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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Aug 9, 1999

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Aug 9 Note-1

Great news -- Manisha Malhotra won the title at the $10K satellite at Harrisonburg, Virginia, yesterday .. She beat Michelle Dasso (USA), 63 64  ..  This is her first satellite title, and it is quite impressive for anybody to win a satellite in the US, with some of the most intense competition around  - big congrats go to Manisha .. She bagged 5 points for the title, which brings her points total to about 41, and her ranking should be inside 360 in a couple of weeks .. The title gave her $1600 .. What I found interesting is that she beat 3 or 4 college players all ranked inside the top-15 or 20 in the US .. When Manisha herself was ranked just around or inside the top-20 last year in the US, I don't remember her being able to consistently beat top players in straight sets like this - certainly not this many in a row .. That indicates that she has clearly improved in her game and confidence within the last few months.

I met Nirupama at the Acura classic in Manhattan Beach, California yesterday - will write some comments soon.  She and her doubles partner (Larissa Shaerer of Paraguay) signed in for the doubles qualies, but as they expected they were a few spots out when that closed.   Not a bad weekend for her to pick up some good dollars .. There are no challengers this week I believe, and so she did not miss out on anything by coming down to LA and playing a qualifying round .. She goes back to New York, and will be playing the Bronx challenger next week, for which she is 3-4 spots out from the main draw.  She might make it by the time it closes, or she may have to play qualies.

I saw the final round qualifier results at the Binghamton challenger in New York, and Srinath was not there.  I am not sure if he went there with Fazal, but anyway he either lost in the earlier rounds of qualies, or did not go there ..

The doubles draw is out, at the Cincinnati Super 9 .. LP-MB are the top seeds .. Will post it soon.

Aug 8 Note-2

Good news from Virginia .. Manisha Malhotra won her semifinal match against Julie Ditty, the 15th ranked US collegiate player, in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2 yesterday at the $10K Harrisonburg satellites [source: USTA].. She has so far picked up 4 points and $1000 for reaching her 3rd satellite final (or is it second ? - I remember she was in a satellite final in UK last summer .. I need to check my records, but I think she was in a final in the US this year) .. She will be looking for her first satellite title .. The 3rd seeded Manisha is facing unseeded Michelle Dasso of Illinois (13th ranked US collegiate player, at Univ of Notre Dame, who was in the top-10 before) in the final which should be underway today already .. Dasso had a 61 60 win over the 8th seed Sylvia Schenck in the first round, then a 61 62  win over wildcard Terry Gaskill, followed by a 62 62 win over unseeded Kavita Krishnamurthy (CAN) and then a tough 3-set semifinal win, 57 63 76(3), over Ansley Cargill the 5th seed (wasn't she the girl who beat Uzma Khan in straight sets at the US Open juniors last year ??) .. Anyway, Dasso is unranked which, as usual, doesn't mean much in the case of top college players here who don't play much to get WTA points .. I will find out the final scores later today .. Manisha has about 40 points, which is enough to raise her ranking from 387 to inside 360 in a couple of weeks.

Aug 8 Note-1

The Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin has some newsbits on the two rounds of challenger qualies at Binghamton yesterday .. The main draw seems to have closed inside top-300 ..  Fazal lost in the first round to Diego Ayala (USA,1018) 2-6, 2-6 .. I had never really heard much about Ayala (he was pretty good in college tennis at Univ of Miami), but the 20 year old has reached the 3rd round there with an upset of the 4th seed Luke Milligan (GBR,310) after that .. The newspaper gives news only on the three US player remaining among the players in the final round today - James Blake (USA) who plays Diego Ayala (USA) and  Eric Taino (USA) who plays Fred Niemeier of Canada .. No news on Srinath who may have been in the other half of the draw .. Will try to find out today.

Aug 7 Note-4

At the Acura Classic at Manhattan beach, California, Nirupama ended up with a pretty tough opponent and lost today  - to 5th seed Kristina Brandi (USA,#45) in the qualies .. Brandi's ranking shows how difficult and competitive the WTA tour is .. There is normally only one tour event any given week, and most top players play there (other tournaments offer much less prize money) .. A $520K tournament is a middle level world series event on the ATP tour (championship series events offering 700K to 1 million and Super 9s offering 2M+) .. On the WTA tour, $520K event is actually a big event, as the main draw cut off at #30 or so would show! .. Everybody at the top is playing at the Acura classic, or so it seems .. Amazing to see a #45 player playing as the 5th seed in the qualies .. Niru was lucky to get a wildcard, as the qualifier draw closed at just outside the top-100 .. Anyway, she did not fare all that well against Brandi who beat her 6-1, 6-2 this morning .. Unfortunately I missed the match as I knew of the schedule only this morning and couldn't get there on time (I have no idea why they scheduled matches at 9 am before most people wake up on a Saturday here - it's not like Manhattan beach gets hot later in the day .. It was terrific weather out there the whole day) .. Anyway, I caught up with Niru after the match, and she said Brandi was just too good today .. Niru felt she was a bit too inconsistent, and should  not have played as many loose shots as she did, as players like Brandi do not waste opportunities .. She was still thankful to those who helped get her a wildcard (her management company) .. It was a good experience, and she did make $750, which is more than what one gets for 2 or 3 wins in a challenger ! .. She has signed in for the doubles qualifiers, but is not too hopeful she will make it tomorrow when that draw closes.  Pairs with combined ranking at 150 are in the signup list.. Niru and Schaerer are at 470 in combined ranking ! ..

Niru is in good spirits, and is injury-free .. She dropped a bit of weight, about 10 pounds actually, while in India and wants to keep it off .. Still rather unhappy about not having a coach to watch her matches and help with advice for improvements, at least occasionally - but it's tough to find that, and full-time travelling coaches cannot be afforded by anybody outside the top-50 or 100, unless they have very serious corporate sponsorship or something .. Niru is less concerned about spending time with coaches at any coaching base .. It looks like her brother (himself a very good former player in India, as many would remember, and a good coach in New York) may accompany her for a few matches .. She plans to play a few more tournaments in the US than she did last year .. Said she cut short her Europe swing a bit earlier than originally planned and took that 5 week break in India after the Wimbledon qualies, because she was unhappy with her own game (she had done well on clay in Europe the last 2-3 years, but not that well this year), and wanted to take time off to set her own mind and game back in order .. It looks like she is ready for some serious tennis now ..

Aug 7 Note-3

As of 11 am at the Cincinnati Super 9, Barry Cowan (#295) and Mark Knowles (#298) have got into the qualifier draw as alternates and are playing (due to some no shows) .. That means Mahesh has probably decided not to play singles, as he would have got in with a higher rank .. Though he had said during the online chat 10 days back that he had booked his tickets to get to Cinci by Friday to play the qualies, I had an email this week from MB that he was still feeling the injury to be not fully healed and that it was hurting when he pushed it hard in practice .. I assume that he decided not to play qualies to give it a few more days rest (in fact a note I got from Bhupathi Sr last night had said, "Mahesh is in Cinci. Not fully Ok. Will try doubles" - I will contact Hesh sometime and find out how he's doing) .. That means we will be seeing LP and MB in action only by Wednesday or so when they play the second round of doubles, after a first round bye.

According to the PTI report just now, at the Chennai under-18 junior national ranking tournament today, Radhika Tulpule had another easy win, 6-2, 6-1 over 7th seed Sandhya Kannury to win the girls' title .. So she gets the double crown, as she had won the doubles title yesterday .. On the boys' side, Kamala Kannan and Benjamin Xavier (17 and 16 years of age respectively, I believe) played a close match that went to an 8-6 third set tiebreaker, with Kamala Kannan pulling off a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6) title win .. I think that is Kamala's first national title and pushed his head-to-head against Benjamin to 4-1 (based on a stat I saw in the Indian Express article today) .. Good to see the next group of youngsters slowly making a name for themseleves .. See the Chennai juniors page.

Aug 7 Note-2

Saw the qualifying draw at Cincinnati .. The last two in there are Jared Palmer (238) and Jonathan Stark (265), which means Mahesh at 289 may be the first one to miss out on the draw after sign in (we will see if there is any change by 10 am when the matches start) ..  Had LP entered for singles, he may have got in and could have played ? .. I had heard earlier that the new rules would put players automatically into the qualifying rounds if they missed the main draw.. Not sure .. Anyway, he is not playing singles this week .. May not have been a bad idea to get as many matches as he could, to work out any lack of sharpness in his singles game, right ? .. We will have to wait another week to see LP play singles at Indianapolis (I know I sound impatient, but we all *really* want to see him back in form in singles, don't we ? -- Come on Lee, get out there! :-))

Aug 7 Note-1

Will try to find out about the Cincinnati Super 9 qualies sometime later today.

Here is another excellent write-up from the courts at Montreal about the QF match yesterday, from Ed Toombs .. Looks like a couple of mistakes in the tiebreaker did them in ..

I was at most of the QF match today. 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(4), the South Africans finally got to Leander & Jared! It was a very close match on court one, which all the players said was the quickest of all here. I saw Leander hit with Jared an hour before the match, and after the first few balls were struck Leander said "it's quick", and JP nodded. So it figured that service breaks would be even harder than usual to get ......  Leander served first in this match, it was Jared in the previous match serving first. They broke Adams in game 2, both Leander and Jared returned superbly and Jared ripped a backhand return up the middle and on the baseline for the break.  But the RSA team broke back in the 5th game on LP's serve. I have to confess it was a poor game by Leander, who missed three makeable volleys in the game, including on break point. I had to miss the latter part of the first set, and when I came back I learned that LP/JP were broken in the 11th game, doing the math that would have been Palmer's serve. That was the key, and it was 7-5 for the "bad guys" ..... There was a very long rain delay at the beginning of the second set, and we were sure the day's play might be wiped out. But the clouds passed over in late afternoon and play resumed. Leander came out ultra fired up! Adams was broken again in the 10th game. Leander set up the break point with a lucky net cord, and Palmer hit a big return at DA's feet for the break. Jared held easily and we were even ...... No breaks in the third, but some great doubles.... The funny bit was when Leander was berating a linesman: after asking him "Why don't you call what you see?", he asked the guy, "And what are you wearing sunglasses for?" Good question, it was twilight and the lights had already been turned on! The linesman looked embarrassed and took them off, but only a couple of minutes later so it wasn't so obvious. :-) .. There were some nervous moments on JP's serve in game 9, JP/LP went down 0-40 but saved 4 break points and pulled it out, and they went on to the tie-break... Tie-break 0-0 (JP) - JP service winner .. 0-1 (DA) - JP lobs, DA runs it down & hits winning overhead from the baseline .. 1-1 (DA) - JdJ hits forehand long .. 2-1 (LP) - double fault (argghhh) .. 2-2 (LP) - DA runs down another defensive lob and hits another overhead winner from the baseline! ..  3-2 (JdJ) - DA bests LP in a reflex volley exchange at net ..  4-2 (JdJ) - JdJ hits bh volley winner ..  2-5 (JP) - LP poaches, hits fh volley winner .. 3-5 (JP) - Another LP volley winner .. 5-4 (DA) - JP mishits 2nd serve fh return, flies long .. 6-4 (DA) - LP nets forehand from baseline  --------  That was it.... It was a close match. LP/JP had a few ommunications breakdowns that hurt at times (like a collision at midcourt in the third set), but it was an honest effort and a few errors at the end made the difference (Leander's double fault up a mini-break hurt, they never retook the lead after that...). But it was a great match and the South Africans were pretty solid in the clutch.

Thanks again, Ed .. You and Jeff have given us some very detailed reports from Montreal.  Have fun over the weekend!

Aug 6 Note-3

Paes-Palmer lost to Adams-deJager, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(4) .. Very close match .. Our pair dropped serve in the 5th and 11th games of the first set after being up 3-0 with a break quickly .. In the second set, LP-JP got the break just at the right time in game 10 .. In the 3rd set, our pair had break chances in the 8th game, and had to fight off 4 break attempts in the next game after being down 40-40, but there were no breaks in the set .. The match was so close that the total points won were 78 to 77 in our pair's favor after 2 sets, and then 113 to 112 after the 3rd set .. That stats went in the opponents' favor after the tiebreaker though, as they won it 7-4 ! .. Tough loss .. LP and MB had 181 ATP points to defend here .. LP gets 92 back from that .. I don't think there is any time for LP to go to Cincinnati and try to sign in for the qualies, so I expect only MB to be there for the qualies tomorrow (we will know if he makes it in, tomorrow).

Good news from the Harrisonburg satellites - Manisha Malhotra defeated Andrea Nathan (USA) easily today, 6-4, 6-2, to reach the semifinals .. She plays Julie Ditty, another WTA-unranked American, but the 15th ranked US collegiate player, from Vanderbilt Univ .. Won't be easy, again .. Kavita Krishnamurthy of Canada lost in the QF to Michelle Dasso (USA), 6-2, 6-2.

Aug 6 Note-2

The QF doubles match at Montreal was at 5-7, 1-0, with Leander and Jared down a set, when rain started .. It has been 4 hours now, and the sun seems to be coming out, and they may get underway soon, there ..

Manisha Malhotra is in the quarterfinal today at the $10K satellite at Harrisonburg, Virginia .. She defeated Amanda Augustus (USA,748) yesterday, 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-5 .. Amanda is a top-20 collegiate player (at UC Berkeley) who had beaten Manisha in the qualies at the Atlanta challenger in straight sets, and it's good to see Manisha returning the favor .. It's these kinds of things that actually show the mettle of a player .. Talking of Manisha, there is an excellent article, "Taking earnest steps in a path strewn with obstacles" written by Kamesh Srinivasan in Saturday's The Hindu focussing on Manisha, that you may want to read .. Good to see such encouraging articles .. She is facing Andrea Nathan (USA) who is a top-75 collegiate player (at U. of Wisconsin), which means she is not necessarily an easy foe, though she is unranked in WTA .. I will find out how Manisha did today, soon .. There is also a Canadian-Indian youngster out there, doing well - Kavita Krishnamurthy, whom I had mentioned during the US Open .. She is 18 yrs of age, and had reached the ITF top-50 junior ranking last year itself .. She is starting out on the senior circuit only this summer .. Anyway, Kavita is in the QF of singles at the Harrisonburg satellites.

Got the doubles results at the Chennai Junior nationals - Radhika Tulpule and Radhika Mandke won the doubles final, so Radhika has a chance for a double crown (singles final tomorrow) .. The boys' doubles title went to Ravikiran Bhat and Nirmit Shetty from Bangalore, who beat Sunil Kumar and Kedar Shah .. See the results at the Chennai juniors page.

Aug 6 Note-1

Leander and Jared play the quarterfinal match at the $2.4M Montreal Super 9 today at 12 noon, against Adams-deJager .. Join us in the chatroom to follow the match ball-by-ball.

Nirupama and Schaerer lost to Grahame and Lubiani yesterday in the first round of doubles at the Lexington challenger, 2-6, 4-6 .. Niru will be flying to Los Angeles today, to play the qualifiers at the $520K Acura Classic at Manhattan Beach starting tomorrow.

At the Chennai juniors today, the matches went somewhat like expected .. The 2nd seed Radhika Tulpule took care of the US girl's power game with some of her own .. 6-3, 6-0 over Khuschehr Italia .. The Indian-American girl certainly had a good tournament and made everyone take notice of her there  (I will watch out for her out here in the future) .. But, as I said, Radhika seems to be in a class all by herself lately ..   Sandhya Kanury beat Harsimran Kaur in the other semi .. On the boys' side, wildcard Benjamin Xavier has shown how the seedings at these tournaments don't mean much, by beating the top seed and the second highest ITF-ranked Indian boy, Kedar Tembe, who is perhaps a couple of years older than Benjamin too .. Benjamin is a former BAT trainee .. Time to get on the Benjamin bandwagon ?? .. I will wait for some more results ..  :-) ..   Kamala Kannan made sure that there will be no seeds in the final by taking care of state-mate Mukundan (both from the Krishnan Tennis Center, I believe) in three sets too [source: PTI] ..  See the Chennai junior page .. I will add the doubles results later.

Aug 5 Note-3

I have not got the results from Lexington and Harrisonberg for Niru and Manisha today - will find out tomorrow .. Also, no results so far this week from Egypt, where some of our players are.

Here is Ed Toombs reporting from the courts at  Montreal on LP's match for us:

"I arrived at the match at 2-2 in the first. It was a dandy match, featuring three very solid doubles players and one great one. :-) -- JP served to start the match for Leander's team. LP was playing the deuce court, and was definitely the leader and captain out there ......... They definitely had the minor league lines judges out there in the first set. Norval was furious at a Palmer volley in the fifth game that was called in when the South Africans had a chance to break. He approached the chair screaming, "That freakin' ball was not on the freakin' line."  He sounded like an R rated movie dubbed for network TV! In the next game it was LP's turn to vent at the chair umpire on a PN serve called in, LP wanted an overrule: "The ball was almost straight at me! You're not even thinking about what you're seeing!" Anyway, the highlight of the first set was an unbelievable LP backhand from mid court -- it bounced and Leander crouched, caught it at head height close to his body and ripped a sort of backhand semi-overhead that split the South Africans down the middle! It was an extraordinary shot, the crowd went wild and one guy yelled out, "That's why he's number one!". Yeah! That was the eighth game, and the one where LP/JP got their break. They served it out on JP's serve, with LP nailing an awesome stretch backhand volley down the line on set point. LP was fantastic in this set. This was the first time I had ever see him play doubles live, and he is number one all right! ......... The second set went less well, JP broken in game 2 and LP in game eight, it was 6-3 2-6. In that second game LP tried his "Hartford Shot", that spinning over the shoulder forehand from the doubles alley. It didn't work as well here, the ball hit the back fence on the fly. In fact LP was a little guilty of going for the flashy shots instead of the sure shots in this set, but that's why why love him, right? Anyway, he went back to more fundamental plays in the third set, thankfully. Ullyett was dynamite in this set, he kept hitting winner after winner on the return ........ The third set stayed on serve until 4-4, when Norval's serve was broken. Palmer really was the man in this game, at deuce he hit a crisp backhand volley winner and then sealed the break with a great low return that forced the volley error from Norval. At 5-4 Palmer served it out for the match, on a a volley by Jared that Norval almost stretched to, but it ticked off his frame and past him. That was it, and Norval was furious at the loss, I guess because it was his serve that was broken in the third: he whacked his racquet three times against a metal fence post, ding ding ding, I thought it was the dinner bell for a moment  ....... Jared was a great partner for Leander: Norval/Ullyett were playing at JP a lot, and he bent but never broke. I'd share the "man of the match" between Leander and Jared, LP for his outstanding first set and Jared for a very solid third. Adams/De Jager up next in the QF... will try to catch it if I can."

Ed sounds breathless from seeing that match - he's having some serious fun out there..  Thanks, man ! .. Everybody, please take a look at his online magazine, "On the Line" (check out http://surf.to/ontheline) .. Ed and his pals are doing a fantastic job of covering a lot of matches there, in addition to some exclusive work for us !

The QF opponents tomorrow, the South Africans David Adams (#20) and John-Laffnie deJager (#25) are the #6 team in the world, and Paes-Palmer will need to be at their best to get past that team too .. They are unseeded here, but have already upset the 7th seeds Woodies in the first round in three sets.

Aug 5 Note-2

I have to admit that this was one of the rare cases when I actually would have felt fine had LP lost a match, because then he could have got down to Cincinnati and played the singles qualies (plus it's tough to get all that excited when his partner is not Mahesh :-)) .. Anyway, LP never plays to lose and they pulled out a tough one today - Paes - J.Palmer d. P.Norval - K.Ullyett, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 .. The match went even at first till the 8th game when, helped with 2 double faults, Norval and Ullyett were down 0-40 .. LP-JP converted the second break chance to go up 5-3 .. They served out the next game at love to take the set 6-3 .. The second set started with one more double fault and PN-KU found themselves down 0-40 again .. They won 5 points in a row to hold on, and broke LP-JP in the next game on their second break chance .. From that point onwards, it was all PK-NU in the set, as they got their second break in the 8th game to tie it up at 1 set each .. The 3rd set was a dead even affair, till the 9th game when LP-JP got the crucial break .. I will await any onsite report from Jeff or Ed who may have watched the match.

Aug 5 Note-1

Good news - Nirupama (#232) and Larissa Schaerer (USA,#238) made the main draw at the Lexington challenger yesterday!! .. They won two single-set rounds .. First they beat Jana Nejedly (CAN) and Jackie Trail (USA), 8-0  (.. hmmm .. how-did-dey-do-dat??) .. In the final qualy round, they beat  Fang Li (CHN,236) and Cindy Watson (AUS,297), 8-6 .. In the main draw, they play Francesca Lubiani (ITA,212) and Amanda Grahame (AUS,145) today .. Niru has a little score to settle with Amanda Grahame there - it was Amanda, in the company of Brianne Stewart, who beat the unseeded pair of Niru and Jing-Qian Yi (CHN) last year in the final at Lexington in a three-setter .. Go after her, Niru!

Leander and Jared Palmer (USA,8) are scheduled to play this afternoon against Piet Norval (RSA,39) and Kevin Ullyett (RSA,36) at the Montreal Sper 9 ..  I don't think the rankings matter in this match - Norval and Ullyett are the 15th ranked team in the world, and LP is playing fort the first time with Jared Palmer .. Palmer is the partner for Paul Haarhuis now (they were the team that LP-MB beat at the Wimbledon final, as I am sure everyone knows) .. At Wimbledon, LP-MB went after Palmer (with some success, too) but that doesn't mean much, as any partner with someone as good as Haarhuis is bound to get teed up on ! .. Ullyett seems to be in good form, as he qualified into the singles draw and beat Woodruff and Byron Black before losing to Kafelnikov ..

Mahesh Bhupathi was in Mumbai, on his way to US, and was reportedly getting some light practice in, with Asif Ismail .. Not sure if he is 100% recovered from the injury .. He had said a few days back that when he tried hard practice, the abdomen was getting a bit sore again .. Looks like he feels comfortable enough to play now, and will be getting into Cincinnati tomorrow to sign in for the qualifiers - not sure if he would make it .. By the way, MB lost some 21 points he had from the Istanbul challenger (2 wins) last yeat, which has dropped him to #289 .. He had expected to play at least 2 or 3 challengers after Wimbledon, but unfortunately that didn't work out .. Since there are quite a few challengers next week, there is a decent chance for MB to make the qualies at Cincinnati .. As for LP, he is now at #130, and will be losing 9 points after next week, followed by 119 (New Haven 98) the week after that  ..  That will drop Leander close to #180 or so, his lowest ranking in slightly over 5 years, unless he picks up some good wins at Indianapolis week after next.

Harsh Mankad had a tough break yesterday, as his partner (Jonathan Beardsley) was down with a neck injury, and they had to pull out of doubles at the Decatur (Illinois) futures..

At the Chennai junior national ranking tournament, the semifinals are set for Friday .. On the boys' side, the top seed Kedar Tembe, whose wins always seem to come after the match becomes a close one, moved on past TN qualifier Vel Murugan .. Talented Benjamin Xavier is up next for Tembe .. Benjamin has certainly justified his wildcard entry .. The two Tamil Nadu kids who I had expected to do well (Mukundan and Kamala Kannan) are in the semis .. Mukundan seems to be in good form, after his trip to the South African ITF junior tournament, etc .. On the girls' side, C Nandita went down to Harsimran Kaur, who has slowly and steadily been inching inside the upper echelon of junior players (she had a win over Shruti Dhawan in the satellites, if I remember correctly -- by the way, where is Shruti ? ..  She has hardly played much, since her big wins in last year's satellites -- I worry whenever I see players staying away too long, that they would lose momentum)  .. Radhika has been in her own class lately, and moved into semis with another easy win - over Yamini .. The US girl with some Indian connection, Khushchehr Italia, beat Geeta Manohar, the 6th seed .. Sandhya Kanury over Shereen Yusuf in the other QF .. See the results and the SF matchups in the Chennai juniors page.

Aug 4 Note-2

Manisha Malhotra is the 3rd seed this week at the $10K futures at Harrisonberg, Virginia .. She has won the first round, over Kate Lutgert (USA,916) easily, 63 61 .. She faces Amanda Augustus (USA,748) in the second round .. Amanda has come up 200 spots from where she was two weeks back when he beat Manisha in straight sets in the Atlanta challenger qualies - that was one of the rarer occasions when Manisha lost to a lower ranked player during her successful US circuit this summer .. Manisha will be thinking revenge tomorrow in the second round .. In doubles, Manisha and Stephanie Nickitas (USA) lost this week in the first round to the 4th seeds Adria Engel and Lauren Kalvaria, both of USA, badly - 16 06 .. I still need to find the results from Baltimore last week, by the way, where Manisha/Nickitas had reached the QF of doubles.

Aug 4 Note-1

Leander and Palmer are not scheduled to play their R2 match today either, at Montreal.  4 more first round matches and only one second round match are on today's schedule .. They will be doing the final 4 rounds of doubles from Thursday to Sunday.

Nirupama is expected to get a wildcard into the qualifying rounds at the $520K Acura classic in Manhattan Beach, California, starting over this weekend ! .. That's great news for us in Southern California - I will be there covering her matches this coming weekend .. They still have not finished the doubles qualifier rounds at the Lexington challenger .. Niru and Schearer will play Nejedly/Trail in the first round and the winners will play Fang Li and Cindy Watson to make it to the main draw .. Damn - pretty tough competition even though it's only a challenger and it's the doubles qualies.

Harsh Mankad (#570) is in the doubles draw at the Decatur (IL) futures, playing with Jonathan Beardsley (USA,1372) .. They play Robert Samuelson (SWE,641) and Robert Kendrick (USA,953) in the first round today.

No big upsets at the Chennai Junior nationals today, according to PTI .. Top seed Kedar Tembe, 3rd seed Alok Bhide, 6th seed N.Mukundan and 8th seed Ravikiran Bhat made it to the QF .. Among the younger ones in the juniors, Anant Sitaram lost, but I don't know how the talented Benjamin Xavier did .. I don't know if any girls singles matches were played today as all the seocnd round matches were done yesterday itself .. I will update the Chennai juniors page later with full results.

Aug 3 Note-3

This summer tour is not going well for anybody so far in the US - some more bad news .. Nirupama crashed out in the second round of qualifiers at the Lexington challenger to Lara van Rooyen (RSA,314), 67(2) 64 64, after beating Lindsey Lee (USA,281) easily, 62 62 .. Niru is in the doubles qualies, playing with Larissa Schearer of Praguay (#238) .. They face Jana Nejedly (CAN,875) and Jacqueline Trail (USA,437) in the first round today (2 rounds of doubles qualies, and things are delayed due to rain there) .. Not an easy doubles quals match actually - Jana is a top-100 singles player, though she rarely plays doubles ..

Harsh Mankad lost in the first round at the Decatur (Illinois) futures today to Brandon Hawk (USA, 634), 63 61 .. I did not expect Harsh who flew in to US only last week to immediately set the place on fire, but I thought he could get a win or two - till I saw that he was drawn again Brandon Hawk, who is also 19 yrs old, and has been having some nice results in the US lately .. Harsh will be playing one more future before starting college studies at Minnesota.

Aug 3 Note-2

LP is not playing doubles today .. The second round should be tomorrow.

Holy cow, did I have a premonition about this when I posted the last note or what ? .. Top seed Sheetal Gautam lost in the second round today to Nandita Chandrashekar, 46 36 today at the Chennai junior u18 event !! .. I have been watching the results from that girl Nandita for a while and I must say I am not shocked, though I expected Sheetal to fight through this match .. 3rd seed Radhika Mandke lost to an Indian-origin girl from the US, K.Italia .. 2nd seed Radhika Tulpule had a double bagel win over Sai Rajalakshmi .. Harsimran Kaur, T Yamini, Shereen Yusuf, Geeta Manohar, Sandhya Kanury also reached QF .. On the boys' side, 7th seed Saif Ali lost to qualifier Vimal Kirthi .. 3rd seed Alok Bhide also won in first round .. Second round for boys is tomorrow I believe (source: PTI) .. I will update the Chennai juniors page with full results later today.

Aug 3 Note-1

The AITA junior (under-18) ranking nationals started at Chennai yesterday .. Some disappointing results to report - Sunil Kumar of Chandigarh lost .. Though he is only 16 and this is an u-18 tournament, I did not expect him to crash out in the first round in straight sets - Gurmehar Singh who beat him is also from Chandigarh and is a good player .. Kamala Kannan of TN upset 2nd seed Kedar Shah, but it is not really a big surprise, as Kamala Kannan should have been seeded higher .. Two talented young 16-and-under players did well - Anant Sitaram of AP and Benjamin Xavier of Maharashtra .. CS Mohanty gave a good fight to Kedar Tembe the top seed .. Mithun Murali's win over P.Vishal is also notable .. On the girls' side, there were no surprises .. Top three seeds (Sheetal Gautam, Radhika Tulpule and Radhika Mandke) won in no-contests .. I expect Nandita Chandrashekar to give Sheetal a tougher match in the second round but Sheetal has come a long way and should go far here, as should Radhika Tulpule .. Upset of 4th seed Nona Wagh by TN's Nivedita Venkatesh was notable too .. Some of the seedings are a bit off - a few players who have not travelled abroad to play ITF tournaments and pick up points seem lower-seeded .. See the Chennai juniors page for all the results including the boys' qualifiers final round.

I will find out about Niru's qualifying round matches at Lexington challenger soon, as well as Harsh Mankad's draw at the Decatur (Illinois) challenger, etc.

By the way, though Fazal and Boruszewski lost the final round of qualies, they are the first-in-line lucky-loser team, in case any doubles team withdraws at Montreal ..

Aug 2 Note-2

Another match lost in the first round .. Paes lost to Jason Stoltenberg (AUS,59), 4-6, 2-6 at the $2.4M Montreal Super 9 .. The breaks happened in the 7th game of the first set, and the first and seventh games of the second set.

Here is the onsite fanclub member report from Jeff Leavoy: In short, Leander played reasonably well but couldn't catch a break throughout the match.  The match was played on court 6 before a reasonably large crowd, including a number of Paes fans.  After serving the first game and holding to go up 1-0, Leander had two break chances in the second game but couldn't convert. This was a very early turning point, as Lee would not have another break chance until the final game of the match! ... Both players held service until the 7th game, when Stoltenberg benefitted from two Leander double faults to break through and win the set 6-4.  During the first set, Leander was victimized by two foot fault calls (very rare!) and a lot of late and close line calls.  So it was very tough to come back from two double faults, and although Leander did get back to 30-40 (from love-40), he eventually dropped the game after a nice top-spin passing shot by Stoltenberg  ... In the second set, the problems with line calls continued.  Leander even argued with the chair umpire after a particularly bad call in the first game (on his serve) which took the score to 15-30.  This seemed to fire Leander up, and he went ahead 40-30, but then Stoltenberg came back with three straight points and broke through to go ahead 1-0. From this point on, Leander really never got a chance to get back into the set, although he played some fine tennis along the way.  Stoltenberg broke again in the seventh game to go up 5-2 (after Leander broke a string on his racket with a chance to hold at add-in), and Jason served out the match at 6-2 ...  On a positive note, there were a number of Paes fans at the match, including Vicki, Leander's trainer, friends, etc.  As usual, Leander stayed after the match in a show of sportsmanship to sign many autographs.  He had also mentioned to me during practice earlier in the day that he was feeling tired due to playing so much tennis in recent weeks.  I don't know how much this played into the match results, but I hope Leander can rest now until his first doubles match with Palmer (probably on Wednesday) ...  Well, that's all for now.  Sorry I don't have better results to report, but I will say that Leander accounted himself well and can go much farther in singles given the right circumstances and a few more breaks.  By the way, in the press room today, Jim Courier explained that sometimes the breaks go against you and there is nothing you can do about it.  That sort of sums up Leander's single match of today! ..

Here is the write-up from a disappointed Ed Toombs from Montreal .. Too bad for Leander --- Stoltsie was on fire, serving, returning, volleying, groundies, everything was clicking. When he missed, it was a shock, that's how solid he was. Early in the match Leander ripped a couple of forehand returns, and after that Jason obviously figured he'd serve to the LP backhand... After that LP rarely had a sniff at a forehand return, and JS's service games were pretty safe ...  Still LP started out well, the forehand was on and he made a few spectacular running forehand winners that brought gasps from the crowd (about 150 fans on court 6, pro-Leander, natch!). The turning point was game 7, when JS broke LP. LP put himself in trouble with a couple of double faults and it was 0-40 -- LP brought it back to 30-40 with a big first serve, then an overhead, but Jason broke at 30-40 with a lovely arcing forehand pass down the line ... Leander's energy level seemed to dip after that, he was not making much of a dent in Stoltsie's armor by now -- JS closed out the set and then broke Leander, who seemed down, to open the second. The second break came at 2-4. LP was trying but seemed less and less incisive, and Jason was just not missing. JS set up the break with a fantastic cross court forehand return that LP acknowledged with his trademark "yup!", then took the break point on a drop half-volley that LP played a bit too casually and dumped in the net. That put JS up 5-2 and he closed out his match point with an ace down the line.

I followed the match with ATP's ball-by-ball updates and thought Stolts gave LP a few more chances than Ed and Jeff seem to suggest .. They kept showing a higher number of break chances for LP in the stats, than he actually got (I felt I must have missed some break chances while being distracted at work) .. Now it looks like their newly introduced online stats applet may have some bugs in it (it doesn't look like LP got 13 break chances none of which he could convert .. the stats also said  3 of 14 for Stolts, which also looks wrong) .. Anyway, Stoltenberg is a tough one to beat, as he has been a top-30 player for close to 5 years (he dipped down to 140 in 95 and quickly came back up .. Dipped to 80 in 97 and again came back up .. Now down to 60, but should be back up again!) .. He doesn't give you too many chances to beat him, and LP had to be at his best form, something he has not shown for many months .. Incidentally, I wonder if coach "Nails" being away from him for most of this year till Wimbledon (he was undergoing surgery) has caused LP's singles game to deteriorate a bit .. Now LP is under a bit of pressure to get his singles game back in order as he is staring at dropping down another 50-60 spots to #185 or so, in three weeks, though he has only 20 points to defend for about 6 months after that! .. For now, he just needs to work himself back into form ..

Talking more about LP's singles game, I really couldn't say what exactly was wrong in last week's match at Los Angeles that I saw, except that he just wasn't making the shots consistently.  He seemed perfectly capable of making them, and seemed to be putting in the effort too, till getting frustrated in the end, but he was just not making the shots consistently or accurately .. Also, I am a bit surprised that Leander felt tired during practice, as he has only played 4 matches in over three weeks .. Though he is injury-free now, to me he does not appear to be 100% yet, in terms of weight and fitness, despite him being able to bring out some incredible stamina, as he did for three days at Wimbledon, purely on adrenaline (remember that he was injured about three different times and went through two periods of extended time away from being able to even touch the racket, starting from November last year) .. Actually, before the LA tournament, LP said he was still a bit sore from all the tennis at Wimbledon ! .. It hit me yesterday when I happened to see my tape of LP's win over Sampras last year - I was surprised at how much weight he has lost and has not regained .. He is probably 15 pounds lighter than he was at New Haven last year, and probably a little less muscular ..  But then again, he has been injury free only since about the French Open, and has not had much time to do rigorous weight training either ..

Anyway, I say all that to underscore the point that there is really nothing "systemically" wrong with LP .. I saw some comments in the fanclub and in the emails I get from people asking "is LP getting too old ?", "is the singles game passing by him ?", etc, etc ..  I don't think that's the case.  He just turned 26 .. There are 43 players in the ATP top 100 (including 4 in the top-10) who are older than Leander.  He has certainly 3 to 5 more years to play pretty good singles .. As I have said many times, and as LP himself would agree, work needs to be done .. I would suggest that he should skip a couple of weeks of doubles sometime and just go and work on his game with a good hitting partner and coach Carmichael (and he should NOT be doing that in India where there is too much distraction - though people are waiting to get a hold of him there, since he has not had time to go back after Wimbledon) .. Not sure when he can do that .. Again, these are just my opinions ..  Leander and his coach definitely know better than me about all this .. But then again, looking at it another way, we have to be impressed with what he has done in doubles despite all these injuries and problems ..  Isn't it a wonderful luxury to have, for LP and MB to feel that they actually can skip a few weeks of doubles to focus on singles and know that they will still be at the top in the rankings with no problems ?  (one request to any press friends - the stuff above are purely my speculations and personal comments which I may be wrong on, so please don't add these to any press stories!)

There was also another bad match there for us today - In the final round of the doubles qualifiers, Fazal and Jan Boruszewski lost to Clement and Grosjean, 6-2, 6-3 .. FS-JB were broken in game 3 and 7 in the first set, and then in game 1 and 9 in the second set .. Here is the email from Ed Toombs: "I only saw the second set, in which both breaks were of Boruszewski's serve. But it wasn't that Jan was the goat, I didn't think, the key was the difference in the returns of serve. Jan and Syed were having difficulties getting returns in, while the Frenchmen are both terrific returners and constantly making JB & FS make very tough volleys, when they weren't hitting clear winners. Plus, the French had Grosjean. This kid is ultra-talented, and was cranking out circus shots from all over the court: he was definitely the man of the match. Syed would have liked to have played better, I am sure, but he has nothing to be ashamed of" .. Yep, I had expected Grosjean to be trouble - I have seen him play - that kid is superb ..  I am sure Fazal gained a lot by playing there still, though he had 1 win and two losses.

Thanks, Ed and Jeff, for all the great coverage from Montreal !

Aug 2 Note-1

The Leander Paes vs Jason Stoltenberg (AUS,59) match is scheduled for this evening as the 4th and last one on court 6 at the Montreal Super 9 today .. It should be around 4 pm there (1 pm PST, USA, 1.30 am tuesday India), plus or minus half an hour .. There will be ball-by-ball discussion in our chatroom during the match, as the online updates will be avaialble from ATP's site.

Fazaluddin and Jan Boruszewski had a first round qualifier doubles win at Montreal yesterday! .. They beat T.Parry and M.Pellerin of Canada, 36 61 76(1) and now faces a tough pair today - F.Syed (IND,362) - J.Boruszewski (GER,458) -vs- A.Clement (FRA,500) - S.Grosjean (FRA,396) today in the qualifying round at Montreal .. The match should be starting at about 7 pm (+/- one hour)  .. The chatroom discussion should be continuing with updates of this match after the LP match .. Despite their doubles rankings, Arnaud Clement and Sebastien Grosjean will be a pair of tough cookies to beat, though - they are #71 and #34 in singles.

Here are the singles and doubles main draws at Montreal for Leander:

 1 Patrick Rafter (AUS)      BYE                          \
   Gianluca Pozzi (ITA) vs Q Alex O'Brien (USA)           / \
   Leander Paes (IND)   vs   Jason Stoltenberg (AUS)      \ / \
16 Jonas Bjorkman (SWE) vs   Jiri Novak (CZE)             /    \ __ SF
 9 Nicolas Kiefer (GER) vs   Daniel Vacek (CZE)           \    /
   Magnus Larsson (SWE) vs   Guillaume Raoux (FRA)        / \ /
   Andrew Ilie (AUS)    vs   Martin Damm (CZE)            \ /
 8 Tommy Haas (GER)          BYE                          /

1 L.Paes/ J.Palmer                Bye                     \ 
  J.Novak/ D.Rikl           vs    P.Norval/ K.Ullyett     / \
  B.Coupe/ E.Taino          vs WC B.Kokavec/ J.Robichaud  \ / \
7 T.Woodbridge/ M.Woodforde vs    D.Adams/ J.DeJager      /    \ __ F
3 O.Delaitre/ F.Santoro           Bye                     \    /
  A.Florent/ D.Macpherson   vs    M.Barnard/ B.Haygarth   / \ /
  S.Lareau/ A.O'Brien       vs  Q Qualifier/ Qualifier    \ /
6 J.Bjorkman/ P.Rafter      vs    J.Gimelstob/ R.Reneberg /
Tough draws, both of them, but that is normal at Super 9s.

By the way, I forgot to mention that there is a junior (under-18) nationals at Chennai starting today .. We will keep track of what goes on there during this week .. We should know the monday results from there soon.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Aug 2 ..