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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Aug 12, 2002
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Aug 12 Note-1

There is some serious hoopla and newspaper articles going on in the US about Prakash Amritraj's huge national junior title yesterday .. As I have said recently, this kid does seem to have a "nose" for the big stage - a champion's quality .. To make it into US Open main draw as an 18 year old is amazing .. Call me a believer - I was so-so in my comments on Prakash throughout his junior ITF career, though always hoping for him to break through, as those who read between the lines would have figured out .. He never really had a break through event in the juniors but the guy is something else altogether now - basically ever since upsetting Mankad then ranked #2 in college tennis 6 months back .. Go Kash! .. I will have more on Prakash later - first some more news.

The world u14 world final-16 kicked off today at Prostejov, Czech Republic .. The draw was done Sunday night and this is early info that just came out .. I have not seen the schedule of matches, full seedings etc .. India's bad luck with the draws continues even in the Junior events, I guess - both our teams got clubbed with the top seeded teams in the field .. On the girls' side, with Sanaa and Tara in the team (both top 200 in ITF world 18s rankings, Sanaa even ranked #14 in the European rankings in the 16!) India had a legitimate claim to be one of the top 5-6 seeds, but the world final-16 seedings rarely go outside of Europe and US, and I don't think anybody noticed our team change with Tara coming into the team and having come on strongly recently .. I think China got seeded but not India on the girls's side .. I don't know what criterion they use for these things .. Anyway, the Indian girls got clubbed with some of the really tough teams out there .. Nederlands, Spain and Brazil in pool-1..  Nederlands has Europe's #1 u14 player, Michaela Krajicek and are the top seeds in the field of 16 .. And Spain is the #4 team in Europe behind NED, CZE and POL who are seeded #1, 2, 4 here .. Not that any other draw would have been all that better, but I was looking for a pool with somebody like an Egypt, Indonesia, or NZL in it - even the USA u13 team is not that strong and I am not sure they deserved to be seeded in the top four .. China basically has a free pass into the next round, with US, as they are in a pool with Egypt and NZL .. These are all just my impressions on the strength of these teams .. But that is how it goes .. Oh well, Sanaa and Tara have the work cut out for them .. On the boys' side, I think India as the Asian champions got seeded in 4 thru 8, but we got clubbed with the top seeds - USA .. Belgium and Colombia are the other two in our pool .. I thought our boys really had a chance to be seede in the top four on paper itself, the way they rammed through as the Asian qualifiers without even dropping a match and only two sets if I remember correctly, summarily beating those like Australia (twice) .. But I am willing to reassess a bit (:-)) based on the no-so-outstanding tour that our #2 player Sumit had in Europe the last 5 weeks .. I believe the boys were to take on the USA today .. We should hear about today's scores soon.

Top seed Ankita lost in the final qualies at the Thailand $10K satellite, somewhat surprisingly, to Diana Julianto (who, though ranked in the top-100 of juniors, has not been too efficient in beating quality players) .. Shruti, Liza and Geeta advanced to the main draw .. Here are the qualifying score details for Indians -
#1 Ankita Bhambri - [Q1] Bye .. [Q2] l. Diana Julianto 46 61 67(0)
#2 Shruti Dhawan - [Q1] d. Kamontree Siriluethaiwattana (THA) 61 64 .. [Q2] d. Punjaporn Ditthim (THA) 64 63
#5 Liza Pereira - [Q1] d. Sunthree Arphanukul (THA) 46 75 63 .. [Q2] d. #9 Wilawan Choptang (THA) 61 75
#8 Geeta Manohar - [Q1] d. Prim Buaklee (THA) 26 63 63 .. [Q2] d. Rani Setiawati (INA) 36 62 63
#13 Megha Vakharia - [Q1] l. Rani Setiawati (INA), 36 16 ..
Geeta seems to have really played with some purpose out there .. Liza's win over a pretty good Choptang is notable too .. Megha's loss (actually the score line too) is very surprising - hope she is not injured .. Ankita still has a chance as the first lucky loser in waiting ..

In the Thai satellite main draw, here are the matchups 4th seed Sai has a not-so-easy match against Liza Andriyani (INA) .. 5th seed Radhika Tulpule gets Maki Arai (JPN) .. 6th seed Sonal plays Liza Pereira .. Unseeded Sheetal goes against 8th seed Chin-Bee Khoo (MAS) .. Shruti faces Chattida Thimjapo (THA) .. Geeta plays Lauren Cheung (AUS) .. Main draw starts tomorrow.

Aug 11 Note-3
 

Well, we won't go a whole year without an Indian name playing in at least one grand slam main draw .. Prakash Amritraj will be in the US Open main draw as a wildcard .. Today he won the US hardcourt 18s nationals with a 57 63 64 62 win (5-set match) over the 8th seed .. That's a huge achievement for Prakash, who has come on unbelievably strong in the last 6 months .. Rohan and Willum-Petrus Meyer went down in the USA F23 doubles final in a close one, 76(7) 57 46 to Brandon Kramer (USA) and Morgan Wilson (AUS) ..

Aug 11 Note-2

The news isn't good .. [F] #3 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi l. (wc) J.Blake/ T.Martin, 57 36 .. Here is what I found from the online updates - The first set went with serve till 5-5, with both sides only taking about 5 points each on the other's serve, though MB-MM had one break chance that they could not convert .. It was different in the 12th game, as Blake-Matin kicked it into the next gear, winning some 6 points with three deuces and two AD out set points, converting the second chance, helped also by the first double fault for MB-MM (not sure who was serving, as ATP continues to be clueless on how to give online scores for doubles) .. MB-MM had 5 aces in the set but that double fault at deuce hurt .. In the second set, our guys' serve was again under pressure, with three more deuces, and JB-TM converted the first AD out BP to go ahead 2-0 and then with a love game to 3-0 .. Now, they had won 26 of the 38 points after 5-5 in the first set and they seemed to be totally dominating MB-MM .. Hesh-Max did force a clot on the bleeding, winning 21 of the next final 41 points over the final 6 service games but it was all too little too late .. They saved a match point at 2-5, 30-40 on their serve and then three more on JB-TM serve from 15-40 in the final game, but that was the end of the fight .. For the match, our guys served 8 aces with 3 DFs, the other guys having 5 aces and 3 DFs .. 0 for 1 in BPs by MB-MM and 2 of 4 by the others .. 70 points for the winning pair, 58 for the runners up - the difference basically occuring during that 5 game burst by Blake-Martin from 5-5 in the first set .. The match took an hour and 16 minutes ..

Martin and Blake are (surprisingly) the first American pair to even reach the Cincinnati doubles final in TEN years! .. They beat a lot of good teams, if they pay like this, I think captain Patrick McEnroe may finally have a doubles pair that can win a Davis Cup doubles match for the US .. Mahesh's 9 match win streak at Cincinnati is over, but he defended a lot of the 500 points he had for the title with LP last year .. MB-MM will have to continue thir search for that elusive title .. I wonder if they end up becoming one-dimensional in some of these final round matches, once things start going awry .. Just a guess from my part - as I haven't seen them play together .. Mahesh has not had great success with other partners in finals, as I have said before .. In the last 11 finals in 13 months, 6 have been with LP (4 titles at FO and Cinci last year, and Chennai and Mallorca this year, with 2 losses at Basel and Paris last year) and 5 have been with others (1 title with Gambill at Hamburg and losses with Lareau at Indi, with Tarango at Moscow, and with Mirnyi at Queens and Cinci) .. Probably that stat comes from that little extra magic the express had as a pair, especially when they were viewing a title .. But that was all then, we can't say if that magic would be there even if they were to play together now - so may be it is all moot .. Anyway, congrats go to MB-MM for a pretty good show once again ..

Aug 11 Note-1

The Cincinnati final for MB-MM is about to start at 1 pm Eastern Time (10.30 pm India) .. The chatroom is open .. Come on in! .. Sorry for the short notice - I thought the doubles was after the singles final, but it's before ..

Prakash Amritraj plays the US hardcourts nationals 18s championship match early this afternoon in Kalamazoo, Michigan .. This is also like a final qualifying match for the US Open singles, actually .. The winner gets a wildcard to the MAIN draw of the US open!

Four Indians are in the second and final round of qualies at the Thai satellites in this coming week .. Top seed Ankita had a bye to the final round .. Shruti, Liza Pereira and Geeta Manohar advanced today in Q1 .. The surprising loss was by Megha Vakharia who lost in the Q1 .. Details later.

Aug 10 Note-4

Another Cincinnati final for Mahesh .. [SF] #3 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. J.Novak/ R.Stepanek, 75 63 .. They meet the giant-killer wildcards, James Blake and Todd Martin in the final tomorrow .. I have no details n the SF match for MB-MM, as I couldn't follow it online.

Prakash Amritraj has reached the final of the USA 18s hardcourt nationals .. Go Kash! .. Rajeev Ram and Jonathan Stokke won the 18s doubles title today, and made history as a team, doing it three times in a row, once in the 16s and twice in the 18s! .. There were a few other Indian-American names doing well .. Ragini Acharya of Virginia won the 14s girls doubles title with Yasmin Schnak .. Anamkia ("Anu") Bhargava of Tennessee was in the 14s doubles semifinal .. Preethi Mukundan of California was in the 18s doubles QF .. These are all big draw events, and reaching QF and SF itself are good achievements.

Prakash and Stephen Amritraj have got a wildcard into the main draw doubles at the $800K Indianapolis ATP starting Monday! .. They face Stefan Koubek (AUT)/ Rainer Schuettler (GER) in the first round .. If they advance, they will run into (who else?) Mahesh and Max Mirnyi, who have a first round bye .. Rajeev Ram, who is from near Indianapolis, has a main draw singles wildcard, too ..

I had heard from a Michael Hill fan that Hill was going to be at the Legg Mason (Washington DC) ATP, and also that he and LP could be playing there and later at the US Open also .. Just saw the draw there, and Hill is playing with Gimelstob .. I hope LP is not injured or anything .. I have had no contact with LP for months now, so I have no idea what's up ... Hope you are fine, Lee ..

Fazal, probably rusty as could be expected, went down 16 36 to Jamie Delgado at the Bronx challenger qualies today in New York.

Aug 10 Note-3

Bad news from the Godfrey futures - Rohan went down to the 8th seed Trace Fielding 26 16 just now .. No details .. Well, it's all a learning experience - still a very good week, with 6 more ATP points for him .. I am not sure when it was last that an Indian reached a $15K futures semi; perhaps Sri or Fazal did it, but I can't remember it .. Normally it would require beating a top-300 caliber player, as Rohan did - and that has been very rare for our players .. Rohan will be playing the doubles final tomorrow at 11 am.

In other news, big congratulations to the Indian football team for winning the LG Cup in Vietnam, upsetting three Asian teams ranked higher .. The first title (or final) outside the subcontinent for India since about 1970, reportedly .. That comes after the new young national coach Stephen Constantine from UK had the team under his watch for only three weeks (he is a really good one - and it's money well spent on him by India) .. Self-belief has been the hallmark of Indian teams for the last few weeks, the women's hockey team's comeback exploits being right at the top .. Today Baichung Bhutia and company were behind 0-2 by about the half time, but did the job to win it 3-2 on a late goal .. The thing that caught my eye was a comment by the coach of Indonesia after the semifinal loss to India -- "haven't seen an Indian team this organized and fit in a long long time" .. Things, they are a-changing in Indian sports - you better believe it .. Read this interview with Anju George in today's rediff.com and her comments at the end about international exposure and her compliments to the sports ministry and IOA .. There is still a lot of bungling and cluelessness by many sports authorities in India, but a lot of them are doing a lot more things right than they have in the past .. Ultimately money chages everything - and the government has been spending more for sure .. By the way, if you are a football fan, drop a congratulatory note to the team in the forum at Indianfootball.com ..

Aug 10 Note-2

MB-Mirnyi play the doubles semis today at  Cincinnati late at night, around 9 pm (6.30 am India) .. We will have the chatroom open, but I have to be away at that time .. Come on in and follow the match with online updates from the official site ..

Rohan plays 8th seed Trace Fielding (USA,562) in the semifinal at the $15K USA F23 .. Here are some exceprts from the article about Bopanna's upset win in the Alton Telegraph in South Illinois .. The tournament's top seed, Daniel Willman of New Zealand, lost Friday to No. 6 seed Rohan Bopanna of India. Bopanna outlasted Willman 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 .. "I felt good about the way I played," Bopanna said. "I came out early and took over the first set with my serve. He really never had a chance in the first set. But I didn't play as well in the second set. Fortunately, I came back in the third." ... Following Bopanna's match, he watched with interest as his doubles partner Willem-Petrus Meyer battled No. 8 seeded American Trace Fielding. Fielding won the match 7-6 (2), 6-4 ... "We're best friends off the court, but on the court, it doesn't matter," Bopanna said of his potential match with Meyer. "You have to go on the court ready to play and win." ... With Meryer's loss, he and Bopanna's friendship will not be in jeopardy. In fact, they will team up to meet unseeded Brandon Kramer and Morgan Wilson in the doubles final. Kramer and Wilson reached the doubles final with back-to-back walkovers ... The other singles semifinal will feature the tournament's No. 2 seed Takahiro Terachi and unseeded American Phillip King. King upset last year's finalist Raven Klaasen of South Africa 6-0, 2-6, 6-3 ...  Good to see an article on a futures tournament .. The American newspapers are pathetic in covering satellite level tennis, except for some of the small town papers like the above one .. By the way, Philip King who is in the semifinal, is the one who upset Rohan last week in the QF, though that was on the way to his title and Rohan was among three seeds he upset .. King is a 5 ft 9 "shortish" fellow ranked #13 in college tennis, playing for the Duke university (where Stephen Amritraj will be playing in a couple of months) .. Actually I am a bit surprised howe wll this King dude has done in these futures .. It would be fun to see Rohan reach the final and get to play this guy for revenge ..  In any event, Rohan is getting a good dose of experience playing a good variety of players in different places .. The 6 points so far here, and the 2 from last week, is enough to move Rohan up inside the top-450 from the #488 this week ..

Prakash Amritraj, seeded 2nd, has reached the semifinal of the US junior 18s hardcourt nationals at Kalamazoo, Michigan ..  I was surprised to see him play there .. He is still 18 (turns 19 in a couple of months) - he is not elgible for ITF junior status this year, as all players turning 18 during the year are inelgible; USTA has different rules I guess .. Anyway, Prakash has looked good there so far .. Rajeev Ram was the 5th seed, and got upset in the final 16 .. Rajeeev and Jonathan Stokke are in the doubles final, however .. Praksh and Stephen were the 2nd seeds in doubles but fell yesterday in the doubles SF .. They play foe the 3rd place match today .. Go, Prak - win the singles title!

Aug 10 Note-1

Hey, if he thought we wouldn't notice, he is mistaken -- it turns out that Fazaluddin is in the qualifying draw of the $50K Bronx challenger!! .. The qualies start later today, and Fazal plays the 4th seed Jamie Delgado (GBR) .. What the heck is Faz doing there -- I thought he was retired and had taken to coaching and managing a tennis club in Philadelphia?.. I should give the dude a call .. Anyway, good to see Fazal back out there - probably not doing a serious comeback or anything, though.

Finally saw the score of Rushmi's doubles with Napaporn Tongsalee (THA) at the $25K Beijing challenger .. They lost 16 36 in the first round to the talented youngsters Chia-Jung Chuang (TPE) and Rui Du (CHN), who have now advanced to the SF.

Harsh Mankad told me that he has to leave for India a week earlier than expected (he has to get home to Mumbai for some reason), and so he is skipping the 3rd week of the Baltic futures circuit at Lithuania - he had actually reached Lithuania a couple of days back for a the qualies starting tomorrow, but had to change his air ticket and leave early .. He will be playing at the Delhi futures the week after (starting Aug 19), and Chennai two weeks later - not fully sure of Gulbarga in between ..

By the way, I may not be able to update the scores and news during the three Indian futures, as it turns out that I will be going to India on the 19th, and I am not sure of timely internet access at all the places I will be, though I will carry my laptop :-( .. I will try to sneak into the Chennai futures for a day before leaving India .. There may be pretty much a three week break in my news coverage here, but I will try if I can put an occasional update in.

Aug 9 Note-4

More from the USA F23 .. Rohan won the doubles SF in the evening too .. #2 R.Bopanna/ Willem-Petrus Meyer d. #3 Chris Magyary/ Mirko Pehar (USA) 76(11) 76(2) .. Tough match but the big serves must have helped in the tiebreaker .. 12 more ATP entry points to add to the 101 he has, which would raise his rank from near 400 to about 360 .. He is steadily moving up ..

At Cincinnati, Novak-Stepanek upset the 2nd seeds Johnson-Palmer (is it just me, or are these two guys getting upset every time I look up?), and they face MB-Mirnyi in the SF tomorrow.

I believe LP and Michael Hill will be at the Washington DC ATP next week, and probably will be playing the US Open together too .. I don't think that is a bad partnership, actually.

Aug 9 Note-3

Very good news from Godfrey, Illinois -- just talked to the tournament desk at the $15K USA F23 futures, and #485 Rohan Bopanna has upset the top seed Dan Willman (NZL, 285), 62 26 64 !! .. That is one of the best wins in his career - hey, he must have heard my call to our youngsters to "step it up" earlier this week, eh?? :-) .. He has now reached the semis there .. Ataboy, Rohan, let's go! .. He is also playing doubles semis - in the evening.

Aug 9 Note-2

Relatively tough match at first, but it became a cakewalk by the end for Mahesh-Max .. [QF] #3 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. #6 B.Bryan/ M.Bryan, 75 62 ..  The story of the match was MB-MM not allowing the Bryans to force a break in 9 break points, almost all of them in the first set  (actually MB-MM have generally  been very tough on break points against them and seem to save a good number of them usually) .. No breaks till the final game of the first set when MB-MM converted their 4th break chance, just at the right time to win the set .. In the second set it was all MB-MM, as they went up to 4-1 with a break in the 3rd game and then got another break in the 7th game to finish it off .. The match took an hour and 20 minutes and hesh-max were 3 of 7 in break chances .. 6 aces and 3 DFs by MB-MM, 4 and 2 by the Bryans ..  In the SF tomorrow, they play the winners of the QF between Novak-Stepanek and #2 Johnson-Palmer .. MB now has an 8-match win streak at Cincinnati as LP-MB won the title there last year.

Aug 9 Note-1

Mahesh's doubles QF is scheduled bright and early at 10.30 am today at the $2.9M Cincinnati Masters .. #3 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi vs #6 B.Bryan/ M.Bryan.

Sania won another grand double today .. At the Botswana grade-3 final, she beat Tarryn Terblanche (RSA,77), 60 64 to easily win the title .. Sania and Terblanche won the doubles final in a double bagel too .. That finishes a four week African trip where she picked up a grade-2 title (100 pts), a grade-3 title (60 pts), a grade-2 SF (50 pts) and a grade-3 QF (30 pts) .. She also picked up 3 titles and a runner-up finish in doubles .. I assume she will be proceeding to North America for the US Open swing soon, followed by the u16 Junior Fed Cup final-16 in La Baule, France (Sep 9-14) ..

Our u14 girls and boys teams have gone to Prostejov (CZE) for the world u14 final-16 next week .. #1 Sanaa and #3 Sandhya have left from india with #2 Tara expected to join them from the US .. #1 Rupesh Roy and #3 Jeevan Nedunchezhien on the boys side with #2 Sumit Gupta joining them from Europe (he has been with the ITF team finishing a 6 week tour this weeek) .. More on that later.

Aug 8 Note-2

Good news from the USA F23 .. 6th seed Rohan Bopanna beat qualifier Chris Martin (USA) in a comeback, 46 64 62 today to reach the quarterfinal .. He runs into a tough matchup in the QF, against Dan Willman (NZL,285), the top seed .. Rohan and Willem-Petrus Meyer (RSA) got a QF walkover in doubles and will face the 3rd seeds Chris Magyary and Mirko Pehar  of USA in the SF next.

Sania Mirza is in another singles final .. This one at the grade-3 in Botswana .. Her scores so far are:  d. Laone Botshoma (BOT)  60 61 .. [R2] d. Seapei Senatla (LES)  60 61 .. [QF] Gizela Schutte (RSA)  62 62 .. [SF] Tarryn Rudman (RSA)  61 62 .. Very low ranked opponents in the first three rounds, but the SF win today was against Rudman who had beaten Sania last year .. She now faces 77th ranked Tarryn Terblanche (RSA), who is the winner of the Africa grade-4 last week .. Terblanche is also Sania's doubles partner - they are in the doubles final as well .. This is the 4th consecutive week of doubles finals for Sania, I believe .. Though there wasn't great competition in the Africa events for her to play and learn against, she has basically swept up a lot of points down there in Africa in four weeks which should allow her to play without much ranking pressure for a lot of months from now on (and without wasting time in the lower ranked events) .. That is very nice .. I believe she will be taking a good break from the circuit and will undergo a couple of months of coaching after the US Open - such coaching work may be critical ..  From now on, the focus should be on moving to the pro level .. The point is not where her ranking is, but rather what kind of players she is able to beat .. Once she starts consistently beating the top-25 ITF junior players, we can safely say that she is ready for the move - right now she has about four good top-50 wins and she occasionally loses to top-75 quality players, though almost never losing to lower quality players ..  She has no top-25 wins yet; a three-set match against top-5 Matea Mezak late last year was the closest .. A good diet of grade-2 and higher events and a few wins against top-25 players would be what we will look for as the current "next step" ..  Hopefully some time next year she would look ready for the WTA circuit ("ready" meaning that she is capable of moving up to top-250 within a year of ITF pro satellites - only Niru has reached such rankings from India; so we are talking some serious hopes here) .. She turns 16 only this November, but would have been on the junior circuit for almost three years by then - which means she should probably be playing only the top players at the big events from then on, while slowly moving into the pro tour .. But age is on her side, and there is no problem if things get delayed a bit either .. Anyway, all of this would require some coaching/training stints soon, and that is why it is good to see her grab a bunch of points and position herself for a nice break.

Aug 8 Note-1

MB plays the doubles QF tomorrow at the Cincinnati masters.

No good news to report today .. Megha went down 26 36 to the 3rd seed Deanna Roberts (AUS,490) at the QF of the Nonthaburi satellite in Thailand .. Deanna has been playing hot tennis lately, having reached a US satellite final a couple of weeks back and moving up in the rankings .. Megha picked up 2.25 WTA points for qualifying in and reaching the QF .. That will raise her ranking by about 175 spots from the current 1189 in a couple of weeks .. She will have to play the qualies for the next week's Thai event again .. In the latest entry list I saw, Sheetal was the last main entry there, with Sai and Sonal as possible 3rd and 8th seeds .. Ankita is the top one in the qualifying list and with Shruti also having to play qualies unlike this week where both made the main draw .. Liza, Geeta and Megha also will be in the qualies.

Bad news from the Egypt F3 as well, as the 7th seed Sunil Kumar had his second upset R1 loss in a row, 57 36 to Alexander Vlaski (YUG,851) .. Sunil and Alex Jakupovic gave a walkover in the first round of doubles - I hope he is not injured or anything.

Rushmi's challenger doubles in Beijing remains for this week (no news), along with Rohan's singles R2 at USA F23, and Sania's Botswana grade-3 juniors (no news for a couple of days - she had reached theQF).

Aug 7 Note-4

Sorry for the late news -- MB-Mirnyi reached another QF (they never seem to go down early, though they have not had great success in the late rounds!) .. [R2] #3 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. S.Grosjean/ N.Kiefer, 61 36 61 at the Cincinnati masters .. Their next round opponents are the Bryan twins - the QF will be on Friday ..

I think Rohan's R2 match at the USA F23 is tomorrow .. Still no news on Sunil from the Egypt F3, as even Steve Gocha has not received any draws yet from Egypt.

Thursday's Deccan Chronicle now says "Anna likely to play in Hyderabad" -- all it took was for the WTA person to visit the Hyderabad National Games Tennis Stadium (which, by the way, is a pretty good new facility!) and say it was a good facility that meets the requirements for a WTA event .. She was in Bangalore yesterday and I believe will be in Delhi tomorrow .. We should check for the Delhi newspapers to go "Anna likely to play in Delhi" next, I guess  .. By the way, Hindustan Times had talked to Mahesh, and he did not really talk about any specific names, except that he has been working on this for a while .. I guess everybody just goes "Anna!" when they hear of a WTA event coming :-) .. By the way, MB confirmed that there is no bidding on the WDC - the contract was for two years, it was done, and we are over with that, was basically what he said.

Aug 7 Note-3

Unlike I thought at first, MB-Mirnyi will be playing today at Cincinnati .. They have the R2 against Sebastien Grosjean (FRA) and Nicolas Kiefer (GER) at about 6 to 7 pm today.

Gosh, what is with all the three-set comeback losses for our women this week? .. Rushmi seems to have played a marvellous match, only to go down to the 158th ranked top seed in China .. Manisha-Leanne got upset in a very close match too, to add to Sai's and Sonal's upsets today at Bangkok .. At the $25K Beijing challenger, Rushmi was unfortunate with the draw, but gave #1 Rika Fujiwara (JPN,155) all she could handle in a 64 36 46 loss .. Manisha and Leanne lost 76(6) 36 67(6) to Olga Barabanschikova (BLR) and Caroline Schneider (GER) at the $25K Rimini challenger .. Rushmi is playing doubles with Napaporn Tongsalee (THA) and they play Chia-Jung Chuang (TPE) and Rui Du in the first round in Beijing .. Rushmi's doubles and Megha's singles QF are the only things remaining on the women's side for this week :-(

Aug 7 Note-2

Well, soon after I typed that last note doubting whether Anna would really be at a Tier-IV event in India, I found that she is in the entry list for the Tier-IV ($140K) Shanghai WTA in september .. Well, perhaps she is now playing those events, and might find Bangalore an interesting option too .. By the way, I am one of those who like her for her tennis (and never really understood the hoopla about her being the sexiest woman on the planet and all that stuff :-)) - I find her to have a good combination of power, athleticism, variety and abilities at the net .. I guess I generally like the style of tennis from those who do well in doubles as well, both among men and women .. Anna is a very good doubles player too, though most people have rarely bothered to watch her tennis, rather focusing on her, ahem, you know what :-) .... And after picking a new coach in Harold Solomon, I think Anna has been playing well again lately .. Hey, somebody should tell her that she is so popular in India that there is even an airport bearing her name ("Anna International" in Chennai) -- oh, what?? .. that is a different Anna? .. Oh, OK ..

Aug 7 Note-1

MB-Mirnyi's second round opponents at Cincinnati are to be determined today and the R2 should be tomorrow for him.

The news isn't good from the $10K Nonthaburi satellite, as three of the four Indians in the second round went down .. Qualifier Megha Vakharia came up with a good win over a talented Lauren Cheung (AUS), 61 62 .. Shizu Katzumi (JPN) upset the 2nd seed Sai Jayalakshmy (IND) 16 64 61 .. Qualifier Cheng-Jie Lu (CHN) upset the 7th seed Sonal Phadke, 36 62 63 .. 15 yr old Ankita Bhambri could not do much against the 3rd seed Deanna Roberts (AUS) in a 26 36 loss .. Megha now goes up against Deanna in the QF .. Very glad to see Megha with some good wins after a long time .. She was not in her best form earlier and had been sent to an academy in Florida a couple of months back for a few weeksw of training, which may helped! .. Deanna and Gabrielle Baker beat Sonal-Ankita, 63 61 in the doubles QF today, so we are done with doubles there too.

The big news today is this - "Kournikova likely for India WTA event", says the PTI news item today .. (excerpts) - India will stage a WTA Tour event for the first time in February next year where, among others, Russia's glamorous girl Anna Kournikova is likely to feature ... The event, scheduled to be held from February 3, is going to be a permanent fixture on the WTA calendar, a senior WTA official informed ... The 'Tier IV' tournament, with total prize-money of US$ 140,000, is being brought to India by doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi's sports management company 'Globosport' ... WTA Tour supervisor Angie Woolcock was in Bangalore on Tuesday to have a look at the city's facilities in terms of tennis infrastructure ... "Bangalore is great. It has excellent facilities," she said ... Globosport's vice-president (mMarketing), Vinay Shenoy, said Bangalore, having already successfully played host to the ATP Doubles Championships, is the hot favourite ... "A couple of players in the top ten have been approached and are seriously considering the option of playing in India. Mahesh is in touch with Anna (Kournikova)," he added ..

That is great news, to see a WTA event coming to India .. I don't know about that news heading about Anna being "likely" .. I have seen a lot of tournaments announcing these kinds of lines for the last few years, and of course Anna hardly shows up .. At a Tier-IV event ?? .. Hmmm - I don't know about that .. I have to be realistic, though I don't want to pour cold water on an exciting development for women's tennis in India .. Top ten players also rarely look at Tier-4 events .. But then again, Hesh is pretty good and well-connected in the tennis circles .. If he can pull that off and bring somebody like a Kournikova in, that is a kind of coup that will put the tournament on the map right away, though .. Don't forget that Anna gets upset at even a suggestion that she should play the Tier-4 type events, as she still does not have a WTA title (though IMHO there is no doubt that she would win many titles at that level if she plays) .. Perhaps the novelty of pushing a new event in a place like India would be the "out" she may be looking for, to go against her repeated assertions that playing such events just for a title proves nothing (and win a title to get the monkey off the back too!) .. Anyway, Anna or no Anna, a WTA event would be great .. It doesn't matter whether we have top-10 players - a few top-40 types would be fine .. Heck, even the Anna Smashnovas, Lisa Raymonds, Ai Sugiyamas and Elena Likhovtsevas playing in India would be a great development .. I will talk to Mahesh sometime and find out more - I had no idea about something like this being on the anvil, and I have not been in touch with him for a few weeks ..

The reuter news item today on this mentioned that the WTA folks are also visiting Hyderabad and Delhi as possible venues, but I don't know if either place can beat out Bangalore as the venue.

Aug 6 Note-4

Rohan had a good start today at the $15K USA F23 futures in Godfrey, Illinois .. #6 Rohan Bopanna d. Peng Sun (CHN,681) 62 64 .. Next round opponent TBD .. In the doubles R1, 2nd seeded Rohan and Willem-Petrus Meyer (RSA) beat Peng Sun and Yu Wang, Jr. of China, 63 63 .. They play Raphael Durek and Ryan Henry of Australia next ..

Aug 6 Note-3

I did not see LP-Hill also being in the schedule for today at Cincinnati .. Earlier today, MB-Mirnyi won 63 62 over Malisse/ Schuettler, but LP-Hill went down to Ljubicic/ Pavel, 46 67(3) .. LP will lose 500 points for the title from last year and his ranking will fall a bit further down now ..

Aug 6 Note-2

Manisha Malhotra and Leanne Baker (NZL) are the top seeds in doubles at the $25K challenger in Rimini, Italy .. They are drawn against the wildcards Olga Barabanschikova (BLR) and Caroline Schneider (GER) in the first round .. Not sure if they played singles qualies there, though .. Still no news on Rushmi Chakravarti who should be in the singles draw at the $25K Beijing challenger .. China is always a frustrating blackhole for news .. The people who run tournaments there rarely seem to show the basic courtesy of sending the draw spradsheets out to even ITF in London till very late in the week, it seems .. And some of my Chinese friends say that the newspapers there do not care to report on anybody other than the Chinese players, if at all they cover any tennis .. Down, down, China! :-) :-)

Aug 6 Note-1

MB-Mirnyi play the first round at the Cincinnati masters today, against Xavier Malisse and Rainer Schuettler, at about 1 pm.

Good news from Thailand - Ankita and Megha also advanced to the second round at the $10K Nonthaburi satellite .. (q) Megha Vakharia (IND,1183) d. (wc) Pichaya Laosirichon (THA,1131), 75 62 .. Ankita Bhambri (IND,803) d. (q) Ji Syun Ha (KOR,980), 61 64 .. So, four Indians are in the second round .. They all had a terrible time in doubles, it seems - with a whole lot of new combinations playing .. 2nd seeds Sai and Radhika were upset 64 64 by Gabrielle baker and Deanne Roberts of Australia .. Lucky loser entries Megha and Liza Pereira lost to Lauren Cheing (AUS) and Ilke Gers (NZL), 06 36 .. Sheetal/ Shruti lost to 3rd seeds Liza Andriyani and Wukirasih Sawondari, 16 36 .. Geeta Manohar and Chattida Thimjapo (THA) lost to Chun-Yan He and Cheng-Jie Lu of China, 26 76(4) 16 .. Sonal and Ankita are the only team to make the next round, with a 60 61 win over wildcards, Montika Anuchan and Orawan Wongkamalasai of Thailand .. In the second round of singles tomorrow, #2 Sai plays Shizu Katsumi (JPN) .. 3rd seed Sonal plays qualifier Cheng-Jee Lu of China .. The kids have the tougher matches - Ankita faces the 3rd seed Deanna Roberts (AUS,543) .. Megha goes up against Lauren Cheung (AUS,681) who upset the 5th seed Nana Wada (JPN) in the R1 ..

Manisha Malhotra and Leanne Baker was in the entry list for singles at the $25K Rimini challenger - not sure if they got there .. No news on qualies or main draw yet.

At the USA F23 $15K Futures, Rohan Bopanna is the 6th seed and plays Peng Sun (CHN) in the first round that starts today.

Sania is at the Botswana grade-3 event this week, and has reached the singles QF - no details yet.

Aug 5 Notes

LP and MB should be playing the first round at Cincinnati most probably tomorrow;  may be wednesday.

Sonal and Sai advanced in the $10K Nonthburi satellites, but Shruti and Sheetal lost matches I hoped they would win .. Radhika had the misfortune of facing Sai who is again paying pretty well .. #2 Sai Jayalakshmy d. Radhika Tulpule, 62 62 .. #7 Sonal Phadke d. Tomoko Doukei (JPN), 26 75 64 .. Good fight from Sonal .. Young wildcard Thassha Vittayaviroj (THA) beat Sheethal Gautham, 64 63 .. #8 Prariyawan Ratanakrong (THA) d. Shruti Dhawan, 64 67(4) 63 .. Tough work by Shruti there .. Two more first round matches tomorrow for Indians .. Qualifier Megha Vakharia plays wildcard 16 yr old Pichaya Laosirichon, who normally plays in the junior circuit  .. Megha, who will be 17 till later this month, would have qualified for the junior circuit this year, but has not played in the juniors .. Also playing tomorrow is 15 yr old Ankita Bhambri, the youngest in the Indian group there, who faces qualifier Ji-Sun Ha (KOR) ..

Another tough week for Harsh .. At the $10K Latvia futures, he qualified in with two wins after a bye, but went down in the first round of the main draw today .. [Q2] #9 Harsh Mankad d. Olivier Dojean (FRA) 60 60 .. [Q3] d. Romain Radwan (FRA) 64 63 .. [R1] l. Christophe Bosio (MON,670) 26 61 57 .. Again, no ATP points for him (you need at least one main draw win in the futures, for that) .. I have not talked to Harsh in a couple of weeks, and I hope there is nothing bothering him -- a few weeks without getting a good win can sometimes affect a players' confidence and then there is no way but to fight through it .. When I talked to him last, before he left for the Baltic series, he sounded fine and said he was just going to do whatever is needed, doing it the hard way - play the qualies, which he has no choice in, and just get back to where he needs to be .. He is not playing doubles this week and will proceed to the $10K Lithuania futures next week .. Sad to see him not get any "gimme" matches in the draws, but also surprising to see his troubles in winning the tougher matches, considering the form he had in the pro circuit and college for two years .. This is the same guy who had won a Canadian futures last summer (with wins over players like the current #129 Ancic, current #404 Magdincev, and other good top-500 quality players like Handoyo and Montgomery), had given a decent match to Roddick in the Davis Cup last year, and was #1 in college this year with over 10 college top-30 wins with probably most of those opponents of the top-500 quality .. On the other hand, perhaps I am being impatient to see him do well .. He has not lost to any "bad" players, so to say - his five losses in the last five events are against Handoyo (605), T.Blake (324), Vitullo (448), Nurminen (549) and Bosio (670) - all seeded players except for Bosio today, but he was the actually the 8th highest ranked player there too .. Unfortunately, all the losses have come early in the draw and Mankad is left with just two wins and 2 points in those events .. A bit unlucky too, I guess, but he should have upset at least a couple of those guys .. He came close today, and that's it .. But it's all good match practice for him, and hopefully he will be in form for the Indian futures starting week after next.

No news yet on Rohan Bopanna from the USA F24 where the first round may be starting only tomorrow .. He too hasn't had any great wins lately, but he looked fine at the UK challenger qualies last month .. No news from Egypt on Sunil Kumar yet .. Somebody needs to step up and do well, for us to even hope for a decent second singles player at Asiad .. Perhaps LP may be our only singles entry there, at this rate (now that the sports ministry is all gung-ho about only medal prospects being sent anywhere - based on the Commonwealth games experience) ?? .. Then there is Davis Cup coming up too .. Come on guys, step it up!

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Aug 5 ..

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