teams .. Yesterday it was the #9 team and today it was the #10 team .. The match was hardly easy today and they had to pull out their old come-back tricks from the brink to get past Palmer-Vizner .. [QF] (8) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. Jared Palmer (USA)/ Pavel Vizner (CZE), 62 67(5) 63 .. I could not follow most of the first two sets .. Basically nothing much worked at first and LP-MB were broken twice with the other guys making use of their first two break chances, the Indian Express themselves unable to convert the two BPs they had .. The set was over quite fast, our guys winnig just 16 points to the other guys' 29 .. Then the trouble worsened as the Express was down a break in the second set as well .. Then they pulled up their sleeves, but it was still a tough job in the early part of the second set .. Most of the LP-MB service games seemed to go to deuces while JP-PV seemed to hold easily .. That changed late in the set when our guys got the break back, which followed a tough fight from our guys to save three break points and prevent themselves from falling further behind ..  In the tiebreaker they ran up a 6-3 lead and converted their 3rd set point to even it .. Both teams won 47 points each in that second set .. In the 3rd, the Indian Express seemed to be slowly getting the upper hand .. At 3-3 they jumped all over JP-PV to get a triple break point .. The converted the second BP to go ahead 4-3 .. The other guys' must have run out of ideas at this points to counter the charging Express, who followed that up with another break in the 9th game as well to finish the match in style .. 3 of 7 in BPs by JP-PV and 3 off 8 by LP-MB .. The match took 2 hours and 5 minutes ..  The key stat was this .. Our guys won only 7 of 15 points on their first serve in the first set (47%),  28 of 39 (72%) in the second and 10 of 11 (91%) in the 3rd set .. So, our gus served much better as the match went on and that helped change things around.

The win gives them 225 points, which would also help raise LP's rank a couple of spots .. Mahesh is the defending champ at the Canadian Open, though his old points will fall off only a week later due to the Canada masters being a week early this year .. Up next for them are the 4th seeds Mark Knowles (BAH) and Daniel Nestor (CAN), always a very tough team, and clearly a Gold medal contendor for Olympics, had they been from the same country (Nestor is of course the reigning Olympics doubles champ, with now-retired Sebastien Lareau of Canada) .. The semifinal is tomorrow at around 3 pm ..

Other news, including Harsh's night singles QF at Lexington, later ... Prakash and Uros Vico had to give a walkover in the doubles QF as Vico is injured -- PA just can't seem to get a break lately.

July 30 Note-1

Update 12.45 pm Toronto -- The top seeds Bryan-Bryan lost 16 46 in a surprise, to Palmer-Vizner, so they will be the afternoon QF opponents to our dudes!

The Indian Express play the QF at 2.30 pm at Toronto (7.30 pm London ..12 midnight India) .. The opponents to be determined in a morning match .. Come on into the chatroom during the match.

July 29 Note-3

As though all the good news today wasn't enough, Mankad came back and won a doubles QF also at night .. I thought he would be quite tired after 5 weeks of play and would be tempted to throw in the towel in doubles this week, but HM is made of different stuff -- he and Jason Marshall did a comeback job on a very good doubles pair, Brian Baker and Rajeev Ram of USA for a 36 76(5) 63 win at night .. Their opponents for the saturday doubles SF will hopefully be Prakash Amritraj and Uros Vico (ITA), who play Huntley Montgomery and Ryan Sachire of USA tomorrow .. Great job by HM to reach the singles QF and doubles SF .. Harsh next plays the featured night time QF tomorrow against the local favorite, Jesse Witten of University of Kentucky, a top-5 collegiate player who has also had back to back USA futures finals the last two weeks and a title - he is hot, as he upset the 5th seed Vico today in the second round .. Fantastic week for Mankad.

LP-MB play a 2.30 pm QF at the Toronto Masters .. Against the winners of the R2 between the top seeds Bryans or Palmer-Vizner, which will be played in the morning.

July 29 Note-2

What a terrific day it has turned out to be!! .. The Indian Express comes back and looks every bit like the IE of old times in taking the #9 ranked team in the world to the cleaners, and Harsh Mankad pulls his best win yet, upsetting the top seed .. At the Toronto Masters, [R2] (8) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. Gaston Etlis (ARG)/ Martin Rodriguez (ARG), 63 62 .. At the $50K Lexington Challenger, [R2] Harsh Mankad (IND,296) d. (1) Paul Goldstein (USA,151), 64 75 ..

Sorry to have to push Harsh's fanstastic win to the second headline .. But first the LP-MB match .. They were facing a tough team who are ranked #9 in team rankings .. It satrted that way with LP and MB facing triple break points 0-40 back to back, in games .. Just like the old Indian Express, their spunk came forth .. They both won 5 points each in a row to hold serve .. It looked like we were hardly getting points off the serve of the Argentinians .. In fact LP-MB lost points each of the first 12 times the other guys hit their first serve  .. But all our pair needed was one opening somewhere ..  They got just that in the 8th game where a double fault by Etlis/Rodriguez which was followed by the first winner from our guys on their first serve - and that gave LP-MB a break point at 30-40 .. After wasting two BPs, LP-MB converted the 3rd to go up 5-3 .. LP-MB had to save a break attempt in the 9th game before converting their second set point  .. From this point it was a breeze .. Before we blinked, Etlis/Rodriguez were down 0-4 in the second set .. The match was over in an hour and one min .. 58 points to 45 points to our guys but it was about 25-25 at one point before the Express totally tightened the screws .. 0/7 in break chances by E/R and 2/5 by LP-MB .. Up next is probably the Bryan twins .. Make that a 14 match win streak for the Indian Express who have not lost a match since April of 2002 .. That stretch includes 5 ATP matches, 5 Davis Cup matches and 4 Asiad matches .. Go LP-MB !!!!

Then the big singles news .. Harsh Mankad picked the biggest upset win of his career today, as he took care of Paul Goldstein, who was a top-100 player not too far back .. Harsh has been "feeling it" lately, as I wrote earlier, and it showed .. Mankad said he was down a break in the second set, but just when Goldsten relaxed a bit, he went after him .. HM said that his serve was working very well and that it helped him close it out well .. In my opinion, after seeing him play last wek at Aptos, his serve is perhaps the most improved aspect of his game now .. HM has certainly taken a next step in his tennis .. His rank will move closer to #285 next week (he gets 12 points for this win but loses 5 next week) .. He will be at a career high of 116 points next week .. HM comes back soon for the doubles QF at Lexington tonight.

Ooh, what a great day!

July 29 Note-1

Folks, don't forget to come to the chatroom for a fun session during LP-MB's doubles match this afternoon in Toronto .. 4 pm (+/- 30 min) New York time (9 pm London .. 1.30 am India)

Mankad plays top seed Pual Goldstein in the afternoon at the Lexington challenger second round.

In today's news, Sunil Kumar and Norikazu Sugiyama went down in a very hard fought QF at the $25K+H Togliatti challenger in Russia .. 76(2) 67(5) 46 to Kirill Ivanov-Smolenski and Andrei Stoliarov of Russia .. Excellent three-set fight from the guys, just like in their first round win .. Sunil Kumar now travels about 200 miles to Saransk (Mordovia) for the challenger there next week .. He is in the main draw there, and the surface changes to clay .. He is also in the list for the week after at St. Petersburg, also on clay .. He is 12 out from the main draw for St.Petersburg .. That cut will drop a bit but he may need qualies for that week .. Anyway, it was excellent tour planning by Sunil Kumar to go to Russia for a challenger sequence .. If you are willing to play on clay, you will find some sequences like this with some lower cuts where you only need one big air ticket to get to a foreign country ..

I am glad to see our players doing these things now .. Harsh Mankad showed the way for this kind of good tour planning with his travels on a shoe-string (or nonexistent) budget over the last couple of years .. That may be the only way to do it, unless somebody runs around in India trying to squeeze out sponsorship - and we don't have too many people willing to help in doing that .. The 20-25 year old players are not the best ones to talk to bigwigs and get sponsorship .. Some of them also do not have parents who are good at it either, and that is an added problem .. Except for a few like Globosport, we don't have enough sports agents who work for rounding up sponsorship .. It boggles my mind that Harsh Mankad has done his travels for nearly two years using just the AITA payments for earlier Davis Cup matches and a few thousand dollars of support from the Mumbai sports circles ..Basically it is a question of moving on with a "hope and prayer" and a couple of thousand dollars in bank balance, hopefully replenishing it by a few hundred dollars every week with prize money .. Tough, but it can be done if you believe in yourself .. If I am not mistaken, Sunil Kumar does get some support still through Paes En Sport, and Rohan gets supported by Globosport though .. AITA really needs to do something about this and perhaps appoint somebody full-time to help raise funds and sponsorship for players .. This was one of the reasons why I mildly opposed (in my daily notes) AITA's plans for the national tennis academy because I felt that with something like that around their neck, useful as it may be, they would only be able to watch for raising funds for their own projects like that, and would not be able to do as much for the players directly.  But this is all a long discussion with all kinds of angles that we can get into another time..

Speaking of that, it is extremely worrisome that we have not had any men's challengers this year in India .. Still no sign of anything coming up .. We finally have about 3 or 4 players who will make direct entry in challengers and there is nothing they can do in India .. ATP is pretty much ready to wrap up the last three months calendar for this year and we have not heard anything about Indian challengers .. KSLTA (Karnataka) did a great job bringing three last year, but I am not sure if they are doing anything this year (perhaps trhe change in political scenery hasn't helped either? -- SM Krishna the biggest tennis supporter out there is no longer the CM) .. AITA *must* bring a couple of challengers like they did in Delhi, last year .. It is crucial for those like Harsh, Prakash, Sunil and Rohan .. When oh when will we see the big city Kolkata doing a challenger again, by the way? .. Or Mumbai? .. Jaipur? .. Ahmedabad (oh, where has AGETA gone?) .. Where is everybody? .. Where is BTA, CLTA, TNTA, MSLTA and all the TA's out there? .. Need help folks  .. and fast! .. The tennis circles have looked generally listless this year in India (except for that wonderfully spirited $10K on clay in Kolkata earlier this year).

Bad day at the grade-2 in Pretoria .. [QF] (3) Sanam K. Singh (IND,139) l. (11) Derek Drabble (RSA,241) 67 06 ..[QF] (7) Punam Reddy (IND,138) l. (4) Gizella Schutte (RSA,108) 16 16 .. So no big runs from our kids there in singles .. Punam continued the very good run in doubles though by reaching the semi just now .. [QF] (3) Irena Pavlovic (FRA)/ P.Reddy d. (5) Alexa Glatch (USA)/ Else Potgieter (RSA), 62 75 ..

July 28 Notes

So, finally the D-Day has arrived .. Tomorrow, sometime around 4 pm, one standard outside court at the Toronto Masters becomes as important as the Wimbledon center court in the minds of Indian tennis fans, as the Indian Express makes their reunion #2 .. This was supposed to happen last August right after the Cincinnati Masters where LP-Rikl lost to the same Argentinian poair - Gaston Etlis and Martin Rodriguez - and decided with Mahesh to play the week after at Long Island .. Of course, the day before they were to play, Lee ended up in hospital with a  cancer scare which turned out to be a treatable brain cyst though it took a few months to recover from .. So, finally, after nearly 30 months apart, the olds brothers get back on court in an ATP event tomorrow .. Interestingly, their reunion match is against a team that perhaps has been the worst for both LP and MB in the past .. LP-Rikl and MB-Mirnyi have lost the last four matches they played against this pair and are a combined 1-4 against them (I have some details of how Gaston Etlis has been a bad sign often in LP's career in this forum post) .. Anyway, the Indian Express together have never played them, and I am sure they will start with a win against the Argentitian Olympics pair .. [R2] (8) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes vs Gaston Etlis (ARG)/ Martin Rodriguez (ARG) .. About 4 pm Toronto (9 pm London .. 1.30 am Friday India) .. We will be having a good Indian Express Chat during the match tomorrow at the chatroom like old days .. All you old friends, please join! :-)

At the $50K Lexington challenger, Harsh Mankad and Jason Marshall (USA) reached the QF with an easy 63 63 win over Jonathan Marray (GBR)/ Wesley Whitehouse (RSA) .. They play the QF tomorrow night against Brain Baker and Rajeev Ram of USA .. That would be after Harsh Mankad's big second round against the top seed Paul Goldstein in the afternoon .. Prakash's doubles QF is on Friday, it seems .. Rajeev Ram (USA) also lost the first round today .. A bit disappointed that of the six Indian names at this challenger, only one made the second round in singles ..

At the $10K USA F21 futures in Godfrey, Illinois, USA, Vishal Uppal again got upset in the first round .. [R1] (4) Vishal Uppal (IND,557) l. Rameez Junaid (AUS,742), 36 26 .. He got a win in doubles though - [R1] (4) V.Uppal/ Mathew Hanlin (USA) d. (Q) Marcus Fluitt (USA)/ Ry Tarpley (USA), 60 62.

At the grade-2 Pretoria ITF juniors, some good show by Sanam K. Singh and Punam Reddy who have both reached the quarterfinals .. [R3] (3) Sanam K. Singh (IND,139) d. Christiaan Vituli (KEN,746) 64 62 .. [QF] vs (11) Derek Drabble (RSA,241) .. [R3] (7) Punam Reddy (IND,138) d. (11) Sarah AuLombard (FRA,223) 76 62 .. [QF] vs (4) Gizella Schutte (RSA,108) .. In doubles, where Sanam and Punam were seeded with R1 byes, Punam continued the good work with a QF .. [R2] (3) Irena Pavlovic (FRA)/ Punam Reddy d. Wing Yau 'Venise' Chan (HKG)/ Hanneri De Klerck (RSA) 62 75 .. [QF] vs (5) Alexa Glatch (USA)/ Else Potgieter (RSA) .. [R2] (2) Myles Blake (AUS)/ Sanam Singh l. Kriegler Brink (RSA)/ Tucker Vorster (RSA), 63 67(4) 06 ..

In other news, Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan has been fire lately on the tour, reaching QF or SF in seemingly every challenger .. He has reached the QF of the $100K segovia challenger in Spain, where he got entry as a special exempt for a semi last week at the Valladolid challenger .. With all that, he has now picked up enough points to crack the top-200 next week (he was below 300 barely a couple of months back) .. He will be the first one other than Leander from the subcontinent to be in the top-200 in some 15 odd years .. I hope the Indians would keep pace with guy .. Congratulations go to Aisam, who is a good friend to few Indian players ..

Rohan Bopanna is listed in the entry list for the $15K in Iran next week .. Not sure if he is planning tyo go there, as he is resting his arm for a couple of weeks in India .. Also in action next week will be Sania Mirza, Rushmi Chakravarthi and Shruti Dhawan, who are all listed for the Wrexham $10K in UK .. Sania and Rushmi are there foir 2 weeks of $10K .. The Sri Lanka and India $10K events follw after that.

July 27 Notes

The Indian Express will be playing only Thursday at Toronto .. They had rain there today and the R1 match to decide their opponents is postponed to tomorrow ...

Prakash Amritraj and Uros Vico (ITA) had a good doubles win at the Lexington challenger - over the American pair, Bobby Reynolds and Brian Vahaly, 64 61 .. Prakash can use some doubles points as well .. Though he started his career a couple of years back with some excellent doubles work, he has had a bad string of results ever since the two finals with a title at the  Tumkur and Dharwad challengers with Rik DeVoest (RSA) last year .. Since then he had gone 1-7 in challenger and ATP doubles matches, the only win coming in Mankad's company at Forest Hills last month .. Good to see a strong doubles win from Prakash again .. Any sort of wins are good for his morale right now, I would think .. Harsh Mankad plays doubles R1 with Jason Marshall tomorrow .. HM's singles R2 will be against the top seed Paul Goldstein (USA,151), but the match will be on thursday ..

The bad news was that Neha Uberoi lost the R1 of singles, and Shikha Uberoi and Sunitha Rao lost in the final qualies today at Lexington .. Shikha lost to the 7th seed Nan-Nan Liu (CHN,253), 26 16 and Sunitha lost to Varvara Lepchenko (UZB,328), 26 46 .. Two lucky losers have made the draw now - Sunitha and Shikha are next in line, but they may not make it in .. Neha lost the late night first round match against Yan-Ze Xie (CHN,188), 36 36 .. Sunitha also lost the final qualies for doubles, and so the girls are all done out there -- it is a very competitive challenger, so it was not totally unexpected.

At the $25K+H challenger in Togliatti, Russia, Sunil Kumar (IND,396) couldn't do much agaist Vadim Kutsenko (UZB,359), in a 16 26 loss .. Not sure if Sunil is recovered enough from the injury problem from the Indian satellites .. He did come back later today to pull off a tough R1 doubles win in the company of Norikazu Sugiyama, 67(6) 76(4) 75 over Dmitri Sitak and Artem Sitak of Russia ..

At the USA F21 in Godfrey, Illinois, Vishal Uppal was drawn to face Rameez Junaid (AUS,742) - no news yet .. In doubles he is agains seeded 4th with Matt Hanlin (USA) and they face the qualifiers, Marcus Fluitt and Ry Tarpley of USA.

In junior news, both 3rd seed Sanam Singh and 7th seed Punam Reddy haave reached the PQF at the grade-2 in Pretoria, South Africa, after first round byes .. [R2] (3) Sanam K. Singh (IND,139) d. Robin Fernandes (RSA,NR), 64 75 .. [PQF] vs Christiaan Vitulli (KEN,746) .. [R2] (7) Punam Reddy (IND,138) d. Megan Sandwith (RSA,854), 61 61 .. [PQF] vs (11) Sarah Au Lombard (FRA,223) .. Not so good for Indians at the grade-3 in Egypt, where only Ashmitha managed to advance - [R1] Kaushik Raju (IND,294) l. (6) Osama Marawan (EGY,217) 63 36 46 .. [R1] Asha Nanda Kumar (IND,270) l. Naniss El Essaily (EGY,1240) 16 16 .. [R1] (6) Ashmitha Easwarmurthy (IND,219) d. Yoshida Ayumi (EGY,371) 26 76(5) 53 (ret.) ..[R2] vs Sousan Massi (SWE,445)

July 26 Notes

My daily updates are happening late in the day, as the action is all mainly in the US now .. The long-awaited return of the Indian Express would be sometime thursday or so, as most first round doubles matches are on wednesday and LP-MB have a bye ..

A whole bunch of stuff going on at the men's and women's $100K Challenger in Lexington, Kentucky, which has a good group of six Indian names, five of them having grown up in the US .. Harsh Mankad, Prakash Amritraj, Rajeev Ram (USA), Sunitha Rao (USA), Shikha Uberoi (USA), Neha Uberoi (USA) .. The good news today was that Harsh won yet another challenger match, and Shikha and Sunitha won their Q2 matches .. Unfortunately, Prakash's little funk stretch continued as he ran into a hot player ..

[R1] Harsh Mankad (IND,296) d. Hamid Mirzadeh (USA), 64 76(3) .. Harsh said he got a littl over-anxious against an underdog opponent which has been rare lately for him at the challenger level, and unnecessarily made it a tougher match than it should have been, but he advanced .. His next round opponent will be the winner of the match between top seed Goldstein and qualifier Thomas Blake tomorrow .. Prakash Amritraj (IND,286) lost 26 67(4) to K.J.Hippensteel (USA,264) who has gone to challenger QFs the last two weeks and has been playing well lately .. Mankad keeps his point total intact at 109, as he picked up 5 points to replace 5 he loses next monday .. Prakash badly needed a win though, as his point total will now drop by 14 more to 103 next week .. So, officially, Harsh Mankad will be the #1 ranked Indian player next week, which will be for the first time in his career .. Praksh will drop to about #310 and it will be tough for him to make the US Open qualies now .. I think the point pressure he has is partly due to the couple of months he lost due to injury earlier this year, but the current run of losses haven't helped either .. I'm sure he will snap out of it soon .. As for Harsh, he is in better shape for USO qualies and would hopefully not be too far out from the list when it closes next week.

The big win today was once again by Shikha Uberoi (USA,313) who upset the 4th seed in the qualies, Jewell Peterson (USA,237), 61 60 .. If Jewell was not injured or anything, that scoreline is quite amazing .. But Shikha has been playing that kind of tennis lately .. Go Girl! .. She plays the 7th seed Nan-Nan Liu (CHN,253) tomorrow morning in the final qualies .. Also advancing was Sunitha Rao (USA,269) who beat Lauren Breadmore (AUS,376), 16 64 60 .. She plays Varvara Lepchenko (UZB,328) tomorrow in the Q3.

The interesting news is that Neha Uberoi (USA,341) was in the main draw as a wildcard when it came out today .. She plays Yen-Ze Xie (CHN,188) tomorrow - a tough match ..

In other news, at the $50K+H Belo Horizonte challenger in Brazil, Mustafa Ghouse and Orest Tereshchuk (UKR) were upset 75 76(4) by the Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana brothers from Thailand ..  Sunil Kumar's matfch was not done today at the Togliatti challenger in Russia .. He plays tomorrow morning.

At the $10K in St.Joseph, Missouri (USA), Tara Iyer beat Lindsey Jones (USA), 61 61 in the second round of qualies yesterday and faces danielle Wiggins (USA) in the Q3 .. Tara had a first round bye.

No news yet on the draw at the USA F21 $10K in Godfrey, Illinois, USA, where Vishal Uppal is playing.

Later, with the news on the juniors in Egypt and South Africa.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on July 26 ..

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 playera, let me know .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan