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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the weeks ending on Aug 25, 2008
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Aug 25 Notes

Nothing much significant going on right now on court, as we await the doubles draw to get going at the US Open by mid-week ..

The other important news is that both the pro events scheduled in September and October in India have been cancelled .. The WTA Sunfeast Open Mumbai has been cancelled due to problems with venues, and the ATP Bengaluru Open has been cancelled due to "security concerns" .. The latter item  does not make much sense to me .. Has the Indian or Karnataka government, Bengaluru police, RAW, CBI or whichever appropriate agency been the source of this "security concern" or is it just that the tournament was having trouble attracting even a top-15 player's dog to take a sniff at the tournament? ..  As I saw the tournament organizers' openly saying earlier in a press release when #18 Tsonga was announced that "nobody else seems to be coming," (I was impressed by their honesty, actually) it seemed pretty clear that they were in some trouble, or that they did not have the money or other wherewithals to get some top players .. Then to suddenly hear this "security concern" as posted by ATP at their site today, was a bit too much .. If this was a white lie to save face, that would be utterly shameful because it is India's prestige that goes down when we cancel events due to cheap statements on security concerns .. In fact, I hardly remember any high-profile sports event being suddenly cancelled for security fears like this .. Aren't we supposed to have a cricket test in Bengaluru later this year? .. Heck, aren't we supposed to hold mega events like CWG and hockey world cup in a couple of years in India - what about "security situation" then? .. An announcement to the whole wide world by ATP that there is some phantom "security concern" is how we do things in India? .. Somebody let ATP do that? .. We are what, Pakistan? ... Again, if Indian people put the blame on the city and our country to save face, they should be brought to task by somebody .. Shame on you .. If that is not the case and a proper security assessment was done by proper agencies in India who suggested cancelling the event, of course, I will shut up .. If many players told the organizers that they were scared to come, again I can understand to some extent - but then I would make sure that ATP would not write that there is a "security situation" but rather blame the payers .. Otherwise, I want to see the proper security agencies in India issuing a press release that they had not advised the cancellation of the Bengaluru event!  (Add:  Please see the Tuesday notes from next week - link above - for some more.  KSLTA said that they had nothing to do with organizing or cancelling the event; so not their fault, it seems)

Meanwhile, where the frig is our press?? ... The two ATP events are among largest international sports events we do every year, outside of cricket (and Golf?) - on prize money... Our press, including the local Deccan Herald, seems least bit bothered to even find out what was up with the tournament, a whole week after we mentioned here that ATP had talked about a "situation" in Bengaluru .. Not a single newspaper in India has cared to find out and tell us what exactly is going on.  As for Mumbai WTA, again, no news on what exactly was happening, but thankfully there were no nationally shameful statements coming from there or WTA, for me to complain.  I know, I know, our press has been spending time trying to interview Abhinav's, Vijendar's and Susheel's grandmothers, dhobis and dhootwallahs to fill up fishwrap space in the latest feeding frenzy.   I do have many friends among the sports writers, but sorry friends, you have all collectively dropped the ball on this matter - however, I understand that some of you are not back from Beijing, though..

Bottom line - Chennai Open ATP coming up in January is the next international tour event in India - barring unforeseen last-minute "security situations" .. Everybody will need to wait till that to see Somdev reaching the semis or better :) ....

The first AITA national tournaments of the year for the u14 and u18 players just got underway in Chennai .. The qualies were over the weekend.  Will give some updates during the week.

Aug 23 Notes

Mahesh was in the sixth final this year, but he could not pull off the third title from those today .. At the $708K "Pilot Pen" ATP in New Haven, [F] (1) M.Bhupathi/ M.Knowles l. (4) Marcelo Melo (BRA)/ Andre Sa (BRA), 57 26 .. It is the same team that LP and MB beat easily at the Olympics in the PQF last week, by the way .. Earlier this year, MB had won the Memphis and Dubai ATP titles with Marc Knowles and had gone down in the Miami and Monte Carlo masters finals with Knowles, and the sHertogenbosch final with Leander .. But it was a good run this week for Mahesh to take his mind away from the tough previous week at Beijing ..  He will be at the US Open next ..  I believe Leander was at the "Huggy Bear" chairty/ exhibition tournament near New York .. Haven't looked for his results there.

The doubles draws have come out at the USO .. Here they are:

[R1] (7) L.Paes/ Lukas Dloughy(CZE) vs Oscar Hernandez (ESP)/ Albert Mondanes(ESP)
[R1] (4) M.Bhupathi/ Mark Knowles (BAH) vs Johan Brunstrom (SWE)/ Thomas Johansson(SWE)
[R1] R.Bopanna/ Aisam-Al-Qureshi (PAK) vs Marc Gicquel (FRA)/ Sebastien Grosjean (FRA)

Both LP-Dlouhy and MB-Knowles are in the upper half of the draw with the top seeds Nestor-Zimonjic .. LP in the upper quarter and MB in the lower quarter, which means they could meet in the semis if they go four rounds each .. The firt couple of rounds look not too problematic for our guys .. Bops and Aisam are in the lower half where the second seeds Bryans are .. If the advance in the R1, they could face the 8th seeded Polish pair, Fyrstenberg/ Matkowski.

There is a three-week series of grade-5 ITF junior international tournaments in progress in Pakistan currently .. The lowest grade of events in the ITF junior hierarchy, but a good chace for many players to pick up some point and get their ranking going .. Quite a few Indian youngsters are out there ..
Fifteen year old Shweta Rana (IND) was the fourth seed and lost in the final today - to the 5th seeded 15 year old, Luksika Kumkhum (THA,481) in a good fight 46 75 36 .. A really good match from Shweta, considering that she had last last week's final against the same Kumkhum in a 60 62 rout .. One notable upset this week was by 15 year  old Vania Dangwal (IND,1004) who upset the third seed Carol Augustin-Benito of Spain ranked 473 by a 64 63 score before falling to Kumkhum in the semi .. Sixteen year old SV Abhishek (IND,572) was the second seed this week and lost in the finals today to Bai Dong Du of China, 36 36 .. The winner of last week's event, Saurabh Singh, lost 62 16 26 in the QF to Shantanu Rajput who then fell in the semi to Abhishek ..

By the way, this kid Saurabh Singh seems to be a player for sure! .. The 15 year old was a big part of our u16 junior Davis Cup team, playing #2 behind Yuki Bhambri and winning all his #2 matches .. 4th seeded India had upset top seed Australia, then beaten China and 2nd seeds Japan to win the Asian region title and make the world final-16 junior Davi Cup finals in San Luis Potosi (Mexico), Sep 23-28 .. Saurabh was indeed the surprise package that our opponents didn't have a clue about (everybody knew of Yuki of course),
at the Asian qualies in early May .. In fact, in last week's title at Islamabad, Saurabh had won four three-set matches in a row, his SF and final coming against Abhishek in a 36 76 75 comeback and a 63 36 61 win over Rohit Bisht .. I like the kid's tenacity for sure (a three set win to get things going in the junior DC regional final against Japan stays in my mind!) .. Keep an eye on him.

Aug 22 Notes

Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles reached the final of the "Pilot Pen" ATP at New Haven today with a tough 63 57 (10-7) win over the Italians
Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi .. Looks like they are continuing to run into these "country pairs" .. In the final against them will be Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa - Brazilians, who follow Italian, American and French pairs in the earlier rounds :)

Sania had announced yesterday that she is withdrawing from the US Open next week because her wrist is not healed .. The doctors have adviced complete rest after it acted up at Olympics .. She has entered the $175K Tier-III WTA in Guangzhou (China) starting on
Sep 15th but it is unsure if the wrist will be OK in the next three weeks.  If not, perhaps Seoul WTA the week after .. She has also entered the Tokyo Open (Sep 29th) .. I would think she will be back at least by then.

At the ill-fated Thai $10K women's ITF at Khonkan, the Bhambri sisters managed to pull off a doubles title to at least make some partial amends, after the singles campaigns of 11 Indians went absolutely nowhere! .. The third seeds Ankita and Sanaa got past Wing-Yao Venice han and Zi-Jun Yang of HKG in a tough opening round, 67(6) 62 (10-6), then beat the Thai wildcards, Nicha Lertpitaksinchai and Varanya Vijuksanaboon, 63 62 .. They upset the 2nd seeded Yi Chen (TPE) and Michaela Johansson (SWE), 63 62 in the semi and took the title in a close 75 76(6) match over another Thai pair, Kanyapat Narattana and Nungnudda Wannasuk. Nice run by Sanaa and Ankita!

Aug 21 Notes

Mahesh and Mark Knowles had another easy win today at the $708K "Pilot Pen" ATP at New Haven, Connecticut, US .. 64 64 over Americans Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky in the QF .. Next up in the SF are the Italians, Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi ..

The only other news is from yesterday .. Leander Paes stepped down as the captain of our Davis Cup team, but will continue in the team .. This was bound to come, after the revolt led by Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna gainst Leander's captaincy in our last tie .. Though I was myself a bit critical of LP in the past, and had repeatedly said that he was not doing advanced panning, nor was he keeping up with the players in the team, and that he was showing a bit of partiality to the surfaces and playing style of some players, etc (mostly because I am generally against the concept of a playing captain for a variety of reasons anyway), I really did not like the way that revolt played out.. OK, I was fine with Rohan and Kash, both good guys I know, making a statement after having some complaints for a while, but I also did not feel that LP deserved that kind of harsh treatment ..  After all, he has put his heart and soul into Davis Cup and come through for us many times, even if one may argue that he was much more self-focussed and at times took things into his own hands due to too much self-focus and perhaps a lack of respect to the ability of his own team-players (thereby even causing a bit of damage to the players' own psych and confidence) .. But Lee did not deserve that kind of public chastising .. Anyway, at the last tie against Japan, it was absolutely the right thing to do to bring in Somdev for his first tie even if he was a spring chicken on grass - because everybody does poorly in the debut tie in Davis Cup, even the greatest of Davis Cup players have done that .. We needed to get Somdev thrown in there, as we do not have much time before bigger ties .. Reportedly, this came as a bit of a shock to Prakash, which was not surprising - considering that he was indeed LP's favorite payer for a long time because of his style of play and grass abilities .. On top of that, LP, in his own carelss way, made some totally avoidable remarks on Kash's being ill and being out late  etc - which broke the camel's back .. Both Kash and RB had said they wouldn't play in the future if LP is the captain, but agreed to play last time .. Kash went on to come through big time in the end to win the final tie and push us into the world group .. So, for the country, It all ended well as far as the tie was concerned and we also achieved the objective of getting Somdev's debut jitters out of the way - because we need him to win the ties at the higher level against top-150 players which is something Kash and Bops have not been able to do away from Indian grass .. Anyway, I was sad to see LP's having to go through such a mutiny and some public humiliation - though I fully saw that he himself should have seen all that coming much earlier, and I wish he had made adjustments to his own ways as a captain before it came to such a pass ..

Coming back to the immediate news, AITA did what they are adept at - which is to keep everybody off-balance and get things done usually in a way that is least painful .. They appointed SP MIshra as the captain, ostensibly because LP "stepped down" .. They also announced the team of Somdev Dev Varman Prakash Amritraj, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi .. Looks like the only one who was "clout-less" and lost out is Rohan Bopanna .. AITA did not announce him as the "fifth member" .. Yes, there is nothing called a 5th member officially by ITF rules, but it has always been used by AITA to keep everybody happy .. That they did not call Bops in, can only indicate that AITA wanted to make a point to him that his "impetuosity" was not appreciated .. I am not sure I like that .. After all, he was not the only one who revolted, but he seems to be the easier target to show displeasure at .. I was indeed surprised that the "keep everybody happy" AITA decided not to call him into the team .. Hang in there, Bops, we will need you soon and everybody will come calling .. Whether it is singles or doubles, we will need you for some time.

The tie itself is next month against Romania in Bucharest .. Win that and we make the world group final-16 for next year .. With SKD with us to win some clay matches, we are not deadmeat like we used to be before - so this world group playoff tie (actually world-group qualifier, but ITF prefers erroneous names!) comes at just the right time.

Aug 20 Notes

Not much going on today .. Sudanwa had another good win yesterday but went down in the QF at the grade-3 ITF US international hardcourts .. [R2] (3) Sudanwa Sitaram (IND,94) d. Mitchell Frank (USA) 64 62 .. [QF] l. (5) Ashley Watling (USA,84) 76(5) 46 46 ..
Very good fight against a legitimate top-80 player .. Kelsey Sundaram lost in the R2 yesterday to the fourth seed Pamela Montez (MEX,83) 16 57 ..

Top-100 juniors Sudanwa and Akash Wagh will next be at the Canadian Open grade-1 juniors next week .. I was hoping to see Yuki Bhambri also in Canada next week but he has not entered there .. Again it looks like he will go to a junior grand slam (US OPen week after next) without sufficient warm up events .. He had commented in a newspaper interview after the French Open and Wimbledon junior grand slams that he had not had sufficient match preparation leading up to them this year .. More importantly, the best chance to play some good junior players are in the grade-1 events preceding the grand slams - so he should try not to miss those! ..

Aug 19 Notes

Mahesh and Mark Knowles had no trouble at all in their first round match and won 62 63 over Nicolas Mahut and Marc Gicquel of France.  Up next is an American pair - Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky.

Not a great day at all today at the US Open as both our players went down, in matches that we thought they had fairly decent chances of advancing .. [Q1] Prakash Amritraj (IND,217) vs Ryan Sweeting (USA,276), 36 46 and [Q1] Sunitha Rao (IND,158) vs Soledad Esperon (ARG,190), 36 46 .. Prakash just seemed to be under pressure all day and was trying to get the breaks back .. Once he dropped serve to start the second set, it was over .. As ofr Sunitha, she mounted a little fight in the second set and even led 4-1 but lost the next 5 games to bow out .. Well, momma had told me there would be these kinds of days for us Indian tennis fans :) ..

I am not talking about the women's Thai $10K futures, like yesterday .. The one Indian who beat an Indian to reach the second round got upset today, making it an even 1-11 record out there i the qualies and main draw for us, the only win coming for an Indian over another Indian .. Momma never told me to watch out for something as bad as that, though!

OK, some good news .. Sudanwa Sriram advanced to the second round at the grade-3 US international hardcourts junior ITF with a 61 62 win over Pavel Krainic (USA) .. Fourth seeded Akash Wagh was upset 61 76 by Sekou Bongura (USA), however .. Also winning was Kelsey Sundaram (USA) who got a retirement when she ws leading 75 20, from an American girl, Gina Suarez.

The entry list for the $436K Kingfisher Open at Bengaluru in late September was to come out today .. It didn't .. I am told that ATP actually had an internal message to the  players - "The acceptance lists for the tournaments starting September 29 (Tokyo, Metz, Bangalore) will be released at a later time. Players will have 24 hours to decide where to play once the situation in Bangalore is resolved." .. I am not sure what situation is there, but i was wondering about it because there has not been an announcement on which top players were expected in Bengaluru .. Anywan, we will await for information.

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 ..

.. Previous news are at 
Notes for the weeks ending on Aug 18, 2008 ..

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