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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the weeks ending on Aug 18, 2008
(Previous weeks' notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2008)

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Aug 18 Notes

The qualifying draw at the US Open just came out .. Prakash Amritraj (IND,217) is grouped with 13th seed Kristian Pless (DEN,128) and 23rd seed Kevin Kim (USA,142) .. Kash's Q1 match is against Ryan Sweeting (USA,279) ..On the women's side, Sunitha Rao (IND,158) plays Soledad Esperon (ARG,190) in the first round .. Go Kash, Go Sunithat!!

Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles are the second seeds at the $708K "Pilot Pen" ATP at New Haven and play their R1 tomorrow evening against the French pair Marc Gicquel and Nicolas Mahut.

Sudanwa Sitaram (IND,93) and Akash Wagh (IND,100) are the 3rd and 4th seeds at the grade-3 US hardcourt championships this week at Manasquan, NJ, near New York .. Will keep an eye on how they do there .. 17 year old Sudanwa and 18 year old Akash are the highest ranked two Indian juniors behind #16 Yuki Bhambri .. Kelsey Sundaram is in the girls' draw there ..

Not much else to talk about except some terrible results from the Thailand $10K ITF women's event .. Certifiably the worst set of results abroad that I have seen out of a group of Indian girls ever .. All eight Indians lost in the very first round of qualifiying and the two Indians who played foreigners in the R1 also lost .. I guess these kinds of odd things kinda happens sometime on the tour and you can only throw up your arms and laugh ..  See the results in our forum thread.  Forget it, I am not even mentioning who all lost there. 
I am just going to assume that all the girls went together to eat somewhere and they all had stomach trouble on court :) ..

Aug 17 Notes

Mahesh will be at the New Haven ATP for doubles with Knowles next week .. LP is taking the week off .. Prakash Amritraj will be at the US Open qualies .. Rohan Bopanna and Harsh Mankad are also taking the week off.

A couple of notable performances to talk about .. First is by Kyra Shroff, not yet 16 year old, winning a grade-2 ITF junior international this week in Egypt, upsetting several seeds .. #202 ranked among world juniors, the 12th seeded Kyra upset the 8th seed Anna Morgina (RUS,165) 76(2) 63 in the third round, then upset Vaszilisza Bulgakova (HUN,198), 63 63 in the QF, then beat the 14th seed Julia Samuseva (RUS,222) 64 61 in the SF and upset the 5th seed Fatma Al Nabhani (OMA,144) 61 75 in the final .. At the same event, Rashmi Teltumbde (IND,114) was the second seed, but she was upset 46 36 in the QF by Kim-Alena Twelker (GER,232) .. There were a few other Indian juniors there, and a few were seeded too, but only Kyra and Rashmi reached the QF.

Kyra is the youngest girl in the top-5 of AITA's u-18 domestic junior rankings at #5, behind Rashmi Teltumbde at #1, and is among the three girls born in 1992 who are considered the immediate "next group" to keep an eye on, in the ITF international junior circuit - Ashwarya Shrivastava at #7 in the domestic u18 ranking is probably the third on along with Rashmi and Kyra .. I have seen some newspaper reports that indicated all along that Kyra may have the best potential for the next level, but have been waiting for some sort of a breakthrough performance from her to see if this was just hype .. Looks like we have got it! .. A grade-2 event is quite impressive to win when one is still just 15 years old .. In fact, after the nice group of talented girls (Sania, Ankita, Sanaa, Tara) emerged by 2004, we hardly had any girl win a grade-2 or better title for a while (except for Sanaa Bhambri coming back to the juniors for a brief while in the her final junior season in 2006 and winning the Delhi grade-2 juniors in Jan 2006) .. The next grade-2 title was last July at the same Egypt event by Poojashree Venkatesha, but she was over a year older than Kyra .. This is the next such title for an Indian girl, and probably only the second one abroad in some 4 years by our girls, if I am not mistaken .. So it goes in as a bit of a breakthrough event for Kyra .. By the way, I should mention that Rashmi Teltumbde had reached the final of the Delhi grade-2 this January too .. Both these girls are eligible for ITF junior tour for the next two more years when they will hopefully make it into all the junior grand slams .. By the way, Kyra is a talented girl selected in the Bhupathi-Apollo program, to be supported over the long term.  Go Kyra!!

Another heartening performance to talk about, which totally escaped my attention till Sameer in the forum (who lets nothing escape his eyes) found that Prajnesh Gunneswaran, a 19 year old from Chennai, had qualified into a $15K clay court ITF futures in Spain and gone three rounds in the main draw this week .. Prajnesh did not create any big waves in the juniors but has been in spain a couple of times for coaching last year and this year, I believe .. Unranked Prajnesh beat a couple of ATP-ranked players in the three qualifying round .. Then beat Abel Hernandez Aguila (ESP,1363) 64 61 in the first round and reached the QF with a very nice comeback upset, 46 63 62 over Thomas Cazes Carrere (FRA,744), who had upset the Spanish third seed in in the R1 .. Prajnesh lost the QF by a 57 36 score to a talented young wildcard from Spain,
Guillermo Alcorta-Olara (ESP,1277), who had upset the 8th seed earlier .. That gives Prajnesh his first three ATP points .. Not the easiest thing to do abroad, especially on clay in Spain, where I do not remember any Indian reaching the QF of a $15K .. So, a very good job by GP Prajnesh!

Aug 16 Notes

Well, well, Federer and Wawrinka went on to upset the Bryans in the semis and then took the Gold over Johansson/Aspelin at the Olympics.   I hope all the sharp kinves that were out, pointed at our beloved Hesh and Lee, have have gone back into their sheaths .. Despite the extreme disappointment we all had, that LP-MB could ot pull off a medal this time either, and whatever criticisms we may have had about their not playing more events to prepare, it is pretty damn clear that NOTHNG would have mattered if the best singles-doubles player in the world - Federer - was motivated to win his matches .. In my view, as anybody who saw the Olymipcs matches would agree too, Federer is indeed the very best doubles player out there .. As I said in the forum, Mike Bryan, Bob Bryan, Bjorkman, Paes, Bhupathi, Clement, Johansson or wheover the heck out there - none is better than Federer in doubles skills and abilities .. No question .. Yeah, perhaps when Federer's fury was unleashed on them, our guys could have felt a bit more confident had they played and won some more top matches recently, but it would not have mattered one bit .. Basically in talent and skill even in doubles, Federer is in another class over everybody else there, including even Hesh and Lee  .. Again, as I said in the forum, I have not seen another player who played better doubles than Federer did this week in a long time .. For all the respect I have for Hesh and Lee and other doubles specialists and several singles guys who play great doubles, I have always felt that Rafter was the last player I saw who I thought was a class above every other player playing doubles (may be Kafelnikov too), and before that it was McEnroe .. Once Federer started playing at such a level, it was not on the cards for anybody else in his path this week to advance.  The only thing that could bring down Fed would be for him to have a total weakling as a partner, and Wawrinka showed that he wasnt one .. Wawrinka instead showed that he was capable of playing top-20 quality doubles! .. That means, no chance for anybvody else .. The only way our guys could have beaten Federer would have been if he had not lost his singles and was even a tad bit less motivated to bring out his best in doubles .. To our bad luck, Fed lost unexpectedly just before our QF match - in the ultimate analysis that was our doom, and indeed it was my worst fear too .. To use a nice line Sania used in her newspaper colum yesterday -- "You cannot compete with destiny" ..

In other news, Harsh Mankad and Ashutosh Singh won the doubles title at the Delhi challenger!! .. They won an excellent QF match against Udomchoke and Moromura by a 75 63 score in a match postponed from a couple of days back .. Then they got a timely walkover in the semis, and beat the second seeds Rohan Gajjar and Purab Raja in the final in a comeback - 46 64 [11-9] .. This was the third challenger final recently by this very promising pair .. They won the title at the Delhi challenger in May, lost the Manchester challenger in July in UK in a supertiebreaker, and have won this challenger, this time winning a supertiebreaker .. This would move Ashutosh up from #247 to around #210 and Mankad up from #342 to around #280 .. In doubles, Mankad has moved up from near around #1000 to inside top-300 in just three months - which is pretty impressive ..

Aug 15 Note-2

Somdev went down in the QF of the $508K "Legg Mason" ATP at Washington, DC .. [QF] (Q) Somdev devVarman (IND,314) l. Igor Kunitsyn (RUS,84), 46 16 .. It is not usual that Somdev gets beaten by a scoreline like that .. In fact that is the fewest games he won in any match I think in well over a year in various levels, college, ITF pro, ATP challengers, AT tour level etc .. He has several wins now against players in the top ATP 125 and a few against top-100 players too, with only 2 or 3 losses in some 80 odd matches .. This time he ran up against a payer who has the extreme discipline needed to stay in rallies with Somdev .. There are probably only about 10-15  players in the top-60  to top 100 players and perhaps only a handful more in the top-200 who can do that against Somdev; trust me! .. In fact, there were about 5 rallies that went to 25 to 30 shots in the match, and Kunitsyn won about 4 of those .. There were 6 breaks in a row in the first set from 1-1 onwards, Buji going up a break and Kunitsyn breaking back everytime .. Finally Igor held in the 9th game of the set which had gone on for over 45 minutes already .. One could see that Somdev was beginning to lose his legs, again a rarity, and as the Tennis Channell commentators hinted, that was to be expected for somebody playing a 6th match this week against the top-150 starting from the qualies .. Somdev dropped serve in the 10th game, and really was not in position to challenge Kunitsyn much afterwards .. Despite the score line, the second set also was pretty competitive .. See my live match report off the TV, in this forum post.  Incidentally, I was very happy to see two Indians in two sports live on cable TV on the same day in the US for the very first time .. Jitendar winning the boxing PQF at Olympics and then Somdev in tennis ..

He has played qualifying at the futues levels, challenger levels and ATP tour levels this year in only the 6 events he has played so far, from which he has ATP 154 points, something surely never done in ATP tour history by a player who started from scratch and did not get wildcarded to any main draw! .. He pulled off 8 wins in a row at a lowly $10K futures in January, thus bringing up his ranking enough to getting direct entry to two more such futures .. Then he pulled off  an 8-match streak to win a $50K challenger late last month, getting a special exempt entry to the subsequent week's chellenger where he reached QF making it 10 wins in a row over 11 days  .. Then he got into the ATP tour and went 5 wins in a row this week too .. To expect him to win more this week, would have been too much.  But he still displayed wonderful tennis for a long fight with Kunitsyn for a while - that would have impressed everybody who saw it on TV.   Somdev is a special player, and let there be no doubt about it .. The best to emerge in India since Leander, and with a decent chance to produce a more consistent top-125 singles career than even Leander .. Yes, he needs to add a bit more of aggression in point construction, moving up the court to handle the few players in the top-75-125 range who can play mistake-free against the incredible accuracy and patience/discipline that he brings .. Need to also work on adding a bit more depth on some backhand shots .. That being said, seeing how many players he has beaten in the top-150 already with what he has, he can wait till he gets to top-125 that he is going to reach in fairly quick fashion in the next few months.  Then, more work is needed to move up faerther than low top-100 ranks.  By the way, notice that I am saying these things with unusual conviction about where he is going - and I am probably less conservative in my predictions than many in our fanclub, who are way too excited .. In fact some of the top-100 payers who have played him have also said that they have no doubt about his going to top-100 fairly soon.

Somdev should play a few more challengers where he no longer needs qualifying rounds, as his ranking now goes up to about #240 .. He can also pick and choose some ATP events to play qualies at, preferably the ones that have only two rounds, perhaps some masters events too with higher chance to get a lot of points in a coupe of main draw wins .. Unfortunately, he is not in the qualifying list for US Open this coming week, as his ranking was in the 340s two weeks back when the entry closed for that .. The spineless USTA that does not want to budge from their own rigid rules for fear of being criticized for using their judgment even in a case where there is noting to be citicized on, would not give him a wildcard into even the qualies! .. A college champion, if he is an American, would get a wildcard to the US Open main draw, but not a foreigner - even if he is a two time reigning NCAA college champion and is the best advertisement EVER for whatever is defined as a superb "studen-athlete" .. He got his degre, got umpteen awards for his leadership in the college team and for sportsmanship and good behavior in nearly every event he played, etc etc.  He and John Isner may well be the only two players soon in the ATP top-150 with a college degree.  With such water-tight justifications, if the USTA cannot make an exception fro their own rules, I can only pity them for their spinelessness.  Many Americans, such as the well-respected Jon Wertheim of "sports illustrated" have commented that USTA should give Somi a wildcard to at least the qualifying rounds at US Open.  But the "we don't want to be held responsible for anything we do, good or bad" manadarins at USTA once again showed no spine.  Shame on them!

Somdev can go down to the qualies on Tuesday morning and sign in for an entry if there is any no-shows .. The good thing is that his new ranking around #240 coming out on Monday would be enought o make him the highest ranked player who signs in, which means he would get a spot in the qualies if anybody is a no-show or withdraws in the last minute with an injury .. Not sure if Somdev would try this route .. Otherwise, Somdev's next event is a clay challenger in Brasov (Romania) after the next two weeks, for which he has made direct entry .. That challenger is also a preparation for the Davis Cup, where I am sure he would be our top player, in terms of clay prowess, even though Prakash is 30 spots higher ranked right now.

Aug 15 Note-1

It all fell apart. What else can we say? .. [QF] (7) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes (IND) l. (4) R.Federer/ S.Wawrinka, 26 46 .. See my match progress report at this forum thread .. I do not have the heart to type it again .. Basically this match was lost because Lee and Hesh never showed the confidence that we have seen from them in the past, that they would beat whoever was across the net .. Mistakes galore flowed from their rackets .. A good number of errors were because they would either go for too much on low percentage points or they would get cute at all the wrong times, not putting enough mustard on many winners which were there for the taking .. Clearly a case where Roger Federer got into their heads .. Or it looked like that to me .. I have never seen a singles player get into their heads like that (including Fed himself, whom they beat at Athens in doubles) .. Perhaps their knowing that Fed would do whatever it took to get a win after his singles loss, played in their minds too .. Whatever .. It all comes down to confidence deep inside, in the end .. They didn't have it .. Sure, at a conscious level, they were telling themselves they had it, and they were hitting some confident shots and trying various things, but deep inside the bad karma from not having played enough together and not having had a tough win against a good team recently, showed.  It showed clearly.  I am not writing this to go after the two guys I have adored for so long .. Just the facts .. Lee had said many times recently that they weren't playing together only to avoid getting stale or getting into personal friction .. Fair enough, if we accept that .. But the judgment was still lacking on how much preparation they needed .. Minimum four weeks and an event with some tough teams were clearly needed.  They should have played Toronto and Cinci at least.   Terrible decision on that, and they paid for it in the end.

As always in Indian sports, it was not meant to be, once again, on one more eminenly accomplishable goal .. and we are left with all the what ifs all over again. 

OK, Indian Express .. On to the next thing.  Your last chance (:)) .. Take us into the Davis Cup world group at Bucharest.  No more of talk.  Get Somdev and somebody else ready to beat those guys, and you guys get ready to win one doubles point to make sure we advance.

Happy independence day, folks! ..  Don't depair .. Somdev has emerged.   Take your mind off this one .. It is not like it is the first time we have failed to pick up more than one medal at an Olympics .. So, forget it .. That is all we can do.

Aug 14 Note-4

LP/MB play at 4 pm in Beijing (1.30 pm India) ...  But first some great news!! ... The Tripura Terrorist was at it again today, upsetting yeat another top-125 player .. While most players would be happy to have got their first ATP tour main draw win, our man was in no such mood .. He wanted to go to the quarterfinal .. What the heck, why not? .. [R2] (Q) Somdev K. DevVarman (IND,314) d. Robert Kendrick (USA,114), 62 67(5) 75  just now at the "Legg Mason" ATP at Washington, DC .. This seemed like a total washout earlier on, as Somdev jumped all over Kendrick's second serve and won nearly 80% of those points while comfortably winning over 70% and 60% on his first and second serves .. He broke Kendrick in the 6th and 8th games to take the first set, and quickly broke him again in the 2nd game to lead 62 30 .. Kendrick figured out that he just had to serve better, as he was winning nearly 90% on his first serve .. He did just that and threw in four aces in a hurry, also winning a few of his second serve points too .. Must have been the spirited play from Kendrick, but Somdev himself dropped some second serve points and got broken in the 7th game .. Then it turned into a genuine dogfight .. In the tiebreaker, SKD dropped a mini at 3-4 and quickly faced a set point at 4-6 off KR's serve .. He took a point off KR but dropped the set at the second set point .. In the third, both players were taken to deuce a couple of times but both stayed on serve .. Just when you thought Somdev would not be able to do much on Kendrick's first serves, here he comes in the 11th game, taking FOUR straight points on first serves (in fact he only had 9 pts out of the other 57 first serves from KR) .. Hey, when the going gets tough, the tough gets grinding :) .. And Somdev ground out a win in a way that is beginning to worry everybody in the US circuit at all levels .. The match took 2 hrs 22 minutes .. 118 pts to Buji and 105 to Kendrick .. 4 of 13 break chances by our man, and only 1 of 3 by KR .. He just simply played better than Kendrick to win this, and held his mind in better check at the end when it mattered .. Go Somi, Go Somi, Go Somi ..

Tomorrow he plays the winner of the ongoing match between Igor Kunitsyn and Fabio Fognini, which is at 26 62 00 right now ..

Today's win gives Somdev 40 total points including 5 for qualifying in .. That takes his point total from 109 to 159, which will be just inside top-240 .. What an amazing time he is having on the tour ..

In other news, Rusmi Chakravarthi went down 26 36 to Nungnudda Wannasuk (THA,551) in the QF at the $10K in ChiangMai, Thailand .. There seems to have been no doubles matches played today at the Delhi Challenger .. So the indians will be in action tomorrow in a doubles SF (also an unfinished doubles QF match for Harsh and Ashutosh) .. Udomchoke, Goodall, Kindlmann and Yang are in the semis there.

Aug 14 Note-3

Amazing that they started the doubles QF match at Beijing at 12.45 am past midnight .. Bryans from the upper half are in the semis awaiting the winners of our guys' QF ..
Clement/ Llodra and Aspelin/ Johansson from the lower half are in the semis ..

Well, the match only went on for about 15 minutes before a light drizzle put a stop to it .. Postponed to FRIDAY at 4 pm .. LP-MB are behind a break at 1-4 and about to serve .. The Fed was inspired after his unexpected singles loss to Blake earlier today .. He jumped all over us, causing MB to drop serve in the second game after a deuce .. Things steadied after that and our guys held serve fine in the 4th game .. It is early to worry too much about the drop of serve .. I am sure the Indian Express will come back with a plan tomorrow to handle an over-charged Federer.

Aug 14 Note-2

.. Well, as of 7 pm, after a big rain delay, Federer is still not out to start his singles match .. The courts are getting dried .. It would be after 7.30 pm when that match starts.  Not sure how they can give him some rest after this match and
will manage to play the doubles match tonight at all .. Probably not earlier than 10.30 to 11 pm, for sure .. Or it may be postponed, I guess ..

Some tidbits, as we wait for the big match between the Indian Express and the Federer Express .. Do you know that Leander kept losing doubles matches earlier on against a young and inexperienced Federer (man, FOUR times in a row in 2003-2004, thrice with Rikl and once with Arthurs, as Federer played with Allegro, Hrbati, and even Srichaphan) .. But that was then .. Since then he has gone 5-0 against FedEx in doubles, winning with Rikl, Bhupathi and Dlouhy, the latest win coming last month at Cincinnati .. Mahesh also started with three losses to Federer in doubles, from 2000 to 2004, but has gone 3-1 since then.   The only time Paes and Bhupathi played together against him was at the Athens Olympics QF .. And our guys won 62 76 against Federer and Allegro .. In fact Hesh hasn't faced Federer in over two years .. So, LP is 4-4 in doubles against him, MB is 2-4 against him, and LP-MB are 1-0 against him in 15 matches.

Now, one of the lesser known facts in Indian tennis ..  Leander is undefeated against Federer in singles! .. Yep, that's correct.  Federer was the last top-50 win of Leander's career, in the qualifying rounds at the Indian Wells masters back in 2000 .. Federer was ranked #49 and LP below #125 and Lee upset the qualifying top seed in a comeback 3-setter .. I am sure of this, because I watched the match in person, as one of about 5 Indians (hey, Leanne, you reading this by any chance?)
in the outermost court , in a small crowd of people who were only beginning to hear of a Swiss guy sweeping into the top-50 .. Well, LP is 6-4 in singles and doubles against Federer.   Everybody knows that LP is undefeated in singles/doubles against Sampras, but very few seem to know about his singles win over Federer.   Leander's last two top-50 wins were against #2 Sampras in 1998 and #49 Federer in 2000 .. Check out my blog from 2000 March 11 (Note-3) here .. Well, the word "blog" didn't exist then :)

I am looking for one more win, Lee !!!!

Aug 14 Note-1

Leander and Mahesh play Federer and Wawrinka in the QF at Beijing this evening .. Around 8 pm, but could be up to 45 minutes earlier or later, depending on how long Federer's singles match starting at 4 pm takes, and the rest time after that .. Also in action today is Somdev DevVarman at the Washington DC ATP, in an late eveing match against Robert Kendrick ..

Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi went down last night at the Washington DC ATP, 46 46 to the
third seeds Rik DeVoest (RSA) and Ashley Fisher (AUS) .. In fact the "Samjhauta Express" (as some in our fanclub named them; though I don't personally care much for the name) led by a break early in both sets but could not sustain it both times ..

At the $10K ITF in ChiangMai, Thailand, Rushmi Chakravarthi is the only Indian in the QF, as she beat Natchanok Saenyaukhot (THA), 62 63 yesterday .. Parija Maloo (IND,724) lost 36 16 to Jia-Jing Lu (CHN,664) and Shalini Sahoo (IND,886) lost 36 46 to the second seed Yan-Chong Chen (CHN,395) .. Rushmi plays the 7th seed Nungnadda Wannasuk (THA,551) next.

By the way, if you are all lost in all the Olympics hooplah, please spend minute and pay some attention to our national football team under Bob Houghton .. They just won the AFC challenge Cup in their favorite Ambedker stadium in Delhi, and qualified as the 5th team to make direct entry into the 16 team Asia Cup 2011, avoiding the qualifying rounds to make it to one of the 10 such spots .. This will be the first time in 27 years that we will be playing in the Asian final-16 (the last time was when our previous best coach, Ciric Milovan, was coahcing us in 1984) .. Though they have hardly beaten too many powerhouses, our team has gone 27 matches now with just three losses .. I firmly think Indian football is turning a corner .. The team is playing really like a cohesive unit, respecting their coach immensely and respecting/ loving/ supporting each other .. Take a bow, Houghton, Bhutia, Chettri, Paul, Diaz, Pradeep .. All of you! .. Now, if only our hockey's useless "ad-hoc thamasha committee" who replaced the "senile ad-nauseum" super-cop and his "advanced cash" assistant, thanks to ad-hoc politics of our advertisedly-visionless IOA, could take a hint and stop kicking our dead national game! .. RIP, Indian hockey!! .. Sorry they are still at it even after summarily killing you .. We all can only shed tears, powerless as everybody is, in front of the omniscient and omnipotent "olympians" who think they know hockey, without a single one of them having accomplished a single thing of any world significance in 34 years of modern hockey (the Moscow Gold was a joke, of course) .. OK, back to tennis, before I pick up my keyboard and throw it, an urge for which occurs frequently whenever I think of our hockey's plight.

Aug 13 Note-2

Well, Sania and Sunitha tried gamely today, but could not get past the top seeded Russians .. [R2] Sania Mirza/ Sunitha Rao (IND) l. (1) Dinara Safina/ Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS), 46 46 .. They were able to break the other pair four times, and in fact led early in both sets, up 3-0 with two breaks in the first and 4-2 with two breaks and one dropped serve in the second .. Both times the Russians turned the table and managed to break them 3 times each.. 4/7 in BP chances by us, 6/12 by them. 64 pts by us, and 78 by them - so this was a pretty close affair and a commendable fight against the top seeds .. As I wrote in our forum, to say that we didn't have our chances, will be wrong. To say that we prepared well would be wrong too, as Sania's singles plans and rushed return from injury, with Sunitha's singles rankings being quite lower, did not allow for any prep events .. Then the sudden wrist pain problem caused havoc this week .. It was not meant to be, this time at the Olympics on the women's side for us - starting from the worst time for Sania's injury and wrist surgery, then being presented the worst possible draws, and finally having the wrist suddenly worsen this week after 6 weeks of improvement .. I feel bad also for Sunitha, who had done a splendid job in her own doubles career lately, bringing up her ranking to the levels needed to ensure an ITF place for Sania and her (contrary to what many think, ITF might not have given a doubles spot for Sania with ANY Indian player, despite her own top-25 ranking.  Sunitha's top-150 doubles rank was needed, seeing to who all they gave the ITF spots and how it all seemed according to rankings) .. Again, it was not meant to be, this time.

On to the men's side, the dust has settled a bit and the QF draw is:

(1) B.Bryan/ M.Bryan (USA) vs L.Hewitt/ C.
Guccione (AUS)
(4) R.Federer/ S.Wawrinka vs (7) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes (IND)
(8) I.Andreev/ N.Davydenko (RUS) vs A.Clement/ M.Llodra (FRA)
S.Aspelin/ T.Johannsen vs N.Frystenberg/ S.Matkowski (POL)

The Indian Express runs into the Federer Express tomorrow! .. As for Federer/ Wawrinka, their previous match before the Olympics was a 46 46 second round loss at Toronto against, who else, Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy. I think Mahesh Bhupathi is at least as good as Dlouhy! :) ... Plus, at least LP has played Federer/ Wawrinka and knows about how they play, but the opponents have not played Paes/Bhupathi (never an easy thing if you have not played them, even for Federer, unless he has an experienced top doubles player with him, which I suspect Wawrinka is not) .. But this is Olympics, and anything can happen .. I will put my money on our guys for now though. Go Indian Express!! .. Seeing how one of the semifinalists  from the bottom half would probably be a weaker team, medal chances really brighten if our guys do the job tomorrow ..

At the $50K New Delhi IV challenger, Harsh Mankad put up a good fight but could not pull an upset in a 67 75 46 loss .. Two of the three Indian doubles pairs who played today made the SF, for good news .. A double bagel win by the wildcard youngsters Yuki and Jeevan was impressive! .. See the
in Delhi IV challenger thread for all score details.

Somdev DevVarman's second round match is not on the scedule for today either, at the Washington DC ATP .. So he gets a 2-day break after playing 4 matches on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  He will play
Robert Kendrick (USA,114) in the R2 tomorrow .. Kendrick upset the 3rd seed Feliciano Lopez (ESP,25) yesterday .. Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi (PAK) play their doubles R1 today at about 6 pm there.

Aug 13 Note-1

The Indian Express seems to be not in any mood to waste much time .. They became the first team to reach the QF of men's doubles with an easier than expected match over a top-10  ranked team ..  [PQF] (7) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes (IND) d. Marcelo Melo/ Andre Sa (BRA), 64 62 .. Our pair went ahead with a break in the third game and made it stand up till the end of the set .. In the second set, LP-MB again started fast .. Broke ahead in the first game and held serve for a 2-0 lead .. They got another break in the 7th game and served it off in style at 6-2 .. Our guys did not face any break points on their serve and converted three of eight chances they got .. 65 points to India and 44 to Brazil in this match, which shows that it was not really a tough match .. It took an hour and 9 minute ..

Sania's doubles match may take a little longer to start there .. Safina needs to get some rest after her singles match that got done about half hour back .. Looks like it will be around 10 pm (7.30 pm India) ..

Aug 12 Note-2

At the Olympics, LP-MB play Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa of Brazil in the PQF round tomorrow .. Sheduled on court 7 for 4 pm (1.30 pm India, 4 am New York) .. Also playing are Sania Mirza and Sunitha Rao in the PQF of the women's draw against the top seeds Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia .. That match is set for about 8 pm there .. Melo and Sa are not an easy team .. They are the 9th ranked doubles team in the ATP list based on perforamcne this year .. Including some strong teams with top singles players at Beijing, they would be considered among the top 15 teams out there .. Our guys need to be careful and not take it easy (I am sure they won't) to avoid an upset .. Meanwhile, there is a nice article on their first round win, by Kamesh Srinivasan of The Hindu ..

(excerpts) Watched by the ardent tennis followers in the Indian contingent, Paes and Bhupathi warmed up for the tougher challenges ahead with a delightful performance of power and grace. They had to turn on the intensity straightaway against the talented opposition that made the mistake of resorting to power. Bhupathi even ducked below the net to let go a flat drive by Monfils, who was often found wrong-footed in the back court by the deft placing of the crafty Indians .... Communicating in Hindi and outdoing each other with a sharp and subtle game, Paes and Bhupathi emphasised that they were still among the best of entertainers in the world of doubles. The Indian pair served and volleyed with élan — dropping only seven points in all of their service games in the whole match.

There is the 4th $50K ATP challenger of the year in India, in progress now in Delhi .. Only Prakash Amritraj and Harsh Mankad made the direct entry to the main draw here .. Mankad made it in on the basis of his injury protected ranking of #323 from late 2006, as he was away for a whole year before restarting this year due to a knee injury condition .. Sunil Kumar, Rohan Gajjar, Yuki Bhambri and Vishnu Vardhan had wildcards to the main draw, but all four went down in the first round .. Our next big hope in singles among the juniors, if you haven't heard, is Yuki Bhambri, 16 years old .. He had done a great job last week, qualifying into last week's Delhi III challenger .. Today he could not do much in the first round against Harsh Mankad in a 46 46 loss .. The sad news was the second seed, 217th ranked Prakash Amritraj getting upset today by Chris Eaton (AUS,369), 76(5) 61.. Prakash was upset by Gouichi Motomura in the second round last week too .. So, pretty much a wasted trip for him to India .. He will be at the US Open qualies next week .. Nice to see a win for Harsh Mankad today, to take his mind off the sad loss (for him and all of us) a few days back when his dad, the ever-so-loved Ashok "Kaka" Mankad passed away so suddenly in his sleep .. In fact, Harsh, who had returned from US to India to play in last week's Delhi-III challenger, had just flown into Delhi on Aug 1st early morning when he heard that our beloved Kakaji was gone that night .. HM did not play last week of course, and we were surprised that he decided to play even this week .. We all pray to God to give him the strength to go on, but playing this week will perhaps be the best thing to take his mind away from the loss and make his dad proud ..

Harsh is the only one in the second round .. He plays the 5th seed Miles Armstrong (AUS,289) in the R2 tomorrow .. Harsh and Ashutosh Singh are the top seed in doubles and have reached the QF as well .. So are three other Indian teams - 3rd seeds Rohan Gajjar/ Purav Raja, wildcard youngsters Yuki Bhambri/ Jeevan.N, and VijaySundar Prashanth/ V.M.Ranjeet .. There was a very impressive upset in doubles when 16 year old Yuki and 19 year old Jeevan (now back for summer after a year of college tennis in the US at the U. of Washington) won 76(3) 46 (11-9) over the second seeds David Savic and Dekel Valtzer .. You can find all discussions and full draws/results of the Delhi III and IV challengers in this thread at our sports-india forum.  All R2 singles match and all QF doubles matches are set for wednesday.

A few of our ladies are at the $10K ITF at ChiangMai, the first of a three-week series of $10K events Thailand, with Khonkan and Nonthaburi to follow .. The evergreen veteran Rushmi Chakrvarthi, ranked #509 now is the 4th seed there .. Rushmi is somebody who should command respect from all Indian sports lovers for her grit and determination to keep going at her favorite sports, despite never having moved much above or below the top 350-550 range in rankings for a decade or so .. She is like an energizer bunny who takes a licking (well, nobody licks her; she fights and loses sometimes, that's all) and keep on ticking .. Did I mix up Timex and Energizer there? .. OK sue me!  :) .. Go Rushmi .. She beat Jia Xiang Lu (CHN,935), 46 62 60 and now plays a Thai wildcard, Natchanok Saenyaukhot .. Parija Maloo (IND,724) d. (Q) Stephanie Wiltshire (AUS,NR), 76(5) 61 and runs into Jia-Jing Lu (CHN,664) .. Shalini Sahoo (IND,886)  d. Cassandra Barr (AUS, 908), 64 61, and she is up against the second seed Yan-Chong Chen (CHN,395) in the R2 .. Our tireless score-hunter, Sameer, is keeping up with the scores from Thailand in this sports-india thread ..

Aug 12 Note-1

No problems for LP-MB today .. They reached the PQF round at Beijing with a 63 63 win over Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon .. In the first set, our guys took the lead with a break in the 4th game and kept the advantage to the end of the set .. In the second, they broke the French guys back to back at 3-3 and 5-3 to finish the match.

Aug 11 Note-5

The old train, the Indian Express,
will be out again today -- with the double engines hooked in reverse for their posteriors to face each other and for them not to try to run over each other .. Actually the engines like to run away from each other of course, but we give them no such options .. They themselves seem to get confused and go together when they suddenly realize that they are supposed to pull the country's hope wagons as fast as they can .. And the not-so-little engines still can!  ... Are they "over the hill" ?? .. So think many .. They were even asked that at the press conference last week .. And Mahesh said, "I don't see any hill" .. Well said, Hesh .. You see, a train only speeds up once it is over the hill, and so it is a good thing that you are not seeing any hill .. Just a track ahead with the train speeding up all the way to the little town where the kids are waiting for their presents .. We all turn into kids when these two go out for us, because we expect that the shiny little presents are coming our way, made of gold, silver or even bronze .. Oh so hopeful, we are.

OK, enough of "waxing eloquent" (or bu**shi**ing - your pick!) .. Time to start our "weeeee beelieeeeveee" cheer, that we fanclub crowd still believe was the reason for all those grand slam titles and everything the train brought us.   The final run is here and we still "belieeeeeeveeee" !!!!

Leander Paes and
Mahesh Bhupathi, seeded 7th, face Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils (FRA) in the first round at the Olympics. It is set as the second evening match on court 7 .. Expected start time is 7 pm (4.30 pm India, 7 am New York) .. Our guys are in the tougher upper half of the draw with the Bryans as the top seeds, and Federer/ Wawrinka as the 4th seed expected to meet them in the QF (if the Swedes get that far - but they are in the PQF with a win so far) .. Also in the PQF from the top quarter are Nadal/ Robredo .. One other team in our quarter that was expected to be tough, reigning Olympics champs Massu/ Gonzales of Chile, are already out in the R1, losing to Tursonov/ Youzhnyi (RUS).

Oh, BTW, Prof. Prasenjit Mitra of our fan club tells me in the forum that the correct term would be "Tripuri" for Somdev DevVarman (read below) .. ATP and everybody else thinks he is from Chennai, based on an old bio form somebody filled up for him .. Somdev has royal family roots from Tripura, but as his dad was in Chennai for a few years and he was at the BAT academy for a short while too, he can speak Thamizh and he is fine calling himself to be from Chennai .. He stayed with me a few years back when he visited the US as an 18 year old on the junior tour .. Yes, he does know how to eat Idli and Saambar, and knows how to say "enna saar, soukhyama?" - and that makes him a Tamilian :) ..

Also, please see the Rohan Bopanna thread in the forum for a match report from the irrepressible Sumanth who was at the LA matches, cheering Be Bop a Lula Bofors Bopanna to his first title ..

Aug 11 Note-4


There is no stopping the Tripurian .. Tripurite .. Tripurese? .. Tripuravaasi?? .. Aw, damnit .. whatever ... Lately Somdev Kishore Dev Varman has been pretty much a Tripurahaari (tri-worlds destroyer) .. Somdev won his first ATP tour level match today, beating former top-25 player, Taylor Dent, 76(3) 26 61 in the first round of the $508K "Legg Mason" ATP at Washington DC .. As usual, Somdev came through on all the big points whenever it counted .. Traded a break in the first set but went ahead early in the tiebreaker to take it .. In the second set, Taylor managed to get two breaks but Somdev, as he has done on countless matches this year, turned the table once again in the third set, getting a break at 3-3 and finishing the match .. You can see the match progress at our sports-india thread (link below) .. He now awaits the winner of the match between third seed Feliciano Lopez (ESP,25) and qualifier Robert Kendrick (USA,114)  tomorrow .. Somi's second round match won't be earlier than on wedensday.  Here are Somdev's scores at DC so far ..

[Q1] (wc) Somdev DevVarman (IND,314) d. (5) Sam Warburg (USA,147), 46 60 63 (match score progress
[Q2] (wc) Somdev DevVarman (IND,314) d. Jamie Baker (GBR,297), 61 75 (match score progress)
[Q3] (wc) Somdev DevVarman (IND,314) d. (2) Go Soeda (JPN,118), 75 75 (match score progress)
[R1] (wc) Somdev DevVarman (IND,314) d. (wc) Taylor Dent (USA), 76(3) 26 61 (match score progress)

By the way, if you have not paid attention lately on what Somdev has been doing, this is his 4th win in a row after an astonishing, incredible, never-heard-before type run he had since January, winning 50 matches in a row in college, ITF, invitiation and pro levels .. That streak was broken by Go Soeda in the QF of the $100K Vancouver challenger a few days back .. Of course he got sweet revenge on Soeda in the qualies this weekend .. Somdev is 54-1 in his last 55 matches .. To avoid those of you who were not aware of this from fainting, I will introduce a lot of Somi details from recent times only slowly here :)

Here is a nice article on Somdev DevVarman from the Washington Post -- "Somdev DevVarman is here to stay" by Mark Viera.

Meanwhile, Rohan Bopanna, fresh off his first ATP doubles title last week at Los Angeles, is on his way to Washington DC for doubles.  He plays with his favorite partner, Aisam Qureshi of our silly neighbour country :) .. Bops and Aisam are drawn to face the third seeds Rik DeVoest (RSA) and Ashley Fisher (AUS) ..

Aug 11 Note-3

As we wait for SKD's first round match at Washington DC ATP, let me talk about an outstanding achievement in Indian sports this past week .. Our junior u14 team finished in third place at the world junior tennis finals in Prsotejov last week .. Congratulations, Ronit Bisht, Digvijay Singh, Ramkumar Ramanathan and captain Sunil Yajaman!! ... This is the highest finish in the world for any Indian junior tennis team, the previous best being the 5th place finish by a Sania-led u16 group in 2002 .. This is the second highest finish of any Indian junior team in any truly global athletic sport (which means cricket and even hockey don't count) in the last few decades .. The only better performance that I remember was the runner-up finish by our junior volleyball team in 2003 .. At Prostejov, unseeded India upset the 4th seeds Brazil, the 6th seeds Britain and Egypt in our pool to make the semifinal pool .. We beat Canada to finish third, only losing to the champion USA in the semi .. USA, FRA, IND, CAN, AUS finished top-5 .. What was gratifying was that ITF seeded CHN and KOR from the Asian region among the 8 seeds at the world final-16, while we had lost to China in the regionals at Shegzen in a close tie (I am sure the famous Chine "homefield advantage" played a part!) earlier this year and finished tied for third with Australia, as the third place tie had to be abandoned .. Well, IND took revenge on ITF and finished ahead of AUS (5th), KOR (8th) and China (only 10th!) .. See our sports-india thread on junior tennis team events, for all news from Prostejov ..

Here is a picture of Indian boys on the podium from this past weekend (courtesy: Sunil Yajaman)



Aug 11 Note-2

Somdev DevVarman, who qualified into the Washington DC ATP, will be playing his first round today against wildcard Taylor Dent, top-25 player in 2005 but returning recently after over two years away from the tour and a serious back surgery last year .. Dent has only played two matches since the return (one at the Carson challenger in May and one at the Newport ATP last month, but both were three-set losses - which means he is playing OK) ..

Sania's singles campaign at the Olympics came to a quick end, unfortunately with a recurrence of the wrist pain, as she retired from the first round match against Iveta Benesova at 1-6 1-2 .. She had broken Benesova once and got broken once in the second set before the retirement .. She said the wrist had been hurting for a few days again and she had taken 4 painkillers today .. Very unfortunate, even though she was not considered as even an outside medal chance in singles because of the tough draw she got, having to probably face Venus Williams in the second round .. When I met her
3 weeks back in the Los Angeles WTA, where she won a round and lost in the second round, she had said that the wrist pain from surgery rehab, expected to be with her for a few weeks, was going away nicely.  I wonder if she over-trained last week?

We did get some good news, as Sania Mirza and Sunitha Rao advanced to the Olympics doubles PQF round with a walkover from Tatiana Golovin and Pauline Parmentier of France .. Their second round opponents are undecided asof now - either top seed Kuznetsova/ Safina (RUS) or Santangelo/ Vinci (ITA).. Looks like SM-SR will get Tuesday off, at Beijing ..

Aug 11 Note-1

I was sleeping for a year
, or something like that ... And Abhinav Bindra wakes me up ... If you haven't heard the news, you really need to get out more often!

I am back ..  Like nothing happened .. Heck, I have to be back .. After all, we started this tennisindia thing to celebrate Leander Paes winning the bronze at Atlanta in 1996, our first individual medal in 44 years .. Now we have our first individual gold too ..

Lots of tennis news to talk about .. Rohan Bopanna has won his first ATP doubles title yesterday at Los Angeles !!!!! ... In the company of Eric Butorac (USA) .. He was  a one-week partner to Bops .. Unfortunately, due to a few work engagements and meetings that happened all at the wrong times, I only saw their first round match .. Rohan has now become a top-notch doubles player, with the ability to single-handedly take over a match .. He fully deserved his first title in the 5th final (he had reached the Mumbai final the last two years, the Chennai final in 2006, and also the Newport ATP final recently with Aisam Quereshi .. Congratulations Bofors!

More things going on in tennis .. Somdev DevVarman has emerged over the last few weeks .. We have a male player who is surely going to top-150 and may be top-100 or higher .. Somdev has qualified into the ATP Washington DC event, coming through a tough qualifying event and upsetting two top-150 players, the second and 5th seeds .. In other recent news, if you haven't heard, Prakash Amritraj had finished as a runner-up at the Newport ATP last month - an incredible achievement .. I will talk about all that later ..  Let me leave all of you to celebrate Abhinav Bindra now ...

Back to Olympics .. Look at Saina Nehwal - she has just upset the #4 seed and reached the QF !! ... Incredible upset from her too ... You go get us a medal too, girl !!!! ...

So much of an overdose of good news ..I am excited more than a gopher in soft dirt ... I am sure you all are too ...

Sania, Leander, Mahesh, Sunitha ... They are all coming up in Beijing, as the tennis events have just started ..

Hey, you all have been reading the forums at sports-india.com when I was goofing off for a year, right?  If not, read that too .. By the way, I had planned to restart ny daily blogs today, because of tennis starting at Beijing, and had indicated that at the sports-india forum ... Who woulda thunk that this would turn out to be THE best day in Indian sports EVER ...


.. Previous news (actually from over a year back!) are at 
Notes for the weeks ending on Aug 2, 2007 ..

.. Please email questions/comments/criticism to me email me - R.Jayakrishnan