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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the weeks ending on Aug 23, 2004
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Aug 23 Notes

Sorry for a very late update .. Had a busy weekend .. Harsh Mankad played yet another good match against Olivier Mutis (FR,114) in the Q2 at the tough long Island ATP qualies but lost 57 46 on Saturday afternoon .. HM had something like 9 break points but could convert only one - reportedly he did not make mistakes on all but one of the BPs, but Mutis came up with the good on the other points .. It is great to see Harsh being consistently competitive against top-200 and now top-100 quality players too .. That takes his record against top-200 to 3-4 in the recent matches, with all the losses seeing some close sets and tiebreakers .. This turned out to be good practice for Harsh as he goes to the US Open qualies starting tomorrow .. He is right now 4th out from the draw, and I hope he will squeeze in somehow, as at least an Alternate player ..

The $25K ITF women;s event has started in Delhi .. Young Punam Reddy made it in through qualies, along with Iciri Rai and Karshma Patel (correction from earlier!) ..Sania, Rushmi, Ankita, Sai, Sonal, Archana and Sanaa are also in the draw .. More later on that .. Anyway, it was a complete rainout today at Delhi, so we start Tuesday.

Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (IND,374) went down after a great start against the 2nd seed Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS,263), 64 67(4) 06 today .. He still has doubles left.

Rushmi and Sai went down in the semis of the Colombo $10K over the weekend but won the doubles title.

Aug 21 Notes

Man, did we need some good news .. I had recovered from the tennis loss yesterday, and then the NZL heartbreak for hockey ... and good news comes from unexpcted quarters ..

At the $475K Long Island ATP qualies, [Q1] Harsh Mankad (IND,288) d. (7) Olivier Patience (FRA,95), 62 63  !!!!!!!!!!... Man, what an incredible win for Harsh !!! .. The match just got done in the morning there, and I have no details ...  This is the first career top-100 win for Harsh .. He plays the second round later today against Olivier Mutis (FRA,114) .. I cannot believe how far Harsh has come in recent times .. The second round is this afternoon itself, and it will be a tough match again.

In other news, Rushmi and Sai are in the semis at the Colombo $10K, but no Indian reached the semifinal at the Pakistan $25K satellite second round (on grass courts -- is it any surprise these days?) ..

Shikha and Neha Uberois (USA) and Rajeev Ram (USA) have got wildcards into the US Open qualifying rounds next week ... As of now, Harsh Mankad is 7th in the waiting list .. It is a bit iiffy if he would make it, but he just might squeeze into it - Of course, if he pulls two more incredible upsets at the Long Island qualies this weekend, then it won't matter!

Aug 20 Note-2

I have never been more proud of our guys in a loss than I am right now, in the way they fought an incredible battle all the way .. A four hour epic where they served one game after another from 4-5 in the 3rd set till 14-15, holding every time and saving one match point on them .. At about 1.15 am at night, the Croatians emerged winners, after withstanding 4 break chances the Indians had on them during those games .. They are champions for saving two BPs at 14-14, and our guys are champions for saving match points and holding serve so many times .. Somebody had to win in the end .. Unfortunately even withe the gutsiest of our sportsmen, like Hesh and Lee, the curse on Indian sports does not easily go away .. M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes l. Mario Ancic (CRO)/ Ivan Ljubicic (CRO), 6-7(5), 6-4, 14-16 .. The match took 3 hours 58 minutes .. The Croatians served very well all through, and the Indians, despite not having too many aces, held serve very well too .. Break sqequence - ....[Set 1: MA broken in game 2, MB in game 7] .. [Set 2: IL broken in game 7] .. [Set 3: IL broken in game 3, MB in game 4 and LP in game 30] .. It took 3 hours and 58 minutes .. 3 of 10 in break chances by LP-MB, 3 of 12 by the Croats .. Here is the saddest stat ... In the longest match of the Indian Express' career, they played 328 points .. The Croats won 164 points, the Indians won 164 points .. In fact, right from the beginning to the end, the point difference between the two teams was never more than 5 .. really an incredible match ..

Keep your head high, Lee and Hesh! ..  We all know that Gold was the goal, but your showed incredible character in regrouping and fighting like this for a bronze rather than fold .. These are the right things in sports; this is what Olympics stands for ..

Aug 20 Note-1

.. Update --- The bronze match is the 3rd one on one of the big courts.  Probably about 8.30 pm there (11 pm India) .. May be a bit later than that .. That makes sure that the indian newspapers will probably miss the deadline by the time we get out medal !!

-------

Not sure yet about the exact timing of the Bronze medal match, and the official Athens web site is a total mess for some of the simplest things one looks for .. It looks like it will be on one of the two show courts right after the men's singles semifinals starting at 5 pm .. If so the match would be at about 7.30 pm +/- 30 min .. It may be later in the night too .. Watch here for any updates .. We badly need that medal ..

The day started with JJ Shobha pulling a personal best timing in 100m hurdles in heptathalon, and with the Archery ladies upsetting the British ladies to make the QF .. I said "upsetting" because in typical clueless fashion, some of the Indian newspapers have been quoting agency reports saying stuff like "lowly-placed" British team .. That is not correct. GBR were ranked 7 and Inida ranked 9.  We are placed higher in the draw only because our ladies (Go Dola, Reena, Sumangala!) came ready on the very first dau and had a good ranking event at the Olympics, exceeding the scores their international ranking would show .. In fact all the Archers have had much better scores there than their rankings - but our press continues to hype wrong events and negative stories and keeps talking about the "dismal" show by India at this Olympics .. Hardly the truth.  And all this sudden crocodile tears about weightlifters testing positive! .. Give me a break .. Why do they all think weightlifting, of all things, is a sport that Indians would/could/should do well in? .. Pray what gives you that idea? .. If you didn't know there were curious things going on - then I give up .. We should be focusing on the types of sports we can do well in .. Well, hope the Archery team can pull another upset and make the semifinals later today - but if they don't, I won't feel they have "choked" or that they had a "dismal" show ..

Aug 19 Note-4

OK, people, it's time to stop crying .. We have some serious work to do tomorrow! .. There are 28 other teams in the field of 32 who can cry .. We have a medal to win .. [Bronze] (5) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes vs Mario Ancic/ Ivan Ljubicic tomorrow .. Gonzales-Massu  continued their incredible run with a 65 46 64 win today in the other doubles semi after the two Chileans made the singles semis as well, ensuring a silver and a bronze already for Chile who do not have any medals so far at Athens.

There is a lot riding on tomorrow's match for our dynamic duo - make no mistake about it .. If you have any doubt - ask yourself if you want to see Mahesh Bhupathi for ever without an Olympics medal .. OK, there! .. I am sure Leander knows it, and he will be up for the task of getting his buddy the hardware he deserves so much, not to mention getting himself some extra hardware ..

There is more .. It has been 52 long years since Helsinki, the last time India returned from the Olympics with more than one medal .. We have a historic second medal well within our grasp tomorrow .. We need to get it done .. Go Indian Express, do it .. It took me about three hours to get over the loss today, but I am pumped up again.   We need this medal .. The Indian Express deserves an Olympics medal in their career and to get on the podium to salute the Indian flag at Athens .. Go Lee, Go Hesh!

Great sportsmen forget about the losses and look forward to the next .. Imagine how it would have been if Lee had given up after the semi in Atlanta .. Look at the US gymnast Paul Hamm yesterday in the all-round medal, starting off with utter embarrassment and the worst fall of his career in the vault which saw him down at the 12th spot .. He nailed every one of his next 5 events and finished with an incredible #1 spot still .. A sportsman should ONLY look ahead, not at spilled milk .. If you have any more doubts on that, ask how mad it makes you to think of all our hockey teams of the last so many Olympics who laid eggs from the moment they found that they would not make the semis .. That kind of behavior is unaccceptable in sports .. It is unacceptable from fans as well, by the way .. I hope to see all of you reading this, showing up in the chatroom tomorrow .. I hope all of the Indian supporters at Athens will also be showing up for the match tomorrow as well.

LET US DO IT !! ..

Aug 19 Note-3

I said I would mention a streak or two after they are broken .. The first was that our guys had saved 15 break points on them, one after another, in the first three matches - almost amazing to think anybody could do that; but it also meant that somewher some things would go wrong .. Today it did, as they dropped serve 3 times out of 5 .. The kind of strong servers they have faced so far, except perhaps Black-Ullyett, it was going to be tough once you fell behind .. And that happened today ..

A more impressive streak got broken today though, which makes me very sad .. In over eight years since early 1996 when the Indian Express lost to Bjorkman and Kulti in a Davis Cup tie, there has been only ONE team - the great Woodies, the best ever - to beat our pair when they played under Indian colors .. That is a record of 23-2 in 25 matches they played for India, both the losses coming against the Woodies in second round matches in the last two Olympics .. Our pair had gone unbetaen in 14 Davis Cup matches,  4 Asian Games matches and 5 of 7  Olympics matches .. They had taken out players like Johnson, Palmer (when they were ranked #1), Damm, Korda, Henman, Broad, Rios, Massu, Hyung-Taik Lee, Roddick, Federer, etc, etc, during that streak .. But now a team other than the legends Woodies have beaten them .. In eight years while playing for India - an amazing record, really .. It was bound to happen sometime .. But then again, it would have been much worse had it happened earlier with no recourse (it actually would have felt worse if it happendd tomorrow also!) .. Now they at least have a chance for a medal - something to still look for .. And count on a medal for the Indian Express tomorrow, if they are not ill/injured .. I am making a strong prediction here.

The day started with the great show and a sad end to the Satyadev Prasad archery campaign, where he gave the fight of his life to a top seed .. And then the hockey heartbreak, where avoiding that last minute goal after a nice comeback to 3-3 would have kept us in excellent shape for a semifinal berth ... Now we need all kind of strange things to happen .. Then the Sanamacha news, following the Pratima news ..  Anybody wants to cry with me?

Aug 19 Note-2

What can I say .. bad days happen .. I am not sure what went wrong today, as doordarshan decided to only show the match tape-delayed .. It  justy got over .. [SF] (5) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes l. N.Kiefer/ R.Schuettler (GER), 26 36 .. Our team did not get any break chances in the first set at all though they had some decuded in a couple of German service games .. Then the Germans converted the first BP in game 6 and the 3rd BP in the 8th game to take the set .. In the second set, our guys got one break chance, their only one in the match, in the first game, but again the germans held strong .. In the 6th game once again our biys faced one BP on serve which the Germans converted .. That was the match .. 44 points to 56 points .. 0/1 in BPs by us, 3/5 by them (which came aftyer a string of 15 straight break attampts saved by the Indian Express at this Olympics) ..  Just a bad day .. I am not sure if there was any illness problems, but we will find out later.

Tomorrow the Indian Express plays for the Bronze - opponents to be determined in the second match .. Hope they will come back with a medal, which they deserve.

Aug 19 Note-1

OK, we are down to the final four and we have only one seeded team left in the frey - the Indian Express .. The Athens Olympics doubles semifinal match today against Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler is scheduled as the second match after a 5 pm singles QF one of the big courts .. The estimated start time is 7.30 pm (12.30 pm New York, 5.30 pm London, 2.30 am Sydney) +/- 30 minutes .. Come to our chatroom for score updates .. We expect to have a running commentary today ..

Upsets galore yesterday as the top seeds Bryan twins went down, exactly as I predicted in our forum (give me a candy for that, please! :)) --- to my favorite "dark horse" singles pair, again as predicted from before the event, the Chileans Gonzales-Massu .. Kiefer-Schuettler pulled a minor upset on the 8th seeded Israelis Erlich and Ram .. The QF result that was a bit of a surprise to me was the Croatians Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic upsetting the 3rd seeds Llodra and Santoro, in a 9-7 third set..

Buckle up folks .. Today's match may not be easy, especially if some bad breaks go the other way - but our champs have a way of staying focussed and creating good breaks for themselves in the famous "fortune-favors-the-brave" manner .. Hope that continues .. One thing is for sure, our guys have had no chance at all to look ahead all along, the way the draw turned out .. That has been in a way a blessing in disguise .. I had thought that the semifinal stage might give us a match where avoiding looking ahead would be tougher ..  That is, had we had say the Israelis or the current team, with  the usual seeds on the other  semi, we might think that we have an easier team .. No chance for that now, as the other three teams are all basically the same type of teams who can all win it from here on .. What is there to look ahead? ... It is one more "one match at a time" for the Indian Express .. It is a mano-a-mano sprint to the finish now .. Spill your guts and blood and no looking back .. I have no doubt that they will be fully focussed and will do the job today .. Go Leander !!!!   Go Mahesh !!!

Too pumped right now to talk about other tennis results .. The first round went fine in the Pakistan satellite leg for most Indians, except Vijay Kannan .. Later, with all those results.

Aug 18 Note-2

All right, folks .. yet another top-10 upset for our guys ... This time the 4th ranked 4th seeds bit the dust against our boys, as the Indian Express has made the Olympics semifinals .. Another match where our guys showed that they will not give an inch to anybody and would force the others to beat them .. [QF] (5) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. (4) Wayne Black/ Kevin Ullyett (ZIM), 64 64 .. The match started evenly with both side serving well till 3-3 in the first set when our guys converted the first break chance they had, after saving one break point in the previous game .. Up 4-3 .. They made it stand up to win the 6-4 set .. In the second set they kept the pressure up, taking the Zimbabweans to deuces in the first game and jumping ahead to 2-1 by converting one of two break chances in the 3rd game .. Then it started tightening up, as Black-Ullyett were not ready to throw in the towel and went after our guys .. The final two service games at 4-2 and 5-3 were dandies .. Our guys saved 2 break points in the 8th game and then one more while serving for the set in the 10th game after going through 4 deuces .. Like I said, they were not ready to give out an inch and would not stop till they served it off .. Man, what a team!

The match took 89 minutes .. 2/3 in BPs by us and 0/4 by them .. 68 pts by us, 59 by them .. Up next are the winners of the match between Erlich-Ram and Kiefer-Schuettler .. Need two more wins for a gold ... Next win assures a silver .. A loss and a win gives us the bronze.  GO INDIAN EXPRESS!!!

There are some fantastic streaks and some incredible stats our guys are piling up ..  Dying to talke about those, but I won't, till we are done with a GOLD!!! .. Only the medal matters - all else are way too secondary.

Aug 18 Note-1

The quarterfinal for Lee and Hesh is scheduled as the second match on court 5 after the Massu-Andreev singles match starting at 5 pm .. So our guys should be on by 7.15 pm (12.15 pm NY, 9.45 pm India) +/- 20 minutes .. Come to our chatroom for score updates  ..

Leander was apparently having some fever yesterday, and that may explain him having some nose problems and being a bit unsteady for a short period in the match yesterday .. Today's match is against one of the very best teams out there and it is not expected to be easy .. Let us hope that Lee will be all fine today.

In other news, Sunil Kumar and Norikazu Sugiyama again played a decent firt round match but could not get past the second seeds Alexey Kedriousk (KAZ) and Vadim Kutsenkoi (UZB) ion a 67(4) 46 first round match at the Samarkadn challenger in UZB .. SKS now goes to the 5th and final challenger in this trip to Russia and Uzbekistan - to Bhukhara next week .. he is in the main draw and it is on hard courts where he may have a bit more of a chance to do well.

Shikha Uberoi (USA,281) once again showed that she is playing top-200 tennis these days, with a three hour fight at the $50K Bronx challenger in New York - a 46 64 46 loss to Anastassia Rodionova (RUS,187).

Great news from
the Lahore (second) leg of the Pakistan satellites .. 15 year old qualifier Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan pulled off a big upset of the 7th seed Enrico Wellenfield (ITA,857) in a 60 64 match ... Great job by Jeevan .. Have seen only about three scores so far from the first round .. One bad one -- 4th seed Vijay Kannan who just cannot seem to get anything going, went down 46 46 to Asim Shafiq (PAK) .. Come on Vijay - what's up, man? .. Jacco Mathew advanced, as Rahil Syed retired after a 1-6 set .. Will keep up the results here - $25K Pakistan satellites ..

At the $10K women's ITF in Colombo, most Indians have advanced to the second round - Top seed Rushmi, #3 Sai, #5 Liza, #6 Archana, #7 Iciri, etc  .. Nandini upset  the 8th seed Samrita .. R.Madura had a nice win over Parul Goswami ..  Young Punam reddy had a nice win over Tania Ostertag (GBR) .. Preeti rao is the other Indian who won .. We are keeping up the scores in the forum - $10K Colombo ..

Aug 17 Note-3

They keep moving ... An easy first set, and then a very tight second set where they had to fight off a determined Federer .. But they got the job done .. [R2] (5) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. R.Federer/ Y.Allegro, 62 76(7) ... The first set was easy .. Took 29 minutes and they broke Allegro in the 3rd and 7th game to finish it off .. 2/2 in break points .. In the second set, they wasted one break chance off Allegro in the 3rd game .. That could have turned into a crucial miss, as the Swiss guys did not yield another break point in the whole set .. that is typical of teams that don't play a whole lot together to tighten up in the second set and get better as time went on .. LP and MB knew they had to hold serve well EVERY time or it would change fast .. They held up under pressure, saving 4 break cxhances in the set to run their streak in two matches to 11 straight BPs saved .. No breaks in the set at all .. In the tiebreaker, LP had to save two set point to the Swiss guys on his serve, and then they converted their 3rd match point to win it !! .. yes sire .. It is a QF .. Two down, and 3 to go for Gold .. Up next are the 4th seeds Black and Ullyett (ZIM) ..  The second seeds Arthurs-Woodbridge were upset in the bottom half were LP-MB are ..

Two aces by LP-MB, one by the other guys .. 2/3 in BPs by us, 0/4 by them .. 30 pts to 19 pts in the first set, but 47 to 49 points in the second, which shows how tight it got in the second set .. Experience counts, especially when it is with players who have the spunk to make use of it with proper focus .. Go Indian Express!

Oh, by the way, there was some scare at about 2-4 in the first set when Leander had a bleeding nose .. I am not sure whether it was some sort of a minor injury, but it caused a stoppage of play and Lee was reportedly not in his best form for the next few games .. Mahesh did indeed step it up and took up the slack till Leander was back in form by ealry second set, I am told .. Well, you need to get past those kinds of adversity to get to the top .. Hope Lee is fine and they are alright for the remaining three wins they need to takle care of.

And what a day -- We get our first individual silver ever, the hockey team comes back ffrom 0-2 to win 4-2 with two last minute goals, and Lee-hesh made the QFs .. Great stuff.

Aug 17 Note-2

The Paes-Bhupathi match is estimated to start at 8.30 pm there (1.30 pm NY, 6.30 pm London, 7.30 Geneva, 11 pm India) +/- 30 minutes .. Come to our chatroom for score updates and expected commentary .. I believe Doordarshan will be covering this - as there will be a TV feed from the big court .. It is also shceduled on Swiss TV SF drs (SF2) if any of you want to try satellite or something - here is their schedule page; Thanks Tanmoy for the info!)

Aug 17 Note-1

.. STOP PRESS:  We have our first individual silver EVER at OIympics .. Major Rajyavardhan Rathore won it in Double Trap shooting!! ... Holy Lord Ayyappa -- can you believe it? .. What an apt name he has - "Rajyavardhan" .. He just added so much to his country.

In other news, LP-MB plays a night match after Federer plays his singles at 5 pm and takes an hour and half of rest on center court .. It would be late in the day -- watch here for estimated start time.

Sunil Kumar went down 16 36 to Francesco Piccari (ITA,364) in the R1 at the Samakand challenger in UZB .. After a nice show last week on clay, I thought he would do better this week .. Oh well, next week .. Sunil has doubles with Norikazu Sigiyama .. Tough draw again for them, as they face the second seeds Alexey Kedriouk (KAZ) and Vadim Kutsenko (UZB)

Shikha Uberoi (USA) has a wildcard to the $50K Bronx challenger .. She faces Anastassia Rodionova in the first round this morning .. Rodionova was being coached recently by Manisha Malhotra, by the way (not sure if she still is under her coaching)

Rushmi, sai, etc are in the entry list for the $10K women's event in Colombo, Sri Lanka this week .. Awaiting news ..  Also, no news yet from the Pakistan satellite second leg.

Aug 16 Note-2

I had no doubt about this match, as my forum posts would indicate! .. But this turned out to be tougher than I expected and it took the Indian Express' best qualities of focussing on the job and raising the game at the proper junctures, to pull off  .. [R1] M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes (IND) d. A.Roddick/ M.Fish (USA), 76(5) 63 ..  The match was on a court with no TV feed, and so we had no way to find out all the details - it was nice that Doordarshan provided a couple of updates during the match from their sports correspondents on site (that is the first time in my memory that Doordarshan has scooped me and our fan club in reporting score updates; boy did we need it, the disaster that the Athens official website is, and with everybody's cell pohones turned off at the court) ..

This is how the match went .. No breaks at all in the first set, but our guys had to save 4 break chances on their own serve, and were unable to convert the two chances they got on the Americans' serve .. In the tiebreaker, our guys were down a minibreak 1-3, but then won six of the next eight points in the customary Indian Express fashion of coming up big when needed .. In the second set they pounced on the only break point they got and that was the match .. The key stat was that they prevented Roddick and Fish in breaking them on seven(!) break point opportunities, while converting 1 of 3 chances .. Our guys had two aces and no service winners, and the other guys, known for their 135+ mph serves had 5 aces and one service winner .. Three double faults by LP-MB, and five by AR-MF .. How close was the match? -- Well, the first set saw both teams getting 46 points each, and the second set saw our guys with a 34 to 29 advantage, from that one service break game .. 80 pts by us, 75 by them .. It was that close, but treue winners win and do not leave with "what if" questions - we will leave it to the two Americans to do that .. 51 minutes for the first set and 39 for the second for a 90 minute match.

In his comments after the match, Leander said, "We always expected to win the tiebreaker, as we are the doubles specialists" .. As for the match strategy, he said, "holding our own serve was our main scheme" .. They executed it, as they knew they had to make the service breaks they get stand up .. As for the next match against Yves Allegro and Roger Federer, the Indian Express said that keeping Federer out of it as much as possible would be a key .. Leander and Rikl did recently beat the same team at Halle (see this post in our forum, which was our own Florian Beuchting reporting from halle where he saw that match), and the two Swiss guys really have no idea wbout what game the Indian Express play .. It is advantage to us,

We will await the schedule to see if LP-MB will be playing tomorrow .. Federer is playing the second round of singles today, and possibly the doubles match will be there tomorrow itself.

Aug 16 Note-1

All set for the first match at Athens where the Express Indian Quest for Gold begins in just another three hours as I type this .. [R1] (5) M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes (IND) vs A.Roddick/ M.Fish (USA) .. It is scheduled as the second match on court 4 where the actions starts at 10 am .. So our boys' match is expected at around noon (5 am New York,
10 am London, 2.30 pm India) +/- 30 min .. Come to our chatroom for score updates  .. We will have a running commentary by the "Red_Indian" in the chatroom, provided the TV is covering it from that court (which is not very sure), but the score updates should be there in any event .. 

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on Aug 16 ..

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